Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Investigation of a Citizen Above SuspicionInvestigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion: Elio Petri’s film certainly is politically charged and courageous; very much a product of its time and place, thematically. Gian Maria Volonté creates a character that is unpleasant to watch, but at least is interesting; his acting is borderline histrionic, but that’s part of the aesthetics chosen to tell the story, alongside Ennio Morricone’s stylized score, Luigi Kuveiller’s interesting camera work and Ruggero Mastroianni’s editing (all a reminder that the story is a satire, should not be taken too seriously, even if the message is important for the filmmaker.)

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The Freshman (1925)

The FreshmanThe Freshman: the strongest aspect in Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor’s film is the character created by Harold Lloyd; he is very relatable common man, with desires and fears that all know, unremarkable in every sense except how he is remarkably like someone the viewer knows. The story, simple and sweet, is not just a bridge between comedic set pieces, but something well-conceived. That said, the film is very funny, showcasing Lloyd’s physicality.

(While it’s not a piece of the original film, Carl Davis’ score, used by the Criterion Collection in its recent Blu-ray and DVD release, is great and fits the film like a glove.)

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Umberto D.

Umberto DUmberto D.: the simplicity of Vittorio De Sica’s film begins in its title; it presents the focus of the story without any shred of a doubt. It’s not the story of its time and place, but of the central character (who happens to live in that time and place). Carlo Battisti plays him with touching simplicity, and makes the connection all the more powerful for it. The result is a very emotional and humane journey. G.R. Aldo’s camerawork is unadorned, but far from dull; Alessandro Cicognini’s score is a thing of beauty.

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Game of Thrones – Season 4

Game of Thrones S4Game of Thrones – Season 4: much has been written already about the production values of this series (it remains great; locations, set and costume design are top-notch once more) and the violence (this season saw an increase of it; by now it became expected and lost its shock value, as did the liberal use of nudity). While the series continue to pull-off the trick, mostly, of juggling an almost inordinate gallery of characters and story-lines (most of which should be seen more, some less), the simple fact that at its center this season was the most interesting character being played by the best actor of the generally strong cast (Peter Dinklage) makes this the strongest season so far. Also making a powerful impression was Rory McCann.

Read also: Game of Thrones – Season 3

Game of Thrones – Season 2

Game of Thrones – Season 1

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I Married a Witch

I Married a WitchI Married a Witch: while the high concept of René Clair’s romantic comedy is interesting enough, and the central characters are attractingly played by Veronica Lake and Fredrich March, this film unfurls too quickly, too suddenly for it to be fully enjoyable. There are certainly many interesting moments, but the story seems almost an afterthought. Visually, the film has a cute solution on how to present the characters, which match perfectly the overall feeling.

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Safety Last!

Safety LastSafety Last!: while this film has just a sliver of a plot, what matters the most is that the character played by Harold Lloyd is both engaging and relatable; a common man with some of the physical prowess of Buster Keaton and the mischief of Charlie Chaplin, but somehow still quite unique. Nevertheless, the set piece at the center of this film is what makes this iconic; extremely well-done (shot and edited beautifully), taking turns being hilarious and thrilling (quite often, both at the same time).

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Boyhood

BoyhoodBoyhood: Richard Linklater shows in this film that he is well aware that the most special effect is the story; furthermore, that the story can be unadorned, as long as it’s earnest and well-told. There’s nothing that is as rich as life itself, after all; there’s nothing that suggests more how engaging this film is than the fact that the periods that aren’t on the screen are missed. The tenacity behind this project is incredible, but that wouldn’t amount to much if the result was not this rich and consistently good. Ellar Coltrane is uniformly great as he grows; Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are also great presences; the acting, like the film, is not about big moments, but such subtlety is more than welcome.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the ApesDawn of the Planet of the Apes: Matt Reeves’ is a great accomplishment in many levels. The most obvious one is, of course, the special effects that create such level of authenticity with the ape characters; it’s hard to know when the special effects end and when the motion-capture performances of Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell (just to mention the two that have more to do and therefore stand out the most) begin. Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman are good presences in the human side of the fence, as well. It’s a good story, with its heart in the right place and some interesting things to say; however, almost inexplicably, the film was a bit cold, unemotional, somewhat hard to connect to.

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Life Itself (2014)

Life ItselfLife Itself: before getting into the film itself, a note: I wasn’t much a Roger Ebert fan, as I always thought that his reviews were, for the most part, spoiler-heavy and opinion-light (to be fair, that is something that plagues the great majority of mainstream critics). Steve James’ film reinforces the notion that Ebert loved films, obviously (something I respect and relate to, in spite of); but it goes beyond that, and informs much about the subject, his relationship with cinema and with other people, without becoming a hagiography. In that sense, it certainly serves its purpose as a documentary; furthermore, it is also both funny and touching at times. Visually, it’s somewhat dull, but the content makes up for it.

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Obvious Child

Obvious ChildObvious Child: despite the courage to deal with a hot-button issue, Gillian Robespierre’s film story is very simple and generally unremarkable. The central character is not very relatable (part of it comes from the brand of humor her stand-up comedy sketches displays, a reflection of her sense of self; comedy tastes are rather personal, but fart jokes are generally easy and unfunny) or well-defined; Jenny Slate’s performance doesn’t add much, and neither does the rest of the cast. Visually very dull, but it must be commended by avoiding the use of handheld camera.

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