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All of me and then some

Hello and welcome to my site. My name is Irina , and I'm 23 years old, born and raised in Puerto Rico. Presently I'm a senior at Penn State University where my major's Film and Video. ( Actually, I graduated from PSU last year, yipee! Got my film degree and immediately queued up at the nearest unemployment line. Right now I'm back at school, Grad school that is in a little school in Texas. How about that, I'm an English major. It's okay, don't cry for me. I had to put the real world on hold for a while is all.) Hence, my unholy obsession with the cinema. I love all types of films, but particularly foreign and independent features. My favorite filmmaker is Ingmar Bergman ( to whom I shall dedicate a page soon) and my favorite film is Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows, a must see for any film fan--it truly changed my life.

I am a big fan of Angelina's and will hopefully be able to keep up with her ever busying schedule and her latest news. As AJ is not that well known as of now, it is hard to find info on her, but there are plenty of periodical articles and a couple of good sites already on the net. She's quickly built up a strong fan base and I hope this becomes a forum for discussions about her work.

Let me see what else I like. Hmmm...Janeane Garafalo rocks, as does Craig Killborn & Beth Littleford (From one of my fave shows "The Daily Show" from Comedy Central: update....I don't watch the show anymore, in a word or two : I HATE JON STEWART! HE MUST HAVE THE BEST AGENT IN HOLLYWOOD! WHY DOES THIS GUY GET ALL THESE CHANCES WHEN HIS PRESENCE IS ONLY EQUIVALENT TO NAILS SCRATCHING A BLACKBOARD!ok ok ok, glad to get that out of my chest. Of course now Jay Mohr is getting all the movie roles Jonny boy used to get, but at least he's funny and does a killer Christopher Walken impression!)Bill Maher, Conan O'Brien (and Andy of course!) and Ben Stiller. I like SNL a lot, particularly Cheri Oteri, Molly Shannon, Tracy Morgan and Will Ferrel, oh yes, and Chris Kattan (Mango!). I love Nicole Sullivan from Mad TV, especially her character "tch, you know what?" Soooooooooooooo mean! UPDATE: ANYONE OUT THERE, IF YOU KNOW WHO JONATHAN RHYS MEYERS IS THEN YOU'LL UNDERSTAND MY LATEST OBSESSION. IS THAT MAN BEAUTIFUL OR WHAT. I WANT TO HAVE HIS CHILDREN.

Among my favorite tv shows are: "Party Of Five" (which I never, ever miss....what's up with Julia???) "Boy Meets World" (stop laughing... I mean it, stop that smartass little sneaker!, it's a good show....honest....who could resist a character named Topanga) "Friends" (I tried soooooooo hard not to get hooked, but it's impossible, bottom line is, this show is funny as hell! Phoebe rocks, but gosh, isn't Chandler cute as hell?) "60 Minutes" ( Gotta love Mike and co. but what is up with Andy Rooney? This guy gets paid for doing those annoying rants? Give the Misanthropic Bitch those five minutes.) "Judge Judy" (is this woman God? I just wish she were my grandma!) and "Law and Order" ( Very very the guy in it is real cute too : P

However, my favorite show and absolute obsession is "The Simpsons." I've watched every single episode and have (gulp) over 150 episodes on tape.

Of course there are things/people I hate. In particular, Ben Affleck (his phoniness is just disturbing to no end), Janet Jackson (can she be a bit more fake?) John Girsham, Geraldo Rivera, the Backstreet Boys and Ben Stein.

I dig all types of music. I mean, everything from early Bowie to Lauryn Hill. I just like original artists, preferrably singer/songwriters. Even though I very, very guiltily enjoy songs from the Spice Girls (Agony! But at least I admit it).

My best friends are *incredibly* cool (of course, they have to be if they're my friends! :P and I love them dearly: HJ, Dave, Ivan AND Vic! What up girl? (BTW, Vic's the BIGGEST AJ fan you'll meet and a talented actress herself, she'll probably end up co-starring with her soon!)...Love you guys...

