In Oscar favorite ‘Coco,’ life and art intertwine

In this file photo taken on January 24, 2018 Mexican singer Luis Angel Jaramillo, 13, performs in a concert during the Villa Hidalgo Fair in Jalisco state, Mexico.(AFP)
Updated 25 February 2018
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In Oscar favorite ‘Coco,’ life and art intertwine

MEXICO CITY: Thirteen-year-old Luis Angel has a lot in common with the character he plays in the hit movie “Coco,” the favorite to win this year’s Oscar for best animated film.
The movie, set against the backdrop of Mexico’s colorful Day of the Dead festival, tells the story of a boy named Miguel who fights against all odds to realize his dream of being a musician.
With his twinkling eyes and beaming smile, Luis Angel Gomez Jaramillo, who voiced Miguel in the Spanish-language version of the film, looks a little like his character.
He also shares his passion for music and, like Miguel, has battled long odds to sing.
“I identified a lot with the character, which may be one reason I did the movie,” he told AFP.
Luis Angel, who comes from the sleepy colonial town of San Francisco del Rincon in central Mexico, had taken some voice lessons, but had little experience singing for an audience.
He just loved to sing — something he inherited from his grandmother, who got him started singing at five years old.
He dreamed of making it as a musician, but it wasn’t easy at first, his mother recalled.
“His first auditions were hard,” with a string of rejections, said Blanca Gomez Jaramillo.
Luis Angel’s first break finally came when he landed a spot on the Mexican version of the reality show “The Voice Kids.”
He charmed viewers with his cute face, country manners, cowboy clothes and spunk.
He didn’t make it to the final round of the show, which aired last year. But several videos of him went viral online, and that is where Pixar producers found him.
They invited Luis Angel to audition, and he landed the part with his soaring voice, impressing director Lee Unkrich and the production team with his rendition of the movie’s theme song, “Recuerdame” — whose English-language version, “Remember Me,” is up for Best Original Song at the Oscars.
There was just one problem — Luis Angel had no idea how to do voiceover work.
“I had to learn overnight. I typed ‘how to do voiceover’ in YouTube, and found some advice,” he said.
Judging by the film’s success, he must have gotten something right: “Coco” is Mexico’s highest-grossing film of all time, bringing in $57.8 million here, out of a total of more than $730 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.
It has also been a success with critics, winning the BAFTA award for best animated film and 11 Annie Awards, for excellence in animation.
It has all been a wild ride for Luis Angel: fame, media interviews, a nationwide tour and red-carpet galas with co-stars like Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal.
Luis Angel’s musical hero is Pedro Infante, the star of dozens of classic musicals from the golden age of Mexican cinema, from the 1930s to 1950s.
Infante was the inspiration for the superstar musician in “Coco,” Ernesto de la Cruz — who is, fittingly, Miguel’s hero in the movie.
But unlike Miguel, who is growing up in a family where music is forbidden because of a dark secret from the past, Luis Angel says he got nothing but support from his mother, who is raising him alone.
He may get his fighting spirit from her.
“I endured a lot of criticism, for being a single mother and for supporting him in his dream of being a singer,” she said.
“I’ve done everything I could to help him. I’ve even gone as far as to climb on stage and sing with him to show him there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
The lesson was learned, says Luis Angel.
“If you have a dream, you have to grab hold of it and never let go.”


Six classic car films to watch as women in Saudi Arabia prepare to take the wheel

Updated 23 June 2018
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Six classic car films to watch as women in Saudi Arabia prepare to take the wheel

DUBAI: In celebration of women in Saudi Arabia getting behind the wheel on June 24, we take a look at six classic car films — female-driven flicks included — that are guaranteed to get your adrenaline going.
‘The Italian Job’ (1969)
“You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” It’s an iconic line known the world over, but have you actually sat down to watch this Michael Caine-starring classic? The plot centers on Caine’s character and his crew of gangsters who pull off a dazzling heist while driving a bevy of Mini Coopers. It’s fantastically fun and even inspired a 2003 remake. If it’s your first time, however, we suggest sticking to the original — they don’t build ‘em like they used to.
‘Thelma and Louise’ (1991)
It may have a controversial ending, but many see this film as the high octane, feminist version of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and it is revered in film culture. Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, the film sees the pair flee after they kill a rapist and follows them as they fight until the very end — and meet a very young Brad Pitt on the way.
‘Crossroads’ (2002)
It may have received lukewarm reviews at the time, but this film was loved by teenage girls the world over. The flick stars Britney Spears (alarm bells, anyone?) and tells the story of three childhood friends who rekindle their connection on a cross-country trip.
‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby’ (2006)
The humor may be eye-roll inducing, but this film has too many fans to discount. The film pokes fun at NASCAR and sees Will Ferrell play the role of Ricky Bobby, a driver who was at the top of his game but loses it all to a snotty Frenchman.
‘Drive’ (2011)
It’s dark, it’s gritty and best of all it stars Ryan Gosling. He is known for his deadpan, inexpressive face (and oh, what a face) and skillfully portrays a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver and ends up risking it all to protect a woman and her son from vengeful criminals.
‘Baby Driver’ (2017)
You can’t discuss this film without giving special mention to its epic soundtrack — it features everything from James Brown to Beck and will have you wiggling in your seat throughout the movie. Ansel Elgort plays a brilliant young getaway driver with a penchant for seriously good music, stunningly choreographed car chases and the primal desire to escape a mob boss with the girl he loves.