"and the moon rises, so beautiful it
makes me shudder, makes me think about
time and space, makes me take
measure of myself: one iota
pondering heaven. Thus we sit,
I thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! How rich
it is to love the world.”
- Mary Oliver
I was asked by my friends to comprise a list of recommendations of Films and Directors I have seen and love. Below is the lists I came up with…
Fantastic Directors and Films Everyone Should Know:
* NOTE: One thing I notice is lacking in my list, is the presence of women directors. I believe there are just three-four total in the list below. I hope to continue to expose myself to work by female artists/directors that i can add to my list of best cinematic works. Feel free to leave a comment/note/message with your thoughts/disagreements/ and/or recommendations.
FANTASTIC DIRECTORS AND FILMS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW:
Luis Buñuel - (Spain/France)
- Belle de Jour
- The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
- Un Chien Andalou
- The Exterminating Angel
Ingmar Bergman - (Sweden)
- The Seventh Seal
- Fanny and Alexander
Fritz Lang - (Austria)
Federico Felinni - (Italy)
- La Strada
- I Vitelloni
- La Dolce Vita
- 8 1/2
Michelangelo Antonioni - (Italy)
- Red Dessert
Wong Kar Wai - (Hong Kong/China)
- In the Mood for Love
- Chungking Express
*NOTE: Also known for Days of Being Wild, Happy Together, Fallen Angels
Kim Ki-Duk - (Korea)
- Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring
Akira Kurosawa - (Japan)
- Throne of Blood
- Seventh Samurai
Vittorio de Sica - (Italy)
- The Bicycle Thief
- The earrings of Madamme de…
David Lean - (USA)
- Lawrence of Arabia
- Dr Zhivago
Orson Welles- (USA)
- Citizen Kane
- Touch of Evil
Alejandro Jodorowski - (Chile)
- El Topo
- The Holy Mountain
Francois Truffaut - (France)
- Jules et Jim
- 400 Blows
- The Bride Wore Black
- Shoot the Piano Player
- The Last Metro.
Robert Bresson - (France)
- Au Hausard Balthazar
- Pickpocket (France)
- The Trial of Joan of Arc
- A Man Escaped
Jacques Rivettes- (France)
- Celine et Julie vont en Bateau
- Va Savoir
Andrei Tarkovski- (Russia)
- Andrei Rublev
Pedro Almodovar - (Spain)
- All about my Mother
- Talk to Her
- Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Alfred Hitchcock -(England)
- Rear Window
- North by Northwest
John Huston - (USA)
- The Maltese Falcon
- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
- The African Queen
Ernst Lubitsch - (Germany/USA)
- Trouble in Paradise
*NOTE: Also known for: To be or not to be, and The Shop around the Corner.
Sidney Lumet - (USA)
- 12 Angry Men
- Dog Day Afternoon
- Network (USA)
Elia Kazan - (USA)
- A Streetcar Named Desire
- East of Eden
- Splendor in the Grass
Billy Wilder - (USA)
- Sunset Blvd.
- Double Indemnity
- Some Like it Hot.
Jan Svankmajer - (Czech Republic)
- Darkness Light Darkness
*NOTE: His features such as Alice and Faust are definitely worth watching but not as good as his short films.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder - (Germany)
- The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
- The Marriage of Maria Braun
- Veronika Voss
- Fear of Fear
- Satan’s Brew
- Ali: Fear eats the Soul
Louis Malle - (USA)
- Elevator to the Gallows
- Aurevoir les Enfants
FAMOUS DIRECTORS YOU SHOULD KNOW (that I personally think are overrated and hipster hyped and hit or miss)!
Jean Luc Goddard- (France)
- Vivre Sa Vie
- Pierrot le Fou
* NOTE: Weekend is my favorite and it’s the least in the style of Godard and more in the style of Buñuel.
John Cassavetes - (USA)
- Opening Night
*NOTE: Hipsters LOVE Cassavetes- and I do encourage people to watch his films because they are stylistically different than films that were being made in that time period but that doesn’t make them timeless.
Werner Herzog - (Germany)
- Grizzly Man,
- Encounters at the End of the World
- Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Robert Altman - (USA)
- 3 Women
- Gosford Park
- The Player
*NOTE: though i think he’s overrated as a Director, 3 Women is an AMAZING film and in my top 20 best films ever made.
Terrence Mallick - (USA)
- A Thin Red Line
*NOTE: though i think he’s an overrated Director, and I hated Tree of Life, the film Badlands is on my top 20 best movies ever.
MODERN FILMMAKERS THAT ARE CREATING FANTASTIC WORK:
Bela Tarr - (Hungary)
- Werckmeister Harmonies
- The Turin Horse
Andrey Zviaginstev - (Russia)
- The Banishment
- The Return
Michael Haneke - (Germany)
- The White Ribbon
*NOTE: Also famous for Cache and The Piano Teacher, neither of which i loved but all of which had great acting and directing.
Roman Polanski - (USA/France)
- Rosemary’s Baby
- Knife in the Water
- The Tenant
*NOTE: Also known for The Pianist, Ghost Writer and Cul-de-Sac.
Woody Allen - (USA)
- Annie Hall
- Deconstructing Harry
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- Blue Jasmine
Charlie Kauffman (WRITER) - (USA)
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Being John Malkovich
- Synecdoche NY (USA)
Paul Thomas Anderson - (USA)
- Boogie Nights
- There will be blood
*NOTE: Should also watch The Master, Punch Drunk Love, and Hard Eight, though not his best work in my opinion.
Stanley Kubrick - (USA)
- The Shining
- 2001: Space Odyssey
- A Clockwork Orange
*NOTE: Sorry but I think Dr. Strangelove is dated and not that funny anymore.
