“Period. End of Sentence.” (2018)

Click to watch Period End of Sentence on Netflix.

Period. End of Sentence. is the 2019 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Short.
Photo courtesy Netflix.

When a girl gets her period in the United States, she may miss a class.When a girl gets her period in a developing country, she may never go to school again. A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.The Pad Project, the major force behind the documentary.

Ninety percent of women in India do not have access to menstrual pads. They use whatever cloths, leaves, or ash they can find. They do not have access to consistent electricity, nor clean well-lit bathrooms that are safe for women. For this reason, middle school age girls have no safe place to change their cloths. Therefore, they drop out of school. Their situation is overwhelming and dire. Due to the short 25-minute length of the documentary, Period. End of Sentence. (known as PEoS from now on) focuses on a group of Indian women empowering themselves and their community through better access to menstrual hygiene products.

Set in Kathikhera, about 37 miles outside of India’s capital of New Delhi, PEoS sets up from the beginning the taboo around menstruation. Men have no idea what it is. “An illness only girls get?” Girls and women are pained and embarrassed to talk about it. “Only God knows why” women have periods, one woman says. “It has something to do with babies,” another mom says. Sneba, one of the documentary’s subjects says, “We are told women’s prayers are not heard during menstruation, no matter how hard they may pray. They say we are dirty.”

Click to watch the trailer for PEoS.

According to Access Bollywood:

“Feminine hygiene has been a popular film subject in India for several years, starting with Menstrual Man, the 2013 documentary about Arunchalam Muruganatham, inventor of a low-cost machine for making sanitary pads. Muruganatham then inspired two fictional Hindi films: 2017’s Phullu and 2018’s Pad Man, starring Akshay Kumar. Kumar’s 2017 movie Toilet: Ek Prem Katha also addressed the related need for clean, safe bathroom facilities for women in rural India.”

Muruganatham’s low-cost machine comes to Kathikhera. It’s purpose is four-fold: to bring menstrual pads to the girls and women; to teach women a skill, which is learning to manufacture menstrual pads; to allow them to earn money; and to offer women economic empowerment. All of these give women something I take for granted, freedom of movement.

Access Bollywood also said this documentary is a good introduction to the menstruation situation in India. I agree. I was flabbergasted and shocked by what I saw. I felt like a privileged rich woman watching PEoS, and I am not (yet). I am so glad this documentary won an Oscar. It’s the reason why I know about PeoS in the first place.

I decided to donate to The Pad Project because its doing important work across the globe, and in the United States. The women of Kathikhera kick ass. I wish them safety, self-empowerment, and economic freedom.


Click to watch the clip from the 91st annual Academy Awards.
Producer Melissa Berton and director Rayka Zehtabchi  accept their Oscar.
Guneet Monga served as Executive Producer (The Lunchbox, Masaan).

Ten out of Ten Mocha Angels on the subject matter. Eight out of Ten Mocha Angels for the soaring, feel good ending that doesn’t match reality. Everyone should see it.


“The Big Chop” (2018)

@IssaRaePresents #ShortFilmSundays – a new short by a new creator, the first Sunday of every month on YouTube.

If you are a husband or boyfriend of a black woman, don’t talk about her hair. Always say that her hair looks nice, even if it looks like tumbleweed, a mop, or a horse’s tail. Hair is a very emotional topic to black women.

Exhibit A: a scene from Derek Dow’s short 16-minute film “The Big Chop.”

Kris (Simone Missick, of Luke Cage fame) just made “the big chop.” She has cut off all her long relaxed hair, and she is WAY past emotional. Mascara running. Afro covered with a hoodie. Homegirl is the definition of a hot mess. She demands that her man Thomas (Chinedu Unaka) buy her some hair.

Thomas: “Let it go. Leave that in the past. Start looking at the future.”

Kris: (Snatches down her hood. Points at her hair.) “I look like a freed slave!”

Thomas: “I don’t even know what hair to get.”

