Category Archives: Movies and TV

The Hipster Avengers: A Screenplay

THE HIPSTER AVENGERS

A Gator Don’t Play No Shit Production

Written by Zach and inspired by Taylor’s drunken sermons

1. EXT. GREENPOINT, BROOKLYN – DUSK

Slow zoom on a lonely warehouse rooftop, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in the background. A masked figure materializes in the shot, crouched at the building’s edge, gazing over the city streets. As the camera draws nearer, we see that he’s shrouded in tight, form-fitting flannel. Closer. We see a moustache. Then, his purple Tye-dye t-shirt, adorned with several wolves howling at the moon. In the distance, we hear a woman scream.

Unnamed Superhero

Huskily, he utters four words.

“Justice will be allotted.”

With that, he leaps onto a unicycle, pedaling furiously and popping into the air over the next roof. Before he disappears, his plaid-caped figure and aluminum, one-wheeled steed are framed against the sunset. He drops from sight.

2. ROLL CREDITS

Credits roll with a random indie-pop song in the background (lute and ukulele will be prominent). Cue hazy 30mm footage of several normal children playing in a variety of settings, only to demonstrate a unique superpower. For one child, this will be knitting 50 scarves in under a minute. For another, writing half of a screenplay for a preschool puppet show, only to decide that they’d rather focus on fingerpainting for the time being. For another, preternatural graphic design abilities.

3. BACK TO GREENPOINT

A young woman wearing jorts and a beret has just exited a coffee shop tearfully. She’s talking on the phone, and we learn that she’d left after arguing with her boyfriend, who discovered that the Korean characters inside the heart-shaped tattoo on her back stand for “Bobby,” her ex. Her boyfriend comes out yelling that he just unfollowed her on Instagram, and then he hops on his electric moped and zips off.

Suddenly, two men walk around the corner. One’s wearing a DARE T-shirt, the other a wife-beater and corduroy pants. They grin wickedly.

Evil Hipster #1 (DARE shirt)

“Hey there purrty. Your tongue piercing sure fires MY kiln.”

Evil Hipster #2 (corduroy shorts)

“Could be the High Life talking, but I’d like to climb YOUR hills on my fixed-gear bike.”

They reach for her.

Helpless female hipster

Screams.

We hear a rattling, and the trio glance up at the warehouse rooftops. There are shadows everywhere – we see the flash of a wheel between two alleys, hear the whoosh of a cape. Then, a can of Four Loko comes flying out of nowhere, knocking the first evil hipster out but leaving the helpless female hipster unscathed. The second one, realizing his peril, makes for his bike, but the pedals are five feet off the ground and he struggles to mount.

Unnamed Superhero

Off-camera, huskily: “That’s not a bike lane.”

Our caped crusader unicycles into frame, leaping off. In one motion he throws a fanny pack, which wraps itself around the evil hipster’s neck, and he and his bicycle careen over the curb and through the window of a nearby gastropub. The electric celloist inside the establishment continues his music, all the more audible now. Our superhero goes over to the stricken damsel, offering her his flannel cape to wipe away the tears.

Helpless female hipster

“Who ARE you?”

Unnamed Superhero

Twirls moustache, looks coolly into the distance. Huskily:

“You’ve probably never heard of me.”

Hops on unicycle, flies away. 

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A note from Zach:

I know that making jokes about hipsters is about as fresh as making jokes about people who make jokes about hating Nickelback, but I couldn’t resist this one. I was pondering taking it in a different direction, where our hero can’t be bothered to rescue people who are in mainstream predicaments (Timmy fell down a well at a Black Eyed Peas concert!), but perhaps we’ll save that for a new Avenger in our next installment.

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I Ran a Newsroom Once

By Anthony

For a brief time, I had a back office with shutters that rattled if the door was ever slammed shut and a desk where I could pound my fist if I were ever angry. But none of these things ever happened. I was never as much of a blowhard as the anchorman leading the new show about news (He was formerly  a dog groomer with intellectual shortcomings and later a cop who Keanu Reeves just couldn’t save, remember?)

