#288- The Night of the Shooting Stars

Quick recap: Told through the perspective of a little girl, a group of Italian villagers flee their town from Nazis. Along the way to find Americans to liberate them, they decide that they are going to fight back however they can.

Fighting the Germans. What could go wrong?

Fighting the Germans. What could go wrong?

Fun (?) fact: The scene where the Germans bombed the church filled with villagers was based on real events. After some research years later, it was discovered that it was the Americans who were behind the accidental bombing. Oops.

My thoughts: Let me tell you, there is nothing that brings in the Christmas spirit more than a war film, featuring children, no less. I’m not much of  a ‘Christmas’ person to begin with, so it didn’t have much effect on my near non-existent cheer. Not that it would anyway, because out of the bunch of films I have watched so far featuring World War II, this one can almost be described as optimistic.

Almost. Mind you, there is still a lot of death happening to a lot of people you get attached to. But most of the death comes from fighting the Nazis and Fascists, which, by the way, really sucks that Italy had to fight two evil powers during the war. Everyone had it bad back then, but from what I’ve seen, Italian war films are generally the most depressing because it’s so difficult to grasp the amount of suffering the villagers went through. Night of the Shooting Stars further drives this point home as I watched the journey of these families as they fleed their town and homes. It made me wander where all that courage came from. I have no idea the first thing I would do if war came to my town. I’d like to say that I could muster up something deep inside to fight and keep going, but I don’t know. And these villagers didn’t know either, until it happened to them. The scenes where the people ran through the wheat fields to escape the fighting were the most heartbreaking for me. Here were these old women, impeccably dressed , crawling on their hands and knees, just trying to survive. It was almost too much at times.

But as I said before, this film is not just blood and gore and sadness. I think by putting this through the eyes of a 6 year old girl, the audience can see the optimism and hope. During the final battle scene, the little girl imagines her neighbors as Roman soldiers, defending their people. In reality, these are a bunch of people with weapons that barely work and little to no experience fighting. But to the little girl, they are heroes and they save the day. The Night of the Shooting Stars is based of Italian lore that once a year in August, shooting stars streak across the sky and if you make a wish, everything will come true. It was enough to keep her going and something for me to think about when times are rough.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Forbidden Games

 

#276- Lola Montés

Quick recap: Lola Montés is based off the real life dancer and courtesan Lola Montez. The film jumps through several points of Montés’ life from her rise to fame, her various lovers and her sad ending as a spectacle at the circus.

 

 

reminds me of a certain courtesan who danced at the Moulin Rouge

reminds me of a certain courtesan who danced at the Moulin Rouge

Fun (?) fact: Back in 1955, audiences didn’t like that the movie jumped around chronologically so it was re-edited so that events were shown in order. Audiences liked that even less and the movie initially bombed at the box office, thus proving that this is why we can’t have nice things.

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My thoughts: Here’s a great ‘Yo Momma’ joke: ‘Yo Momma’s so easy that she became a sideshow freak because she slept with so many guys!’ Okay, that might not be a GREAT joke, but this is the 1800s we are talking about, so work with me on this. Lola Montés is a beautiful film about a disgraced woman who ends up in the circus, which is kind of a crazy place to end up. But it’s also kind of motivating? Like, I’ve done some stupid things in my life but I haven’t been made to join the circus yet so I’m at least doing something right.

For about 75% of the movie, I was convinced that this was one of the greatest films I have ever seen. There was so much symbolism and so many great metaphors about double standards for women. When men sleep around, they are considered heroes but when women do it, they are freaks. There’s a scene at the end of the film where men can pay a dollar to kiss the hand of such a sleazy woman. It’s beautifully tragic to see her standing there, behind bars as men stand in line for the chance to touch her. But at some point, I realized that no, this is literally about a woman who sleeps with rich white guys and joins the circus because she can’t find anyone to take care of her anymore. Still sad, but no longer tragic when it’s a literal circus and not a metaphorical one.

As beautiful as the colors and costumes were, the acting left a lot to be desired. Martine Carol, who played Montés, was the perfect fit for the role but at the same time she didn’t really do much except sit there and look pretty or sad. I think it’s why I didn’t go full force in feeling sorry for her. And the guys she hooked up with were certainly rich and very white, but I didn’t get that there was much going on in the relationship besides sex. Which is basically what a courtesan is,I suppose. Or maybe it’s just the bias I have towards another tragic courtesan who learned that the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

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Final review: 3/5. Not bad, but also meh.