Kris: “Get me the “Rhionce.”

Thomas: “The what?”

Kris: “It’s a new hair line. It’s got Rhianna and Beyonce all in the same pack.”

This is Us. Black Woman Style.

Which is why “The Big Chop” was so funny and relatable.

Click to watch this great movie.
To watch on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFiDQdpll2w

Ten-year-old Kris (McKenzie Franklin) loves her natural hair. Her mom, however, does not. Dorothy (Kashuna Perfected) has no idea what to do with it. When she was painfully combing Kris’s hair, I said to myself, “Where is the Sulfur 8 and the Ultra Sheen? That child’s hair needs a detangler!” Kris hates getting her hair combed but loves the natural wild look. So does her best friend Thomas (Kevin Kilumbu).

Two mean girls at the park don’t like Kris’ hair. They say ugly things to Kris, hurting her feelings. Eventually Kris gets a perm, making her mother very happy. 

Fast forward to Kris and Thomas as an adult couple. Thomas is trying his best to comfort his lady, but nothing is working. While Thomas is buying her some new hair, Kris sees a woman berating her natural headed granddaughter. “You look like Jaden Smith!” Grandma says. Kris intervenes because she sees herself in that little girl.

In the end, Kris falls back in love with her natural hair.

I LOVED, LOVED this movie. It’s wonderfully hilarious. And it’s a love story. I’ve already watched it twice and will watch it again. Props to screenwriter Alisha Cowan and director Derek Dow.

An enthusiastic Ten out of Ten Mocha Angels.

Up next:

This is Us (NBC).Wednesday, April 3rd.

Academy Award winner Period. End of Sentence. (Netflix). Saturday, April 6th.

Mocha Angels publishes every Wednesday and Saturday. Click “follow” in the bottom right hand corner to get my reviews and commentary delivered to your email. Thank you for supporting my work. (((Hugs)))

“Us” (2019)

Pogo daily strip from Earth Day 1971. The famous quote “We have met the enemy and he is us,” is most applicable to the movie “Us.”

Jordan Peele’s Us taps into our deepest fears. Fear of losing our children. Fear of death. Fear of annihilation. Fear of other people. Fear that our addictions, vices, and demons will overtake us. And in this movie, all of that pretty much happens.

In 1986, a young Adelaide (Madison Curry) has a terrifying experience at a Santa Cruz beach, which haunts her for life. Fast forward to the present day. While vacationing at her family’s summer home, that singular terror comes back to haunt adult Adelaide
(Lupita Nyong’o) in a murderous way.

Doppelgängers of herself, her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and son Jason (Evan Alex), show up in their driveway wearing red jumpsuits and gold scissors. What follows is two hours of terror. Not only is this family fighting for their lives against their shadowy selves, everyone else around them is getting killed by their own doppelgängers. Hmmm.

Rather than giving away the plot of this excellent film, or deconstructing the minutia of it like everyone else on the internet, I offer my interpretation and what I loved about Us.

Click to watch the trailer. And no, it doesn’t reveal too much. Go see the movie!!
Courtesy Universal Studios/YouTube

Interpretation

Fear of the “other,” other races, genders, religions, languages has led to violence for millennia. Fear of the other is what leads to black folks having the cops called on them while they take out their garbage, throw parties, walk a disabled client down the street, or leave an AirBnB (all real examples in the United States). Jordan Peele says, “Oh, no you don’t. While one finger is pointing at another person, four fingers are pointing at yourself.”

I have been saying for decades that self-analysis is the most painful process a human being can endure. Looking at your own shit, the mistakes you’ve made, how you’ve treated people, the havoc you have wreaked, is wicked difficult. Yet it is necessary for your salvation, however you define it. I define salvation as growing up and taking responsibility for your life and actions, freeing yourself from your past. In Us, the dark parts of ourselves rise up, literally, to destroy us. Self-destruction is what happens when the darkness inside is not healed.


