dancing with the fucking lunatics

*because i’ve been away. does contain spoilers no one cares about, if you make it to the end (threat and promise)*

tony manero

Pablo Larrain’s 2008 Tony Manero is a film which coolly reminds you that art isn’t dead and war isn’t over. Manero is Larrain’s second film after his debut in 2006 with Fuga which portrays a pianists decent into madness. We meet Manero in the depths of the madness, where cruelty is so quotidian it is passe, adding insult to injury the insanity is veiled with sequins and polyester leaving you the same as a thief on the streets would- abandoned, cut up, and chuckling with disbelief.

The film premiered at this years Cannes amidst a slew of other films from “the subcontinent” as The Guardian’s Xan Brooks describes “Are things really as bad as that? Latin America is supposed to be the success story at this year’s Cannes”. Latin American film has been perpetually fertile ground for unknowing critics to cry ‘film ho!’ and plant a flag down declaring the next big thing. However, this time there may be something to talk about.

Manero, is played by co-writer Alfredo Castro because, as many auteur critics know, there probably is no one who could have played him better, it seems as though his vision was so specific, so obtuse, the casting could only lead circuitously back to the writing.  The approach to creating a dialogue regarding readership of Latin American cinema dances a precarious line between appropriation and praise, which makes Tony Manero reflecting it right back, such a hot subject.

The film usurps poetic license to recreate the Pinochet era, known as the Chilean reign of terror, feeling more like a mental flashback than a picture perfect time machine. The film openly covers the ramifications of what happened after the 1970 socialist candidate Salvador Allende was voted president with a small margin of victory. However, in 1974 after years of intervention from the United States CIA, the Chilean parliament was overthrown, Allende committed suicide and the military commander Augusto Pinochet seized power. And following suit of important historical events, in 1977 Saturday Night Fever was released.

During the Pinochet reign there existed a “Caravan of Death” which existed solely to incarsirate, if not eliminate, any opposition or threat thereof, against the government. Larrain may have been referring to the Caravan in the scene where an unidentified character is approached by the police in a van (which we had previously seen Manero hiding from) and shot after they discovered political fliers in his bag. Our hero Tony aptly hides, and after the execution is executed, he takes the man’s watch and admires it on his own wrist, an eerie reflection of the timelessness this film encapsulates.
The film gauzily points to sticky international relations on the final game show, as the announcer introduces an Argentinian model they had hired as some sort of tacky olive branch. The commodification of the female body in terms of creating a literal bardering chip is nothing new, but Larrain applies the concept with a vintage chic flavor reminiscent of newness.

Larrain, well aware of his expectations as a Latino director, toys with tokens and symbols of machismo and the spicy flavor of otherness, and tosses them out the window. Mangey dogs, talk shows and skeletol cities, oh my. The motley pack of dogs from Inarritu’s Amorres Perros are bribed with a specific bone of foresight as they soon become collatoral for another one of Manero’s victims.  Almodovar’s love/hate relationship with the Spanish talk show is overlooked with the black humor as Manero loses the competition. Santiago as a city, barren, underdevloped could almost be Rio de Janeiro or Mexico City, but alas Larrain marks it as his own, specifically Chilean as the roaming Manero becomes a vicious, dynamic extension of the cities isolation, violence and neglect.

And then there is Manero himself, the most colorful examination of machismo ever before seen in Latin American film, with the only exception being Roberto Cobo as La Manuela in Arturo Ripstein’s 1978 El Lugar sin Limites (A Place Without Limits) Manero is oversexed and yet entirely impotent, machismo manifest. Manero’s obsession with Travolta surpasses homoeroticism, surmised perfectly when his girlfriend says “you can only get it up for that floor of yours” referring to the GLASS FLOOR he is crafting to perform on.

Manero kills for a TV possibly to watch Travolta on, he kills for the floor he needs to dance like Travolta on, he kills for the copy of the film and possibly out of sheer anger it is no longer playing, and he lets die to perform.

The irony is palpable. The humor and awkwardness with which we now know the halloween-costume version of the seventies is juxtapposed with the serious, death dealing attitude which Tony Manero lives them in. Like the narrative, the film itself is veiled. Stylistically dark Tony Manero is hard to see, literally. Not to suggest that the darkness implies a mysterious metanarrative , rather it challenges the eyes and builds a screen between the viewer and the subject. Manero can’t be had, he must be discovered, learnt, dreamt and lived as the specter of a character he is.

