The Importance of Being Younger Than Successful People

Lena Dunham

So, I’ve been watching HBO’s new series, Girls. I’m not particularly excited about it, I just find it OK. Maybe a little too hip for me, but it’s funny, witty and sick enough to get me hooked thanks to morbid and awkward situations.
Anyway, by the fourth episode I noticed that each one of them was directed by the same person: Lena Dunham. So I googled her and… THE HORROR. She’s the creator, the writer, the showrunner, the director, the leading actress. In short, she’s the HBO version of Tina Fey. But the real point is: she’s younger than me. Seriously, she was born in 1986 and I was born in 1985.
And here we go, existential crisis. A 25-year-old girl has her own HBO show… I can’t even afford to own a car, let  alone a house. Or a TV show. I don’t feel the same way about Tina Fey, because she’s in her forties and she makes me feel like I still have time to… grow (old, rich, talented, mature, lucky… Go pick one).
I had to find a solution to this new depression, so I read Lena’s wiki. Well, she happens to be the daughter of a famous New York photographer and a famous New York painter. Alright, I said to myself. Nevermind. I’m from a small town in the north of Italy and my parents are sort of blue-collar workers. Still, I won a scholarship and got into Berkeley for a year. Not bad.

But Lena Dunham is younger than me. Bummer.

Me, Myself and The Avengers

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be less personal as possible. Well, I know that when it comes to film I can get very personal, but I just wanted it to be a place where I could write and share my thoughts without being strictly academic (for those of you who haven’t realized it yet, I’m a film scholar). And where I could virtually meet people who wanted to do the same.

Last night I saw The Avengers (yes, Americans: it has been released in Italy one week before the States!!! Yay for Italian distribution! BTW, this doesn’t make up for all the other very disappointing cases). I obviously have to write something, not only because I’ve been waiting for this films for years, but above all because it is a great movie, definitely worthy. So here I am, in front of this blank page, thinking about the right and catchy way to start the post. But the only thing that comes to my mind right now, is very personal. So I have to give up my initial resolution.
Few days ago, one of the most important persons in my life suddenly passed away. It was a shock, and I literally couldn’t get out of bed for a couple of days. I know that shit happens, but it hurts all the same: I’ve never experienced such a pain. Then, friends reminded me that The Avengers, the film we’ve been dreaming about since we were kids, was about to be released. Firstly, I decided not to go for the moment. But then I thought: this has to be overcome, somehow. So I resolved that going to see The Avengers could be a good start.
I was right. The Avengers did what film are meant for: it entertained me and it took me out of the real world for 140 minutes. It made me laugh and it made me enjoy time out of the bed. It just brought me back to life. The pain is still here and always will, I think. But at least I was reminded that there still can be good moments in life.
As for the movie itself… Yeah, that was freaking awesome! Joss Whedon perfectly managed a very complex multistrand narration, equally distributing time and space to all of the different leading characters. Leading characters who, actually, were also supporting one another.
Guys, hurry up and go see what entertainment is really about! 

50/50 (2011)

Director: Jonathan Levine
Starring:  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Angelica Huston

Here we are. After spending weeks reading enthusiastic reviews about this movies, I finally saw it too. Not thanks to a miraculous italian release, if you know what I mean. Anyway, yes, I do agree with all of you – at least all of you who have praised it.
The story is pretty straightforward: a 27-years-old guy suddenly learns to have cancer and starts to struggle against the disease. On the forefront, social relationships: his parents, his girlfriend, his best friend, his therapist. True story.
Overall, the movie is what you expect from a contemporary indie flick. It’s extremely bittersweet and tragicomic. Whether it wants to make you laugh or cry, it does its job perfectly. Personally, what I liked the most is the interaction between Gordon-Levitt and Rogen. No surprises from their characters, they both play what you’d expect them to play: the former is a sort of hip/average guy (500 Days of Summer style), the latter is just his sex-obsessed buddy. Do you remember when i talked about Billy Wilder and the harmony he manages to create among all of his characters? If you don’t recall the post, here’s a couple of hints: click here and here. Well, I was saying that those characters are complementary. And that’s what happens between Levitt and Rogen. They’re so different, yet they complete each other. The dialogues between them are brilliant and rhythmic duets. Though they pretty much stay themselves, they stay as separate worlds, they do not collide. Ever. They just spin around each other and “dance”. Which can only be achieved through a very well written story.

“She doesn’t want to fuck me. I look like Lord Voldemort!”

Irma La Douce (1963)

Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley McLaine

Paris. Nestor (Jack Lemmon) is a  way too honest cop who loses his job and falls in love with a prostitute, Irma (Shirley McLaine). But, because of all her clients, he can’t help being jealous. So he dresses up as a fake british lord and hires her every week, becoming her only client. But it’s hard to pay 500 francs every time…

Ok, not as extraordinary as Some Like it Hot, but definitely on the same page. Fun, rhythm and great talent. Billy Wilder has a staggering skill: telling stories involving topical issues (prostitution, adultery, “transvestite”, murder, sex) in a very light way, but he’s never banal or sappy. Everything becomes just pure entertainment and genuine fun. all the characters, even the secondaries, are so perfectly drawn as to create a complete and functional picture. Every detail is important because it contributes to the general comedy frame: Irma’s green underwear, the bartender’s utterly ridiculous anecdotes (“But that’s another story”), Irma’s heavy drinker dog. It could easily become too much, but under Billy Wilder’s control it never does. His comedies just puts you a good mood, and that’s what the genre is supposed to do. Plus, even in this one the ending is a classic. Long story short: another lecture of good cinema.

