Movie Project #6: Rome, Open City [1945]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

Rome, Open City [1945]

Rome, Open City [1945]
Director: Roberto Rossellini
Genre: Drama/War
Language: Italian
Country: Italy

Going into Rome, Open City, I knew very little about it. I knew that it was set in Nazi-occupied Rome during World War II, and that it was credited for sparking Italy’s neorealism style of filmmaking. As someone unfamiliar with this movement, I didn’t know what to expect.

Right away I was intrigued by the movie’s setting. It is fascinating that director Roberto Rossellini and writers Sergio Amidei and Federico Fellini sat down and began working on the script just two months after the Allies forced the Germans out of Rome. The film began shooting in January 1945 while much of the war damage remained. The fact that they decided to create this film immediately after occupation paints an incredible portrait that was not only fresh at the time but also incredibly raw and visceral. Because everything takes place in this war-torn city, the movie has almost a documentary feel about it.

Around the halfway mark, there was a startling twist that I was not expecting. From my experience with films during this time period (admittedly Hollywood selections), this was not a regular occurrence. This major plot change was a bit jarring, but made the film feel even more “real” and authentic.

Rome, Open City [1945]

As the movie follows those involved with the Italian resistance, it’s hard not to get swept up with them. There’s Pina (Anna Magnani), a widow with two children that is pregnant with another. She is tough, and will do anything to help fight the oppression. There’s Manfredi (Marcello Pagliero), the devoted resistance leader, a strong son-of-a-gun who fights endlessly for his country. And then there’s the priest, Don Pietro (Aldo Fabrizio), who steals the show. The character development of Don Pietro is particularly stunning — at the beginning he kind of stumbles around, occasionally getting some laughs, but by the end he shows an impressive amount of bravery and becomes a powerful figure.

Rome, Open City is a great history lesson that doesn’t hold anything back. There’s torture, betrayal, and murder — all things you would expect during wartime. With brilliant documentary-esque filmmaking and some incredible acting performances, it is easy to see why this is so highly regarded even today.

The Day The Warning Sign Became Popular or: How I Became Freshly Pressed

Yesterday afternoon my phone started beeping more than usual. I typically receive notifications when I get new emails, so I figured maybe I was just getting an extra batch of newsletters/daily deals/etc. I logged into my email to see that I had a new comment on one of my older blog posts. Okay, cool, nothing unusual. Then I received another comment. Then another. And another. It soon became relentless, with people “liking” my post, commenting and subscribing all at the same time. I couldn’t believe it, could WordPress really have marked my blog as Freshly Pressed?

The Day The Warning Sign Became Popular or: How I Became Freshly Pressed

Yes, there it was, my 50 Movies Project post right there on the front page of WordPress.com. Freakin’ crazy, if you ask me. It has been an absolute whirlwind since I was listed there, and I have done the best I can keeping up with the onslaught of thoughtful comments I have received. It’s amazing how many people check out the Freshly Pressed picks every day, and I have certainly received a lot of helpful suggestions. Here’s the current tally of my blog stats, to give you some idea of what has transpired:

– 3000+ views today alone, nearly 5000 total combined with yesterday (this is WELL above my daily average and wasn’t even fathomable just a few days ago)
– Nearly 250 comments, including my responses (I tried to get back to every single one)
– Over 110 “Likes” on the post
– Over 50 new blog subscribers
– Approximately 9999999 new movie recommendations

It’s been an awesome ride, to say the least. I hope to see an influx of regulars here, and hopefully create some great discussions along the way. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by, especially those who commented/liked/subscribed. You guys rock!

Movie Project #4: The Hustler [1961, Rossen]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

The Hustler [1961, Rossen]

The Hustler [1961]
Director: Robert Rossen
Genre: Drama/Romance/Sport
Language: English
Country: USA

I am ashamed to admit that I know very little about Paul Newman. I know the story of Newman’s Own, and I have seen him in a couple of films (Slap Shot, Road to Perdition), but outside of that my knowledge is extremely lacking. After watching The Hustler, I can’t help but feel that Paul Newman was the fucking man.

Seriously, this is one hell of a character study that just so happens to use the game of pool as its backdrop. Newman is just amazing, as are the rest of the main cast: Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, and Piper Laurie.

As a small-time pool hustler, “Fast” Eddie Felston (Newman) has one goal: to beat the best in the game, Minnesota Fats (Gleason). After a quick meet-and-greet, the two square off in an epic battle. Eddie gets the upper hand early, almost effortlessly swindling thousands of dollars from his opponent. Several hours and countless drinks later, Fats takes control and wins back nearly dollar that he had lost earlier in the evening. Defeated and now flat broke, Eddie has seemingly hit rock bottom.

The Hustler [1961, Rossen]

It is at this point that Eddie meets Sarah Packard (Laurie), an alcoholic college girl who is full of her own problems. An unlikely duo, the two of them hit it off and build a relationship. However, when fellow gambler Bert Gordon offers to take Eddie on the road, things get rocky and the true colors of all involved start to come out. As much as the movie is about Fast Eddie, the stories of the other three main characters are just as important. With such great performances from all of them, it’s hard not to get attached to their characters no matter how flawed they are.

I enjoyed The Hustler quite a bit. Pool wasn’t as big of a focus as I thought it would be, and in fact the movie is just a fantastic piece of storytelling. I thought the first half of the film was a little slow, but once it got into fleshing out the main characters it became rather enthralling.

Two things I determined after watching this movie: 1) I need to watch its sequel, The Color of Money. 2) I really need to see more of Paul Newman’s work. He really blew me away here.

8/10