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We love Alfonso Cuaron

More than a month after its release in Seattle theaters, Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men is still the most talked about movie behind the counter here at Scarecrow. Despite being ignored in most of the major Oscar categories - and by the way, if it doesn't get that cinematography award there may be some cars rolled - many of us are confident that it is the 2006 movie that will be most remembered and discussed years from now. Even those who didn't like it would have to admit that on a technical level it's incredible. We're still debating how the hell they did some of those long tracking shots through insurgent attacks and war zones. Well, Children of Men certainly put Cuaron on the map for a lot of people, but he's got plenty of other good movies in his past. He's best known for 2001's racy coming of age drama Y tu mamaˇ tambien, but for my money his previous best film was the G-rated A Little Princess from 1995. A plucky little girl at a boarding school is forced to become a servant when her soldier dad is presumed dead. Still she defies the cruelty of her teacher and the classism of her peers by telling stories about the fantastical adventures she imagines having as a princess. It's the sort of story that could be turned into annoying pablum by the wrong director, but Cuaron has the sincerity and the visual skills to pull it off. It's sweet, it's moving, and it's stunningly lit and photographed, the kind of highbrow family entertainment that rarely comes along these days, and when it does is usually ignored by audiences (as this was on two separate theatrical releases). I'm not the only one who considers Cuaron's The Prisoner of Azkaban the best of the Harry Potter series so far. Going back and watching A Little Princess it shouldn't be a surprise - he already had the boarding school, the outcast kid, even a great CGI monster in the scene where she tells a story about a ten-headed dragon. Perhaps by necessity because of the length of the book, Cuaron was the first to abandon the literal scene-by-scene translation of J.K. Rowling and instead went for the spirit of the book. His attention to visual detail creates a much more interesting world teeming with life and other things going on in the background besides Harry and his magical troubles. There's also a huge leap in the design of the creatures, which look much better and have more personality than the crude digital creations of Chris Columbus's earlier entries. Perhaps Cuaron's most underrated is his 1998 modernized take on Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. I thought it was a compelling enough take on the story, and even its detractors have to admit that the look of the movie is absolutely gorgeous. Some of this credit obviously must go to Emmanuel Lubezki, cinematogrpher for all of Cuaron's films except Azkaban. Cuaron's most recent video release is actually his feature film debut. Our DVD pals Criterion put out 1991's Solo con tu pareja (Love in the Time of Hysteria) late last year. I haven't actually seen this one yet, but it's a dark sex comedy and I've been told it's quite good.  Finally, we come to the most obscure Cuaron piece in the Scarecrow library: 1993's "Murder Obliquely," an episode of the Showtime noir tribute series Fallen Angels. Based on a short story by Cornel Woolrich, Laura Dern plays a woman who becomes sexually obsessed with Alan Rickman even as she suspects him of murder. It's nothing substantial, clearly made for TV, but Dern is pretty good (mostly communicating her feelings through facial expressions) and you can see Cuaron's fingerprints here and there. Until someone sees fit to release their work for Mexican TV, this is our only taste of what Cuaron and Lubezki were up to in those days.  As of this writing, Cuaron doesn't have a director's section (yet?), but here's where you can find these rentals in the store:
FALLEN ANGELS VOLUME 1 - JIM THOMPSON author section in the Murder/Mystery/Suspense room. (Note: this is only on VHS and requires a $150 security deposit.) A LITTLE PRINCESS - CHILDREN'S LIVE ACTION in the kids section GREAT EXPECTATIONS - DICKENS author section in the Literature room Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN - MEXICO section on the foreign wall HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN - FANTASY section in the Psychotronic room