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Movie Review: Biutiful

Alternate Title: Bleak House

Story: It takes a lot to move this hard hearted Hannah - but moved I was by this powerful film directed and written by Alejandro González Iñárritu. It has everything that I enjoy about film - it has a good story, absorbing characters, it is original, visually exciting, surprising and it made me think. Actually, I have not stopped thinking about it since I left the theater yesterday.

Uxbal is a conflicted man. He makes his living off the underworld of Barcelona. He is a middleman between the illegal Senegalese street sellers and the underground Chinese laborers who make the knock-offs. This triangle of illegal activities is core to the tragedies that are sure to come.

At the same time Uxbal is trying to raise his two young children as best he can by himself while his bipolar wife is unable to care for them. On top of this - Uxbal has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has just a few months to live.

Now, do not be put off by this set up. The film is often spiritual, ironically upbeat and at times, redemptive. Yes, director Inarritu emphasizes the dark side of humanity but this film screams of life while the main character is dying.

Be brave - go see this film and be enriched by the experience.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er6_39K27Yo

Acting: I do not know why they even bother to nominate anyone else when Javier Bardem has a meaty role like this one. He is nothing short of sensational as Uxbal. Maricel Álvarez as his bipolar wife Marambra is fabulous. Eduard Fernández as brother Tito is perfectly smarmy. Diaryatou Daff as Igé is also great. Cheng Tai Shen as factory owner Hai and Luo Jin as Liwei also bring wonderful performances. Youngsters Guillermo Estrella as Mateo and Hanaa Bouchaib as little Ana are diamonds in the rough.

Trivia: Director Alejandro González Iñárritu is friends with fellow successful Mexican directors Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro. The three often produce & support each other in their cinematic projects. He was the first Mexican to receive an Oscar-nomination for Best Director. He has directed four Oscar nominated performances: Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro, Adriana Barraza,and Rinko Kikuchi. Javier Bardem is married to Penelope Cruz and are expecting their first child. His Best Actor nomination for Before Night Falls (2000) made him the first Spanish actor to receive an Academy Award nomination and his Best Supporting Actor victory for No Country for Old Men (2007) made him the first Spanish actor to win an Academy Award. He is one of 8 actors to have won the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Critics' Choice Award, Golden Globe Award and SAG Award for the same performance. The others in chronological order are Geoffrey Rush for Shine, Jamie Foxx for Ray, Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote, Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland, Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood, Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight, and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds.

Predilection: I am a huge fan of Javier Bardem.

Critters: A dead owl, ants, a worm, moths, beached whales and spiders (no - this is not a warm and fuzzy film).

Food: Lots of scenes take place around the small kitchen area. Poignant moments to be sure.

Soundtrack: Haunting music by Gustavo Santaolalla.

Opening Titles: Two visually arresting scenes that repeat themselves at the end of the film.

Visual Art: Director of photography, Rodrigo Prieto creates an amazing palette in this beautiful film.

Theater Audience: Packed for an early show at the Landmark Sunshine theater. This is the only theater in Manhattan where it is playing this week.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: I was riveted throughout.

Predictability Level: I was not sure what was going to happen at anytime.

Tissue Usage: I cried a bit towards the end.

Oscar Worthy: Yes.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure.

Length: 20 minutes over the two hour rule