High Museum of Art: Films

Staff Picks: Italian Movies

It’s already the final weekend of our Leonardo da Vinci: Hand of the Genius exhibition. To honor it, Museum staff have selected their favorite Italian movies. What’s yours?

Curatorial Assistant, Decorative Arts and Design

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Sergio Leone

Not only does it have one of the best musical scores ever written, this is the best of the Dollars trilogy of spaghetti westerns and upped the ante on what a “Western Movie” could be.  Not to mention it stars one of the greatest villains ever with Lee Van Cleef  (Angel Eyes – The Bad) – can anyone top that guy’s face?  The graveyard scene is one of the most memorable and palpitating in cinema… the swirling, circular camera shots perfectly express the frenzy and drama of the moment as Eli Wallach (Tuco – The Ugly) reaches the breaking point in the race for gold, as Ennio Morricone’s epic The Ecstasy of Gold builds and swells with passion.

And of course, this new era of Western Cowboy is represented by one of Clint Eastwood’s most iconic characters (Blondie – The Good… yet, WAS he all that good?).  The extreme close ups, the innovative camera angles and sweeping cinematography, and the rugged blatant “UGLY” (physical and internal) depicted throughout the movie are all traits synonymous with Sergio Leone’s distinctive vision.  Ironically filmed in Spain with an Italian crew instead of the Wild American West, the iconic filmmaking and music have gone on to inspire other well-known creative forces from Quentin Tarantino to Metallica.  Now counted as one of the best movies ever made by countless critics, this film is worth the 3 hours.

Speakers Bureau Coordinator

The Godfather Collection

The Godfather & The Godfather:  Part II – Francis Ford Coppola

I really don’t know how I can pick an “Italian-themed” film other than The Godfather series.  I know it sounds obvious, but it really is one of the greatest films of all-time.  I love these films because I feel like I really get to be a part of the Corleone family.  Two distinct scenes that always stand out in my mind is when Michael Corleone does his first “hit job” in a restaurant.  He tried so hard to not follow in his father’s footsteps, but in that moment in the restaurant, you know that his life’s trajectory is about to seriously change.  The other scene is when Diane Keaton’s character tells Michael that she terminated her pregnancy.  The tension in Michael’s face is so palpable that you are literally holding onto your seat to see just how he is about to react.  I also love going back in time in The Godfather Part II to see the genisis of the Corleone family.

As a film lover and a film major at my university, The Godfather was one of the first films that really got me to think about how you can enter the world of fictional characters and be captivated by their dysfunctional lives.  If often makes you feel a lot better about your own.

Security Officer


Suspiria – Dario Argento

Longtime Italian horror movie director Dario Argento is helping remake one of his classic Italian horror movies Suspiria. The remake is supposed to be out later this year. The 1977 Suspiria has been re-released on Blu-Ray, and it has been called the most beautiful of the Italian “Giallo” horror films. I am tempted to buy the Blu-Ray version even though I already have a copy on regular DVD.

It may be hard to understand how a horror movie could be described as beautiful. If you can stand the extreme tension and shocking violence you can see the lush production values, the strong use of color, and the very unusual soundtrack. It’s garish, loud, intentionally grating at points, and deeply disturbing. The movie belongs with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead as one of the best of the horror genre.

Speakers Bureau Intern

La Famiglia

La Famiglia – Ettore Scola

My favorite Italian film is La Famiglia, a 1987 film by Ettore Scola featured at Cannes. The entire film takes place in the patriarch’s apartment, following the stories of one Italian family, from the Belle Époque to the 1980s. The greatest value of the film is that Scola places the compelling personal narratives of love, friendship, and betrayal within the historical and political framework of the two world wars and the other great events of the twentieth century.


Web Content Coordinator

Hudson Hawk

Hudson Hawk – Michael Lehmann

Okay, so this might be sad, but how much do I love Hudson Hawk? It’s probably one of the most panned movies of all time, and won “Worst Picture,” “Worst Screenplay” and “Worst Director” Razzies in 1992.   But I’ve never been one for critical acclaim. (Director Michael Lehmann has since moved onto directing “it”-TV shows like True Blood and Big Love. Maybe he was just ahead of his time.)

The story is about an ex-con who agrees to that one last gig, which happens to involve a whole lot of Leonardo da Vinci (and an extra vile Sandra Bernhard!). It’s made of complete falsehoods, and might be offensive if you care about history, but the characters you meet (Butterfinger? Almond Joy?), the scenery and the fun heist-movie feeling make it worth your while. Well, it makes it worth my while, anyway.

