black sabbath
comedy gold

what i watched last week

Il Divo (Paolo Sorrentino, 2008). I confess I knew little about the titular character, Italian politician Guilio Andreotti, before watching this film … typical American provincialism at work. One of the nice things about Il Divo is that it works even if, like me, you don’t know the history, since it’s more about politics in a general sense. It’s a bit like a Godfather movie, only made by Italians. Unfortunately, the Godfather movie it most resembles is Part III, but Il Divo is better than that one. Toni Servillo does a terrific job as Andreotti, moving around like Max Schreck with blood, showing a passive face to the world while directing corruption from behind his mask.

Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson, 2000). It gets the social aspects of academic life right, gets reasonably appealing performances from its fine cast (Michael Douglas, Robert Downey Jr., Frances McDormand, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes), and … well, that’s it. The plot is quirky like a screwball comedy, but it’s played far more low key than that would suggest, and it doesn’t quite work. If you’re hankering for Yet Another Male Mid-Life Crisis movie, this is a good one. But Wonder Boys is also #111 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 250 movies of the 21st century, and that’s just silly.

Black Sabbath. 7/10.

Attack of the Mushroom People (Ishirô Honda, 1963). Speaking of Creature Features, this movie was the first one ever shown by the Bay Area’s first Creature Feature host, Bob Wilkins, back in 1966. (Info from the great Blog Wilkins website.) It’s nowhere near as cheesy as its American title (original title is Matango, which is the name given to the monstrous fungus that makes the film a horror movie). It’s the kind of movie that begs for complex, subtextual analysis … it’s about class and gender and atomic bombs and anything else you can stuff in there. I also had a hard time staying awake, which is perhaps only fair, since I always fell asleep during Creature Features back in the day (it wasn’t easy for a 13-year-old to start watching a double-feature at 11:00 PM).


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