2 Short Reviews Of Famous Movies In Spanish With English Subtitles

Spanish movies have a certain flair about them. Some might consider them exotic. Others might label them sexy. But you just have to look at Spanish actors who have come over to Hollywood to see what I mean. Think about Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz. That said, Spanish directors have also made a name for themselves in the international movie scene. Among them are Pedro Almodóvar and Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

But good looks and melodic sounding language aside, Spanish movies with English subtitles have a quality about them which I find hard to explain. But thanks to the DVD format, we can now enjoy movies in Spanish with English subtitles, among other languages available.

Volver is a critically acclaimed Spanish film starring Penelope Cruz. It becomes evident early in the movie that this part is perfect for Ms Cruz. The Academy Award nomination she received for her role cements that notion.

Volver’s director, Pedro Almodóvar, does a fantastic job as he tackles the subject matter – death – and how different generations of a small town react to it. He artfully unfolds the intriguing story line which slowly reveals the complicated relationships which bind the characters.

Volver is not a story about the fear of death. Rather, it is the story of how life goes on after death. It looks at the burden of unforgiveness the living have to carry once death has closed the door reconciliation. It also looks at sins and secrets which linger long after the sinner has departed.

The performances by Cruz, the film’s cinematography and art direction and careful direction of Almodóvar all make for one of the most entertaining movies in Spanish with English subtitles of 2006. I would personally give it 5 stars.

Amores Perros
What an incredible debut for director Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu. His first attempt at direction resulted in Amores Perros becoming an award-winning film and also an Academy award and Golden Globe nominee for best foreign film.

Set in Mexico City, Amores Perros tells three stories of love and complicated relationships in a violent city. In the heart of these stories, the fate of two dogs hang in the balance as the characters are brought briefly together by a car accident.

Unlike Pulp Fiction, Ameros Perros need not have the individual stories linked by a common event. I gather Inarritu chose this style to link the theme of the movie Each story could story could have stood alone as each explores the very definition of love from different points of view. I would also rate this as one of the best Spanish movies with English subtitles around. 5 stars, no less.

Understanding Movies Through the Lenses of Genre, Story, Morality, and Art

The Problem

A good movie review is so much more than the number of stars after the movie title. I know that’s what most people want to see, but think about it. A movie producer has just invested $60M and the director has given two years of his life. Do you really think they want to see that reduced to a casual two second glance at the number of stars following the title. I know the internet has turned us all into ADD consumers that have lost the ability to process through written information thoughtfully, but really! The many art forms that blend together to birth a film should be considered before passing a “two star” judgment. In this article I will attempt to describe four artistic lenses that craft a movie so that when you see your next blockbuster epic or quiet romantic comedy, you will have a greater appreciation for what the film makers have attempted to do.


This is the start button for every movie. The pitch to the studio money people begins, “It’s a __________ about …” The blank is the genre. Romantic comedy, drama, horror, action/adventure, buddy movie, coming of age movie, etc. Genre is the first lens we look through in unpacking a movie. It defines how the story will unfold, the pace of the editing, the musical theme as well as the incidental music, even the costumes and lighting will be determined by the genre. Each genre has its own set of rules, but genres also are reinvented and redefined successfully by Hollywood’s more creative movie makers. Barry Levinson’s “Rain Man” broke several genre rules but successfully told a very dramatic and engaging story about two brothers setting out on a cross country journey of discovery. Being able to identify the elements of genre in the movie will clarify why the movie is what it is.


The next lens is story. When story is combined with genre the filmmaker’s intent and purpose in making the film becomes clear. Look carefully at each character as they are introduced and trace their arc. When and where do the arcs cross? When do they run parallel? The length of the arc indicates the character’s importance. Is the character introduced to set something up later. At the end of the movie think back on how many characters were introduced and how was each story arc resolved or left open.


Every movie has a moral message. It is impossible to tell a story and not have a moral. Through the moral lens we see the message the film maker wants us to leave with when we exit the theater. Moral messages include: Good always wins over evil. Nice guys finish last. The bad things you do in secret will be publicly exposed. The morality of the movie can be positive or negative. Horror movies usually end with everyone getting killed except for that final one who either defeats evil or escapes to fight evil another day.