More like “The Boozeroom”

I’m speaking about Jeff Daniels, the actor and principle character in Aaron Sorkin’s new show, Newsroom on HBO. You’ll know Sorkin  from the West Wing and more recently The Social Network as well as several other successful and well-written movies and shows. He’s a prolific screenwriter with several accolades to his name but I’ll let you look him up on your own.

This is about the Newsroom and all the dramatic yelling and big words peppered in to make the commentary seem witty and intelligent even as it accuses us, the viewer, of being dull and ignorant.

Jeff Daniels, or Will McAvoy (his character) or Sorkin (the writer) begins the show by telling us that America is not the greatest nation in the world anymore. However, after their inspiring diatribe (Is that an oxymoron?), they offer that it can be again. The program forges onward to beat us over the head with pragmatic calls to morality and good old-fashioned calls to the American ego.

The dialogue favors quick wit, literary and political references, and point vs. counterpoint fencing-style dramatics. Conversations essentially become chess matches. All this is set over an impossible amount of inner office romance. We’ve seen enough of that already and it was only one episode.

The show can be exciting, particularly when one is swept up in the first big news story that the crack news team slowly uncovers. You’ll feel empowered because if you weren’t occupied clubbing baby seals in Alaska, you already witnessed the event firsthand. Think recent man-made natural disasters. The show apparently takes place in the recent past, covering all sorts of large news events that actually happened.

McAvoy, in one of his verbal sword fights, actually accuses the American populace of being uninformed. Perhaps the show tackles these “major” events to ensure that we didn’t miss anything the first time. I hear calls to returning journalism to its once formal glory, too. Names like Cronkite, Woodward and Bernstein, who once delivered great justices, are now impossible aspirations for McAvoy. And we’re supposed to believe all this while brooding and budding romances fuel fencing matches between producers.  This has all the makings of mixing my senior honors project in journalism (now wasting away in my memory) with a night at the local watering hole. My professors would shake their heads.

The New Yorker review put it aptly when it described Sorkin’s work:  “His shows are the type that people who never watch TV are always claiming are better than anything else on TV.”

The intelligent banter is artificial and the context is wrong. The stands these characters make are too high and too mighty, and the subtext is also probably too old. But maybe, just maybe at the very least, it will offer us ignorant Americans some new insights on the major events this time around. Or maybe they’ll just beat us over the head some more and feed us a constant stream of sexual tension layered with wordy speeches and slamming office doors.

Look for me comparing my newsroom with Sorkin’s — they’re both similarly fictionalized.

More as the story develops.

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The Californians

This is from last week, but I just watched it and loved it. Fred Armisen’s first couple lines had me on the floor. The accents are so over the top that it works. Kristen Wiig is also predictably great, and I love how they zoom in on her and Hader just as they’re cracking up.

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The Prospects of Several Presidential Candidates…as Arrested Development Characters

Note: This post first appeared on Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog. 

By Zach

If I were Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich, right now I’d be screaming “I’m a MONSTER!!!” at the top of my lungs. The game is up for these guys. Their thunder has effectively been hidden. The money in the banana stand has gone up in flames. Oscar Bluth won’t be seeing weed legalized anytime soon, and Lucille II will not become Newt’s fourth wife and the inaugural First Moon Lady.

Yep, we know who we’ve settled on for our general election: Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. But why don’t we analyze them a bit further, and for that matter take a look at their potential vice presidents and cabinets? As you can probably see from the opening paragraph, I’ve decided to do so using the platform of Arrested Development. If you want to question that choice, go right ahead. I don’t understand your criticisms, and I won’t respond.

Mitt Romney = Gob Bluth

I see numerous parallels between Gob Bluth and Mitt Romney. Right now, flush with that primary-victory-aura that you usually only find in pregnant women (Lindsay Funke, this excludes you), Mitt’s cruising around on his Segway, waving (and bloodily attempting to sheath) his samurai sword with confidence. Largely, he stayed above the Boyfight that developed among the other Republican candidates. And with good reason; Mitt and Gob view themselves as born winners. They’re the guy with the $5,000 dollar suit — I mean, COME ON!!

Barack Obama = Michael Bluth

It might be a little unfair to the Republican field, comparing Obama to the only sane character on the show. I thought it rather apt, though, considering the collective dysfunction of the Republican field vying to run against him.

Look, it’s not like Obama is always successful with his policies. When you run a country, you’re going to get hop-ons.

