Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies!
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée, Yvonne Furneaux, Magali Noël,
Alain Cuny, Annibale Ninchi, Walter Santesso, Lex Barker, Nadia Gray, Valeria Ciangottini,
Riccardo Garrone, Audrey McDonald, Polidor, Enrico Glori
Director: Federico Fellini
Synopsis: Marcello is a man who left his small town for the big city with high hopes for himself. The movie comes in where Marcello is middle-aged and now works as a paparazzi that has done well for himself but never takes time to enjoy himself in a balanced way. His job pulls him into all sorts of sordid situations as the grimiest stuff makes the best headlines. As the movie rolls on he begins to allow questions to creep in about his way of life. Oh, he’s also a major womanizer who leaves the needy woman in his life often sitting home waiting for him.
Impressions: Spectacle first comes to mind. Then excess. Marcello has the feel of a man racing against something but it isn’t clear what it is. He is a shallow man who can also be kind and treats his father well. He’s well-connected with his fellow paparazzi and his paid “eyes” on the celebrities. The movie isn’t afraid to take its time to process the scenes laid out for the audience. The movie does a good job of exploring the often hedonistic empty lives of the well-to-do. There are some chauvinistic portrayals of men and neurotic portrayals of females. There are a couple of disturbing scenes/images involving children. Nice time capsule for that era.
Etc.: LGBTQI+ friendly; Italian movie with English subtitles; 3 hours long; in black and white. The film contributed the term “paparazzo” to the language. The term derives from Marcello’s photographer friend Paparazzo. Federico Fellini took the name “Paparazzo”, as he explained in a later interview, from the name of someone he met in Calabria (Southern Italy) where Greek names are still common. “Paparazzi” is the plural meaning.
Awards: One Oscar, 10 other wins, 12 other nominations
The Tomorrow Man (2019)
Starring: John Lithgow, Blythe Danner, Derek Cecil
Director: Noble Jones
Genres: drama; aging; indie
Synopsis: An aging widow and widower find romance with each other, but their “quirks” may stand in the way. He is a meticulous “tomorrow man” who is preparing for the apocalypse, and she is a sloppy, air-headed hoarder.
Impressions: Gentle romance (and comedy if you look at it in a certain way.) Would probably appeal very much to anyone 70 or older. I like Lithgow in anything he does. Danner is a little irritating to me in this one.
Etc.: John Lithgow was born in Rochester, NY, where most of the movie was filmed.
Awards: 3 other nominations
Being Frank (2018)
Starring: Jim Gaffigan, Logan Miller, Anna Gunn, Samantha Mathis, Alex Karpovsky, Daniel Rashid, Isabelle Phillips, Emerson Tate Alexander, Gage Banister, Danielle Campbell, Hayes MacArthur, Michelle Hurd, Theresa Burkhart Gallagher, Zach Selwyn, Stephanie Nan
Director: Miranda Bailey
Synopsis: Teenager with a nuclear family that includes a very nice mom but a very negativistic dad that’s gone out of town “for work” a lot discovers his dad (played by Gaffigan) has a second family. Not only that, but in his second family his dad is a loving and supportive father who has a good relationship with his kids. The teenager uses the information to gain leverage in certain circumstances.
Impressions: It’s a great concept with poor execution, which is a real shame. Common sense would tell you that Gaffigan, who is hilarious as a standup comedian, would be able to play this role perfectly. Wrong. You know why? He plays a straight role. I have to ask why!?!? Whoever had that bright idea: don’t ever do that again. Some comedians can play straight roles just fine, but not Gaffigan. The teenage son was miscast, as he just doesn’t have the likeability factor. The rest of the support cast is pretty blasé. There is one standout funny guy and that is Alex Karpovsky as the uncle of the teenager’s buddy.
Etc.: LGBTQI+ friendly
Awards: 3 other wins and 5 other nominations
2 Days in the Valley (1996)
Starring: Teri Hatcher, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello, Greg Cruttwell, Glenne Headly, Peter Horton, Marsha Mason, Paul Mazursky, James Spader, Eric Stoltz, Charlize Theron, Keith Carradine, Louise Fletcher, Austin Pendleton, Kathleen Luong
Director (and Writer): John Herzfeld
Genres: crime, thriller, comedy
Synopsis: As the title suggests, the movie is contained to events over a 48-hour period in Los Angeles. There are all kinds of criminal activities going on whose characters are connecting and intersecting in various ways. Some of the criminals are more menacing than others and some have been criminalized through circumstances.
