Thirteen Academy Award nominations. That’s how many nominations the film The Shape Of Water has received. Three of those nominations are best original screenplay, best director and best picture of the year. These three nominations have the name Guillermo Del Toro attached to them. As good as the film is, what stands out even more to me is the fact that in the age of #OscarsSoWhite, in the age of the Trump regime, and in the overall state of open and institutionalized racism towards anyone who isn’t white, there has been one constant that has persevered; the success of Mexican filmmakers, particularly at the Academy Awards.
On Thanksgiving weekend 2017, Disney-Pixar released its nineteenth feature film. The film is called Coco, and unlike most its predecessors where talking toys, monsters, or fish are the central characters, this film revolves around human characters set in a small Mexican village. At the center of the story is Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a twelve year old who dreams of being a musician and emulating his favorite singer/guitarist Ernesto De La Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). Based on an incident that happened generations ago, Miguel is forbidden to play music by his family, particularly by his abuelita, or grandmother, Elena (Renee Victor) who pressures him to join the family business of shoe-making. On Dia De Los Muertos (or Day Of The Dead) Miguel is transported between the living world and the land of the dead, and finds himself on a journey that will eventually reunite him with his ancestors and the hero that he idolizes.
On March 14, 2014 the film Cesar Chavez was released into theaters. It told the story of the legendary farm-worker and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez during the 1960s and 1970s. On paper it seemed like a film critics would praise and audiences, particularly Latino audiences, would embrace. It had a great cast that featured Michael Pena as Chavez, America Ferrera as his wife Helen Chavez and Rosario Dawson as civil rights leader Dolores Huerta. It was a film co-produced by Participant Media, a production company with the mission statement of producing films with a story that revolves around social and civic change. Despite all of this, it was a film that came and went with almost no real buzz surrounding it, and no significant word of mouth to propel it. The film was panned by critics and made very little noise at the box office. I must admit, as excited I was to see that a film like this was being made, it took about two weeks after its initial release for me to actually see the film. When I saw it, I was disappointed. I was still happy that the story of arguably the most important civil rights leader in Latino-American history was made into a feature length film, but more importantly, I was saddened to see that the film itself didn’t live up to the standards that it should have. It was also disappointing to see a film like this not reach any kind of critical or fan success, because had it been successful it would have opened the door to so many other stories like it. People so easily forget that Latinos, specifically Mexican-Americans have been living in the United States for centuries. We didn’t start to suddenly immigrate here over the last twenty years, and we definitely are not guilty of doing the things that Fox News and the Trump regime accuse us of doing. I say all of this because the stories of our people and of our cultures are very deep and complex. Had the film Cesar Chavez become a success, it would have been a precedent to produce future films like it, but it wasn’t, and I along with many other Latino film fans had to wonder where our next story would come from.
In 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers played the Oakland Athletics in the World Series. Although Game 1 was being played at Dodger Stadium, the A's, who won 104 games that year, were the heavy favorites to win the championship. In the bottom of the 9th inning (Hey there, anybody who's a baseball fan knows this story from the back of their hand, bare with me while I recap the end of the game. I'm trying to let the newbies [Don't be mean, baseball needs as many fans as possible] in on the action. Thanks for the patience), Kirk Gibson, who didn't play for the majority of the game, came in to pinch hit with two outs and one on, and put the Dodgers down 3-2. The crowd went wild simply by his presence. With the count full, Kirk Gibson hits a home run to right field and the Dodgers won Game 1. By many historians, it is considered one of the most iconic moments in baseball history.