Plus, it’s practically a sing-along! To keep track of the time they have left before the cops storm the joint, Danny Aiello’s Tommy Five-Tone and Bruce Willis’s Eddie Hawkins (the Hudson Hawk), sing songs of a certain length. Would you like to swing on a star? Yep, I sure would.

Opening this Weekend: Danish Film Festival
January 20, 2010, 6:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Our annual Danish Film Festival begins this Friday. Learn more here or check out reviews by Curt Holman in Creative Loafing this week:

Slick suspense defines Danish Film Festival

During the mid-1990s, a vow of chastity turned up the heat on Danish cinema.

In 1995, the Dogme 95 movement called on filmmakers to reject cinematic artifice and work under 10 aesthetic restrictions, including only using natural lighting, locations and hand-held cameras, etc. The movement essentially required directors to focus on the story and acting, rather than special effects and other narrative distractions. Whether or not the Dogme vow made films more inherently “truthful” remains an open question, but it clearly provided for a vibrant, creative period and sense of shared endeavor.

Dogme films tapered off by the early 2000s. Today, Danish filmmakers seem to revel in throwing out their chastity rings and embracing the slickest aspects of the cinematic craft.

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Review: Nora’s Will (Atlanta Jewish Film Festival)
Nora's Will

Nora's Will

If you missed Nora’s Will at the High’s 2009 Latin American Film Festival, here’s your chance to catch it. It screens at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival on Sunday, January 17 at 1 p.m. (introduced by Linda Dubler) and Friday, January 22 at 3:40 p.m. (introduced by Eleanor Ringel Cater).

Visit www.ajff.org for more information, and read on for Eleanor’s review of the film.

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Architects on Screen: Eleanor’s Picks
December 8, 2009, 10:34 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Eleanor Ringel Cater picks:

The Belly of an Architect

The Belly of an Architect

The Belly of an Architect

This is Peter Greenaway’s (The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover) disquieting examination of tummies, tumors and artistic turmoil. An American architect, played by Brian Dennehy is invited to Rome to organize an exhibit in honor of an obscure French architect. Once there, this self-deluded, arrogant man is taught a lesson or two straight from the Book of Job. Some may find the movie both hard to stomach and hard to fathom — it’s a haughtily oblique art film, preying on our fears of mortality and decay while at the same time giving us a connoisseur’s architectural tour of Rome. Luckily Dennehy is on hand. His risky, opulent performance gives a crucial emotional core to Greenaway’s cold vision of death among the ruins. Watching him go belly up is what anchors this demanding, uncompromising film.

The Towering Inferno

This time the architect is a very sexy Paul Newman, but guess what he’s designed? That’s right: a towering inferno, aka, a very big but very badly-built office center.  Before you can rattle off the name stars, ranging from Steve McQueen to Faye Dunaway to Fred Astaire to William Holden to Jennifer Jones to O.J. Simpson, the damn thing’s on fire. This was sort of a gold standard for disaster films in the ‘70s. The Poseidon Adventure may have opened first, but how can Shelly Winters compare to Fred Astaire?

Interestingly, McQueen was originally offered the role of the architect but after reading the script, he decided the fire chief had more heroic possibilities. He also counted each character’s number of lines of dialogue and, upon finding that Newman had a few more, demanded the amount be made equal. It was.

Dead of Night

Martin Scorsese recently named this one of the 11 (yes…eleven) scariest movies of all time. Made in England in 1945, it’s an anthology horror movie, with five spooky stories all revolving around an architect’s recurring dream. Unfortunately for him (and the rest of the cast) it re-occurs while he’s visiting an isolated country house. As they say, déjà vu all over again. Some segments are better than others, the most celebrated one starring Sir Michael Rennie as a ventriloquist who starts having trouble with his dummy. Real trouble. Chucky trouble…

The Song of Sparrows
November 5, 2009, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Film Series: High, Guest Blogger, Review

The Song of Sparrows will open this year’s Iranian Film Today series on Friday, November 6 at 8 p.m. in the Rich Theater. Learn more about this series at High.org/Films. Review by Eleanor Ringel Cater.

The Song of Sparrows

My friend Forrest Rogers used to have a name for certain kinds of movies. He called them, “Pigs and Mud” movies.

