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?