Cinema Italiano 2014: ‘The Bicycle Thief’

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The 1948 Italian classic The Bicycle Thief (Ladri di biciclette, or Bicycle Thieves) is considered by many to be one of the best films ever made period, let alone one of the greatest Italian films of all time. Directed by Vittorio De Sica, the film tells the story of an impoverished family living in post-World War II Rome. Antonio, the father, gets a job that requires the use of a bicycle. When the bicycle gets stolen, Antonio and his son Bruno search throughout the Eternal City trying to find the bike and restore his job and dignity.

The film is Italian neorealism at its most stark, tangible, and in your face. As stated on The Criterion Collection website:

“The neorealist movement began in Italy at the end of World War II as an urgent response to the political turmoil and desperate economic conditions afflicting the country. Directors such as Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, and Luchino Visconti took up cameras to focus on lower-class characters and their concerns, using nonprofessional actors, outdoor shooting, (necessarily) very small budgets, and a realist aesthetic.”

Among the film’s many kudos, The Bicycle Thief also won a Special Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1949 “as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1949.”

Frankly, I find the film to be depressing as all get out, but I guess that’s the point. It shows the ruinous toll that war and fascism wreaked on the people of Italy. It’s an important film and definitely one worth checking out and thinking about.

Enzo Staiola and Lamberto Maggiorani in 'The Bicycle Thief' (1948)

Enzo Staiola and Lamberto Maggiorani in ‘The Bicycle Thief’ (1948)

First Look at ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

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One thing I never thought I’d see in my lifetime was another Star Wars movie with a storyline past Episode VI (and particularly with the prequel trilogy leaving such a bad aftertaste). Now, as we all know, that’s changed and Episode VII, or Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be coming to a galaxy near you in December 2015.

The first teaser trailer is here and it makes me feel like I’m 12 years old all over again. What do you think of it?

Image © Lucasfilm and Disney

Image © Lucasfilm and Disney

Happy 25th Anniversary to ‘The Little Mermaid’

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Can you believe it’s been 25 years since this film was released? Disney Animation’s The Little Mermaid was issued in wide release in U.S. theaters on November 17, 1989.

I re-watched the film this week and I don’t think I stopped smiling once. Pure charm and delight from start to finish.

Image © Disney

Image © Disney

 

Thoughts on Movies: TCM to Sponsor The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park

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Finally, some good news to come out of Walt Disney World. Last month, a Disney spokesperson confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that the giant, heinous “Sorcerer Mickey” hat that was plopped in front of the replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park in 2001 is going bye-bye (more about my thoughts on this egregious structure are here). Then, yesterday it was announced that Turner Classic Movies (TCM) signed an agreement to sponsor The Great Movie Ride attraction, which is located inside the Chinese Theatre building and is one of the park’s original attractions. Vintage DIsney movies and television programs will also be shown quarterly on TCM in a new “Treasures from the Disney Vault” programming block. TCM has put together a press release and a webpage about the new deal. I couldn’t be happier about this latest development.

Once the awful giant hat is removed and the beautiful views restored to the entrance of Disney’s Hollywood Studios park, guests will then be able to see and enjoy The Great Movie Ride with new content at the beginning and end of the ride curated by the pros at TCM. Giant hat removal is scheduled to begin in January 2015. The TCM additions to The Great Movie Ride should hopefully be in place soon thereafter.

The ride has been in need of an update for a long time and TCM is the perfect partner to make this experience great again. I’m also glad that the classic movie theme is staying as the opening act at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios park, a celebration of “the Hollywood that never was and always will be.”

Image © TCM and Disney

Image © TCM and Disney

Thoughts on Movies: R.I.P. Robin Williams

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It was sad to hear the news this week of the passing of actor and comedian Robin Williams. I loved this tribute to him posted on the Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Facebook page. It was designed by Eric Goldberg, the renowned animator who brought the Genie to life in the 1992 Disney animated film Aladdin.

© Disney

© Disney

Cinema Italiano 2014: ‘La grande bellezza’

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Decadence, bewilderment, and regret infuse the 2013 Italian film La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty). And I felt the same way after watching the film. While it is probably a true-to-life statement about how some people feel in and about the world, I was hoping to see and experience more of the bellezza (beauty) of the eternal city of Rome and of humanity rather than the bruttezza (ugliness) and schifezza (filth) as exhibited in the film.

Toni Servillo in "La grande bellezza" (2013)

Toni Servillo in “La grande bellezza” (2013)

The protagonist (if you can call him that) is an aging Roman author and socialite named Jep Gambardella (played by Toni Servillo). Jep rose to fame and fortune early in his life by writing a famous and beloved novel. He has since lived his life writing the occasional column and throwing lavish parties (his elegant flat overlooks the Coliseum as shown in the photo above). After his 65th birthday party, Jep walks through the city of Rome, reflecting upon his life, his first love, and his overall sense of malaise.

It seemed to me that the film is a modern-day remake in many ways of the Federico Fellini classic La dolce vita (The Sweet Life), which is also decadent and depressing as all get out.

Although La grande bellezza took home the Academy Award© this year for Best Foreign Film, I can’t recommend it unless you want a really sad look at the state of human affairs. The film contains a lot of nudity and adult situations, too. I recommend visiting Rome, Italy for yourself instead of watching this sad, wasted opportunity of a film.