Movies of the Week #43 #44 (2020)

La Grande Bellezza (2013): Hard to believe it’s been seven years since La Grande Bellezza was released. It’s a movie I’ve seen many times already, each one as pleasurable as the one before, particularly thanks to the complex thematic layering and the fantastic cinematography. While in some ways similar to Sorrentino’s follow-up, Youth, Bellezza says more with greater flair and introspection. As an old soul myself, it was hard not to feel drawn to Toni Servillo’s Jep Gambardella, a larger than life character in a larger than life city. His nights in Rome are magical, mystical and grotesque, imbued with a sense of melancholy and nostalgia that comes with age. The social commentary can be too blunt for the movie’s otherwise vibrant sensibilities, but it’s a small fault to bear in one of the decade’s most memorable cinematic ventures. 9/10

Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo (2019): A life’s story like few others, Danny Trejo seems to have lived through it all. The first thing that strikes you, though, is that the guy recently turned 76, which seems utterly bizarre, given both his appearance and the characters he’s so closely associated with. While a bit by the numbers as far as documentaries go, Trejo is an inspiration and his story unique enough to draw and hold your attention. It sure looks like he’s lived through many different lives, which poses the age-old-question of who we really are, where part of our self begins and where it ends. 8/10

Guillermo Vilas: Settling the Score (2020): As far as tennis documentaries go, which are generally quite niche, this one is even niche-er than expected. Vilas was a clay-court great, who had success on all surfaces, but tennis in the 70s was very different to that of today. Part of that…being different, included a strange ranking system, which allowed for all sorts of errors, one of which causing Vilas from missing out on the number 1 ranking. The matter is not only mathematical or systemic, it’s also political to some degree, given who the Argentine was playing against at the time. The movie does a good job in combing through Vilas’s career and some of the technicalities behind the nr. 1 ranking calculations (kudos to Slasher on #menstennisforums, where I occasionally rest my hater soul). However, it becomes too personal and loses focus by zooming in on the relationship between Vilas and Eduardo Puppo, the journalist who took it upon himself to vindicate his compatriot. 7/10

On the Rocks (2020): People have called Sofia Coppola’s latest “slight”, which is a fair evaluation, particularly compared to her previous work. Nonetheless, the father-daughter bonding experience is definitely different than what we usually get, with a good rapport between Rashida Jones and Bill Murray. It’s a movie about how much our expectations in life can be warped by the kind of people our parents are and how easily it is to believe the worst of things. Occasionally amusing, generally entertaining, but rarely truly exciting, OtR is a nice enough watch, if nothing more. 7/10

Let it Snow (2019): This move proved so forgettable that it slipped my mind I had already seen it. But as a warm-up for the upcoming holiday season, it’s actually a cute little teen rom-com, that knows what it is and doesn’t look to be more than that. It’s perfectly racially diverse, includes a same-sex crush story, the kind of feel-good movie that tries very hard to have something for everyone. Surprisingly, it doesn’t feel contrived, which is why the thing turns out to be enjoyable, perhaps in spite of itself. 6/10