Martin Scorcese - (USA)
- Taxi Driver
- The Last Temptation of Christ
- The Departed
*NOTE: Sorry but in my opinion, all of Marty’s new stuff sucks ass! Hugo was hard to sit through (long and boring and too much CGI and not enough honesty in the characters- he was trying to imitate Jean Jeunet in style and it didn’t work. Shutter Island was another flop. It was predictable and one note. And more recently Wolf of Wall Street was repetitive, and could have been edited down by an hour. Once a GREAT Director, now merely mediocre.
*On a Side NOTE: Between Taxi Driver and Raging Bull I was always a fan of Taxi Driver. Maybe I need to re-watch Raging Bull cause it’s on everyone’s TOP 100 list.
Sofia Coppola - (USA)
- The Virgin Suicides
- Lost in Translation
- Marie Antoinette
* Note: Skip The Bling Ring.
Lars Von Trier - (Denmark)
- The Anti-Christ
- Dancer in the Dark
* Note: Skip Nymphomaniac (Vol. 1 and 2.) and skip Manderlay (Sequel to Dogville.
Darren Aronovski - (USA)
- Requiem for a Dream
- Black Swan
- The Wrestler
Spike Jonze - (USA)
- Being John Malkovich
- Where the Wild things are
The Coen Brothers - (USA)
- The Big Lebowski
- No Country for Old Men
*NOTE: Coen Brothers are risk takers which is AMAZING, but that also means their work is hit or miss, and oftentimes when it becomes self-indulgent for the actors it is most often a miss. For example “O Brother Where Art Thou, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Hudsucker Proxy are all flops in my opinion, but then they have good ones that really blow it out of the ballpark.
Jean Pierre- Jeunet - (France)
- The City of Lost Children
* Note: Skip Micmacs
Alejandro Amenabar - (Spain)
- Abre los Ojos
- The Others
- The Sea Inside
Cristian Mungiu - (Romania)
- 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days
- Beyond the Hills
David Lynch - (USA)
- The Elephant Man
- Blue Velvet
- Lost Highway
*NOTE: Twin Peaks-the movie, is horrible.
Alejandro Gonzalez, Iñarritu - (Mexico)
- Amores Perros
- 21 Grams
Tomas Gutierrez Alea - (Cuba)
- Fresa y Chocolate
- Memorias del Subdesarrollo
- Las 12 Sillas
- Death of a Bureaucrat
GREAT FILMS!!! (not necessarily my favorite directors):
- Daisies -Vera Chytilova (Czech Republic)
- Cria Cuervos - Carlos Saura (Spain)
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary (German Expressionism)- Robert Weine (Germany)
- L’Atalante - Jean Vigo (France)
- Hiroshima, mon Amour - Alain Resnais (France)
- The Lives of Others - Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Germany)
- Cinema paradiso- Giuseppe Tornatore (Italy)
- Singin’ in the Rain - Stanley Donen (USA)
- The Hours - Stephen Daldry (USA)
- Children of Heaven- Majid Majidi (Iran)
- The Vanishing - George Sluizer (Italy)
- Midnight Cowboy - John Schlesinger (USA)
- Margot at the Wedding - Noah Baumbach (USA)
- Persepolis - Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi (France/Iran)
- Central Station - Walter Salles (Brazil)
- City of God - Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund (Brazil)
- Donnie Darko - Richard Kelly (USA)
- Leon, the Professional - Luc Besson (France)
- Life is Beautiful - Roberto Benigni (Italy)
- The Deer Hunter - Michael Cimino (USA)
- Pan’s Labrynth - Guillermo del Toro (Mexico)
- Meshes of the Afternoon(Short) - Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid (Russia/Austria/USA)
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi- David Gelb (Japan/USA)
- Picnic at Hanging Rock - Peter Weir (Australia)
- Dark City - Alex Proyas (USA)
- Water - Deepa Mehta (India)
- 3 Women - Robert Altman (USA)
- Weekend- Godard (France)
- Casablanca- Michael Curtiz (USA)
- Badlands- Terrence Mallick (USA)
- Departures- Jojiro Takita (Japan)
- Born into Brothels- Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman (India/UK)
- Gone With the Wind - Victor Fleming (USA)
GABRIELA GARCIA MEDINA’S TOP 20 LIST OF GREAT FILMS:
- In the Mood for Love
- Belle De Jour
- Jules et Jim
- Au Hazard Balthazar
- Singin’ in the Rain
- Rear Window
- Taxi Driver
- Citizen Kane
- Lawrence of Arabia
- The Big Lebowski
- Cinema Paradiso
- Cria Cuervos
- 3 Women
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Disclaimer: Below is one of the stories written by one of the characters in my Thesis. Lili Amalia Castillo is a 10 year old girl in the 5th grade trying to understand the world and the changes that are happening in her life.
6 Period English
Short Story Homework
Lili Amalia Castillo
The Most Perfect Girl in the World.
Once upon a time there was a girl named Lizzi Cabrillo who was a bizzillionaire. She had so much money, that her mom and dad never fought about bills. All their money didn’t fit in the bank, so her parents had to build a house next door to their mansion just to keep all of their cash. Every year, they had to add a floor to the house because they needed more room for all their money. Eventually they had built a skyscraper.
Lizzi had the best childhood. Because money was never an issue and her parents were never on a budget, she was allowed to take ballet lessons and karate and piano. And her mom never told her she had to pick just ONE thing and stick to it, cause they had so much money that Lizzi could do everything she wanted. And if she forgot to practice the piano one week cause she wanted to play with her Nintento instead, her mom wouldn’t get mad at her and say “Lizzi, if I don’t hear you practicing I am going to stop paying for your lessons. Do you think money grows on trees?”
Lizzi was a very happy little girl; and instead of a rusty orange crappy bike from the Sunday Swap Meat, she had a brand new bike from the store. For Christmas, Santa would not bring her just ONE present, next to the little plastic tree on top of the television set, but she’d get lots of presents that wouldn’t fit under the humongous real tree in the living room of her mansion.
Her house was so gigantic it had an elevator to get from floor to floor and an intercom with telephones in every room so she could talk to her dad while he watched soccer in the living room from her bedroom on the seventh floor. Their backyard was bigger than the Walmart Parking lot, with a treehouse, and a swimming pool the size of the one at the Best Western. It had eight rooms to fit the entire family, including her uncle and her great-auntie who had moved from Florida to LA to live with them forever and who smoked cigars and smelt like talcum powder but Lizzi loved playing with her and brushing her white hair into weird styles. And all of her cousins lived in the house too, so she didn’t get to see them just once a year on holidays. They would all eat dinner together every night cause her mom and dad didn’t have to work, so they were always home in the evenings.
For her 10th birthday she had the biggest party in the world. With helium balloons (not the cheap crappy ones from the 99cent store), real Magicians, miniature horses, a piñata filled with snickers, malt-balls and gobstoppers (not the dry crusty butterscotch crap from last years Halloween Clearance sale) and Miley Cyrus would sing for her and her hundreds of guests. And Lizzi would NEVER be faced with the decision of having to choose just 6, of her 30 friends that she could invite to her birthday this year; cause Lizzi had so much money she was allowed to invite the entire school if she so wished. Her friends would beg her for an invite to her famous parties. She would be the most popular kid in school cause everyone wanted to ride her elevator and play with all of her toys that are from nice stores like Walmart and Target, not from the Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
Lizzi was the most perfect girl in the world. Her friends would always say “Lizzi, you are the best dressed girl at school” cause she always wore the nicest outfits. Her clothes were never faded or patched-up, and they were tailor made by the famous fashion designer Cherokee that makes all the clothes for her favorite store (Target)! She’d not be caught dead in hand-me-downs that were too big or too tight that she had inherited from her mother’s boss whose stupid kids had outgrown it. And she would never wear anything from the Clearance rack at Ross. Lizzi had a different outfit every day of the week and never had to alternate her two pairs of jeans every other day. And she didn’t have just one nice dress for special occasions, she would have a huge room FULL of nice dresses that made her feel like a princess.
Her shoes (not from Payless) fit her feet perfectly like a glove; which made her one of the fastest kids in the playground during recess. And she felt sorry for those poor children who’s mothers had to buy them shoes that were two sizes too big, and stuff the tips with cotton balls until they grew into them. Lizzi could run fast cause she was never scared her shoes were going to fall off.
When Lizzi’s family went to restaurants (which was almost all the time) they would always order appetizers. She could get whatever she wanted off the main course menu, not just something under $6. And her family would always stay for dessert. Her mom never said “we’ll have ice cream at home” or “We don’t need to order the chocolate lava cake, I have a bag of cookies in the car!” Lizzi would get her own molten lava cake and if she wanted soda or juice, she could just order it. Their money would never run out. And instead of Wendys and Taco Bell, her family would take her to Ruby Tuesdays and The Olive Garden, and the toilets never smelt like piss or homeless people, they had pretty pink tiles and scented plastic roses, and toilet paper.
Lizzi’s parents could afford to send her to a private art school, where she never got jumped or bullied by mean children; and her mom would never say to her “You can’t be a writer Lizzi, cause you have to have a real job so you can take care of us when we’re old and can’t work anymore” Lizzi was free to just play all day long and didn’t feel like she had to be good at science and study to be a doctor or a lawyer.
She had lots of pets, a dog named Dinky, a turtle named Titina, a canary named Poe, a horse named Spaghetti and two alpacas (Coca and Cola). She never had to beg her parents to take her to the zoo, cause she had her own petting zoo (another reason why all her friends always wanted to come to her house).
Lizzi was the most perfect girl in the world. She had the entire collection of trolls, every beanie baby, Barbie and every American Girl doll that was ever made. And when she asked for the KidKraft Deluxe Let’s Cook Play Kitchen, her parents did not hesitate to surprise her with it just cause it was Friday and she had come home with a good grade in English the day before.
At the supermarket Lizzi could put stuff in the cart that she liked without her mother putting it all back on the shelves. They would never get the generic brand of cereal. They would buy the good kind: Kelloggs or General Mills, the ones with word games and stories on the back. And Lizzi had all the toys, and characters that came inside the cereal boxes. She never had to fight her mother to let her get Cocoa Puffs or Lucky Charms. And instead of Siesta Cola bottles that tasted like cough syrup and went flat within minutes after opening; her mother would buy Coca Cola cans that they could each drink individually without having to share. And her mom would buy her Nutella and peanut butter and things that white children ate. Lizzi ate the same foods that her friends ate. Instead of a thermos filled with last night’s leftovers of dry pork and rice, or chicken tamales, Lizzi would get Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit-roll ups, Coca Cola and chocolate milk.
Lizzi’s mother never embarrassed her by pulling out hundreds of coupons from her purse, cause they didn’t have to worry about saving money. Check-out would be a breeze and if the cashier ever made a mistake, Lizzi would not have to sit in the parking lot by herself waiting for her mother to come back from arguing with the store manager for a refund.
Lizzi would go to the movies and the Zoo, and Knott’s Berry Farm, and Disneyland at least once a week. And she never had to lie about her age, just so her mother could get a discount and Lizzi could get into places for half off. Just cause Children under 12 eat Free at Denny’s on Tuesdays her mom never made her have to tell the waitress that she was 10 even though she was really 12 and four months.
But more importantly, Lizzi’s parents never fought over silly things like how much gas costs, or why dad shouldn’t do the grocery shopping cause he thinks he’s Rockefeller and smelly cheeses and French baguettes are not on the family shopping list. Lizzi’s dad could buy all the foods he liked even if the cheese was $2.88 and that was more than a gallon of milk that can feed the entire family for a week.
Her parents would never get angry at eachother at night, after they had put Lizzi to sleep. They would not have to hide like mice in the kitchen and whisper about why her dad isn’t getting paid more money at work. Cause they are millionaires with bizzillions of dollars and her dad doesn’t work at the Best Westerns, cause he owns a huge company. Lizzi would never hear her parents say “Keep your voice down, you’re going to wake up Lizzi” Her mom would never call her dad “a spineless prick” cause that’s not true. The internet says that more than 98% of animals don’t have backbones, but humans are not like an earthworm or an octopus, so obviously her dad has a spine. And Lizzi’s dad would never call her mom a “manipulative lying bitch.” Lizzi would never get grounded after calling Kitty McLintock a “fat bitch” at school, for stealing her box of licorice (she had bought with her own pocket money). And she would never get suspended for calling Joanne Paul a “dirty spineless asshole who only bullies kids cause her mom is a spineless prick” Nope. Lizzi was the most perfect little girl in the entire world, and she never got in trouble. Because she had all the money in the world her parents never argued, they were nice to each other and bought each other presents and didn’t ever curse or scream in front of her, or in the car on the way home from school. Lizzi’s dad would never leave, in fact; her parents were so in love that they would ask the stork for a little brother or sister for Lizzi to play with.
Lizzi’s parents would never get divorced. And the whole family would live happily ever after forever and ever.
Lizzi, would grow up to be a famous writer, actress who made a bizzillion dollars and she was rich times infinity. And if she ever got tired of writing, she would become an Anesthesiologist cause the internet says that is the highest paying job in America.
A Dying Dream: a short story.
I want to die a fantastic death.
In 762: Li Po, a Chinese poet, tried to kiss the reflection of the Moon beside the boat in which he was traveling, and he fell overboard and drowned. I don’t wanna go in my sleep of old age; or die of some cancer. That’s such a waste of a death. I want something dramatic and exciting, something that I will always be remembered by. Not cancer. These days everyone dies of cancer. Boring.
Did you know that in 1518: A woman uncontrollably danced for a month causing dozens of participants to die of stroke and exhaustion; this became known throughout History as The Dancing Plague. I love to dance. I make up choreographies with my friends all the time. Our latest one was to Gangnam Style, we performed it at the school talent show and we got the loudest applause out of anyone! We didn’t win cause the one girl with down syndrome in our middle school did a song, and she came in first place (for obvious reasons), but deep down we knew we had been robbed.
I love dancing so much, that when my parents were still married and they would throw dinner parties, I would be the after dinner entertainment. We were never rich, so our dinner parties were more like Cuban feasts where Dad roasted a pork and some rice and beans all their friends would bring drinks and dessert and I would always get to perform right before my mother brought out the coffee. Dad loved listening to Frank Sinatra and Madonna, so I had a routine for New York New York. I would disappear from the table and return in my dad’s navy blue bathrobe and a curtain rod as a walking stick and dance and lip sing as if the spirit of Mr. Sinatra had possessed me. My other piece was to Material Girl. My Dad loved Madonna, so I loved Madonna too. I put on my mother’s bangles and plastic necklaces and I’d smother my eyes with bright blue eye-shadow and jump around the leather couch with a toothbrush in my hand- that’s the only time my mother let me jump on the couch – ever! And all their friends would laugh and clap and tell my parents they had such a talented little girl. Maybe I could die dancing? That would certainly be memorably fantastic.
Or in 1782: Mrs. Fitzherbert died from laughter after watching The Beggar’s Opera. She laughed and laughed until she died. I tried watching The Beggar’s Opera on YouTube, but I couldn’t understand what was so funny. It was almost as boring as cancer.
I could see myself dying of laughter. Aunt Eileen says my laughter is contagious cause when I laugh you can see the gap in my mouth from my missing baby teeth. I’m still waiting for my real ones to grow but they are taking forever. Aunt Eileen says I look like a rare species from another planet when I laugh, one time she said I looked like a Halloween pumpkin. Maybe I will inspire my own Plague of Laughter- not that I want to be responsible for the deaths of innocent people, but if others want to die a fantastical death, then why not go laughing.
Or like that baseball player from the 1920s, Ray “Chappie” Chapman, killed when a submarine ball thrown by Carl Mays hit him in the head. He died twelve hours later.The only major league baseball player to die from a pitched ball, but he died doing what he loved most. I love baseball!
Before their divorce, dad and I used to play together in Regent’s Park while mom went grocery shopping. We hated going with her, cause when it was time to checkout she’d bust a bizzillion coupons out of her purse, and argue with the cashier if the coupons were expired, demanding to speak to the manager, and get the discount anyway, holding up the line behind her. It was so embarrassing to get all those dirty looks from annoyed customers. To avoid those shameful trips to the supermarket, dad and I would rather go to the park and stay out of her hair. Plus, she never let me get anything I wanted anyway, so there was no point in going along just to look at all the candy and cereal I wanted but couldn’t ever get.
So once a week, dad would teach me mad baseball skills like a pro. He taught me how to hit like a boy and catch with both hands so the ball didn’t fall out of my mitt. I can throw pretty far too. I played with kids twice my age. When it was my turn to bat, they would come in close thinking I wouldn’t hit it very far, and I would let them think it, and dad would wink at me, and then I’d hit it so far, I would almost get a homerun, or least I’d make it to third base. I could die playing baseball, that wouldn’t be a bad way to go either, just like Chappie Chapman.
I know all this because I am obsessed with the subject matter, not baseball, but death. In the fourth grade I wrote my first poem about death, and while my mother dismissed it and said something like “death is for the old-folks and the sickly” my teacher Mary Deavin celebrated me for my poetic skills and the emotional “depth” of my writing. She said “This is very deep for a ten year old! You sure you didn’t copy this from a book?”
My uncle Rey gave me his old computer for my eleventh birthday, and even thought the “s” the “w” and the “.” keys didn’t work it opened up the world of the internet to me, so for my fifth grade research paper I Googled bizarre deaths throughout history. I got an A- on it cause there were a few spelling and grammatical errors (for obvious reasons), but overall, it was very informative paper, full of useful facts about people who died miraculous and fantastical deaths like the one I hope to die too someday.
A week after my amazing discoveries on Google and Wikepedia, I started a recess club called FDCC (Fantastic Death Corps Club) where my friends and I sat around behind the herb garden in the playground and shared stories of how we wanted to die. I would lead these meetings and every week we each had to try out an almost death. So for example if this week it was death by being tickled, we all had to go home and try to almost die of being tickled. If next week it was death by jumping jacks, we had to go home and try to almost die by doing jumping jacks, and so forth. We would talk about our almost deaths, and we would have to give very specific accounts of our ideal fantastical death, of how old we wanted to be. What we would be wearing. What our last meal would be. Who would be around. Where we would die. Who would discover our bodies, and so forth. I knew it was a bad idea to let Kitty Mclintock join our club cause she was an immature cry baby and when it was her turn to talk about her fantastic death she started hyperventilating, burst into tears and rushed off to tell on us to Mr Hassan, who told Mary Deavin, who told the Principal, who called my mother, who told them that there was a perfectly good explanation for everything, and that was that my father was suffering from cancer.
Dad died in a hospital bed surrounded by sour faces that pretended to be happy to see him. That told him he was looking good, when he really wasn’t. They lied to his face. They said he’d be up and running in no time. They barely let me see him. The few times I went in, I remember his skin was bright yellow, like my pee first thing in the morning. Like Spongebob. I called him Spongebob one time, but his wife didn’t think it was funny. Dad half-laughed but barely, I think if he’d had more energy he would have laughed harder. Maybe even died of laughter like Mrs. Fitzherbert but he died of cancer instead.
Sometimes I think I’m a terrible person cause I didn’t really like to visit him, not because he was sick, but because everyone else around him was acting so fake and wanted me to act fake too. Like outside the room his wife was crying and all his friends were comforting her, and then inside the room everyone put on these smiles and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Should I be happy or sad? What?!?! Should I smile or cry? I didn’t know anything and people were all whispering around me and I just heard half of conversations all the time. And everything felt unreal, like a dream where everyone knows a secret except for you and you are trying to figure out the mystery but they are all one step ahead of you. Kinda like an episode of Scooby Doo, only instead of a haunted mansion, it’s in a stuffy hospital room; and instead of a ghost, it’s my dad’s corpse-like-body laying on the bed staring up at you.
I don’t remember much, except his skin was leathery like a baseball. It was rubbery and I liked touching it and pulling at it, and every time I visited I sat by his bedside and tugged at his alien-like hand. I just couldn’t understand why it was so yellow. My mother explained to me once that it was because the type of cancer he had made toxins come out of his skin, like instead of peeing them out like normal people, they came out of his pores. I don’t know, it sounds fishy to me. They lie to me a lot, especially lately. Maybe they are lying to me about this one too. Whatever the truth is, I definitely don’t wanna go like that, on a hospital bed, looking like the skeleton of Lisa Simpson. Nope. I wish I didn’t have to die at all. Like if I could live forever and not shrivel up and get eaten by worms and insects.
My mother says “Lili, death is inevitable. We are born to die, so just enjoy every moment, eat all your vegetables and work hard to provide for your family.” and when I ask her if there is a god she says “Religion is the opium of the people” to which I never know what to say, cause I’m not sure what that means, but then I ask her, “if there is no god, then what is the point of anything?” and she says “there is no point Lili- now go do your homework!” and I argue “why should I do my homework if there is no point?” and she says “because I am your mother and I say so!” and I am not satisfied. There has to be a point, there has to be a reason why I am here, and if I was really born to die (like my mother says) then I don’t just want to die some random pathetic death that I had no say in choosing. That’s so lame. Maybe I don’t have to die at all.
If I had a million dollars I could be frozen like Walt Disney. It costs $200,000 to get frozen after you die- I read that online too. I could get put in a freezer and be brought back to life when there are flying cars and scientists have found a cure for cancer. My mom told me cancer was hereditary and I could catch it if I didn’t eat all my fruits and veggies, but seeing that I am going to be a millionaire, she can stick her brussels sprouts and cauliflowers up her butt cause I plan to be frozen or to die a fantastic death and neither of those require any vegetable consumption…unless you’re Basil Brown, a health-food advocate from Croydon, London who, in 1974, drank himself to death with carrot juice. I told my mother this once, and she thought I was making it up “Nobody dies from eating vegetables!” she assured me, and I bet her my weekly allowance of $3 that this was no lie, but an absolute fact! She gave me a look of disbelief anyway and when I pulled it up on Wikipedia she brushed it off and said “I don’t have time for silly things. Eat your dinner and finish your homework if you want to watch Hannah Montana”. I ate the boiled broccoli on my plate quickly, stuffing it in my mouth, wondering with every bite if that would actually be a good way to go. Maybe if mom was a better cook. But these greens were overcooked and over seasoned, and I was more likely to die from disgust than from stuffing my mouth with broccoli. And thank God her cooking didn’t kill me, cause that night they were showing a rerun of “Lilly, Do you want to know a Secret?” my favorite Hanna Montana episode ever! (where Lilli finds out Hanna is a world famous pop star), and it would have sucked If I had died and missed it.
In 1941, Sherwood Anderson, a writer died after swallowing a toothpick at a party. I should like to be a writer someday and though swallowing a toothpick’s gotta hurt, dying at a party surrounded by friends can’t be half bad. I’ve decided I shall die on my 30th birthday (cause nothing happens after you’re 30 anyway- it’s downhill form there)! It will be right after the successful release of my Greatest Works A Collection of Fantastic Death Stories by Lili Amalia Castillo. I will be wearing a red polka-dot dress, not like mini-mouse, but like a beautiful Spanish Flamenco dancer, with lots of ruffles everywhere. My hair will be down to my knees, not like now, that I look like a boy cause my mom says it’s convenient to keep it trimmed, “it helps keep the lice away” she insists. No, my hair will be like Rapunzel’s in Tangled, except mine is not blonde and I look more like Pocahontas. And it will be done up like a princess, and I will wear a shiny tiara like the one my cousin Jenny wore for her Quinceañera, and I will have glitter sprinkled all over my head. I will look like a supermodel dancer actress writer princess.
I will do a dance for all my party guests, cause I will also be a world famous flamenco dancer that will have won over a hundred medals, and everyone will applaud and sing Happy Birthday, and I will eat my entire birthday cake, all by myself, which will be a trifle meringue cake with custard cream, but before that, I will eat a bowl of spaghetti and fried bananas, and drink pineapple soda and I will almost die from a food coma. But not quite. And almost die from a dance trance. But not quite. And then I will have the funniest person in the world (who will just so happen to be my best friend), tell jokes and I will laugh so hard I will almost die of laughter. But not quite. And then Mikey Sanchez my fifth grade crush at school (who will be my husband by then), will kiss me for like a thousand minutes and I will almost die of suffocation. But not quite. And then I will look at the reflection of the moon on my pool, cause I will be a millionaire and I will have a mansion with a pool and I will fall in and almost drown. But not quite. I will come out of the water and everyone will clap that I am still alive, and then I will give a speech about life and how it’s important to live every moment like you’re going to die. And how you should spend your years filled with dancing and singing, and laughter and kiss the people you love like Mikey Sanchez and your grandma. And then I will remember my father, and how he once told me I was made out of stardust, and I will add that to my birthday(slash)goodbye speech and I will cry a little.
And just as I am about to take off to my fantastical death that I have been planning for years, and just as I am about to sit on a monster rocket of fireworks that will leave for the sky from the backyard of my house, and my red polka dot dress will go up in flames and I will fizzle into the atmosphere like sparklers and shooting stars for all my guests to make a wish upon; I will remember that Walt Disney was frozen. So as the countdown begins, and the fireworks are lit, I will have half-a-second to have a change of heart and to alter the course of my future, of everything I had so carefully planned for my fantastical death. And I will step off the rocket and will join the rest of my party as I watch the fireworks fly into the sky and fizzle into the night, and I will join in the OOOOOHS and AAAAAHS of the crowd. And realize Wow, just to think I could have died and missed it! But not quite. And I will dance the rest of the night away, and first thing in the morning I will drive my baby blue convertible to the nearest bank where I keep my millions; and I will put aside $300,000 to get frozen (the extra $100,000 is for inflation). You never know the cost of living might go up by the time I’m old and in matters of life and death, I’d rather be safe than sorry.
2099: Lili Amalia Castillo, writer, dancer, philosopher, was frozen on her 98th birthday along with her dog Dinky and her canary Poe. Her body is said to be cryogenically preserved in a tank under the baseball field in Regent’s Park where it will be dug up and defrosted once there are flying cars, and scientists have found a cure for cancer.
Little Con Lili
Uhmm…My name is Lili Amalia Castillo. I am nine years old, I will be ten in exactly eight months and twenty seven days. I live in Los Angeles, California- the Best Coast! Just kidding. Sorry officer- I make jokes when I’m nervous. I’ll try to be more serious. I’ve never had to give a statement before. You sure I don’t need a lawyer? On tv, cops always say “you have the right to remain silent.” You haven’t told me that yet…does that mean I’m not in trouble? When will I get to see my mom? I am happy to cooperate in any way I can. I am a good person. Oh am I not speaking loud enough? Sorry. I will speak up.
AHHMM…..MY NAME IS LILI AMALIA CASTILLO. I AM NINE YEARS OLD. I LIVE IN LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA. We came out here, my mom and I, on vacation. Well actually that’s a lie- I mean, NO- I don’t lie- for the record- I never lie. I mean, my mom took me out of school in the middle of October and told me we were coming out here- because we needed a vacation and she wanted to take me to Disney World. At first I thought that was a bit strange, because we could have just driven to Disneyland any old Sunday since we live like an hour from Anaheim, but she wanted to fly us here to Miami. I didn’t want to leave school in the middle of it, cause I am one of those kids that actually likes going to school; but my dad lives here in Florida and I hadn’t seen him in so long, that I was super duper stoked to come. Can I say super duper in my statement? I’ve never done this before. Anyways, I was happy to come and see him and Sandra and Chloe and Jake! My dad is really cool, or was- he’s dead now- I didn’t find that out until we got here. No one killed him or nothing. He had cancer. He turned yellow before he died. Anyway. Yeah. So his wife Sandra is super rich. Like she’s got so much money that her house is humongous and I used to love when I got invited to spend holidays with them because I got to play in their pool and Chloe and Jake, my half-brother and sister, have a bizzillion toys, ok I am exaggerating- maybe not a bizillion, but like a million for sure. They have more toys than the biggest toy store in the whole world. But my mom and Sandra don’t get along cause my mom says Sandra is a bitch. Can I say that word? In my statement? My mom uses it all the time. She says Sandra hasn’t had to work a day in her life and she doesn’t know the meaning of honest labor. Sandra is really sweet to me though, I don’t think she’s a bitch at all. Whenever I visit them, she has her maid make me grilled cheese sandwiches and lets me eat ice cream cake, which my mom NEVER lets me eat cause a witchdoctor once told her that I was lactose intolerant and plus, she is worried that I am too fat for my age so she calls me gordita and doesn’t’ let me eat any of the things I like!
Anyway, when we got to Miami, I thought we were going to visit Dad and his family, and I was going to get to eat the best grilled cheese and ice cream cake; but it was weird, cause mom was being really secretive all of a sudden, and when we got to Aunt Eileen’s house- oh, Aunt Eileen is mom’s Auntie, we always stay with her when we go to Miami, which is almost never. She lives in assisted living, sooooooo….basically the projects for old people. She raised my mom since she was thirteen, cause my real grandma had been killed in a raid in Cuba so Aunt Eileen adopted my mom and they escaped to Miami together. My mom, you need to know her name right? For the statement? Norma, her name is Norma Loretta Garcia. We don’t have the same last name cause in Cuban families kids are stuck with their dad’s last name. But that’s ok, cause I like Castillo, it means castle in English. I’ve never been to a real castle but I have seen them in postcards and on tv. Anyways, my mom- oh sorry- Norma- and auntie Eileen came here all by themselves and they didn’t know no one. So Auntie got a job as a seamstress for some rich old lady who owned a Quinceañera parlor, and my mom who was a really good student in Cuba and had wanted to be a lawyer, had to stop going to school cause she didn’t have no papers and started working at a bakery making buñuelos- my favorite sweets ever, which she also never lets me eat unless its my birthday and even then she only lets me have two- “one for each hand”-she says. Anyway, when Norma wasn’t at the bakery selling pastries, she was at home learning English by watching Tom and Jerry, and Bugs Bunny. She said the first English phrase she learnt to say was “That’s All Folks!” Norma is the smartest person I’ve ever met, she’s smarter than Einstein and Fidel, and that’s saying a LOT, cause mom says Fidel is one of the smartest men that has ever walked the planet- and Aunt Eileen says he’s smarter than the devil himself. Eileen is very religious, her house looks like an alter to the Patron Saint of Cuba, there’s more statues on her night stand than there are Cubans in Miami, one time I was playing in her room and I accidentally knocked one over and a piece of the baby broke off but she never even noticed, cause she has so many. And another time, while Aunt Eileen was taking a nap, I took all the Saints from her night stand and hid them all over the house and when she woke up she thought it had been an act of God and that the Saints were trying to send her a message. She’s got pots of water behind all the doors, cups of honey under the beds, and other things I am not allowed to touch or even talk about. “Para los malos ojos” she says- but its hard to go pee in the middle of the night and not trip over her damn holy water. Oh. Sorry. I didn’t mean to say damn.
Anyway, so my mom worked at a bakery when she met my dad- Rrrrrroberto (before he changed his name to“Bob”), one day he walked in to the bakery to get some pan de gloria for the bank. (My dad was a bank Manager at the time). She said that once he tasted her sweet breads he became an instant regular. Like clockwork, he showed up at the exact same time every day for months, all of mom’s coworkers had a nickname for him, they called him El Chino Puntual (The Punctual Chinaman). He wasn’t Chinese or nothing, but his eyes were a little slanted and so they would say to her “did the Chino come for your panes today?” and finally one day the Chino Puntual sweaty and red in the face from blushing, asked her out on a date. Mom says that back then, men were chivalrous. I don’t know what that means. But I think it means that boys were nice. Boys in my class pinch my arm, they call me mean things, and put bugs in my backpack, but that’s how I know they like me; mom says back then things were different and boys would hold doors open for girls and call them on the telephone and hold their hands, bring them flowers, and pay for their food at nice restaurants, she says technology has changed everything. It makes no difference to me cause we don’t have a computer at home, and I asked her for a cell phone last year for my birthday and she said I was too young to have a cell phone. “Who you wanna call?!?” she said. So technology hasn’t changed anything for me! I am the only one in my class without a phone. It’s super lame. Anyways, sorry officer. You want to know about what happened- today, right? That’s why I’m here?
Look sir, my mom is a good person. We don’t get along all the time, and I have told her I hate her- which is not true- obviously. I don’t hate her. I love her. I hate that she makes me tell her that I love her, even when I don’t feel like telling her, she kinda guilts me into it and says “Lili tell me you love me, cause if I die tonight in my sleep you’ll always regret not having told your mother you loved her ONE last time” and so I tell her that I love her, but then she makes me tell her again, “Like you mean it Lili” and it pisses me off, but whatever. The point is, she is a good citizen. I give you my word as a good citizen myself.
Officer, if she had known that what she was doing was stealing she would NEVER have done it! I have been her daughter for nine years and I know her the best of anyone in the whole world. The way she sees it, she didn’t scam or steal from anyone! She would always say to me “Lil, we are just getting back what the government and credit card companies steal from us!” She said that if other people were as smart as we were, they would be doing the same thing, because we were not taking anything that wasn’t taken from us first. Plus this was for MY college fund, for MY future. She is such a selfless woman officer. She wants to give me the opportunities she never had. She is like Jesus Christ. Do you really want to be the officer who put Norma Loretta Garcia Jesus Christ in jail? I don’t think so! Remember this is going in the statement and it will be recorded forever and you seem like a kind and gentle man. I can see it in your eyes sir. You have the kindness of my father.
So to answer your question…..the first time this happened?
