With the movie award season upon us, there is no shortage of movie lists being dispersed within the media hemisphere pronouncing of names of the usual suspects such as Steven Spielberg, Denzel Washington and Robert DeNiro. So we decided to do our own version as well — a Hispanic movie list version outlining the best Latino Movies of 2012.
But in order to develop a list like this, we must first define what a Hispanic movie is. The conventional answer is a film that has a Latino story, a Latino cast, and ideally, a Latino director, with language being irrelevant. But since Hollywood does not green-light enough Hispanic scripts, that answer needs to be broadened to also include any actor/actress or director who has a prominent role in a mainstream film. When you evaluate all the films within this criteria, 2012 represented some great Hispanic moments in movies that left an indelible sense of pride and achievement.
With that in mind, we give you the Best Hispanic Movies of 2012…
5. Silver Linings Playbook
This movie is a Hispanic film? No, not in its conventional sense, but within the construct of our aforementioned criteria, yes, because it has Puerto Rican actor John Ortiz in a prominent role in a Hollywood film. He plays Ronnie, the angst-ridden best friend of Pat, played by Bradley Cooper. He is a man going through a rough patch with his overbearing, selfish wife, but who, through his own troubles, finds a way to always lend an unconditional and positive support to his distressed friend and the people around him. Combine that with some pithy lines and a charming performance, it’s hard not to watch the film and not think of Ortiz as one of the highlights. Overall, “Silver Linings Playbook” is a romantic screw-ball dramedy that offers honest performances, laughs, wit and heart.
Javier Bardem, one of the best actors of our generation, in Spanish or English, plays evil as good as anyone has in this year’s acclaimed James Bond film, “Skyfall.” This time he inhabits the skin of the maniacal criminal Raoul Silva, a demented Portuguese villain out for vengeance and a target on ‘M,’ James Bond’s boss. Bardem makes history here as he becomes the first Hispanic actor to ever have a major role in a Bond movie. He hits it out of the ballpark with his “uncomfortable” effeminate performance and gives you shades of his Oscar-winning work as the monstrous Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men.” Agent 007 never looked so threatened, so weak as he has against the likes of Bardem’s Silva. Just for that alone you should see what it was that made Bond tremble in his boots.
Speaking of Hispanic films, whenever you have the likes of Salma Hayek, Benicio del Toro and Demían Bichir as part of your cast, with a Mexican cartel angle, it is not just a Hispanic film, it is an entertaining thriller worth watching multiple times over. Del Toro steals the show here as Lado, a depraved and ‘savage’ killer whose performance rivals that of Bardem in “Skyfall.” Director Oliver Stone tells the story of a marijuana-growing duo who face off against the Mexican drug cartel in order to save their kidnapped shared girlfriend. The movie is dark, violent, gritty and entertaining; an unsettling crime drama whose Latino presence makes one of this year’s top thrills.
2. Chico and Rita
When one thinks of animation today, one usually thinks of the computer-generated style of Pixar. But there is this whole other universe of “cartoons” that oppose the artistic system of the “Toy Story” approach. Enter “Chico and Rita,” one of the most beautiful hand-drawn films you will see since Sylvain Chomet’s magical and heartwarming cinematic masterpiece “L’illusionniste.” Directors Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal transport us to Cuba of 1948 in this tale of love, fate, salsa and jazz, wrapped up in a seductive glow that captures you with its romance and sensuality. Nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category last year and voted Best Animation this year by the NYFCO (New York Film Critics Online), “Chico and Rita” is a sensorial pleasure that you will cherish for years to come.
1. End of Watch
Gut-wrenching and full of heart-pounding intensity, “ End of Watch” is our choice for the Best Hispanic film of 2012. The Mexican Cartel or the Los Angeles Police Department? Who do you think will win this bullet-fest brawl? This is the premise behind David Ayer’s gritty, first person, mocku-doc that has Mexican-American actor Michael Peña in the co-lead role. Peña, one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood, is one of two young LAPD police officers who are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a ferocious Mexican cartel. It’s rare to find a movie that possesses a high entertainment value with an indie integrity. Peña makes it funny, dramatic and downright hypnotic. Prepare yourself for the ending; it will emotionally affect you for days.
Jack Rico, NBCLatino contributor and founder of showbizcafe.com.