Impressions: Even though the plot is very busy, it was easy to follow. You won’t find a better cast. Look at this group! Amazing to me that blindingly gorgeous Charlize Theron would play a cheesecake role like this, but she was just getting started, so maybe not that surprising. Warning: there are several uses of racial epithets and sexual slanders in the movie. It has a good soundtrack. There is a style and sassiness to the movie that I like.
Etc.: from imdb trivia: In 1995, Charlize Theron was newly arrived in Hollywood after stints as a model and a dancer, living in a fleabag motel, and running out of money. Her mother had sent the 20-year-old Theron a check from South Africa, but when she went to the bank to cash it, they refused her. Fed up, Theron threw what has been repeatedly called “a tantrum.” That argument, coupled with her beauty, caught the eye of an agent, who promptly handed over his business card. Fast-forward a few months later, and Theron, in white lingerie, towered over Los Angeles in billboards for 2 Days in the Valley.
Awards: 1 other nomination
The Song of Names (2019)
Starring: Clive Owen, Tim Roth, Eddie Izzard, Gerran Howell, Stanley Townsend, Amy Sloan, Marina Hambro, István Fazekas, Catherine McCormack, Steven Hillman, Sharon Percy, Eszter Lugosi , Áron Rátkay , Eszter Túrós, Annamária Makai, Viktoria Kay, and more
Director: François Girard
Genres: drama; before, during, and after WWII
Synopsis: A young Jewish violin virtuoso is brought to England by his Polish father just as the Nazis are taking over Poland. The boy lives with an English family whose father promises the boy’s father that he will not only protect him and cultivate his violin talents but he will raise him with the Jewish religious requirements. The boy becomes a young man and just about to have his first huge concert – when he disappears. The son of the Englishman, who had become like a brother to the boy, can’t forget about him over the years and eventually decides to try and find him.
Impressions: I like how the movie jumps around between times and places. The relationship between the two boys is charming in the first part. The film is rather slow-paced and there aren’t too many big reveals which can be disappointing in some ways. The classical music in the film is beautiful. Although the “Song of Names” isn’t based on fact, it feels like it should be.
Etc.: filmed in Hungary, Canada, UK, and Poland; the film’s various violin pieces were performed by renowned Taiwanese Australian violinist Ray Chen.
Awards: 5 other wins and 7 other nominations
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Oscar Kightley, Stan Walker, Mike Minogue, Cohen Holliday, Rhys Darby, Troy Kingi, Taika Waititi
Director: Taika Waititi
Synopsis: A man and woman live in a remote area of New Zealand, living off the land, when a social services case worker and a police officer pull up with a young boy dressed like a gangster. The woman must be a licensed foster parent as she takes the boy in. Sam Neill, the foster father, doesn’t seem real thrilled to have a juvenile delinquent sharing space with him and is rather gruff to the boy. The kid is used to city life and being a smart aleck, but over time he responds to the kindness of the woman. Enter tragedy, where only the boy and the gruff old man are left. As the old man and woman were never married and he has a criminal record to boot, social services are on the way to pick the boy up and place him in a juvenile lockup (he’s blown out too many other foster homes, which means lockup.) The old man realizes he likes the boy more than he thought and decides he’s not going to let that happen. They decide to “disappear into the wilderness” and live off the land.
Impressions: Sam Neill as Uncle Hec and Julian Dennison as the boy, Ricky, have a good chemistry which is what makes the movie work. The plot gets a little ridiculous in parts, but its heart of solid gold makes it forgivable.
Etc.: Some graphic scenes of animal slaughter (for food;) New Zealand made that is filmed in various locations there; the movie is based on the 1986 book “Wild Pork and Watercress” by Barry Crump, who himself is a bit of a legendary figure in New Zealand
Awards: 22 other wins and 25 other nominations