That's me in a nutshell...and of course, film.

Among the best films I have seen recently are:

-Ponette (France) = I can't say enough about this film. It is one of the most heartbreaking, intelligent looks at the world of childhood I have ever seen. The performance by the lead actress Victoire Thisvol (who was three and a half at the time of filming) is one of the greatest I have ever seen, perhaps the best ever given by a child.

-In the Company of Men (US) = a raw, uncompromising look at the corporate world. It's a very hard film to watch, but it is honest and therefore it works. The performances are top notch, and the writing is superb.

-The Story of Adele H. (France)= this is one of Francois Truffaut's greatest films. I revisited it a week ago and was again apalled at the power this simple story has. It is beautifully shot and contains Isabelle Adjani's finest performance.

-Crooklyn (US) = Probably my favorite Spike Lee film, and definitely his most moving. The children give wonderfully natural performances, particularly Zelda Harris. It is a beautiful piece of cinema that should be checked out.

-The Chinese Connection (HK) = This might be my favorite Bruce Lee film. Maybe because he plays such a troubled character (I'm inexplicably attracted to rebels and outsiders), a loner in many ways. I'm not into action films a lot, and the only ones I tend to really enjoy are martial art films from the seventies. Watching Bruce Lee fight is akin to seeing Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly or Michael Jackson dance. It is beautiful, and the film is very touching with a very powerful final scene. Dare I say it: a martial arts film with a heart!

-Pather Panchali (India) = I had read an inmense about of articles regarding this film by Satyajit Ray as one of the greatest works of art in film history. I can safely say this is no exaggeration. It is an unbelievably moving demonstration of what cinema can achieve. The story deals with the problems faced by a family because of the poverty they can't escape. My favorite performances were those given by the actresses who portrayed Dungar and Auntie. It is a definite hearbreaker, with a beautiful, poetic ending. I can only say I'll be looking up the two sequels this one inspired--"Apajarito" and "The World of Apu"--very soon.

-Fahrenheit 451 (France) = Francois Truffaut's only English language film, based on the Ray Bradburry novel, it deals with a future where the mere fact of owning books is a crime and firemen enter and search houses to eliminate any work of literature; anything from "Lolita" to issues of "Cahiers du Cinema." I thought this was a great, impressive film. The way Truffaut envisioned the future (even though somewhat dated by today's standards) was eerily on the money. The power and influence of television over what we think and do is evident here. The performances by Oskar Werner and Julie Christie (in a dual role) were just right; detached individuals who serve as a prototype of what our society indeed has become.

-Fresh (US) = This is a very recent film that I watched at the suggestion of one of my co-workers (Hey Harlan!). I was captivated by this film from beginning to end. Its raw power is undescribable, and the performances by the lead actor in particular (Sean Nelson) was brilliant. The story deals with a young boy who has become a pint size drug runner. He, however, is extremely intelligent and knows that there is no future in this type of life. He sets out to become a man, and in the process many lives are changed, most importantly his own. It is a film of astonishing and unrelenting power which should be seen by everyone. I was very impressed with screenwriter/director Boaz Yakim's decision not to put the usual soundtrack that befuddles urban films, instead, the instrumental score brings yet another dimension to this already multi-layered motion picture. Kudos to Giancarlo Esposito in the role of Esteban.

-Beloved (US) = I saw this film last night, and I still have not recuperated from it. Watching it was such a visceral experience, that I am sure many people won't be able to digest it. But it is their loss, because it is a film of such brilliance, that it stands out as one of the truly great cinematic achievements of recent memory. The performances are top notch, starting with one of my favorite actresses Thandie Newton

Thandie Newton: A Dedication
in the title role. Her performance is one of such raw power, that I was amazed at it. Nothing she's done previously to this (and she's done some terrific work) could have prepared me for this. But it is an ensemble piece, and every single performer is at the top of their game. Kimberly Elise makes a strong impression as Denver. Her eyes, full of pain and longing, will haunt me forever. Danny Glover in the role of Paul D its every right note with his thoughtful deliveries. Ms. Winfrey's most astonishing achievement is that she lets the audience forget about her television persona. Not only that, she completely inhabits the role of Sethe, a woman of power, determination, and ultimately too human. However, my highest praise goes out to Beah Richards in the role of Baby Suggs. Standing tall atop a tree trunk, with that beautiful face full of history, every single word she uttered went right into my heart. This is an amazing cinematic experience.