Rick Santorum = Tobias Funke

Santorum may have peaked too early — he shot his wad prematurely on what was supposed to be a dry run, and now  he has a large mess on his hands. Whoops, lotta poorly chosen words there. But maybe they’re fitting, considering how the gay community has named a unique liquid mixture after everyone’s favorite indignation-machine.

The game’s not necessarily up for Santorum, though. He could still make the Romney ticket, if only to satisfy their rabidly anti-female, tea partying base. But if I were them, I’d be worried that Santorum might come out as a never-nude, or even get caught in a rest stop bathroom with Barry Zuckercorn, their feet straying. Santorum has such a rich history as an analyst and therapist for the nation’s gays, women, immigrants and amateur pornographers that you wonder if his business cards might be getting at something else.

Nevertheless, Santorum has to have his sights set on Romney’s ticket. I’m sure that right now he can just taste those meaty vice presidential man parts in his mouth.

Joe Biden = Carl Weathers

I’m sorry, Joe. I know you’re probably a normal and minimally goofy man, but the Onion and Jason Sudeikis have completely and utterly skewed my perception of you. And I just can’t help but envision you sitting at a table chiding Tobias for finishing his drumstick. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. There’s still plenty of meat on that bone. Now you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you’ve got a stew going.”

Newt Gingrich = Barry Zuckerkorn

Their personas aren’t all that similar, but I find them to be similarly competent in their chosen professions. If only Newt’s bluster was as endearing as Barry’s dependence on Ask Jeeves for legal matters. Whatever the case, Newt and Barry will have to content themselves with a place in the background, itching the rash on their foreheads.

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A Study in Creepiness: A Guy At My Gym and Marilyn Monroe

By Zach

I have two entirely unconnected stories for you, but they both concern a subject I find fascinating: creepiness. Now, I should probably precede this with the disclaimer that I appreciate creepy things and people. They’re actually really funny, to a certain extent.

Of course, this is very subjective — the line between what’s creepy and what’s not can be drawn anywhere between Herman Cain with a couple cocktails in him and necrophilia. And obviously there’s a massive existential difference between a creepy guy on a crowded street in the daytime and a creepy guy who’s duct taping you to the lathe in his apartment. But in its most harmless form, I find creepiness to be a good source of comedy.

So here are two recent instances of creepiness I’ve observed. One of them I found kind of humorous, and one of them less so.

The gym

Do you ever notice someone at your gym who’s ALWAYS there? Even if you go at different times of day, they’re there? It’s 6 a.m., hey there. One in the afternoon, don’t you have a job? 9 p.m., whoa, it’s you again. It’s rather creepy. I’ve also discovered with some discomfort that there are certain people who regularly violate my number one rule for going to the gym: don’t under any circumstances make eye contact with anyone else.

Well, I have a guy who fits these criteria. He’s probably in his forties, he has long hair, yesterday he was wearing a wrestler’s suit, and on multiple occasions I’ve seen him flexing into the mirror with the same face that Christian Bale has in American Pyscho when he’s filming himself boning those two chicks whilst flexing.

He’s one of those guys who’s a little too friendly with everyone there, maybe struts around a little too much with a little bit of a creepy smirk on his face. He looks like R. Kelly in a middle school.

Also relevant: I’ve noticed that this guy lifts the maximum amount of weight on most of the machines. Needless to say I can’t let him catch me laughing the next time he poses in the mirror.

The movie theater

I went to see My Week With Marilyn a couple nights ago with my friend, who assured me that it would be totally normal for two heterosexual males to go see a movie about Marilyn Monroe together. He was a film major, OK? Lay off me.

I have mixed feelings about the film. The storyline got old as it progressed and the acting, outside of Michelle Williams as Monroe, was pretty pedestrian.

But let’s focus on Williams as Monroe. Though I haven’t watched many of the legendary sex icon/mistress’s movies, Williams seemed to capture Monroe’s essence. And now that I have a general idea of what Monroe was like, I think it’s kind of creepy that she was lusted after to such a boner-popping extent. The little girl voice, the confused demeanor, the temper tantrums. Combine all that and…ewww. Did that really rev the engines of American males for a good decade?

