Quick Takes – 07.17.11

Nights of Cabiria (1957)

Grade: A | 1st Viewing

This early Fellini masterpiece is simultaneously one of the saddest yet most optimistic films I have ever seen. Optimistic prostitute Cabiria dreams of a life away from poverty and she is taken advantage of by every man who comes into her life including a boyfriend who pushes her into a rushing river to steal her purse, a wealthy actor who uses her for his own amusement, and an accountant who concocts a ridiculous ruse just to get at her fortune.

The worldview of Fellini’s film would seem to be pretty cynical if not for two redeeming scenes. The first comes when Cabiria receives Christian charity from a wandering man with a sack and the second comes from the optimistic conclusion. Fellini seems to be saying that life is cruel, but our experience depends on the choices we make. Fellini regulars Giulietta Masina and composer Nino Rota are standouts in this brilliant film.

The Green Hornet (2011)

Grade: C- | 1st Viewing

Director Michel Gondry has shown an excellent amount of creativity in films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, so it is strange that his superhero endeavor The Green Hornet is so lacking in imagination. The fight scenes are about as generic as they get with a lot of clichés stolen right out of recent action movies. Seth Rogen plays his stock character and is about as annoying as ever.

The redeemable moments come from the great Christoph Waltz and Jay Chou who play the villain and the sidekick respectively. Chou essentially becomes the hero while still putting up with a lot of abuse from Rogen’s protagonist. The good thing is that this is one of the few superhero movies that we can almost guarantee there will be no sequel.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (2010)

Grade: B+ | 3rd Viewing

The general opinion across the web seems to be that The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 was a mediocre set up to Part 2 which offered an excellent payoff. I am actually of the opinion that Part 1 is the slightly better movie (although years from now they should only be spoken about as one film). The World War 2 allegory is rather excellent and some of the early moments are among the best in both films (when Hermione “obliviates” her parent’s memory of her).

The set up in Part 1 raised expectations so high that Part 2 was not fully able to live up to them.

Il Bidone (1955)

Grade: A | 1st Viewing

One of the lesser known Fellini films, Il Bidone (The Swindle), is sandwiched between two of his greatest – La Strada and Nights of Cabiria. The story surrounds Augusto and his gang of swindlers who travel to remote villages and con the locals out of their savings. Like most of Fellini’s films the multiple characters exist on different moral planes. The victims of the swindling always show so much greed that it is hard to sympathize with them despite being fully aware that everything they have is about to be stolen.

La Strada, Il Bidone, and Nights of Cabiria were a sort of trilogy for Fellini that explored spirituality and solitude. In Il Bidone he shows just as much thematic depth about the emptiness of the soul as in the other two, but he seems slightly less interested in trying new things with the camera. Nino Rota provides another excellent and memorable score.

What movies did you watch this week?

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  • Only one film for me this week (I spent most of my free time reading):

    “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two” (B+) – I’ll let my review (which I just posted) speak for me. Good stuff, although like you I liked part one just a bit more.

  • ‘Nights of Cabiria’ is probably my second favorite Fellini after ‘Amarcord.’ The ending is beautiful and classic Fellini. I think it is one of his most dramatic films. Also his most visually pleasing black and white film. Wonderful film.

    Rebel Without a Cause: A, First Viewing
    I’m not sure if I liked it as much as director Nicholas Ray’s ‘In a Lonely Place.’ But still an excellent film.

  • Jose

    Quite a thrill to be honest. I’m sure that Paranormal Abtivity haters (Greg) would aprrove since stuff actually happens. That said the 3rd act is wayyyy to Poltergeisty (at this point I didn’t know if it was continuing paying homage to haunted house films of the 80s like the aforementioned one or blatantly ripping it off) but it was a lot of fun, especially the seance where the medium, for some reason I still don’t get yet it made for a quiet awesome visual, conducts it in a gas mask.

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:
    I’m going to them both as one since I saw them back to back (although I saw the second one twice this past weekend). I like how both films are vastly different, Part 1 is very quiet yet Part 2 is an adrenaline fueled action film (why its the best reviewed movie of the year I don’t understand though). Both films work like that but as adaptions they miss the mark a lot. Part 2 misses a lot of the subleties that the final chapter had. And once again Petunia Dursley got the shaft here and the battle (as amazing as it was) really lacked an emotional punch. I guess its because the movies basically ignored the Deathly hallows (despite it being the title of the film and one of the crucial elements of the book, Hallows or Horcruxes?). And what was up with Hogwarts? Was it just me or did the Great hall get smaller? And why were there less students? And why didn’t McGonall kick the underage kids out (poor freshman), and the movie made it feel as if there was an extremely small amount of fighters for the good guys yet thousands more for Voldermort’s side. Where were the ghosts, the house elves, the parent’s of the students, Nevile’s badass grandma(Judi Dench that could’ve been your Role!)? And Mrs. Weasley’s line underwhelmed. The worst part of the movie though was the epilouge. It worked on the novel yet on the screen it feels like an afterthough. That should’ve been cut. But as I said both films work as they were supposed to accomplish but they’re just not good adaptions of the novel.

    Never Let Me Go.
    Don’t know how else to describe it other then blah. The performances from the three leads are great (Keira Knightly needs to do more villanious roles) yet Andrew Garfield’s character wasn’t actually interesting.

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