-The Butcher Boy (Ireland) = Unrelenting. A trip into insanity reminiscent of "Heavenly Creatures" & "The Tin Drum" but still very much its own creation. Here, Neil Jordan (who directed "The Crying Game" & "Interview with the Vampire") brings Patrick McCabe's novel to film, and does so wonderfully. This is the story of a little boy with a vivid imagination, a strong sense of loyalty and yes...a murderer in the making. (The title of the film should be taken literally) If you have a weak stomach, don't see this film. It is violent and might gross out some people. However, all of these devices are there for a reason and are never gratuituos. The lead performer, one Eamonn Owens, is amazing in the role of Francie Brady. This kid should get a damn Oscar for this! The music selections are awesome, and the cinematography breath taking.

-The Thin Blue Line (US) = Amazing documentary about a murder case in 1970's Texas. I had heard a lot about this film, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. It is completely involving, frustrating, emotional, and disturbing. The documentary was made by Eroll Morris, and tells the story of a cop killing case in 1976 in Dallas Texas. Officer Robert Woods was gunned down by a driver after being stopped for driving with the lights off. The film is an investigation as to who actually committed the murder and ultimately about the corruption of the justice system. It is important to notice that after the release of this film, Randall Harris(the man convicted) was freed from jail. (Amen to that!)

-Psycho (US)Well, I must admit that Mr. Van Sant didn't self-destroy. His "reprise" of "Psycho" is a noble experiment, though the sound effects he added (i.e. masturbation, etc.) were not really necessary. That is really what sets Hitchcock apart from him, that he would never stoop to such cheap tricks;especially because from then on the audience couldn't help but laugh at everything Norman Bates (Vaughn) did. Instead of empathy,fear or even contempt, the audience found him funny...not at all what Perkins' performance does. However, Vince Vaughn's charisma on screen is amazing. He has star potential written all over his face (and awesome body!). The other performers were just as effective, and Van Sant's direction although mostly faithful, did leave some of his personal imprint. His addition of the birds inside the fruit cellar was wonderful,as was Julianne Moore's shows of strength and self-confidence; but the addition of the spider on Ms. Bates' face was stretching it...even cheap as were the addition of Van Sant trademarks (images of clouds, etc.)in completely unnecessary parts (It's as if Mr. Van Sant is yelling out "look, look! I still have my clouds in! Not to mention the sadomasochistic imagery! I am still original, folks!") . As a whole, the thing that impressed me the most was not the film itself, but the audience's reaction. They constantly screamed during the classic scenes, which leads me to believe that 99% of this audience had not even seen clips from the original. Maybe that was Mr. Van Sant's intention to begin with; maybe he wanted to bring Hitchcock's style to an audience that would otherwise would never see it. Too bad some might say, I say--oh well.

-Life Is Beautiful (Italy)= By far the best film of 1998. Roberto Benigni co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in this magical, heart wrenching film. The film is pretty much divided into two parts: Guido (Benigni) and his wooing of a young, beautiful teacher and the second part: Guido and his family being shipped off to a concentration camp. By the time Guido and his son get to the camp, the audience is deeply emerged in this sensitive man's life. The character of Guido is so loveable, that it reminded me of Chaplin in "City Lights" and in particular, "The Kid." If there is any justice in this world, the Academy should recognize Benigni's work of art with a bunch of Oscar nominations. This is a film about love, simply put. Go see it if you can!