“It has all come true…If you take the icons of US culture and you go to Chile you will see them everywhere. We have a very unsettled and fragile structure. Everything is imported from America.” Says Larrain. It seems in the time of what could be a Latin American film identity crisis, Larrain is buying back what he has been sold with the ultimate “shit on your white suite” bargaining chip- Tony Manero.


my top ten plague movies

Since the dawn of film Biblical narratives have been interwoven with cinematic experiences, including the ten plagues. The Ten Plagues cursed not only the Egyptians of the Bible, but have carried on in celluloid variations to sicken movie goers as well. According to the Book of Exodus, God deployed ten plagues on Egypt to convince the Pharoah to let the Israelites go. With this plaguely plethura and Hollywood’s ability to endlessly tweek formulas, some scripts almost (miraculously) write themselves.
Although some of these films may not have been the most contagious, they just go to show that the Bible and other mythological disaster stories seem forever relevant to pop culture. If you have ever wanted to experience the plagues first hand perhaps it’s time to pop in one of these old favorites — consider it a less traditional Bible study.

1. Water to Blood
One of the more spine tingly plagues- the turning of the Nile river into a blood bath for all the fishes and farmers alike- sounds like a thriller flick already. This plague has appeared in supernatural and horror films time and time again in such family favorites as Nightmare on Elm Street and the Amityville Horror II: The Possesion.

2. Frogs
The second plague occurred when Aaron called all the frogs to congregate in Egypt before all being killed by the Pharoah. Problem solved right? Not quit yet. In 1972 George McCowan made the film by the same title- Frogs- the second curse on humanity with an amphibic name.

3. Gnats
The third plague happened as Aaron struck his staff to the sands of Egypt and all of that dust turned into irritating gnats. If you have ever wondered how annoying those gnats would be, I suggest William Friedkin’s 2006 Bug . Although we never see any actual bugs, there’s enough fly paper to plaster a lunatic’s bedroom and we’re pretty sure our main characters are plagued with…something itchy.

4. Flies
Similar, but slightly more annoying than the previous plague Flies is number four. This proved to disappoint after thinking the pharoah had finally let up, only to have the plagues continue. This sentiment may have been shared by David Cronenberg in his 1986 movie The Fly.

5. Beasts killed
We meet the fifth plague of pestilence and the killing of livestock in a particularly unforgettable scene in The Godfather. When one Hollywood executive, Jack Woltz, wakes up with an unexpected guest in his bed, that is if a decapitated horse can be considered a guest.

6. Incurable boils
Another dust induced plague, boils or skin disease, seems like a really bad fate. But the news gets worse with unknown director ‘Rusty Nail’s’ 2005 Acne. This is a rare instance where the actual plague may be preferred to its filmic counterpart.

7. Storm
In Egypt there was fire and thunder, in Wolfgang Peterson’s The Perfect Storm there was one tiny boat and one really big wave. There’s also a really good storm in Jan de Bont’s 1996 Twister if you don’t have your sea legs.

8. Locusts
Don’t let John Schlesinger’s 1975 Day of the Locusts fool you into believing it would be about locusts; it is in fact a tale of young Hollywood love. The only movie to include locusts is obviously Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 favorite The Ten Commandments. This may in fact be hitting one bird with ten commandments.

9. Darkness
The choice film to feature darkness, the ninth plague, is inconspicuously Pitch Black. David Twohy’s 2000 sci-fi action thriller (with the tagline “Fight evil with evil”) The Chronicles of Riddic: Pitch Black. Bon appetit.

10. Loss of the First Born
Curtis Hanson’s 1992 The Hand that Rocks the Cradle reflects just how devastating this final (Thank God) plague can be, and why one should always background check their nannys.

Martha was Here

Geographic distribution

  • Graphic showing the number of deaths in 2005 and 2006 for different areas along the border: [2].

[edit] Arizona

The Arizona Daily Star maintains a database of border deaths recorded by the Pima, Santa Cruz, Cochise and Yuma County medical examiners between summer 2004 to September 2006.[9] They stated that, “With no official record-keeping system, the exact number of illegal entrants who have died along the Arizona stretch of U.S.-Mexican border has never been known”.[10]

The number of dead border crossing migrants per year in Arizona increased from nine in 1990 to 201 in 2005; About 80% of the dead migrants were under 40 during 2000-2005, with an increasing number younger than 18.[11][12][13]