I understand that she came off as more elegant onscreen, and I certainly recognize that on a very basic evolutionary level she was desirable (good birthing hips and breasts — my family produces very thirsty babies), but in My Week With Marilyn, at least, her persona comes off as very childlike, even babyish. And considering she was a sex icon, that’s really creepy.

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Shows You Should Watch: Portlandia

By Zach

Portlandia’s pretty funny. Like most sketch comedy, it’s definitely hit-or-miss, but it’s still a damn good parody of the yuppiedom found in places like Portland and yes, my neighborhood, Park Slope. Also, I’ve long thought Fred Armisen to be subtly hilarious, and this is a much better medium for his talents than SNL.

I want a Bernese mountain dog. Maybe I’ll rescue one from a tsunami.

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An Entirely Uninformed Oscars Preview

By Zach

But what else would you expect from Gator? Before I begin my preview of the Academy Awards, I’d like to start with a few disclosures.

1.  I can’t remember the last time I watched the Oscars. I may have tuned in once or twice in high school.

2. This year I’ve only seen three of the nine Best Picture nominees – The Descendants, The Help, and Moneyball. I’ve also seen two of the five movies for both Best Actor and Best Actress. All opinions on other films will be based off the one or two reviews I’ve read, the trailer (if I happened to watch it), and my idea of what the movie was probably like. It may not be scientific in any way, but then again, neither is the actual Oscar voting process.

It feels good to get these things off my chest. They were weighing on me like newly-fat-again Jonah Hill. See? I can still make current pop culture references.

Let’s start with the supporting actor/actress awards. Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids is the clear winner for the latter category. The Academy is delighted when pretty actresses make themselves ugly, so by the transitive property they should love an unattractive actress pooping in a sink even more.

As for supporting actor, the only thing I know is that the day Jonah Hill wins an Oscar will be the day Liam Neeson allows a pack of Eastern European wolves to successfully kidnap his daughter, hook her on drugs and sell her as a prostitute. It’s not happening. The Academy has a very particular set of skills, skills acquired over a very long career — skills that make it a nightmare for actors like Jonah Hill.

On to Best Actress. Viola Davis should win for The Help, even though the movie affirms the rock-solid truth that white people are the reason for the civil rights movement’s success. Meryl Streep could obviously put up a fight for playing that old cougar Margaret Thatcher. And Rooney Mara played Lisbeth Salander perfectly in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but a win for her would signal Hollywood’s mistaken assumption that quiet rage equals great acting. This is my problem with the movie adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s bestseller: despite their differences, Salander and Daniel Craig’s Mikael Blomkvist are, unsurprisingly, very Swedish characters. Swedes are very understated. If a reindeer breaks into their house and tears up their inexpensive yet functional futon, they don’t make a fuss. This cultural stolidity makes for fine literature but emotionally lacking cinema.

The Best Actor category, like many of the main categories, seems to be wide open. Clooney could win for acting handsome and sad, or Brad Pitt could win for acting handsome and cocky, (aka “Being Brad Pitt), or Jean Dujardin could win for acting handsome and silent and French. My vote goes to Clooney. The Descendants was a better movie than Moneyball, and I can’t in good conscience award anything to a Frenchman.

And that brings us to the Best Picture category. Let’s go through em one by one.

War Horse– As I watched the trailer for this movie, a few thoughts went through my mind: “Wow, this looks beautifully shot…England during World War I was downright gorgeous…wait, is the fucking HORSE the protagonist??” So yeah, that’s not winning. Although the horse looks like it put in a surprisingly nuanced performance, at least for an equine. If it was put in a separate acting category with Nic Cage and Keanu Reeves, we could be talking Oscar.

Hugo – According to Wikipedia, this was a big-budget family epic directed by Martin Scorsese. Scorsese already got his Oscar, and it’s based in France. Let’s move on.

The Tree of Life – I actually really wanted to see this, but never got around to it. But by all accounts it’s more confusing than one of Brooke’s knock knock jokes (see below), so its chances are slim.

The Artist -One of our contributors wrote a review of The Artist about a month ago, and based off that I am ruling it out. Any movie that kills a dog whimsically will not be winning an Oscar in this country. Also, see the above rule re: the French.

The Descendants – I liked this movie a lot. I don’t think it would be a Best Picture winner every year, but of the nominees this year it may have the strongest argument for winning. Clooney’s character’s daughter carries the film; she’s absolutely fantastic.

Midnight in Paris – Ugh. Woody Allen. I don’t outright hate the guy, but his shtick has gotten old. At least this doesn’t star him; it stars, I’m told, Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams. I like both of them. Hansel and Christopher Walken’s cute daughter make for a good couple. But should they be starring in a Best Picture winner, or just smoking peyote and rappelling off the side of Mount Vesuvius in their minds?

Moneyball -This was a good movie. It was well-written, well-acted, and absolutely nothing more. I left the theater and went about my day after I saw it, and I haven’t thought about it since.

The Help – One of the more interesting movies of the year. Like many people have noted, it definitely has a squirm-inducing “white people solve racism” angle to it. I liked it, but I recognize that sometimes movies, even very good ones, tend to gloss over ugly historical truths (this was my problem with Life is Beautiful). So while The Help contained some superb performances, the questions surrounding its portrayal of racial interaction would preclude it from winning a Best Picture Oscar.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close -I didn’t see this movie and I hate it. Like HATE it. It looks so trite, so cliched, so melodramatic, so awful. Casting Tom Hanks as dying in the Twin Towers is obvious emotional manipulation; casting Sandra Bullock as his widow is obvious emotional manipulation. Hanks’s son’s character, a quirky, intelligent, highly imaginative boy, is obviously emotionally manipulative. I hate this movie, and I never want to see it.

Verdict: As the only nominee with no major question marks that is Zach-approved, The Descendants wins. So there you have it. No need to watch the awards themselves, just take my word for it: these are your winners.

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Movie Review: The Rum Diary

By Anthony

Depp does Thompson, again

So I watched a movie the other day that wasn’t on VHS. It must have been a solar eclipse or something, because I haven’t owned a TV since early 2007, when I used to watch reruns of MASH and The Golden Girls on an old crank shaft nine inch that I stole from Grandma Huxtable after The Cosby Show got canceled.

If you weren’t tipped off already, I’m talking about The Rum Diary. This most recent Johnny Depp-pays-homage-to-his-friend-Hunter flick (i.e. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) was, in short, okay. It was not a great movie. I was not brought to tears nor to the edge of my seat, but I was happy with it for what it was. Its essence as an act of love from one close friend to another, now deceased, is beyond me, but I enjoyed it nevertheless for the overall recklessness of the characters, the serenity of the scenery, the beautiful women and the white linen suits.

If you’ve ever talked to me about my career aspirations, you undoubtedly know that one day I plan on landing somewhere near the Equator on a beach with a small bar, a sailboat, a wife with an accent and at least two but no more than five white suits. On this small beach devoid of any mainstream accommodations and blissfully lacking any socks-and-sandal type tourists, I will scribble in a journal, call it a novel and drink away what’s left of my Alzheimer’s-laden mind.

Amber Heard, making Kate Upton look trashy since whenever Kate Upton came on the scene

Anyway, on to the review, which (sorry, another side note) I had to look up because I was so transfixed by the film’s damsel that I paid little or no attention to the plot. Amber Heard, who quite easily seduced Johnny Depp and myself, makes Kate Upton look like a pimply faced cheerleader with a bad boob job. (Sorry Ruairi, but it’s true.)

Depp was able to recreate the Thompson style of speaking and acting and living. He ended half of his sentences with the word “man” and infused notions with blunted cerebral ideas that enlarged them beyond their appropriate relevance. But the problem wasn’t the acting, really. I haven’t read the book but I’m afraid the movie just doesn’t do it justice. The story wasn’t completed. It was cut down to make a Hollywood-style beginning, middle and end fit within a Hollywood-style time frame. Kemp and Thompson would have both faulted the filmmaker bastard swine, I’m sure.

Don’t let this dissuade you from seeing the movie, though. If you’re a fan of either Thompson’s lifestyle or Depp’s roguish charm, or of the beautiful Heard, it’s worth a viewing, at least. But know that any mainstream movie about a book about the parasitical tourism and commercialization industries can’t get into the meat of the story at hand because of the very nature of the medium itself. Then Google search Amber Heard when you get home.

