#328- Umberto D

Quick recap: A sad old man makes sad choices about his dog.

This movie is sad.

Fun (?) fact: Most of the actors in the film weren’t professional. The main character, Umberto, was played by a professor of Linguistics and the maid was played by a woman who had shown up to the audition to support her friend.

PSA: Don’t watch this movie if you have a heart

My thoughts: I’m starting to catch on to the idea that if an old Italian movie is on my list, it’s going to be sad. Even movies like 8 1/2, which are supposed to have comedic elements end up leaving me in a state of depression I can’t shake. And don’t even get me started on Rome, Open City. Good lord, that movie should come with a warning.  So, when you look at films like Umberto D from this perspective, it’s downright pleasant considering what it could’ve been.

The movie starts with a protest by old men whose pensions aren’t enough to sustain them. One of those men is of course, Umberto. His story is especially sad because his only companion is a dog who loves and trusts him unconditionally. There’s a bigger story here about how the elderly are treated and the lengths some of them go to in order to survive, but, let’s be real, all I cared about was the dog. At one point, Umberto is going to be evicted from his apartment and knowing that he can’t support his companion, looks to find a caretaker. The only one in his price range refuses to take the animals out for walks and keeps them in deplorable conditions. The poor dog shivers at the sight of the bigger dogs and it broke my heart to see Umberto have to make such a hard decision. In the end, he decided to look for another solution. I was relieved but that scene showed me that there were no easy answers.

Some other solutions  Umberto tries: checking himself into a hospital until his pension check arrives and he can pay his rent, giving his dog away to a little girl who played with him and the most heartbreaking- trying to take his and the dog’s life on the railroad tracks. Luckily, the dog freaked out and ran away at the last second because I wouldn’t have been able to endure the other result. The movie ends with Umberto and the dog walking through the park. Nothing is resolved- neither of them have a shelter or food, but they are both still alive and they are both together, which is I guess the moral of the story? Honestly, I’d just rather not think about this movie anymore if I don’t have to.

Final review: 4/5 But good luck being able to sit through this without calling your doctor and being prescribed an anti-depressant.

Up next: The Right Stuff

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#326- Badlands

Quick recap: There’s nothing quite like young love: Going on a cross country adventure together,  being wrapped up in the very essence of the other person, going on a shooting spree after violently murdering your girlfriend’s father. So sweet.

That Martin Sheen was quite a looker back then

Fun (?) fact: Martin Sheen’s sons, Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez, have uncredited roles as boys playing under a lamplight.

EVERY.SINGLE. TIME Emilio Estevez’s name is mentioned, this clip comes to mind

My thoughts: Usually, I try to crank out a review about a day after watching the movie. I like it to be fresh on my mind as I add my All Important Opinion to this tiny space on the internet. This time, however, life got in the way, so it’s been about three days since I watched Badlands. Had I stuck to my schedule, I would’ve given this movie a negative review with plenty of sarcastic comments thrown in for good measure. As it is now, more time means more opportunities to think about what I watched and I’ve  come to an understanding that  Badlands really is an exceptional film.

As the credits rolled the other night, I would describe my mood as ‘unimpressed’. I really enjoyed Sissy Spacek’s performance, especially considering she was in her 20s perfectly playing a teenager. Her diary voiceovers were so unnerving because she sounds every bit like a normal girl having her first romance, but here she is, on the lam with the guy who murdered her father as well as several other people along the way. She mostly gives off an air of boredom, as if small town life in South Dakota was the worst so why not join a killing spree? My nonchalance was mostly due to the inevitability of the ending, I think. Of course Kit and Holly couldn’t run forever and seeing as how I disliked the two of them as a couple, I was relieved when it all went down and both were captured. My mistake in dismissing this movie was the focus on the characters and their relationship instead of literally everything else in the film.