Lupita Nyong’o in dual roles as Red and Adelaide Wilson in Us.
Universal Studios/Everett Collection

What I loved about Us

  • Lupita Nyong’o is a goddess and deserves all the award nominations coming her way. This is the meatiest role she’s had since Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
  • Winston Duke, who I fell in love with in Black Panther, is perfect as her husband and plays the clueless dad to the tee.
  • Madison Curry (young Adelaide) gives an amazing performance.
  • A dark-skinned family is the lead in a major Hollywood movie. #first #blacklove
  • Turning a trope on its head, the black people don’t get killed off early in the movie. #itsaboutdamntime
  • Yes, Virginia. Black people do indeed have summer homes.
  • It’s not only terrifying. Us has moments of comedy.
  • I put my comfy recliner down to sit on the literal edge of my seat the ENTIRE time. I have never done that for any movie, ever.
  • I must see this movie again. Us had twists, turns, and subtleties that I missed. Like The Sixth Sense, I was like, “OH, SNAP!!” at the end. All of you are going to want to see it a second time.
  • Jordan Peele turned “I Got 5 On It” into a horror movie score. That is some genius shit.
Courtesy Real Hip Hop/YouTube
Click to watch the music video for “I Got 5 On It.”

Us gets an enthusiastic Ten out of Ten Mocha Angels. Super good.

Please comment, like my post, and subscribe to my blog. It’s a passion project.

Up next: This is Us (NBC): The end of Randall and Beth? Wednesday, March 27th.

Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story (PBS)

“I would have to find out, what was the word that the religion of Jesus says to the man with his back against the wall?” – Howard Thurman

The one-hour documentary Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story details the life of the man who became the spiritual backbone of the American Civil Rights Movement.

I watched it because I honestly hadn’t heard of him until a few weeks ago. My parents did a most excellent job of teaching me black history when I was growing up. This giant of a man, we missed. (Or maybe, I missed!)

Howard Thurman (1899-1981) was born in West Palm Beach, Florida. As a child, he connected with God through quiet times in nature. A tree, he said, was his best friend. He also developed his Christian faith through his family, especially his grandmother, who had been a slave.

Thurman graduated from high school at a time when there were only three high schools for African-Americans in the state of Florida. He went on to graduate from Morehouse College (he was classmates with Martin Luther King Sr.), and was ordained a Baptist minister while he was still in theological school. Although Baptist, Thurman’s approach to Christianity was not limited to one denomination.

In 1944, Thurman co-founded the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples. One of the first interracial churches in the country, this was incredibly radical at the time. Even more radical, worship wasn’t only sermon and song. It also included contemporary dance and meditation outdoors.

His non-traditional approach to Christianity was further cultivated by his studies with Quaker mystic and philosopher, Rufus Jones, as well as the time he spent with Mahatma Ghandi in India. Thurman saw the caste system and British minority rule over millions of people up close. The similar struggle of Indians and African-Americans only strengthened Thurman’s belief that non-violent resistance was the right approach to end their collective disenfranchisement.

Thurman was Dean of Chapel at both Howard University and Boston University. He was highly influential over civic and spiritual leaders in the mid-20th century. He wrote twenty books, the most well-known being Jesus and the Disinherited (1949.) In the book, Thurman interprets the teachings of Jesus through the experience of poor and oppressed people and offers nonviolent responses to the oppression. Jesus and the Disinherited was the book Martin Luther King Jr. was reading during the Montgomery Bus boycott. “What does Jesus have to say to the man whose back is against the wall?” That book became the “bible” of the Civil Rights Movement.

This documentary is fascinating. It left me wanting to learn more about Howard Thurman. Him being called a “mystic” is most interesting.
He practiced what is now called a “contemplative spirituality.” Thurman simply believed in a direct experience or connection to God. An intermediary, like a minister, isn’t necessary. People can feel, talk to, love, experience, or worship God in a variety of ways. Thurman was not interested in saving souls. He focused on people moving through life as fully realized human beings.