Extra: For an interesting piece from Depp himself on his relationship with Thompson, click here.

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What’s Nic Cage Been Up To Lately?

By Zach

He cloned himself! Seth is right, they’re exactly identical. I loved the line about the two features of every Nic Cage movie: all the dialogue is either whispered or screamed, and everything is on fire. And for some reason this is way funnier because Cage keeps the stone face the entire time. Then again, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by his ability to do that.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Movie Review: Life is Beautiful

By Zach

Yesterday I watched the 1997 Italian film Life is Beautiful, written, directed by and starring Roberto Benigni. It may very well be the riskiest piece of cinema I have ever seen.

Of course, that deserves an explanation. It’s a Holocaust film centered around the experience of an Italian man named Guido (Benigni), his almost excessively adorable son Giosue (Joshua, in the English subtitles), and his pretty yet predictably kinda bland wife.

But if you haven’t read the description before watching, you might be tricked into thinking it is a Chaplin-esque story about mid-century, small city Italian life. The film opens in 1939, and it has hints of what’s to come – Guido accidentally drives his car through a crowd of fascist-saluting townspeople awaiting the king; a man he meets has named his children Benito and Adolph — but it’s essentially a romantic comedy in its early stages. We watch Guido, a funny and resourceful but physically unattractive waiter, try to win over schoolteacher Dora, the daughter of wealthy townspeople.

I’ll give you a hint: he gets the girl. The film fast-forwards four years as we learn that Guido and Dora have had a son. In addition, the previous hints about Guido’s vulnerability as a Jew have given way to full-out danger. Soon after the child is introduced, the whole family is deported to a death camp closely resembling Auschwitz.

This is where Life is Beautiful starts to feel strange. The first half of the film is often hilarious; the Holocaust is thousands of miles away. But once Guido and his family arrive in the camp, the grim reality of the situation sets in. We see the other Jews in Guido and Giosue’s bunkhouse disappear one by one, and Guido struggles to work every day and bring food back for his son.

But the film’s plot centers around Guido’s ability to manufacture hope in his son’s mind. He stays evasively upbeat from the moment they are deported, and he eventually devises a game in which his son acquires points by hiding and staying quiet. The prize for winning is a tank. Despite Giosue’s skepticism, Guido convinces him by repeatedly twisting the camp’s realities around – “translating” a stern German guard’s instructions into Italian, for example – and this twisting of reality is the source of some discomfort.

It’s obvious that Bergnini did not intend to trivialize the Holocaust; he has indeed said that an affirmation of the movie’s title was his only goal. But watching the film, I couldn’t help but squirm. Just a little.

The inaccuracies of the film, for one, are troubling. Not because we should expect the movie to be 100 percent factually accurate (and indeed, how is it possible to make an entirely realistic cinematic portrayal of an event in which most of its witnesses perished?), but because it downplays the dangers faced by each and every inmate of a concentration camp. There was obviously never any chance for prisoners to talk to one another over the loudspeakers at Auschwitz. Hunger and disease were far more pressing concerns in the camps than Life is Beautiful would lead one to believe.**

This isn’t to say that Life is Beautiful is not an excellent, heartrending film. It is. It just deals with exceedingly difficult subject matter. The best scene in the film occurs when Guido encounters an old acquaintance, an Italian doctor he used to exchange riddles with, now working in the camp as a doctor. The doctor recognizes him and whispers that he needs to talk urgently. Guido is restrained, but we can sense his delight – perhaps there’s a way out of hell after all. He even says to Giosue that they may get to leave early.

When Guido talks to the doctor, though, he is crestfallen to discover that he just wants his help with another riddle. The look on Guido’s face is devastating. There will be no easy escape. That message, I think, should be central to all Holocaust movies, and I’m not sure it was in Life is Beautiful.

**The factual inaccuracies do lead one to wonder how seriously this film was researched. It’s clear that they are in a death camp (in that it had gas chambers and crematoria), but the only such camps still operating at the time of the Allied liberation were Majdanek-Lublin and Auschwitz, both of which were liberated by the Soviets – NOT, as we see in the movie, by handsome, friendly Americans in Sherman tanks. I know, I know, it’s not central to the movie’s plot. Still bugged me.

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