Video Review: Chico & Rita Not a Jazzy as Advertised


CHICO & RITA (2010/2011 USA)
Directed by Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando
Motion Pictures (Spain), US distribution by Disney
94 minutes, (In Spanish with spotty English subtitles)
* *

I missed this one in the theater, but grabbed it on Netflix when several people recommended it. Wish I hadn’t. Everyone who recommended it is a jazz freak, and you probably need to be to appreciate this animated film from Spain. It was nominated for–but did not win–an Oscar in 2012.

It should have been better on many levels, starting with the animation, which seemed pretty ordinary given what we can do these days. There are several chase scenes and lots of musicianship and none of it looks realistic or dramatic. That’s fine, if one takes advantage of animation to do something experimental or dreamy. That’s simply not the case for most of what we see. (The only shimmery moments are, ironically, swirls of light dancing across Rita’s naked cartoon body.) Nor is the story as compelling as it might have been. There are three classic themes in the film: rags-to-riches, dramatic social change, and love won, lost, and regained. The story opens in Cuba in 1948, where Chico is a shoeshine boy who also happens to be a demon jazz pianist. When he spies flirty, saucy Rita, a chanteuse, it’s lust (then love) at first sight. Music and passion propel the characters and story from Havana to New York to Hollywood to Vegas and back to Havana (by which time the Cuban Revolution has occurred). The story arc is that of a tragic bolero and is imbued with ambition, misunderstanding, danger, revelation, regret, and remembrance.

Maybe it’s because I speak no Spanish and the subtitling was spotty, but much of what I wanted to know was not revealed, and most of what was revealed I could see coming miles down the road. If you are such a fan of jazz that you want to watch the ‘toons play the tunes of Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter, and Dizzy Gillespie, you might find Chico & Rita more interesting. If that sounds dull, you and I are on the same keyboard.

Rob Weir


Democrats--the Party of Geezers

Ed Markey. Is this face what's wrong with the Democratic Party? 

In Massachusetts, a June 25 special election will fill John Kerry’s U.S. Senate seat. Recent polls give Democrat Ed Markey a 7% lead over his Republican challenger Gabriel Gomez and the fact that it’s not double that ought to give Democrats pause. The party apparatus has been out in force for Markey, but an indication of the tepidness of Markey’s support can be found in recent campaign ads attacking the Republican Party rather than Gomez directly.

As a Bay State resident, I get daily emails telling me what a wonderful “progressive” Ed Markey is and telling me how terrible it would be if the Senate fell to the Republicans. Call it where scare tactics meet running scared. Like many in Massachusetts, I agree that the current G.O.P. is a collection of Troglodytes, though Gomez doesn’t seem to be among them. (The Republican Party hasn’t endorsed him, which is actually a backdoor recommendation!) I won’t vote for Gomez, but I just can’t get juiced about Markey–25 years ago, maybe, but not now. I see Ed Markey as symptomatic of all that’s wrong with the Democratic Party, as well as what could go terribly awry in the future. Markey is too old, he’s been in Congress since 1976, and he’s amassed a record (as opposed to his stump speeches) that suggests he’s more of a lukewarm liberal than a progressive. 

Currently the Democratic Party holds a rather substantial advantage among voters of all age groups, but party faithful need to change the demographics or that won’t last. Generation X, the cohort that grew up with Reagan, is the best bet going for the Republicans, whose core support is ages 38 to 45. Not coincidentally, Gomez is 47 and he speaks to Gen X concerns such as aggressive foreign policy and tax cuts. Democrats enjoy a huge advantage of nearly 3:1 with voters under 25, but can they keep Generation Y? Maybe not if they don’t start acting like real progressives instead of just assuming the label. And maybe not if they keep throwing Baby Boomers like Markey out there. Is it a “youth” strategy to get a 67-year-old to replace the 69-year-old John Kerry? Baby Boomers are almost as enthusiastic about Democrats as Generation Y, but do you want to build a future on that key 65 to 82 constituency? 

Lest anyone accuse me of ageism, I am a Baby Boomer. I’m no math genius, but I can do basic arithmetic. What does it tell you when President Obama will be younger when he leaves the White House than any of the current pretenders to the throne would be if they took the oath of office in January of 2017. Lots of people are jonesing for Hillary Clinton to run in 2016. Ironically, many of them argued back in 1980 that Ronald Reagan was too old for the Oval Office. He was 69 when he entered the White House–exactly the same age Hillary would be.

It’s even more dire when one looks at other party leaders: Harry Reid is 74, Nancy Pelosi is 73, Joe Biden is 71, Dick Durbin is 69, and even Charles Schumer is 63. The Democrats have a serious lack of imagination when it comes to age. Remember when the party recruited then-74-year-old Walter Mondale to challenge Norm Coleman for the U.S. Senate in 2002? Coleman won, then lost to Al Franken in 2008, but he’s still 11 years younger than Mondale was in 2002. The Democrats also tried (unsuccessfully) to convince George McGovern to run against John Thune in 2005, even though McGovern was a dying man. More recently the Democrats lost a Senate seat–at least temporarily–when New Jersey’s Frank Lautenberg died. Lautenberg retired from the Senate at age 77 back in 2001, but was lured back to the fold to defeat Troglodyte Jon Corzine in 2003. One can applaud that victory, but what’s Lautenberg still doing in the Senate at 89, his age at death? New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie, age 51, has already appointed a temporary senator. He's a younger Republican.

Chris Christie is emblematic of a potential G.O.P. age advantage. Look at some others–Bobby Jindal and Mario Rubio are 42, Paul Ryan is 43, Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy is 48, and Eric Cantor is 50. Hell, even 64-year-old John Boehner is a spring chicken by Democratic standards! Do the Democrats have any non-geriatric stars of their own? A few, though most lack national name recognition. Probably the best known is Andrew Cuomo (55), though he might not be as electable as Maryland’s Michael O’Malley (50). With all due respect to Hillary Clinton, I submit that those looking for the first female president and want her to be a Democrat should let Hillary retire now that she’s 65, and get behind either Amy Klobuchar (53) or Kristen Gillibrand (46). Heck, even 63-year-old Elizabeth Warren would be more youthful. But whatever they do, Democrats need to realize that the hands of time only turn in one direction.

Rob Weir