The Oscar Project
Let me paint a picture for you. There is a movie that has received praise from nearly everyone who sees is over the course of decades. You’ve heard about that movie, and always said to yourself “I should watch that to see what the fuss is about,” but you never get around to it. Then one day, you are a few weeks into a film challenge, trying to watch 52 films over the course of a calendar year, and that film fits one of your categories, so you decide to finally watch it and when you do, you have a number of moments where you cock your head to the side like the RCA dog. You finish the movie and don’t entirely know what your thoughts on it are, but you know it was something special in its own way. That is my experience with the 1963 film 8 ½, directed by Federico Fellini.
When picking this film for the category of a Film With Subtitles, I used the list I cited in my post earlier this week and 8 ½ was listed as the sixth best foreign language films of all time in the article I linked. After my first viewing, I’m not sure I can agree with that, as I can probably name at least three or four foreign language films I would put above it right now. That said, there were elements of this film that truly blew me away.
Now, if any of this sounds a bit autobiographical, you’re absolutely right. Fellini followed much the same path as Guido does in the making of 8 ½, so named because of where it falls in the chronology of his films at the time (6 features and 3 short films). There was plenty of planning in place, sets being built, actors cast, but still no real story to make a movie around until a bolt of lightning moment similar to the one Guido experiences in the finale of the film.
As I noted above, I wasn’t quite sure about my feelings on the film when the credits rolled. I’ll give you a little peak behind the curtain with how I do my ratings of films to help explain why I ultimately felt this film was worthy of an eight out of ten. If you don’t care, just skip the rest of this paragraph. My brain works in weird ways and sometimes I need to sort through individual aspects of a film before I rate it. To that end, I have a spreadsheet I put together where I can enter the title of a film, who directed it, and when I watched along with individual number ratings for a number of categories from story and acting, to sound, music, and visual effects. Because I’m a numbers nerd, I then average those and come up with an initial rating which sometimes falls in a decimal range between two numbers, which allows me some flexibility to round up or down depending on how I felt on an emotional level about the film. I’ll tell you that this film fell short in a number of areas including the story (because it felt like it was made up on set, which I think some of it was) and the sound (it was decent, but nothing mind-blowing). Where the film elevated itself was in the cinematography, production design, and the music.
Being a black and white film, the cinematography was so important in this film. There are scenes set outside in the bright Italian sun and they are as bright and almost washed out as one would expect. But in other moments, we see interiors that are lit and shot with such care that we get rich textures and layers in almost every shot. Cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo uses unique camera angles throughout to elaborate on dream sequences and to place the viewer in the wandering mind of the troubled director on screen. When you pair this with the incredible design of the sets and locations used in the film, they combine to produce some of the most satisfying elements of the film visually.
The other piece that really stuck with me was the soundtrack for the film. Like the cinematography, there are moments when it is bright and loud, while others where it steps back to allow the visuals to shine. There are elements of classical music with heavy jazz and swing influences throughout and even some elements of carnival or circus music mixed in. Throughout the entire film, I always felt that the music was perfectly capturing what was happening on screen, regardless if we were in reality or Guido’s memories and dream world.
In my final analysis (for now) I can honestly say that I didn’t love the film, but I appreciate the craft with which it was created. This was (regrettably) my first Fellini and while I’m not initially ready to tackle another one of his films, I have put a number of them on my watch list because I think he is a director that I need to sit with for a while to be able to fully understand.
Happy Friday and thank you for coming back for the latest in Oscar Nomination predictions. Today I am looking at several special categories of feature films: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Animated Feature Film, and Best Documentary Feature Film.
Again, if you missed any of the previous posts, please check them out. So far I've posted on:
With about three and a half months remaining until the announcements of the Oscar Nominees for this year, the Academy last week released the list of 87 films that have been submitted for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
You can view their full article but I have included the list below as well with links to as many trailers I could find available online at this time. If you find any I missed, please let me know and I will add them to the post.
Additionally, a few of the selections have already been previewed on this site. In those cases, I have included a link to the original preview post where appropriate.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?