Up next: HORRORFEST

#271- Planet of the Apes

Quick recap: An astronaut lands on a mysterious planet where Man is the inferior race, ruled over by Apes.

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Fun (?) fact: Actors were required to keep their ape-masks on at all times during filming because makeup took so long. As a result, lunch was mostly liquified and fed through straws. Yum!

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My thoughts: My gift to you, dear readers, is that I promise not to mention a certain ape who was cruelly taken from our lives just a few months ago in Cincinnati. EVEN though evidence suggests he was most likely an ape from the future, here to warn us about Man’s destructive path. #ripHarambe

Moving on, Planet of the Apes is probably the best B-movie that’s not supposed to be a B-movie. The main plot about apes ruling over Man is so ridiculous yet it works. There is SO much to laugh at: the overacting by Charlton Heston, the crazy rubber masks that creeped me out, and I still left the theater that night knowing that I had watched something truly profound.

As much as I hated Charlton Heston in this film, and BOY did I hate Charlton Heston, he was still the absolute best choice for the role. It’s his anger and impulsiveness that only remind the apes that they have made the right decision in reducing Man to a wild species, yet he was supposedly the ‘hero’ in all of this. It’s what makes this movie so much more than just a Science Fiction story- the idea that who we hail as ‘hero’ may actually be the opposite. I never really liked him to begin with, although that may also be because I knew about the big reveal beforehand. It could also be because I was really creeped out by his and Nova’s relationship. I mean, yes, she was a human, but in this future, she was basically a wild animal. And he wanted to restart society with her? I guess someone has to be the one to bite the bullet but on the other hand, ew.

Please hold me, you damn dirty apes.

           Please hold me, you damn dirty apes. ( If you get this reference, I love you, whoever you are)

Final review: 5/5. I know the sequels are just plain ridiculous but now I want to see them

Up next: Vinyl

#257-She’s Gotta have It

Quick recap: Nola Darling is perfectly happy dating 3 guys at the same time but the guys turn it into a competition to be her boyfriend.

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Nola and Jamie

Fun (?) fact: The film was shot in 12 days and because of the tight budget, there were no retakes.

SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT, Tracy Camilla Johns, Spike Lee, 1986

Nola and Mars

My thoughts: She’s Gotta Have It is my first Spike Lee film and I’m so glad I started with it. I expected some sort of comedic romance story about a girl having to choose between three guys but thank god it went so much deeper than that. For starters, it’s directed in the style of a documentary, although it’s never clear who is filming everyone’s confessions. Combined with a no name cast (besides Spike Lee), the whole saga seemed real and got me invested in the characters. She’s Gotta Have It is also wonderfully progressive, which is even more amazing considering it was made in 1986.

So, Nola is dating 3 guys- Jamie (sensitive jazzy guy), Mars (funny cool guy) and Greer (narcissist). The guys all know about each other, so it’s not like she is being deceitful in anyway. She is also upfront about wanting everything to be casual, going so far as to reprimand any of the guys who mistakenly say they are in love with her. Jamie, however, flat out asks her to make a choice about settling down and this ruins everything. I love how opposite this is compared to other rom-coms. Settling down makes Nola miserable and unhappy. She just wants to be herself and not tied down to anyone. Society still has an issue with this point so I’m kind of astounded by Spike Lee’s stance.

Despite all the evidence, a part of me wanted Nola to ‘settle down’ and choose Jamie. He was the obvious choice, of course: bringing her groceries when she was sick,staging an elaborate dance sequence for her birthday and helping to clean up after the Thanksgiving meal. He is your typical ‘nice guy’. He’s the kind of guy that sits around, not being able to fathom how come he doesn’t have girls falling at his feet because he is such a ‘nice guy’. Which is a dangerous thing to think about, because it breeds resentment and you know what resentment breeds, kids! That’s right, the Dark Side. Which Jamie manifests one evening by coming over and raping Nola. It’s horrible and ugly and utterly realistic because it makes her rethink her life and and decide he is the one she wants after all.

As I was about to write off this movie, it ends with Nola confessing to the camera that she in fact broke it off with Jamie soon after because she realized he wanted her to be something she wasn’t. I loved how nonchalant she was about the realization and how it drove home the point that she is who she is and there is nothing wrong with it. Perfection.

Final review: 5/5.

Up next: The Bridge on the River Kwai