“Bless Me, Ultima” earns positive reviews, while icon Lupe Ontiveros gets ignored by the Academy: It was a mixed weekend for Latinos who follow the movies. And there are lots of us: U.S. Latinos represented 18% of the moviegoing population in 2012 but accounted for 25% of all movies seen, according Nielsen National Research Group.
So for us movie fans, the long-awaited release of the movie adaptation of Rudolfo Anaya’s classic novel “Bless Me, Ultima” was indeed a blessing. It earned many positive reviews, including a coveted four stars from noted critic Roger Ebert. Critics rated it at 77% and viewers at 97% on RottenTomatoes.com. Yet, despite the multiple mentions on Latino websites, Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, it only earned $0.5 million at the box office, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.
I’m thinking that positive word-of-mouth, patience and the sheer magic of the movie will push it to profitability and success. Regardless, the movie has inspired many viewers, including LatinoLA contributors Roberto Rodriguez and Norma de la Peña. Please read their heartfelt stories.
Of course, people who follow movies no doubt stayed in on Sunday night for the marathon Academy Awards presentation. There had already been a lot of chatter regarding the absence of Latino nominees in any of the acting categories and the controversy of Ben Affleck casting himself as Antonio Joseph “Tony” Mendez, the CIA agent at the center of the suspense thriller “Argo”. There’s a Facebook open group called USA born Latino Actors excluded from Hollywood that details the practice of casting non-Latinos in Latino roles devoted to
Another indication of Oscars/Hollywood’s mindset when it comes to Latinos: When host Seth MacFarlane introduced Salma Hayek, not only did he mock her accent, but also mentioned that it was part of the telecast where either she, Penelope Cruz or Javier Bardem come on to the stage, as if those are the only three Hispanics (not Latinos … Cruz and Bardem are Spaniards) that represent.
But most galling of all was the disrespect directed to one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors, the late Lupe Ontiveros, who in her 35-year career made lasting impressions in such movies as “Selena,” “Real Women Have Curves”, “El Norte”, “Goonies” and “Something’s Gotta Give”. Not only was the Mexican American actress, who passed away on July 26, 2012, left out of the ‘In Memoriam’ reel, but she was not included in Academy’s supplementary ‘In Memorium’ online gallery on its website, meant to honor those who didn’t make the telecast.
141 slides and not a one for La Lupe?
On the somewhat brighter side, one of the below-the-line triumphs was “Inocente” for Documentary Short Subject. The subject matter: an undocumented and homeless Latina teen fights to fulfill her dream to be an artist amidst a tumultuous family life.
It made history as the first crowd-funded film to win an Academy award. 294 backers pledged $52,527 via Kickstarter. Already transforming the tech hardware industry, crowd-funding is playing a leading role in leveling the field for smaller budget creative endeavors, including filmmaking, publishing and music.
Let’s hope we’ll be seeing more Latino creative entrepreneurs utilizing the power of the people to get their creativity not only produced and seen, but rightfully recognized.