Thurman’s reach was long and wide. We all benefited from his life and teachings. Watch the one-hour documentary here on MPT.tv. Also, Journey Films, the company behind the documentary, has more information on screenings and events.

Backs Against the Wall gets ten out of ten Mocha Angels.

Oprah quotes Howard Thurman at 24:31.

Up Next: Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (Netflix)

Oscars 2019: In a Night of Firsts, the Ghost of Miss Daisy Rides Again

Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Actress (1989) “Driving Miss Daisy
starring the late Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman.

First, I was 20 for 24 in my Oscar predictions. That’s 84% correct! Go me!

Second, the awards were a wonderful night for diversity. African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and Caucasians from all parts of the world were represented. It’s hard to overstate the importance of last night. But…I’ll get to that later.

It was a night of firsts.

Spike Lee finally won an Oscar!!

An elated Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, and Brie Larson. He won for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Blackkklansman.” Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Ruth Carter won for Best Costume Design for “Black Panther.” YES!!!! Those were the most original costumes ever seen on film. Carter has been around a long time. She designed costumes for “Malcolm X,” “Do the Right Thing,” “Amistad,” “What’s Love Got to do With It,” the pilot episode of Seinfeld, and much more in her 30 year career.

Ruth E. Carter
Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Hannah Beachler, along with Jay Hart, won for Best Production Design for “Black Panther.” Her credits include Beyonce’s Lemonade, “Creed”, and 2017 Best Picture winner “Moonlight.”

 Jay Hart and Hannah Beachler, winners of Best Production Design for “Black Panther.”
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Both women are the first Black women to win in their categories. They are also only two of three Black women to win in a non-acting category. In 1984, Irene Cara won for Best Original Song “Flashdance….What a Feeling,” which she also co-wrote.

Irene Cara at the 1984 Oscars.
Courtesy of the Academy of
 Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) /YouTube

Peter Ramsey, the first Black director nominated for an animated feature, won for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse.” (YES!!!)

Courtesy ABC/YouTube

Becky Neiman-Cobb and Domee-Shi won for the Pixar animated short film “Bao.”


Becky Neiman-Cobb and Domee Shi, winners of Best Animated Short Film for Bao.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Rami Malek, a first generation Egyptian-American, won Best Actor for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Rami Malek
Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

Mahershala Ali won his second Best Supporting Actor award for “Green Book.” (I’ll get to that movie in a minute.)

Mahershala Ali
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

And Regina King, who I’ve followed since she was on 227, won Best Supporting Actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Regina King
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The host-less show was moving along. The energy in the room was electric. The audience was still in shock over Olivia Colman winning Best Actress out of nowhere. (What does Glenn Close have to do to win an Oscar??) Best Picture was anyone’s game. Could “Black Panther” actually win Best Picture??

And then Julia Roberts said, “The Oscar goes to….”Green Book.” The energy went flat. I prayed to the Gods that she had opened the wrong envelope a la Warren Beatty. No officials came from backstage to give Julia the correct envelope. That’s because the ghost of Miss Daisy snatched Best Picture out of the hands of more worthy contenders.

(I predicted this win. I wrote if “Roma” won Best Foreign Language film, “Green Book” would win Best Picture. “Roma” was not going to win in both categories. That is exactly what happened.)

The ghost of Miss Daisy asked Hoke drive her up to that microphone and said, “F@#! those self-sufficient Wakandans. “Black Panther” is a fantasy. Ya’ll need us to show you all how to behave. Best Picture goes to my grandbaby “Green Book!” Hoke, step on it before they catch us!”

Black people do not need to be shown by white people how to experience our blackness in this here United States. Now THAT’s a fantasy. And that is the ridiculousness “Green Book” presents.

Nor do we need to be the Magical Negro who show white people the way back to themselves. I’m talking to you “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Green Mile,” “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” “Field of Dreams,” and a hundred other movies. That antiquated attitude is, and felt like, a dinosaur after a beautiful awards ceremony of inclusiveness. 

