Tag Archives: music

Review: ‘Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me’ Reflects Deeply Upon the Perils of Stardom

The musical star and actress talks about her many serious, personal challenges in a documentary directed by Alek Keshishian, now streaming on Apple TV+. 

Born and raised in Grand Prairie until she was seven, Selena Gomez became an instant star on Disney, which meant that she moved to Hollywood as a child and came of age under the magnifying glass of ever-increasing fame.

Some seven years ago, Alek Keshishian, (Madonna: Truth or Dare, 1991) helmed a music video for Gomez. Shortly thereafter, Gomez began experiencing crisis-level personal problems that threatened to derail her career. As documented in Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me, her eventual diagnosis for lupus and its effect upon mental health struggles she was already experiencing distinguish her troubles from those self-inflicted wounds that have plagued many, many other young stars over the years. 

Gomez’ honesty also marks the documentary as different from other confessionals, although the film as a whole makes me wonder if anyone connected to a young, rising star ever stops to watch any of them. If so, I’d think they would question whether they can afford the price of fame and its attendant disastrous consequences, which are too frequently fatal. 

As those of us who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex know, Grand Prairie is a lovely community, with a large portion of the residents being Hispanic/Latino. Gomez, whose return to the city is showcased in the film, never appears to stay far from her roots; her genuine engagement with friends and former neighbors, and her desire to give back by visiting young school students, is genuinely touching. 

So is her willingness to discuss her mental health struggles, exacerbated, it seems, by her diagnosis with the serious condition of lupus. None of these struggles are over for her; she will have to deal with them for the remainder of her life, so her struggle will never entirely cease. It’s more a matter of coping with these gigantic challenges. 

Of course, she could end her musical and performing career any time she wishes to do so, but says in the film that she feels that her entertainment talents have gifted her with an enlarged opportunity to help others. Keshishian keeps the pace moving at a brisk pace, so that even if you’re not necessarily a fan of Gomez’ music or other work, the documentary works effectively, in large part because of its emotional intimacy. 

The film is now streaming on Apple TV+.

Review: ‘Narco Cultura,’ A Collision Between Drugs, Music, And Murder

'Narco Cultura'
‘Narco Cultura’
It’s all fun and games until your children are murdered in the street.

A blood-boiling documentary, Narco Cultura explores the intersection of mass murder and pop culture in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where the murder toll skyrocketed tenfold from 2007 to 2010. The tremendous increase in homicides is laid at the feet of the Mexican government’s declaration of war upon drug cartels in 2006, and the subsequent battle for territory instigated by the most powerful cartel in the country.

It’s a city where crime scene investigators are compelled to wear masks while carrying out their duties in public, for fear that the murderers will take revenge. It’s a genuine, growing concern; in one police unit, three of Richi Soto’s colleagues have already been gunned down, either on their way home or on their way to work.

Richi serves as one of the focal points for the documentary, directed in an artful and acute manner by Shaul Schwarz. Born in Juárez, Richi loves the city, which is the only place he has ever known. Now 34 years of age, he still lives in the same room in the same house where he grew up with his family. He dreams of moving to El Paso, a scant few miles across the border between Mexico and the United States, but in the meantime he does his job with a pragmatic perspective, wary of the mortal dangers that abound in his city.

A thousand miles away, Edgar composes and sings narcocorridos (drug ballads), with lyrics filled with details taken from real-life exploits. Having served time in prison, Edgar only wants to provide for his family, yet his sympathies lie with the criminals whose exploits he is happy to celebrate. And the public agrees: his songs resonate with everyone who looks upon those involved in the drug trade as heroes, rebels against the system, characters to be emulated.

Narco Cultura expands to show the expansive influence of the drug culture on everyday life, contrasting the glamorous musical lifestyle with the desperate situation of citizens who have lost faith in the police and the government, and the despair expressed by police officers that anything can and will change. Corruption runs rampant and feeds upon itself; the authorities are compromised, either by fear and/or greed, and so few, if any, murders have been solved and the guilty brought to justice. When the cartels tell police and government officials to back off a case or resign, it’s not a threat, it’s a promise that a death sentence will be executed swiftly and without fear or retribution

Schwarz covers many bases in order to present a fair-minded expose and endeavors to be as even-handed as possible. After all, the celebration of evil is nothing new to the culture of mankind, as sickening and disheartening and discouraging as it is to observe here. The film is completely absorbing, and thus inspires another layer of contradictory feelings. It’s stylish and visually appealing; Schwarz clearly has an eye for arresting imagery. Yet it’s unflinching in its portrayal of the brutal violence that has been visited upon thousands of people, young and old, guilty and innocent, the anguished and the weary. Narco Cultura is easy to watch, painful to contemplate, and impossible to dismiss.

Review originally published at Twitch. Narco Cultura opens today (Friday, December 6) at Cine de Fort Worth, Cinemark West Plano, and Cinemark 17.

Indie Weekend: ‘I Saw the Devil,’ Dallas IFF

I Saw the Devil
'I Saw the Devil': Revenge is in the air. (Magnet)

Opening today at the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff for a one-week run, ‘I Saw the Devil’ is a black-hearted revenge film from South Korea that has received generally positive marks since its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall. Shortly thereafter, it played at Fantastic Fest, which is where I sat down to watch it on a Saturday morning.

My opinion is decidedly in the minority. Perhaps my expectations were different. Directed by Kim Ji-Woon, who in previous films such as ‘A Tale of Two Sisters’ and ‘The Good the Bad and the Weird’ demonstrated an affection for opulently entertaining excess, ‘I Saw the Devil’ takes it simple premise and hammers it into submission.

Let me quote from Kurt Halfyard’s review at Twitch:

Kim’s films, I Saw The Devil included, remain fun and exciting affairs, but do not engage the brain or the soul much beyond the basic concept. Case in point the film never really develops beyond Lee’s becoming the devil to defeat the devil and all the collateral damage done (family, innocent bystanders, you name it) in that single-minded quest.  Is doing all this evil enough to be justified by a promise and love?  It is a not a difficult question to answer after the film is over. The uncut version showed at the Toronto International Film Festival and it is about as bloody and gory (and oddly enough, glossy) a serial killer movie that I can recall. I’m sure someone will make a bloodier and gorier movie, that is the way these things work, but that does not change the fact that this is probably the current benchmark, Korean cinema or otherwise.

It’s tremendously well-made, and as long as you have the stomach for it, it’s something you’ll probably want to catch on the big screen. But I’m afraid it was a let down for me, more a technical exercise than anything else.

Dallas IFF
2011 Dallas International Film Festival

The big show got started last night. The Dallas International Film Festival (Dallas IFF) kicked off with the local premiere of Sundance / SXSW documentary fave ‘Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey’ at the Winspear Opera House. Yours truly decided to skip the red carpet and avoid the crowds, but I’ll be covering it as much as possible.

Coming on the heels of SXSW, Dallas IFF is decidedly a more low-key affair, but that keeps the emphasis squarely on the films, which is always a good thing. I’ll be covering a few films for my friends at Red Carpet Crash, who will feature complete coverage of the fest, and will be backing up my friend Josh Hurtado as he covers the festival for Twitch.

And I might have a thing or two to say about it on my Twitter feed, so you can follow me @PeterAMartin for all the latest grunts and grumbles. After the festival, I’m anticipating some changes to Dallas Film Now (and its Twitter feed, @DallasFilmNow) as well.