1900 (Novecento)

This review was originally written for Blueprint: Review.

Two boys, Alfredo and Olmo, are born within minutes of each other in January 1901. Alfredo is the grandson of landowner and family head Alfredo Berlinghieri (Burt Lancaster) whilst Olmo’s grandfather, Leo (Sterling Hayden), is a peasant and Alfredo Sr.’s foreman. The two boys grow up together, never forgetting their respective places within society and, once grown (into Robert DeNiro and Gérard Depardieu) they find themselves on opposite sides of a class struggle, exacerbated by the presence of fascist guards led by the new foreman, Attila (Donald Sutherland).
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Field of Dreams

This review was originally written for French Toast Sunday as part of my USA Road Trip series.

Ray (Kevin Costner) was brought up a baseball fan, but after falling out with his father and heading off to college, he’s now found himself owning a farm in Iowa with his wife Annie (Amy Madigan) and young daughter Karin (Gaby Hoffmann). All seems to be well, until Ray hears a voice in the cornfield, and has a vision of a baseball field in its place. So begins a story of faith, family and ambition, that will lead Ray down paths he never knew existed – or were even possible.All 1If I were to lay out the entire plot of Field of Dreams – which I’m not going to do because that’s an insane level of spoiling, and it’s already been done on Wikipedia – the story would read as a wildly fantastical one, with many unexpected supernatural elements. It would also probably come off as deeply unsatisfying. You see, within this movie that is ostensibly about a man not wanting to throw his life away – as he believes his father did – there lies a lot of questions, and precious few answers. The origin of the mysterious voice Ray hears in the field, how it is talking to him and where exactly the owner is are all plot strands never entirely tied up, and many more have been added by the end of the film, yet if you’re searching for answers you’re not only looking at the wrong film, but you’ve entirely missed the point of this movie.Ray and Joe 1 Continue reading

Sweet Smell of Success

I hate disappointment, yet the further into the List I delve, the more used to it I become. Sweet Smell of Success is a film I’ve had sat on my DVD shelf for over a year now (since even before the List entered and devoured my sad excuse for a life), and I’ve been waiting for a chance to watch it. Appearing on 3 lists and this month featured as Empire magazine’s monthly Masterpiece, my hopes were set to high. I knew two things: the film was endlessly quotable (a character in Diner does nothing but quote the script) and it features arguably career-best performances from leads Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster. Whilst I cannot deny these points, I must take umbrage with the film for being far too dense. Even now I only have a vague idea as to what took place – Curtis’ ambitious yet downtrodden press agent Sidney Falco teamed up/sparred with Lancaster’s ruthless columnist J. J. Hunsecker in an effort to prevent a relationship between Hunsecker’s sister and a young jazz musician, so the Falco can get more column inches in Hunsecker’s paper. Much of the script is quotable (“You’re dead son, get yourself buried)”, but there is so much of it many of the best lines are lost. Doubtless this film will improve with repeat viewings, and if so my score shall be upgraded, but for a one-watch it doesn’t hold up. The score has also received a lot of plaudits, yet I found it really did not fit to the film – a barroom conversation sounds more like a frantic car chase. Here’s hoping the next viewing is more enjoyable.
Choose life 6/10

Local Hero

I really wanted to like this more than I did, as Peter Riegert’s Mac is sent from a Texas oil company to smooth over a land deal in Scotland, only to become captivated by the polar opposite way of life and the gaggle of eccentric locals (an African priest, web-footed diver, drunk Russian fisherman and devious, opportunistic landlord/lawyer), but alas I found the whole affair to be rather slow. Burt Lancaster steals the show as Mac’s astronomy obsessed eccentric boss Happer, and a young Peter Capaldi is a million miles away from the Thick of It’s Malcolm Tucker, all nervous laughter and gangling run (surely inspiration for Toy Story’s Woody and his flailing lope), and they did well not depicting the locals as completely ridiculous and twee, but there’s not a lot to really recommend about the film. The business meeting at the start being held in whispers after the manager falls asleep did make me chuckle, and the fickleness of a bosses decision making process hit a chord with my own experiences, so there’s something at least.
Choose life 5/10