Yesterday, immediately after writing about how Disney will only be showing Coco to Spanish audiences in Mexican Spanish, a first in over 25 years, my neighbor asked me to go watch the movie with him. He’s also Mexican, so I figured his presence would make the experience extra-Mexican.
So Coco is fine. Some people hate it, apparently, but the flick has been grossing insane amounts of money here in the States, and it’s already the highest-grossing movie in Mexico ever. I’m not writing a review, just a bunch of observations, and warning: You may not want to read the following if you haven’t seen the movie.
1) I might be Walter Mercado
I initially made fun of Miguel, the protagonist, when I said he wanted to be a reggaetonero, but my dumb joke turned out to be almost true: Coco is about a boy’s ambition of becoming a musician, and his family’s stifling reaction towards his dream.
Walter Mercado, GTFO. I love you, but from now on I’ll be the one dressing up in fabulous outfits and predicting shit.
2) Coco is good, but…
Coco is well-written, the story is engaging, and half of the characters are funny. I say half because, with the exception of the narcoleptic great-grandma and Frida Kahlo (we’ll get to her in a bit), the rest of the women are super bitchy and in constant consternation. They’re characterized as being hard workers and luchonas, which is fine, but they’re also sourpusses. The abuelita character offsets some of that grouchiness by being caring and kind, but most of female characters in Coco are essentially sufridas and abnegadas, states of mind which have long hunted Mexican women.
3) We’re easy pray
It’s scary how well Coco preys on Mexican nostalgia. Everything from shots of exquisite pan dulce, alebrijes (colorful and fantastic mythical creatures, see above), to the beautiful colonial town. It’s safe to say that at least half of Mexicans in Mexico don’t celebrate Day of the Dead, yet this movie makes a very strong case for one to pick it up.
(I compared notes with my Mexican-raised friends, which hail from Mexico City, Coahuila, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Baja California, and Michoacán, and only the michoacano was privy to the holiday.)
4) Language barrier (wall?) #trumpjokeorsomething
I watched the movie in English, and I can tell some of the jokes, songs, and other bits probably worked better in Spanish. Still, I wanted to watch Coco in English because I’m far more interested in what the American public, and other English-speakers, are going to pick up from the movie. I was still surprised by the amount of Spanish that was left in the English version, but, really, no part of the dialogue falls flat because it’s not in Spanish.
In short, English-speakers are not really losing out on anything major.
5) Kill your idols
Gael García Bernal voices Héctor, one of the main characters, and I don’t love it. Gael was obviously attached to the project so his name would give Coco more Mexican cred, but he doesn’t have a great speaking voice. It’s passable, sure, but Gael’s voice is not colorful. And don’t get me started on his singing. *Blow your brains emoji*
6) Again, kill your idols, even in the afterlife
Frida Kahlo is portrayed as a wacky, silly artist, and it’s actually funny. I had a feeling she was going to be shoehorned because Americans love her, and she was. (Side note: remember when Madonna wanted to play Frida in a movie, but Salma Hayek cockblocker her?)
Listen, Frida is great, but it’s time to give other Mexican artists the spotlight. Even a Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz cameo would have been more novel. The same goes for the “Llorona” song – I mean, it’s a good song, but damn, find yourselves a new weepy ranchera, people. Juanga’s “Muerto en vida” would have been excellent alternative.
7) We’d like to wake up now, please
Circling back to #3, I can’t help but feel that it’s still weird that American media won’t portray Mexico in a modern setting. Listen, Coco is not offensive, but it seems that every time an American company makes a movie or a reference to Mexico, positive or not, it’s always old-timey Mexico. It’s my great-grandma’s Mexico – with kitschy cantinas, cobble stones, haciendas, donkeys, etc – but never modern Mexico, where a lot of
hipsterism modernism has been running rampant for decades.
The fact that Disney-Pixar decided to play up the old-school angle makes monetary sense. A lot of the Mexicans who live in the US – Yours Truly included – come from small towns that look like the town in Coco. However, even the residents of those towns know these portrayals are extremely dated, so nobody would be fooled if a modern Mexico was suddenly portrayed.
Unfortunately, old-timey Mexico is the Mexico everyone – even snooty, upper class Mexicans – cherish, so I’m not sure any of this is going to change anytime soon.
8) Coco really is good, but stop overanalyzing, maybe
Coco is meant to be a children’s movie, so a lot my observations might be way too intense for its intended purpose. I’m aware of that.
In fact, since Mexican culture is being treated with respect by Disney-Pixar, I genuinely hope it encourages a new generation of children to be curious about not just Mexican culture, but other colorful cultures in general.
When I was 5, I came to America fascinated by its technology, food, language, and it was all thanks to American cartoons. Hopefully Coco will inspire a similar curiosity in other children.
María Rubio was so good as Catalina Creel, an iconic telenovela villain, the role ruined her career
According to sources on Twitter, and also TvNotas, the holy bible of Mexican gossip, María Rubio, the legendary actress best known for her role as Catalina Creel de Larios in Cuna de lobos, has passed away. She was 83 years old.
Thanks to her role as Soraya Montenegro in María la del Barrio, Itati Cantoral has been dominating the internet with an insane amount of memes, gifs, and even a House of Cards promo special. Itati blew up in the mid ’90s, when older millennials were still teens, and she’s that generation’s go-to character when it comes to Mexican telenovela villains.
Yes, Cantoral was great as Soraya, but the top dog in the telenovela villain game was — and has always been — María Rubio. The Tijuana-born actress was so good in Cuna de lobos that, according to an interview she did with Cristina Saralegui, the role ruined her career:
“[Catalina Creel] was a difficult, beloved character. I enjoyed playing her, but she also hurt me a lot. People completely forgot about María Rubio and now it seems that, after 40 years of being an actress, I’ve only done Catalina Creel.”
Catalina, a murderous matriarch, was known for having some of the best one-liners in telenovela history. But in the same interview with Saralegui, which was filmed over 20 years ago, María proved to be just as cunning and smart as her infamous character, but also incredibly funny:
“[Although I played a villain], I’ve received nothing but compliments, love, and admiration. Never aggression. I think viewers do attack the bad ones — bad actresses, that is.”
If you understand Spanish, check out the hilarious interview below. Watch María viciously own everyone in a panel of full of young telenovela villains:
Traumatic advice from aunt Rosa: “Don’t torture your Care Bear, Mijo. Or else.”
I was 6 years old when I yelled at Tugs, my Care Bear. I put him in time-out for not agreeing to the rules of an imaginary game I had just created.
I built a little time-out fortress for him to stay in while I played with my other toys. Coincidentally my tía Rosa was visiting that day. I urged her to see all my toys when she came into the house. I also explained to her that Tugs was in time-out, to which she replied in shock, “Mijo, mira, You have to be nice to your toys.”
I replied, “Tía, I am nice to my toys, but I’m teaching him a lesson.”
She contested nervously, “No, Mijo, you have to be nice to your toys or they might not be nice to you.”
I wasn’t following her logic.
“Mijo, if you’re not nice to your toys, then at night time they might wake up and crawl into your bed to cut your toes with tiny razors,” she said slowly while staring at my imprisoned Care Bear.
“What?!” I whispered to her while looking at Tugs from the corner of my eye.
“Yes, your toys might do very bad things to you if you don’t treat them good.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
She stood up and walked towards the doorway.
“Mijo, I brought you some tortillas. Come in the kitchen and let’s warm them up,” Rosa said casually.
From then on, Tugs sat on a tufted pillow on my dresser while I slept in velcro shoes for the next year. Growing up in my Mexican-American family meant that everything was possibly alive and watching you.