Ever since I watching Midnight in Paris in late November 2011 I have fallen in love with the films of Woody Allen. Since then I regularly sought out his films, watched them, re-watched them and I still haven’t seen every movie the guy has directed. His catalogue is seriously amazing. I haven’t seen a Woody Allen film I disliked or wouldn’t revisit. Even in his weaker films there’s still plenty to enjoy. This past week I only watched three movies, again, and two of them were Woody Allen films.
Why only three films, again? This time it’s because I watched a television show, which I rarely do. I saw that the first season of Lilyhammer was out and the premise sounded intriguing enough to me for some reason. The show is only eight episodes and it’s about an Italian American gangster who testifies against his new boss and then has to flee the country. The guy’s wacky enough to pick a godforsaken town in Norway instead of some tropical paradise, but that’s exactly what makes the show so enjoyable. I felt this weird attraction to Scandinavia myself and their culture and people fascinate me (at least as far movies are concerned).
The show starts out pretty great, but then becomes just this mafioso being all macho and shit. I mean he’s all right, but there are just so many coincidences and he’s always right and everyone one else is dumb (according to the writers anyway). I don’t like when a character “becomes” morality. If you’ve seen one or two Bud Spencer movies you’ll know what I mean. It’s when everything a character does is right and everything he doesn’t do or dislikes is wrong and he has no flaws. It’s really annoying. The show finale however manages to tie up everything somewhat nicely and the so-so/bad episodes are entertaining enough to sit through. Recommended with a grain of salt. Now on to some films!
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Hollywood Ending (2002) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.4) – Comedy, Romance (USA)
Written, directed and starring Woody Allen Hollywood Ending is a charming romantic comedy about a Hollywood director (played by Woody Allen) who tried to transition into art house, but became irrelevant. His ex-wife, married to a big studio executive, feels guilty for leaving him and decides to offer him the opportunity to direct a mid-size budget film about Manhattan. Left with basically no choice Allen’s character agrees to do the movie, but feeling too much pressure and blocked by his anxieties he becomes temporarily blind.
I love the premise of this film and its execution is very funny. The film seems to be autobiographical to some degree, then again most of Woody’s films are, and I’m just a sucker for any film that is about film. There’s a lot of commentary on the film industry and a lot of jokes that are still poignant and spot on even over a decade later. I was in need for a lighter, romantic film with Woody’s distinct tone and atmosphere this week and this one came at just the right time. An underrated and overlooked gem in Allen’s filmography.
La Dolce Vita (1960) – 10 (IMDb 8) – Comedy, Drama (Italy)
Everyone Says I Love You (1996) – 7 (IMDb 6.8) – Comedy, Romance, Musical (USA)
Musicals are generally not my thing, but this one was pretty great. It also helps that it makes fun of musicals a little bit, but in a loving way. Everyone Says I Love you is about a New York family and every family member’s romantic pursuits, but the film mostly focusses on Woody Allen’s character who’s trying to get over his ex-wife. He meets a beautiful woman in Venice and his daughter helps him get into her pants, thanks to the fact that she casually listened to all of her shrink sessions. The film is filled with musical numbers and even some choreographed dances, which however never distract from the story. Oddly enough they also don’t ruin the pacing or atmosphere, but rather help the film overall. I was quite surprised actually.
Also surprising is how good everyone sings. This film has a great cast and some of the actors aren’t exactly known for their singing abilities, but it’s great to hear them try and they’re all quite impressive, even Woody himself. The themes of the film are of course familiar territory for Allen, but the ending in Paris and all of the romantic moments really make this one of the sweetest and endearing Woody Allen films. The musical aspect is also great because, the numbers are so purposely exaggerated that you don’t even try to take them seriously or as part of the real story, but accept them as the inner state of the characters, as an expression of how they feel, rather than as a plot device, like most genre films would do. And that’s precisely why it all works so well.
Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) is a paparazzo journalist drifting through Rome, trying to catch the latest scoop and make a living with a job that doesn’t entirely satisfy him. As an aspiring, but rather uninspired writer, he finds himself thorn between what he would love to do, but can’t and what pays the rent. While his job can be exciting and thrilling, he gets to meet celebrities and visit all kinds of places, he just seems to be bored with all the shallow mundanity and the emptiness of the words he writes. On the surface he has no reason to feel this way: He has a steady job that pays well, his girlfriend seems to genuinely care for him, he has many friends and knows all the right people. However something is missing in his life. Nothing feels real. It’s all a big circus with and when the night is over and the sun rises over the Roman hills he is alone, misunderstood and lost. Continue reading
Italy is the country that has won more foreign language films than any other in the world, 13 wins so far. The peninsula is second, after France, when it comes to nominations – 27 total, against 36 – I guess we have a better chances of winning. Unfortunately most of this Oscar gold was won when Vittorio De Sica and Federico Fellini were making movies. Today, Giuseppe Tornatore is our biggest chance of winning the coveted statue, and he did so back in 1989 with Nuovo Cinema Paradiso. Since Tornatore’s newest film, The Best Offer, doesn’t qualify as a foreign language film this year Paolo Sorrentino will represent our country with The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza).
The Great Beauty was chosen over Viva la libertà (Roberto Andò), Miele (Valeria Golino), Razza bastarda (Alessando Gassmann), Salvo (Antonio Piazza & Fabio Grassadonia), Viaggio sola (Maria Sole Tognazzi) and Midway tra la vita e la morte (John Real). Having not seen those I can’t say if that was the best move, but considering how much I enjoyed The Great Beauty I am pretty satisfied with this outcome. As I’ve mentioned in my review, Sorrentino’s film is very reminiscent of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Toni Servillo’s performance alone is Oscar-worthy. Since La Dolce Vita was never even nominated for an Oscar and the Academy has a tendency to make up for things like this, at the very least it was a smart “political” move. Also as mentioned Fellini’s films are the ones that won Italy the most awards (La strada, Nights of Cabiria, 8½ and Amarcord).
Italy hasn’t been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film since 2005, when Christina Comencini’s Don’t Tell (La bestia nel cuore) was considered. As for actual wins it’s been since 1998 when Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella) managed to win. Like Sorrentino himself said, when asked about how he felt about the news: “It’s going to be very difficult, I know, but we’ll do anything it takes to make it to the Oscar ceremony”. As a fellow Italian, a fan of his film and someone who loves to watch the Oscars I wish him all the luck in the world and hope that the Weinstein Company doesn’t have a film they’re promoting. La Grande Bellezza will hit American theaters November 2013 and critics are already calling it “a metaphor for Italian decline”. In other words: It’s awesome, go see it!
Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) is a journalist playboy drifting through Rome’s glamorous nightlife. At the age of 65 he is still partying like when he was 26 and first arrived to the Italian capital. The only book he wrote, L’apparato umano, is considered somewhat of a literary masterpiece, but he hasn’t produced anything noteworthy ever since. Jep knows a lot of people, important people, people who matter, and of course everyone knows him. When he arrived to Rome he wanted to become king of the party scene, and he did, but somehow he is not satisfied with the way his life has turned out, his love life in particular. The only girl he ever truly cared for left him and married someone else. When he finds out that she died, he is crushed. He starts reflecting on his life, Rome and all kinds of existentialist problems, but first he needs to party! Continue reading