Last year I managed to write a blurb for every movie I watched during the year. This year I'm doing the same thing all over again, though this time I'm only writing about films that I've seen for the first time. What makes this year special is that I am sharing my thoughts with you, my established readers, in the hopes that my musings will help you seek out more worthwhile movies and stay away from the worthless ones (and bring more frequent posts to this blog). Most of the entries will be in the form of mini reviews, but some will just use the film as a jumping off point to talk about something entirely different. Since I like groups of five, I will be releasing the blurbs in sets of five, in the order in which I see them.
Nuovo cinema Paradiso (1988)
As a love letter to movies, I really liked this film. I especially liked the picture of Buster Keaton displayed prominently over the projector in the projection booth. On the other hand, tales of unrequited/doomed love do almost nothing for me, so the romance portions of the film did little for me. After all, there was very little reason to introduce a love interest into the film in the first place, as the relationship between young Toto and his projectionist mentor was wonderful enough in its own right. The film would have worked better if it had focused more solely on this relationship. Still, a very fitting choice for the first movie of the year.
Pat and Mike (1952)
It was a mildly amusing film with some laughs from leads Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, and I appreciated most of the feminist themes in the film about not restricting a woman’s role in society. However I did not like the battle of the sexes themes (though admittedly they were less in evidence here than in the similarly themed Adam’s Rib). Whenever we fight the battle of the sexes, everyone loses.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
I was a little surprised at how entertaining this silly film from producer Roger Corman was. It tells the story of a futuristic cross-country race in which the drivers score points by killing pedestrians and the winner gets to shake hands with the god-like president. Of course there are those who object to the brutality of the race, and so they resort to terrorist-like tactics to eliminate the drivers. If the film had been serious, trying to make an Important Statement on society’s view of violence, it would have fallen flat, but since the film realizes the inherent absurdity of its subject matter, it opts for a satirical take on the events, which actually ends up giving its audience something to think about in regards to violence anyway.
If this film were made today, there would be several scenes of bed-hopping with its leads which would add almost nothing to the film except "realism." Like the production code or not, its presence did lead to some artful ways of handling adult subject matter when it could not be shown explicitly. Director Stanley Donen could not show leads Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in bed together, so for one scene he shot it as a phone conversation with a split screen. At the end of the conversation, their hands meet at the center of the frame, and even though they are in separate apartments, it is as if they are holding hands. This ends up making the whole scene much more visually interesting than a mundane one of pillow talk.
While the film was fun for the most part, it lacked the joy and energy that was prevalent throughout the recent musical version, and featured an underlying smug, mean-spiritedness that served to sour my viewing pleasure to some extent. Though the original has its merits, I would recommend the musical remake because it tells the story in a better, more entertaining way.
Coming up next: a French animated film and a Best Picture nominee for this year.