The artistic lens will reveal a movie’s longevity. If care was taken to creatively tell a story by expanding its genre, and revealing well formed characters with developed arcs, the film will become a classic. Every year the movie “Somewhere In Time” is celebrated on Mackinac Island, Michigan at the Grand Hotel. When the movie was first released in 1980, the box office was disappointing. But, when it began showing on cable TV, the artistic beauty of the well told romantic story captivated thousands of viewers. In 1990 the International Network of Somewhere In Time Enthusiasts was formed to plan the Mackinac Island event that became an annual celebration. In 2010 they will celebrate their 20th anniversary when the movie turns 30 years old. The movie is still celebrated for its moral theme of timeless love.

All That To Say…

…While we often are fans of particular movie stars, when you decide to go to a movie, look to see who’s directing the film. The film is their vision and the actors are only playing out the parts.After their third movie, they’ve usually established a moral history that holds true in future movies.

Revisit your movie experience through these lenses. Don’t be quick to pass judgment based on your personal opinion. As the credits roll filled with the people who worked on the movie you’ve just seen, begin thinking about the genre, story, morality, and art of the film. Do you think the director was able to accomplish what he and the producers set out to do? Read through the films reviews. Do you agree or disagree? Your experience at the movies will become far richer when you see the move through these lenses.

What Movies Can Teach You About Writing

After watching Gettysburg several months before, both Mark and I were champing at the bit to watch Gods and Generals. Mark’s a huge Civil War buff, and while I’m not an aficionado, I really loved Gettysburg. Great characters, good writing, action that moved along…

An hour into Gods and Generals, I tried to fall asleep. Mark looked for the function on the Blu-Ray remote to double time the movie, kind of like speeding up records.

We were bored.

We finally turned it off and went to bed, but then spent the next half hour dissecting the movie. If I were a film or film-and-literature professor, I would make my students write a paper on why the film failed.

I won’t make you do that; instead, I’ll summarize the results for you.

The dialogue was beyond ponderous. For some reason, the writer/screenplay writer felt the need to make all the language extremely formal. Now, while speech was more formal then than it is now, it wasn’t THAT formal – or slow.

The movie flitted from scene to scene to scene, with no real connectivity to each other. As a viewer, I wondered why a particular scene was important. I never forgot I was watching a movie, which is the ultimate failure of a movie or any written piece. You want the viewer or the reader to be so immersed that she forgets it’s a movie she’s watching or a book she’s reading. If I were the director or editor, I would have made the writer defend each scene’s inclusion in the movie. If it’s not crucial, it shouldn’t be there.

The one battle scene (Manassass) we watched had no real through-line. Whether it’s Gettysburg or Braveheart, the battle scenes have to be more than just people sticking swords into or shooting at each other. There must be a reason that scene (battle or no) is there.

Along with not being clear on why it was important to watch these scenes, I didn’t feel there was any forward movement. As a writer, your job is ALWAYS to move the reader forward, whether it’s to entertain and have the result to have been entertained, or to get to some result, like self- or business-improvement. The screenplay writer or director (or both) of Gods and Generals seemed to have forgotten that more important directive… move things forward.

It felt like someone wanted to film an historic moment (or two years of moments), not tell a story. Everything is a story. Business books tell a story, even if they don’t look like traditional stories. The screenplay writer or director (I don’t know who to blame for this one) seemed to have no sense of structure or plot development.

What does this tell you about your writing?

If you include dialogue, make it real. That doesn’t mean you have to include a lot of “uhs” and “ums.” It means the flow and use of language should sound as if real people are talking.

Everything you write should be crucial. If there isn’t a strong reason for it to be there, then slash without remorse. That goes for characters and scenes in fiction, and illustrations and concepts in nonfiction.

Along with being crucial, everything needs to connect. Think of it like a flow chart… this connects to this, and then it connects to this, and then to this… No one segment of a piece of writing should be independent of the whole. The whole should be better off for each element.

Before you start writing anything, know what your purpose is. What do you want your reader to come away with at the end? What do you want your reader to do as a result? When you’re clear about that, then everything you write should lead to that final purpose.

Tell a story. We are of a storytelling culture. We respond to stories, even as adults. Even with nonfiction. No matter what you’re writing, engage the reader, and enthrall him or her.

If you’re conscious about your writing the elements above, your writing is sure to be a box-office hit.