“To be overly honest in a dishonest world is like plucking a chicken against the wind… you’ll only wind up with a mouth full of feathers”

Some Like It Hot (1959)

Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe

Some Like It Hot is one of those movies you need to see before you die. It shows what it takes to make a perfect comedy: rhythm. It’s like an orchestra constantly playing a cheerful tune. From the moment Joe and Jerry witness the 1929’s Valentine’s Day Massacre and run away dressed as women, the movie never slows down. Every lie leads to another, every misunderstanding to another, every laugh to another. Even the characters play in perfect synchrony and complete each other: Sugar’s naïvety just goes naturally with Joe’s initiative. And Jerry’s reticence perfectly combines to Osgood’s… desires. More than this, it also proves that a good ending can affect how you feel about the entire movie: Some Like It Hot‘s ending, in fact, makes you love the entire movie even more.

I was so glad I found it on TV this afternoon… Definitely made my day!

Series You Might Like

Here’s some TV Series suggestion. They’re from UK and Canada so, when time will come for an all-American remake, I will say: “I’ve seen it already!”

MISFITS (2009 – present)

Misfits is a British series about a bunch of young outsiders forced to work in community service program because of some minor offences. One day, during a sudden and very weird electric storm, they get supernatural powers. What’s the difference from Heroes? Everything, luckily. They’re everything but heroes, first of all: most of them are thugs and hooligans. Basically, they’re charmingly bad to the bone. Funny thing is that everyone’s superpower is like a “bad version” of his/her own personality. Simon is a classic mister Cellophane… and his superpower is invisibility. Not that anyone sees him anyway. Kelly  just cannot understand other people… so she gets telepathy. Curtis was a promising sport star, before falling into drugs… Now he’s a time manipulator. Alisha is just so hot and so sexy… Her “superpower” is to make those who touch her skin go into a sexual frenzy towards her. And Nathan… Well, Nathan is the character everyone will fall in love with. But I will not tell which is his superpower, because you’ll have to wait till the end of season one. As I said, they’re not heroes. They just try not to make a mess with those superpowers. Btw, awesome opening credits song by The Raptures, Echoes. Season 3 opening next month.

“We’re young. We’re supposed to drink too much. We’re supposed to have bad attitudes and shag each other’s brains out. We were designed to party. We owe it to ourselves to party hard. We owe it to each other. This is it. This is our time. So a few of us will overdose, or go mental. Charles Darwin said you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. That’s what it’s about – breaking eggs”

ALMOST HEROES (2011 – ????)

I gotta be honest about this one: it is not such a must see as Misfits. But it’s fun, it’s nerdy and it’s just 8 episodes, 20 minutes each. This is enough for me to make it a “filling-spare time” series. This one is Canadian and is about two brothers who inherits a comic book store from their recently dead father.One of them, Pete, worked there already. And he’s a huge nerd, needless to say. The other one, Terry, returns to his hometown after dropping out business school at Harvard. He’s handsome , smart and decides to put a coffee shop inside the store, which is deep in debt. The result is a mix of The Big Bang Theory (because of the nerdity) and Scrubs (because of hilarious daydreams and nonsense situations). Nothing new, But funny nevertheless.

Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid (1969)

When you spend 70% of your life watching movies, the worst thing people can ask you is: “Which is your favorite?”. C’mon guys, this is like Sophie’s Choice! So, best thing you can do is to pick some of the movies that set some sort of standards in your life. The movies you always compared everything to (and when I say “everything”, I really mean “everything” and not only “every other movie”), the movies you can quote over and over again, the movies you’ll never get tired to re-watch. I wanted to write my first post about one of those films but, needless to say, it felt like Sophie’s Choice nevertheless. So I just picked the oldest one, thinking that maybe writing this blog’s first post about an old movie, will help me set an higher level or credibility than, let’s say, Jurassic Park or The Hangover (but your time will come, guys. You rock!). Plus I have a thing for Paul Newman, so this made everything a little easier.

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, 1969, directed by George Roy Hill. Paul Newman is Butch Cassidy and Robert Redford is the Sundance Kid. I will not dwell on the plot, I think you all know the story of the two famous outlaws. Also, if I tell you the plot, I know I will inevitably give away the ending, which is quite something. So, suffice it to say: do not let the definition “western” scare you. Even if you don’t like the genre, you will love this movie. It’s about the ending of an era, the ending of the classic western iconography in favor of other genres contamination. It’s about the modern world coming in, in the form of bike… Have you ever seen a cowboy riding a bike, Raindrops are Falling on My Head as background music? You will (BTW, this is also one of the most romantic scenes ever). Have you ever seen a brave and charming cowboy get almost caught because he can’t swim and is terrified by water? You will. Irony is everywhere, and this definitely boost the charm of the young outlaws. You will laugh and you will cry, because in this movie there is everything: drama, comedy, romance, adventure. And there are also Paul Newman’s eyes and Robert Redford’s smile, which are enough to fill an entire lonely night.

On a side note, the script writer William Goldman tells the story of Butch Cassidy‘s production in his book Adventures of the Screen Trade. It’s such and in-depth, interesting and also hilarious look on this film’s behind the scenes.

“Boy, I got a vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals!”