Monthly Archives: December 2009

No Embrace For The Broken: 3 Reasons Why Almodovar’s Latest Falls Short

Pedro Almodovar has made a career out of operating on the thin line between reality and absurdity. From the musical numbers of Woman On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (1998) to the suspenseful voyeurism of Bad Education (2004), Almodovar twists, turns, and weaves stories unlike any other. I find myself watching his trailers before going to the film and thinking: “no way this one’s gonna work. This one is gonna fall short.” Well, unfortunately this time I was right. Following 2006’s ghostly creative Volver, Almodovar fails to surprise or entertain in Broken Embraces. Penelope Cruz, sex, cripples and gays: sounds like an Almodovar film, right? Unfortunately, Pedro falls into a familiar stride and fails to move forward with his latest.


Almodovar often effectively uses time gaps to play out the drama of a story line (see Live Flesh). However, Broken Embraces takes the viewer on a roller coaster ride: the story is almost equally spread over two distinct moments in the characters’ lives. Rather than building suspense and intensity, this technique disrupts the pacing and pulls the viewer out of film just as they’re getting into it.


Many of the best scenes in this film take place on the set of a movie starring Penelope Cruz’s character: a captivating – yet struggling – actress who’s personal life is all too intermingled with her inconsistent takes and on-camera persona. Although the terrific off-camera drama is secretly captured on a handheld recorder (in perfect voyeuristic form, might I add) the scenes within the film are just plain bad. And come on, that title? Girls and Suitcases?!


I like my Almodovar films to be over the top. And I’m okay with his frequently exaggerated finales. But I don’t want the story to be completely resolved. A great film lets the viewer connect the last few dots – if it finishes the entire arch, it falls into the dreaded category of having a predictable Hollywood Ending. Broken Embraces didn’t just drag on an extra half hour to spell out the entire plot, it relied on last minute twist and turns to play up drama. The problem? If the audience doesn’t care about the characters, the soap opera ending doesn’t work.

So there you have it. The positives? Broken Embraces is beautifully filmed down to every last shot. Almodovar once again proves that he is a master of his craft, however he falls into an uninteresting, overly complicated plot line and fails to deliver with this one. We can only hope that Pedro and Penelope have something of their sleeves for the next flick.


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The Start Of Something


Well, as an obvious first: I play music. I’ve been playing guitar since my first steps, and took up piano shortly thereafter. I’m a songwriter and producer, and currently front a Boston/New York based rock group called Reel Karma.

But more importantly for the purposes of this blog: I listen to music. I don’t mean just listen – as in put on the new Beyonce track while I’m doing homework. What I mean to say is music consumes me. If the new Spoon album leaked today, I would have to listen to it. Straight through. Over. And over. And over again.

Does this obsession effect my social skills? Most definitely. Last week I was at a party chatting with a friend when Julian Casablancas’ new cut “11th Dimension” came on. Yes, it was my iPod playing. And yes, I should have expected something off “Phrazes For The Young” to shuffle its way into the mix. And yet, I entered that all-too-familiar state which I affectionately call “Listener’s Trance.” My conversation quickly dropped off, and I found myself staring off into space, listening for every synth melody, anticipating every chord change, and holding out for the line “your faith has got to be greater than your fears.”


So that brings us to the here and now. My situation: music consumes my life. I always have tons to say about new releases in the indie rock and freak folk genres. In effort to maintain my sanity, this blog will house my reviews, criticisms, and thoughts. What’s unique about this blog compared to, say, Pitchfork or Daytrotter? I’m talking indie rock reviews from an indie rocker. I’ve got no sponsorships, no cash flow, and no corruption – just open ears and typing fingers.

Secondly, this blog will double as the news source for my band! (Hey, everyone’s gotta do a little self promo sometimes). We’ve got some great new stuff in the works, and I’d love to keep fans updated on our antics.

Lastly, this blog will be used to document my upcoming semester abroad! As Emerson College students, 3/4ths of Reel Karma (Myself, Sir Riley Ziesig, and Sam Sam Funky Bass Man) have the opportunity to live in a castle in The Netherlands. I’ll be blogging for all of us, sharing great stories as we journey across Europe searching for music, love, and lovely music.

Well then, sufficient introduction complete. I’ll be posting some songs and links over the next few days to fatten up this blog, and will be back atcha with some reviews soon. Stay tuned for my “Best Of 2009”!