Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 2/20/09

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.

Life is Beautiful

This weekend is Oscar time, which usually brings with it a lot of talk about a bunch of movies that nobody’s ever seen. Most people pay little attention, but sometimes those little movies turn out to be pure gold. So this week, I figured I’d highlight one from a few years back that still sits among my all-time favorites, Life is Beautiful. It’s a movie you may never have heard of, starring a bunch of people you’ve never heard of, and it’s all in Italian. It’s also one of the most amazing films you’ll ever see.

Roberto Benigni directs and stars as Guido, a funny and charismatic guy in 1930’s Italy who arrives in a new town and sets out to win the heart of Dora (Nicoletta Braschi, Benigni’s real-life wife) and open up a bookstore. The first half of the movie follows the two’s courtship and eventual marriage, and plays more like a slapstick comedy than anything else. However, as the shadow of World War II begins to fall over Europe, Guido’s Jewish heritage comes to the forefront, and a movie that began as a light and funny look at love is transformed into an incredibly touching story of family and survival.

I really don’t want to give much more than that away. This is one of the most impossible-to-define films I’ve ever seen. It can be clever and hilarious at one moment and pull on your heartstrings the next. It really is a film that must be experienced, and it’s one of that rare pantheon of movie experiences where I sit in absolute silence as the credits roll. It’s a profoundly moving story, and it was recognized as such at the 1998 Oscars, in which Benigni won a well-earned Best Actor Oscar, the movie won 3 others (including Best Foriegn Film) and was nominated for Best Picture. If you’ve already seen The Dark Knight four times and the rest of the Oscar ballot just doesn’t sound that appealing, head out to your local video store and hunt for this one. You’ll be glad you did.

Life is Beautiful is rated PG-13 for holocaust-related thematic elements.

1 comment:

Darius said...

I really need to watch that one again... it was amazing!