My TiVo's set. Popcorn popped. Tattered copy of Chicano Cinema: Research, Reviews, and Resources set aside for quick reference. High School Musical 2 is set for broadcast today. Directed by Kenny Ortega, the Disney movie phenom has pushed aside The Blair Witch Project-- c0-directed by Cuban-American Eduardo Sanchez -- as most financially successful Latino movie of all time.
Ortega is the Redwood City homie who got his start as a choreographer, creating the dance moves for such American cinematic classics as Xanadu (where he was mentored by the great Gene Kelly), Dirty Dancing, Madonna's Material Girl video, and 1987's Footloose, which I once watched stoned, and was thoroughly convinced the Keven Bacon movie of self-expression overcoming small-town prejudice was the Greatest American Movie made since The Godfather II...(and still am of this opinion, now that I think about it). Included among Ortega's many directing credits are Newsies, Hocus Pocus, 12 episodes of the Gilmore Girls, one Resurrection Blvd., and of course the original High School Musical. Talk about Chicano power.
I am only half-glib when I designate HSM and Blair Witch as Latino films. Of course they are not I Am Joaquin (see amazing clip here) or even Selena (see wonderfully sappy clip here), but I don't even have to borrow from Truffaut's auteur theory of filmmaking to make this point: something interesting is going on, representation-wise, with so-called kid's movies these days -- and right under the stern radar of Professional Chicanos Who Care About Such Things. Dora the Explorer, Carmen and Juni Cortez in the Spy Kids franchise, Cheech Marin as Ramone the Lowrider in Cars, Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots in Shrek II, and, of course, the raza penguins who save the world in Happy Feet.
Every gringo kid dragging his or her mom or dad to their mid-western multiplex is getting a steady dose of brown people who aren't maids, drug dealers, or gang bangers. High School Musical follows the same subversive formula as it tells the story of a teen romance between Gabriella Montez and white boy Troy Bolton. Of course, it would be badass if Troy was a Chicano named Toltecatl and the happy loving Brown couple organized the school to raise money for the Zapatistas but that wouldn't be so great to dance to.
And yeah, yeah, yeah...sure we can sit around waiting for the noble and serious epic film version of Bless Me Ultima to be made (which I hear is being developed by a white guy -- so does that negate it's raza authenticity?) but for me, gimmie Cesar Milan in the Dog Whisperer over the so-called Latino Film bona fides of Illegal Tender any day.