Seeing as this is a Terrence Malick film, it should go without saying that Badlands is gorgeous. Despite the horrible and sometimes needless killing, everything about the drive Kit and Holly made was beautiful. I’ve always had a fantasy of driving West but this film has me thinking that North might be the best direction to go. As for the theme, it really resonated with me how the entire country lived in fear of Kit and Holly until they were caught, and then he became a celebrity of sorts. He got his comeuppance in the end with a trip to the electric chair but Malick really captured America’s obsession with true crime and how we are constantly in a state of fear and adoration over the same people.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Drugstore Cowboy

 

#324- The Big Chill

Quick recap: A group of former college friends reunite at a funeral for Alex, a friend who committed suicide .

starring Jeff Goldblum!

Fun (?) fact: Kevin Costner was cast as dead guy Alex and he originally filmed some flashback scenes. Most of it was cut  by the time the movie was released So all that’s left is a few seconds of Alex’s corpse being dressed for the funeral.

such a performance

My thoughts: Remembering my experience with Diner, I was reticent to watch The Big Chill. I knew it had something to do with the 60s and I wasn’t in the mood for a bunch of flashbacks and nostalgia porn. I mean, I get it. I love the 90s and I would totally be down for a movie with references I personally know. But someone else’s nostalgia just isn’t the same. Luckily this movie does a great job staying in the present but dropping little reminders, like the music, to set the tone.

My initial lack of enthusiasm for The Big Chill stemmed from the large ensemble cast. A large group of characters who shared a long history meant that I would have to sit through each backstory and ‘connect’ with each person. Thankfully, that’s not what happened. There’s never an explanation how everyone met each other but there are a few clues about the various relationships. One thing I disliked was how the women were welcomed into the group but their relationship to the men was mostly a previous or current romantic one. The men were successful- a businessman about to go big, a journalist, a movie star and a radio psychologist. But the women mostly just talked about various relationships and kids and subpar husbands. Seeing as how I never really had a huge group of friends I hung out with in college, maybe that’s just how it goes. And maybe there wasn’t enough time to flesh out all the characters. Either way it just felt like the women got the short end of the stick in this group of friends.

Despite the premise of friends reuniting at a funeral, The Big Chill isn’t as sentimental as it could’ve been and I appreciate that. There’s the usual mix of montages and heartfelt discussions you find in these kinds of movies but it never goes full on schmaltzy. Alex’s suicide weaves in and out of conversations and it all felt so genuine, as if these were a real group of friends. In the end, as everyone began to depart it was nice to think of them all staying in touch after such an emotional meeting but there’s a hint that things might’ve just gone back to the way they were, much like real life. I prefer that ending over a definite answer that everyone’s life had changed.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

 

#319- Young Frankenstein

Quick recap: Young Frankenstein is nothing like his grandfather, until he becomes him completely.

Fun (?) fact: Steven Tyler, of the band Aerosmith, wrote ‘Walk this Way’ after watching a screening of the film.

My thoughts: After my experience with Blazing Saddles, I was a little weary going into Young Frankenstein. I think Mel Brooks does great work and I can see how his gags are considered funny, but it’s just not the humor for me. However, I already have a director beef with Robert Altman so I think I need to tone down my feuds a little. Bill Paxton can remain, however. He may have passed on but I still wish I could’ve punched him in his face just one time.

Young Frankenstein was a family viewing event because my husband assured me it was totally appropriate for children. Like, squeaky clean entertainment. Considering he said the same thing about the Hamilton soundtrack, I should’ve known better. Thankfully, almost every innuendo went over our kid’s head, except for the last scene with Inga in bed and she starts singing. That was a fun one to tiptoe around. Anyway, I think my son mostly enjoyed the film, although later he admitted that he didn’t find it as funny as we had built it up to be. I agreed with him because gags just aren’t really my thing, although this is just personal preference. Honestly, my lack of love for this film comes down to the Princess Bride effect, something I just this second made up. The Effect is that had I watched this movie when I was younger, I would’ve embraced it completely but since I’m seeing it as an adult, I am only meh.

All that being said, I loved the concept for the movie and it makes me long for more like it. The humor was clever, although overwhelming at times with jokes being lobbed left and right. And of course Gene Wilder was wonderful. If anything, this list has taught me to appreciate his work even more than I did before.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Hopefully more Horrorfest!