-The Sweet Hereafter (Canada)= Unbelievably subtle and yet captivating, Atom Egoyan's telling of a bus accident which leaves 14 children dead and an entire community in mourning is quite an achievement in filmmaking. The breakdown of time and space is not a gimmick (like Tarantino's great "Pulp Fiction), but rather a necessity to fully comprehend the story. This film is so multi-layered, so involving, I was in a constant state of entrancement. Egoyan's style echoed in many ways Ang Lee's masterful "The Ice Storm," but whereas Lee's story was affected by ambience, Egoyan's almost exists because of it, not as a reflection, but as a part of this village's lives.

-Hilary and Jackie (1998) Is Emily Watson a genius? This movie had a heart wrenching effect on me. The style of the piece, coupled with the music and the amazing performances by Watson and Rachel Griffiths (both Oscar nominated) were almost overwhelming. The beauty of the movie is that it shows us its subjects (famed cellist Jacqueline DuPre and her decidedly lesser known, yet talented sister Hilary) so objectively. Just when I started to believe that the film narrative structure had reach its zenith, I see "Hilary and Jackie," and gain new hope. The finale of the movie will completely blow you away, I am certain. It is a movie I wish everyone could see!!! I can't say enough good things about it.

-Titanic (1997) Pure and simple, the best film I have ever seen. It took me two years to even see it on video because I didn't want the memory of seeing it in the theater tarnished. It didn't. If anything, it appeased me, because I had the idea I was attributing too much into it. Is it incorrect to call the film simple? I just find it direct and true and leaving the theater I had a feeling I rarely have (it happened with "The English Patient"), "this is what movies are for," to transport its audience to a completely different world, and to make them empathize with people legions away from our own reality, but unforgettable in their fragile humanity.

-Election (1999) Hilarious. Sarcasm and cynisism permate through film today, but this film gets it just right. In Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick we have extreme opposites, and they both give, I think, their best performances yet. I don't want to spoil the movie, so I just want to say, RENT IT, it will have you laughing and has not one dull moment.

-Velvet Goldmine (1998) An awesome movie that made me fall in love with Jonathan Rhys Meyers. If you like Bowie and/or are intersted in the glam rock era, or even if you like "Rocky Horror" and "Tommy," you will love this movie. It tells the story of 70's fictional hero Brian Slade and why he faked his own assassination. It is a tour de force by director Todd Haynes who outdoes himself with every new scene. I especially enjoyed the soundtrack and the fact that both male stars let it all hang out (it's fair to have the boys show their equipment if the girls have being doing so for the last fifty years!!!).

For More on Films

My Favorite Films
These Movies Suck

List of awesome links:

Kate Winslet Fan Club
The best site of one of my favorite actresses. It's got pretty good info on Heavenly Creatures and Jude among others. Worth checking out
Binoche Online
In my estimation, the greatest actress working in cinema today. If you don't believe me, rent BLUE. That should do it.
Lili Taylor Online
An amazingly talented actress.
A page dedicated to a great, sexy, handsome and talented actor: Kevin Spacey [spoiler ahead]:(aka Keyser Soze)
The Judy Garland Database
A fitting tribute to a true legend
Max Von Sydow
A page dedicated to one of the most underrated actors ever
Jorge Luis Borges
A page dedicated to the great master of modern fiction.
Charlie Chaplin UK
A great page on a great artist who started it all
Captain Dave's Ship of Love
Oh well, so here it is, the page you've all been waiting fellow film buff and screenwriting partner's page.
A Dedication to Jon Voight
A page dedicated to an amazingly talented actor, who just happens to be AJ's dad. "Where's that Joe Buck?"
Benicio del Toro Hot Zone
A site dedicated to the best young actor around ( not to mention my compatriot)
Aaron's Simpsons Shrine
A great link to the most brilliant television show ever.
Teardrops from Heaven
A cool site that has one of the coolest AJ pics I've seen. Go check it out.
Thandie Newton: A Dedication
My other little site dedicated to Ms. Newton. Check it out, she's pretty cool.
Miscellaneous stuff
A list of my favorite books and CD's.

There's no place like HOME: