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Life, she can be very 'Biutiful'

Published February 25. 2011 05:00PM

The ironically-titled "Biutiful," a foreign film Oscar nominee, has an actor Oscar-nominated, note-perfect performance by Javier Bardem.

Bardem (supporting actor Oscar winner, 2007's "No Country for Old Men") submerges his devastating handsomeness to portray a man facing a fatal disease, life-threatening and spirit-crushing poverty in the back streets of contemporary Barcelona, Spain.

This is not the sunny Barcelona of Woody Allen's 2008 glib comedy, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," in which Bardem also starred.

The film portrays the dirty underbelly of the shiny consumer global economy as illegal Chinese immigrants sleep on mattresses in a basement room, toil in a sweatshop, making knockoff designer ware sold by illegal African immigrant street vendors.

Uxbal (Bardem) and his brother Tito (Eduard Fernéndez) supply illegals to the sweatshop owner, and at a construction site. The owner pays Uxbal, including money with which to bribe a police officer.

Uxbal is in an unhappy marriage to Marambra (Maricel Álvarez), the mentally-unstable mother of their girl and boy, Ana (Hanaa Bouchaib), and Mateo (Guillermo Estrella). The title, "Biutiful," is from the word "beautiful" spelled incorrectly in a drawing by Ana.

Alejandro Gonzélez Iñérritu ("Babel, "21 Grams") directs from a screenplay he co-wrote with Armando Bo and Nicolés Giacobone. The documentary style, with hand-held camera and naturalistic lighting, creates distressing, if eye-popping, scenes, and conveys a claustrophobic sense of foreboding that permeates this dour, but thought-provoking film.

"Biutiful" is a film you can't shake. It's disquieting, not unlike life in the global economy on planet earth in the 21st century.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Biutiful" was filmed on location in Spain.

"Biutiful," MPAA rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian) for disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use; Genre: Drama; Run time: 2 hrs., 28 min.; Spanish, English subtitles; Distributed by Roadside Attractions. Continues at The Civic Theatre of Allentown Theatre 514.

Box Office, Feb. 18: Movie-goers wanted to know about "Unknown," which opened at No. 1 with $21.7 million, keeping "I Am Number Four" at No. 2, opening with $19.5 million.

3. "Gnomeo & Juliet," $19.4 million, $50.4 million, two weeks; 4. "Just Go With It," dropping from No. 1, $18.2 million, $60.7 million, two weeks; 5. "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son," $17 million, opening; 6. "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never," $13.6 million, $48.4 million, two weeks; 7. "The King's Speech," hanging in the Top 10 in time for its Oscar wins, $6.5 million, $103.2 million, (lucky) 13 weeks; 8. "The Roommate," $4.1 million, $32.6 million, three weeks; 9. "The Eagle," $3.5 million, $15 million, two weeks; 10. "No Strings Attached," $3.1 million, $66 million, five weeks; 21. "Biutiful," $510,000, $3 million, four weeks

Unreel, Feb. 25:

"The Grace Card," MPAA Rated PG-13: A drama about a veteran Memphis, Ga., police officer (Michael Joiner) and a younger officer (Mike Higgenbottom), who is a part-time pastor. Also stars Louis Gossett, Jr.

"Drive Angry 3D," MPAA Rated R: It's said Nicolas Cage can't pass a cheese tray without a bite. In this cheesy supernatural thriller, he plays a felon who breaks out of hell I am not making this up for one last chance to co-star with Amber Heard, drive cool muscle cars, wear hair extensions and have a No. 1 hit movie again. OK, that last part I did make up.

"Hall Pass," MPAA Rated R: The plot to this crude comedy directed by brothers, Bobby and Peter Farrelly, can't be detailed in a family newspaper. Owen Wilson, Christina Applegate, Jason Sudeikas and Jenna Fischer star.

Oscar Picks: The 83rd Academy Awards, which will be presented at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 in Hollywood and telecast on ABC-TV, appears to be as predictable as they get.

Here are my picks:

Picture: "The King's Speech." It's the kind of traditional, uplifting, storytelling Academy members like. The film won the Producers Guild of America honor, a strong Oscar picture indicator. However, "The Social Network" could pull an upset.

Director: Tom Hooper. He won the Directors Guild of America movie director award. The DGA director winner usually wins the director Oscar. Only six times has that not happened. David Fincher could garner a win for "The Social Network," as a kind of consolation award.

Actor: Colin Firth. As Curious George, as in George VI, in "The King's Speech," Firth should build on his Screen Actors Guild actor award and his near win as an Oscar actor nominee for last year's "A Single Man."

Actress: Natalie Portman. As the lead ballerina in "Black Swan," Portman is en pointe to win. Annette Bening could squeak through for her fine performance in "The Kids Are All Right."

Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo. As the momma bear in "The Fighter," Leo is the favorite, building on her supporting actress SAG award and her actress nomination for "Frozen River" (2008). Hailee Steinfeld, as the protagonist in "True Grit," could surprise, because without her, writers-directors, the Coen Brothers would have no film.

Supporting Actor: Christian Bale. As real-life boxer, Dicky Ecklund, in "The Fighter," Bale received a supporting actor SAG award. Geoffrey Rush, for "The King's Speech," could upset.

Animated Feature: "Toy Story 3" is the "won."

Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: and on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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