#330- Amarcord

Quick recap: stories of various residents in an Italian city in the 1930s

same, most days

Fun (?) fact: Amarcord is a phonetic translation from the Italian phrase ‘A m’arcord’, which means ‘I remember’.

The scene I’m mostly likely going to remember

My thoughts: Seeing as this is my 3rd Fellini film, Amarcord is a make or break film in regards to how I see him as a director. I was confused but amused by both Juliet of the Spirits and 8 1/2 which is as good a review I’m willing to give Italian cinema. I enjoyed Amarcord the most of the 3 and was proud that this time there was no confusion, except for reading trivia afterwards and learning that there are several scathing rebukes of fascism. Oops.

Without sounding too dramatic, I was completely in love with the movie from the very beginning. I always try to go into a film without knowing much so that I can make an unbiased judgement so I fully thought ‘Amarcord’ was some woman. The first part of the movie starts with a bonfire to celebrate the start of spring and then there’s a scene at a religious school. I patiently waited for ‘Amarcord’ to show up and I grew more excited to see how all the characters would all connect. And then I eventually realized that this was more a vignette style of story rather than one centered on a handful of characters. Somehow this realization made the movie infinitely more interesting and I wish that I could go back and watch the beginning again so I can soak up everyone.

Growing up in a small town, I could connect to this Italian town somewhat. My tiny Texas town was decidedly less depraved than this one but there were ‘characters’ that stood out and tall tales that have been passed down for generations. And even though it’s become somewhat of a trope, I loved how Fellini used seasons to indicate the passage of time. Small towns live on traditions and this one is no different. Also, I totally wish mine had an endurance car race like the Mille Miglia or a boat expedition to see the new luxury cruise. We mainly just had parades and football games, although those came with their own set of problems for the locals to discuss again and again.

Even though there is a sad scene, the movie ends with a wedding, as the seasons drift right back toward spring. The whole experience was lovely and makes me wonder if I have been too harsh on Italian cinema recently.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: The King of Comedy

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#329- Three Kings

Quick recap: Set during the Persian Gulf War, a group of military men head out on a rogue mission to find gold

It’s Maeby from Arrested Development!

Fun (?) fact: I’m just going to quote this straight from the IMDb trivia page:

During the editing stages, David O. Russell attended a fund raiser for George W. Bush at a Warner Brothers executive’s house. Russell walked up to Bush and said, “Hi, I’m editing a film that will question your father’s legacy in Iraq.” Bush shot back, “Well I guess I’m going to have to go back there and finish the job.”

Yeah.

The man sure can dodge a shoe though

My thoughts: War is hell, you guys. Yadda yadda yadda. If you watch Three Kings like I did, though, you’ll become jaded towards all things war. I’ve never considered myself a pacifist but this movie had me questioning all sorts of things- like, what really is the point of war? Is it ever really necessary? And who can we trust to keep things in line? Let me tell you something, an existential crisis was not what I had planned for the holiday break.

Despite the snazzy script and slick cinematography, Three Kings is fairly scathing look the Gulf War. Casting the likes of George Clooney, Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg makes it seem like this is a buddy heist romp, but it’s actually a complicated story. The beginning of the film, which is set at the end of the war, plays out like I imagined it really did- a bunch of confused but happy 18 year olds quick to pat themselves on the back for a job well done even though they didn’t do much. I was put off by the careless attitudes of the three kings (even though it’s really 4 guys) as they started out on their journey, although I knew that was the point- to show that no one really understood what was going on. By the end of the film, everyone learns a valuable lesson about war being hell and so on but it was frustrating how many lives were lost before that point hit home.

I think my main issue with the movie was George Clooney’s character Archie Gates. He has a Bugs Bunny quality about him- always one step ahead and a scheme to get out of trouble. I think I was supposed to cheer for him and the men but I just couldn’t. I know they did the right thing in the end but there was so much that was wrong to get to that point. It just showed how flawed the system is. And I think what taints this movie more is that 4 years after Three Kings was released, we were back in Iraq dealing with the mess we left. War isn’t just hell. It’s bullshit.

Final review: 2/5. Kept my attention but disagreed with almost everything else.

Up next: Amarcord

#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!