Also, Donald Shirley deserved a movie about HIM. About HIS life. Not the guy who drove him around. To make a movie about THAT guy is a travesty.

And Mahershala Ali deserves better too. (And so does Morgan Freeman.) I’m thrilled he won Best Supporting Actor. He deserves more complex, meaty roles like the character of Wayne Hays in HBO’s True Detective, which he will indeed win an Emmy for later this year.

#OscarsSoWhite was not this ceremony. Thank God. But it was a two steps forward, one step back moment. Congratulations to all the winners…except one.

This is America.
Reuters

Up next: the documentary Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story

My Oscar Predictions

The 91st annual Academy Awards takes place Sunday, February 24th at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. ABC will air the awards beginning 8:00pm EST. This year’s ceremony will not have an official host.

Here are all the nominations, and who I think should win and who will win. I won’t give long explanations on my choices. Just offering my predictions with minimal, if any, commentary.

During the telecast, I will be live tweeting my oh-so accurate predictions beginning at 8:00 EST!!

PICTURE:
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star is Born
Vice

Should win: Black Panther. Will win: Roma or Green Book. Roma is also nominated in the Best Foreign Film category too. It could win both. If not, the big prize goes to Green Book. However, Black Panther was easily the best movie I saw in 2018.

DIRECTOR:
Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski – Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos – The Favourite
Alfonso Cuaron – Roma
Adam McKay – Vice

Should win and will win: Alfonso Cuaron. Roma is a vision.

ACTOR:
Christian Bale – Vice
Bradley Cooper – A Star is Born
Willem Dafoe – At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen – Green Book

Should win and will win: Rami Malek. He channeled Freddy Mercury.

ACTRESS:
Yalitza Aparicio – Roma
Glenn Close – The Wife
Oliva Colman – The Favourite
Lady Gaga – A Star is Born
Melissa McCarthy – Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Should win and will win: Glenn Close. Six Oscar nominations + Never won+ Forty-five years in the business = “It’s about damn time!!”

SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Mahershala Ali – Green Book
Adam Driver – BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott – A Star is Born
Richard E. Grant – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell – Vice

Should win: Mahershala Ali. Will win: Sam Elliott. Elliot wins, like Glenn Close, for time spent in the business.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Amy Adams – Vice
Marina de Tavira – Roma
Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone – The Favourite
Rachel Weisz – The Favourite

Should and will win: Regina King. She gave an unforgettable performance in this movie.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
The Favourite – Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed – Paul Schrader
Green Book – Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
Roma – Alfonso Cuaron
Vice – Adam McKay

Should and will win: Roma – Alfonso Cuaron

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Joel & Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman – Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk – Barry Jenkins
A Star is Born – Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters

Should and will win: If Beale Street Could Talk – Barry Jenkins

ANIMATED FEATURE:
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Should and will win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Again, one of the best of 2018 that I saw. Spider-Man is one of a kind. The animation alone makes this movie a winner. An Afro-Latino teenage Spider Man gave me the feels. A must-see.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico)
Shoplifters (Japan)

Should and will win: Roma (Mexico)

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Cold War – Lukasz Zal
The Favourite – Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away – Caleb Deschanel
Roma – Alfonso Cuaron
A Star is Born – Matthew Libatique

Should and will win: Roma – Alfonso Cuaron

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
RBG

Should win and will win: RBG. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is getting her due.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT:
Black Sheep
End Game
Lifeboat
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.

Should and will win: Period. End of Sentence. In a rural village outside Delhi, India, women lead a quiet revolution. They fight against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation.

ANIMATED SHORT:
Animal Behaviour
Bao
Late Afternoon
One Small Step
Weekends

Should and will win: Bao. A woman who is suffering from empty nest syndrome gets a second shot at motherhood when one of her handmade dumplings springs to life. This is a touching silent film. And it’s a Pixar short film. Pixar rarely goes wrong in it’s storytelling. This film is no exception.