Pfffhhhhh…. Hmmmm….i think, hmmmm…I think I must have been five years old. So what’s that…like four years ago? Yup. I remember we were in the dressing room at a store, I think it was Lohmans but I could be making that up and I’d hate to give misinformation, anyway, we were at a store, and she-Norma- had me hold a dress while she changed the price tags on a few things. Harmless. I vaguely remember it. It was so long ago. We did this every Saturday morning, like it was our ritual, and then we would sit at the nearest Dennys and eat together while we changed the tags back and return to the store in the afternoon to get full refunds for all the items without any receipts. My mom was such a wonderful actress. She’d always tell the store people some fascinating story about how she had lost the receipt. The stories were so detailed, sometimes she made up a death, other times an animal was involved, other times a natural disaster, an imaginary abusive boyfriend, a mentally ill child, or a freak accident, I loved watching her go. Every Saturday we’d make enough money from these returns that we could buy groceries for the entire week! When she was feeling generous, she’d even let me splurge and pick out something I wanted at the supermarket. It always had to be under three dollars, but I felt I had so much freedom running up and down the aisles looking at all the things I could afford to buy if I wanted to. That was the other place where she worked her magic. Can I call it magic? For the statement? Calling it stealing just feels so wrong!
On our supermarket trips we would first go to the 99cent store and buy cheap brands of detergents and liquid cleaning stuff, then we’d get the really good brands at the nice supermarkets like Ralphs that cost like $5 and $6 and we’d go home and turn our bath tub into a science lab. We’d drain the expensive liquids from Ralphs into empty water containers, then we’d put the 99cent cleaning products into the expensive Ralphs containers and return them the next day for our money back, so we’d get the nice expensive brands for 99cents. It was so awesome. My mother was a genius! Like I said, smarter than Einstein or Fidel or any teacher I have ever had!
To celebrate, from time to time she’d take me out to a nice restaurant like Pizza Hut or Ruby Tuesdays. This happened maybe like once a month if I was lucky. I’d almost always eat free, cause she’d put a hair on her plate or complain about her food being cold, or something. Nine times out of ten, she’d take the ketchup and sugar packets, and sometimes even the salt and pepper shakers if they were nice looking, Ooooh, and the stainless steel silverware would almost always get eaten up by her purse, that she would then send to her second cousins back in Cuba who didn’t have a lot of stuff. I never thought there was anything wrong with it. She always told me that she was like Mother Teresa or Robin Hood or Jesus. Even though she’s not religious she always compared herself to Jesus. And when people would give her free stuff she’d always say “God Bless You!” which I thought was kind of odd since she doesn’t believe in God. Anyway, we’d always get everything for free, or at the very least, half off. And people would always be apologizing to us for one thing or another. I loved watching her throw fits when she didn’t get her way. If there was an Oscar for this kind of performance my mother would have a Lifetime Achievement Award, like the one they gave Walt Disney before he died. I think that’s why I want to be an actress when I grow up. Mom doesn’t want me to be an actress though, she says I have to be a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher. She says actresses are all drug addicts and prostitutes. She says they give blow jobs to Directors just to get parts in movies. I asked her what a blow job was and if she thought I’d be good at that job one day, and she told me to forget about being an actress and changed the subject!
Anyway, our biggest money maker happened once a year, she would open a new credit card and we’d take a trip somewhere before the end of the year and once we landed, I’d grab our luggage and go outside the airport while she complained to the airline that her suitcase never arrived. Since airlines never scanned the bags on direct flights our plot was solid. This was a fat payout cause the airline would give us $150 for every day our bag never showed up and eventually up to $1500 for the lost suitcase, plus the credit card company would give us another $150 a day and another $1500. It was flawless, we’d do this with different airlines and I got to visit cities like Chicago and New York, places I’d never dreamed of seeing, and now Miami, only this time, my dad really did die officer, of cancer! And we really did have to fly out here for a real funeral. So officer, please don’t take my mom away. My dad just died and I don’t want to live with Aunt Eileen. She smells like an ashtray and her house stinks of piss and old people and I am sick of tripping over bowls of goddamned holy water all over the place. Plus I think she might have a dead body buried in her balcony cause she practices some strange voodoo from Cuba. I overheard her once telling my mom she had to pay some man to steal her a body from Caballero Rivero to enhance her powers of communicating with the Saints. So I don’t wanna live with Aunt Eileen and no dug up body. And I love Sandra and it sure would be nice to live in a humongous house with a million toys and have nice clothes and maybe learn to ride a pony like Chloe or have a cool BMX bike like Jake but I don’t know the kind of girl I would grow up to be or what I would do in a school full of kids that are nothing like me.
Officer, my mother may have done something bad, but she did it because she wanted to give me violin lessons, and a trip to Disney World, and a college fund. She didn’t steal from another person. She would never steal from another person. She just took a little bit from here and there. You know it’s like the cake that Aunt Eileen baked one time for a Bembé, and I just would go up to it from time to time and pick at the crumbs around the edges, you know, the little ittty bitty bits that fell off the sides, by the time everyone came over no one even noticed there was anything missing from the cake. Officer no one cares that money is gone. How will $3000 make a difference to a credit card company that has a bizzilion dollars? It’s like when I took Chloe’s Hawaiian Barbie, she never even noticed, why? Because she has a room full of Barbies, she has every Barbie ever produced by Mattel. But I only have ONE Barbie, and that is the Barbie that I took from Chloe, so if someone took that from me then I would have NOTHING. I am sort of trying to make a point here…Look officer, I promise that if you let my mother go free, all the money from the lost suitcases and the returned department store items that is now in my college bank account will go to good use. You can take this statement as my word, I will grow up and go to a great art school and be the best writer ever- since my mom says I can’t be an actress- and one day I will write a story about the very nice officer who let my mom off. If you take my mom away, what will happen to me officer? But if you let my mom go, you will be the hero of my story, you will be the kind gentle man that took pity on little nine year old Lili Amalia Castillo. And you will be my hero. You will be everyone’s hero. And that is all I have to say.