LIVE-ACTION SHORT:
Detainment
Fauve
Marguerite
Mother
Skin

Should and will win: Detainment. Two 10-year-old boys are detained by police under suspicion of abducting and murdering a toddler.

VISUAL EFFECTS:
Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Should win and will win: First Man.

PRODUCTION DESIGN:
Black Panther
The Favourite
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns
Roma

Should win: Black Panther. Will win: Roma.

COSTUME DESIGN:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Mary Zophres
Black Panther – Ruth Carter
The Favourite – Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns – Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots – Alexandra Byrne

Should win and will win: Black Panther – Ruth Carter. The costumes in Black Panther have never been seen before in film. The costumes are a mix of original and historic rooted in ancient African cultures. This is an easy one. If Ruth Carter doesn’t win, I’ll be ticked off.

MAKE-UP & HAIR:
Border
Mary Queen of Scots
Vice.

Should and will win: Border.

FILM EDITING:
BlacKkKlansman – Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody – John Ottman
The Favourite – Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Green Book – Patrick J. Don Vito
Vice – Hank Corwin

Should win: Bohemian Rhapsody – John Ottman. Will win:
Green Book – Patrick J. Don Vito

SOUND MIXING:
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma
A Star is Born

Should and will win: Bohemian Rhapsody

SOUND EDITING:
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place
Roma

Should and will win: Bohemian Rhapsody (First Man might sneak up and win.)

ORIGINAL SCORE:
Black Panther – Ludwig Goransson
BlacKkKlansman – Terence Blanchard
If Beale Street Could Talk – Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs – Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppin Returns – Marc Shaiman

Should and will win: If Beale Street Could Talk – Nicholas Britell

ORIGINAL SONG:
“All the Stars” from Black Panther
“I’ll Fight” from RBG
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns
“Shallow” from A Star is Born
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Should and will win: “Shallow” from A Star is Born. It’s Lady Gaga’s year.

Thank you for reading! Follow me Sunday night on Twitter @MochaAngels during the ceremony.

Up next: This is Us (NBC): Strong Black Woman Syndrome.

“Roma” (2018)

If you stopped halfway into Roma on Netflix, go back to finish watching the movie. I get it. It got compelling at the 96 minute mark.

The movie is slow. “Slow as molasses” like my mama used to say. Slow like it used-to-take-forever-to-get-on-the-internet-in-the-early-1990s-because-we-only-had-dial-up-modems slow. If the movie was in English, I would have been doing chores while half-watching. Since it’s in Spanish and has subtitles, I had to pay attention. I’m glad I did. Even the slow building beginning is a piece of art. From minute 96 to the end, Roma is cinematic genius.

The movie premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in August 2018 and opened in theaters in November ahead of its Netflix debut in December. Roma has already earned multiple awards and nominations, including three Golden Globe awards, and Best Picture and Best Director at the British Academy Film Awards. Roma is also nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron.

Cleo surrounded by the family she serves. The moment leading up to this group hug is gold.
(Carlos Somonte / Netflix)

Roma tells the story of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), an indigenous Oaxacan live-in maid for a middle-class Mexican family in Mexico City. Cleo is particularly close to the four children. Their bond is key to the movie’s climactic ending. Roma is set in 1970 and 1971 against Mexico’s political strife. Political and domestic tensions rise together in this movie. There were moments where I couldn’t breathe.

Cleo struggles through an unplanned pregnancy at the same time her employer Senora Sofia (Marina de Tavira) is grieving the loss of her marriage to Senor Antonio (Fernando Grediaga). Protests against the government are also coming to a head. The movie comes to a crescendo while a pregnant Cleo and the children’s grandmother, Senora Teresa (Veronica Garcia), are crib shopping for Cleo’s baby. They are caught in the middle of an anti-government protest and have a gun pointed directly at them by the unlikeliest person.

Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) and Senora Teresa (Verónica García) walking amid student protesters in Roma. (Carlos Somonte / Netflix)

You don’t have to know anything about Mexican politics to understand the film. Watch the movie first, then go here to learn more: http://time.com/5478382/roma-movie-mexican-history/

This movie is director Alfonso Cuaron’s love letter to his childhood maid, Libo. I was happy to see a movie about an indigenous woman and it’s HER STORY told from HER point of view. Yalitza Aparicio is the first indigenous woman to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actress (and this is her first acting role ever). I think Glenn Close will win that category, but Arparicio deserves her nomination. I know for sure this movie will at least win Best Director at the Academy Awards. It’s a beautiful film.

Nine out of Ten Mocha Angels.

Roma is rated “R” for graphic nudity, some disturbing images, and language.

Up next: My Oscar predictions. Who should win and who will win.

“Coco” (2017)

Miguel wants to sing and play the guitar like his idol, the late Ernesto de la Cruz, a legendary singer. When his dog Dante accidentally shakes the ofrenda and knocks over a photo of Imelda, Coco, and the great-great grandfather with his head ripped away, Miguel sees his relative holding a guitar belonging to Ernesto de la Cruz. Miguel believes de la Cruz is their relative. When Miguel reveals this information and his musical ambition to his family, they do not understand. His Abuelita (grandmother) angrily demands he choose between music and his family. She also destroys Miguel’s own makeshift guitar.

Twelve-year-old Miguel Rivera is the only music-loving person in a multi-generational Mexican family that has banned music from their lives forever. Miguel’s great-great grandfather abandoned his wife Imelda and daughter Coco for a life on the road as a musician. No more music after that. Ancestors are revered and always remembered. Their photos and food are left on the ofrenda (altar). Imelda and all her descendants became shoe-makers. Such is Miguel’s destiny.

Miguel and his dog Dante in the Land of the Dead

Miguel runs away to enter a talent show. He needs a guitar, so he steals de la Cruz’s from the mausoleum dedicated to him. The marigold petals around Miguel light up and suddenly he sees deceased spirits on this Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). No one alive can see Miguel except his dog Dante. Some of Miguel’s relatives escort him to The Land of the Dead, which is more alive than The Land of the Living in many ways.

Miguel finds his great-great grandmother Imelda angry because she cannot travel back to The Land of the Living on this auspicious day. Her picture was knocked off the ofrenda.  The family learns that Miguel has a curse placed on him for stealing a guitar of the deceased de la Cruz, which has turned him into an incomplete spirit. Miguel must leave The Land of the Dead by sunrise or he will turn into a spirit forever.

Only a blessing from a deceased relative can send Miguel back to The Land of the Living. Imelda gives Miguel her blessing on one condition: give up music. He promises to do so. Miguel is transported back to the mausoleum, then immediately takes the guitar. Three seconds later he is back in The Land of the Dead because he broke his promise. Furious, Imelda demands Miguel do what she says. Miguel refuses and runs off to get the blessing of his great-great grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz.

I’m stopping at the point where Miguel leaves for his quest to find Ernesto de la Cruz. This movie is SPECTACULAR. It has every possible fantastic thing going for it, including stunning, colorful animation, beautiful music, and a near perfect story.

Coco also raises the stakes: Miguel MUST return home by sunrise or he is stuck in the spirit world. Hector, his ally, MUST have Miguel place his photo on the ofrenda ASAP or he will fade into nothingness. By the time Miguel, back in The Land of the Living, runs to his Mama Coco, my tears were already falling. The ending is right up there with all three Toy Story movies, which all ended on the perfect note. (Makes me worried about Toy Story 4, so we’ll see.)

The only thing I didn’t like was that I didn’t see the movie in a theater. “Coco” is a film meant to be seen on a big screen.

An enthusiastic Ten out of Ten Mocha Angels.