You know, the ones with subtitles, that, even when they earn raves, sound about as appetizing as a bowl of cooked carrots (It’s GOOD for you, the reviewer seems to be pleading).

So, when I read that The Song of  Sparrows concerned the plight of an Iranian ostrich wrangler… well, you can just imagine. Ah, Pigs and Mud AND Ostriches!

But sometimes the carrots are sugar-coated. At least, that’s the case here. The Song of Sparrows isn’t just good for you; it’s just plain good in its own low-key, meandering way. I’d planned to turn it off after 15 minutes and found myself watching to the very end.

Hard-working Karim (Reza Naji) loses his job at the ostrich ranch after losing one of his birds (the ensuing Follow That Bird chase is as hilarious as it is poetic). His daughter has just lost her hearing aid, so it’s off to the big city to find a new job.

Karim finds one, inadvertently, when a busy businessman jumps on the back of his motorbike and barks out an address. And, voila (or however they say it in Iran), Karim has a new job as taxi of sorts. Contrasting Karim’s adventures in Tehran with his often tumultuous family life, Oscar-nominated Iranian director Majid Majidi creates an involving human story that sometimes comes off like a silent comedy.

No, it’s not a heavy-hitting cross-over foreign-language hit like last year’s Oscar-winner, Slumdog Millionaire, but the two movies have more in common that you might think.

Eleanor Ringel Cater

Celebrate International Animation Day with ASIFA and the High

From Jay Blodgett, ASIFA-Atlanta.

ASIFA (Association International du Film d’Animation), is the worldwide animation society founded in Annecy, France. ASIFA was established in 1960 by many great masters of animation in the spirit of pursuing world peace, and aiming to promote friendship and mutual understanding between different cultures through the development of our unique art medium — animation. This precious spirit of our founders, who include Paul Grimault, Lev Atamanov, Norman McLaren, John Hubley, Ivan Ivanov Vano, Karel Zeman and Alexandre Alexeieff among others, continues to guide our activities.

Today, there are more than 30 chapters all over the world, including ours right here in Atlanta, which promote the art of animation through workshops and screenings. In recognition of Emile Reynaud’s first public performance of animation by Theatre Optique at the Grevin Museum in Paris on October 28th, 1892, we celebrate International Animation Day. This year is the fourth time ASIFA-Atlanta has celebrated IAD, and the third time we’ve presented films at the High Museum of Art.

Last year, about 40 different countries spanning every continent celebrated International Animation Day, some of them extending the celebration over days or weeks of screenings and workshops. So far this year, so far we’ve received films from Japan, Korea, Brazil, India and Croatia.

We hope to also show films from Portugal, Russia and Bosnia via a DVD exchange made possible by ASIFA. Chapters compile a DVD of selected films from their members and send it out to other ASIFA chapters around the world.

Ariel Belinco’s and Michael Faust’s “Beton”, a film from Israel we showed in 2006:

This year marks our first International Animation Day screening the Woodruff Arts Center’s Rich Theatre. ASIFA sponsored a great event there this past July for the Society for Animation Studies conference and fell in love with the space. With a seating capacity of 400, we expect a large crowd of animation lovers. It’s free to attend. Reserve your ticket at asifa-atlanta.com.

Our thanks go out to ASIFA-Atlanta members, whose participation and membership fees make this all possible. Please check out our website at asifa-atlanta.com if you’d like keep up with our events or if you’d like to join ASIFA-Atlanta.

Jay Blodgett, Secretary

Re-Post: Oblivion Review
September 16, 2009, 11:23 am
Filed under: Film Series: High, Review | Tags: , , ,

In preparation for the 24th Annual Latin American Film Festival, let’s take a look back at a recent review of Oblivion by Linda Dubler. This film is the second in the festival and will be shown at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 26.

Child acrobat in Oblivion

Child acrobat in Oblivion

Heddy Honigmann’s films are so direct and so deftly understated that their artistry is almost invisible. Devoid of attention grabbing compositions and passionate rhetoric, her sublime, humanistic documentaries are modest but perfectly balanced, quiet but penetrating and immensely moving.

Honigmann is interested in big ideas like memory, justice, and art, but in her films they’re never abstractions. Her movies are stories about the people we pass by every day, people whose lives we never plumb because we don’t have the curiosity, the eye and the quiet fearlessness that allows Honigmann to find the poet and performer in the men, women and children who populate her work.
Oblivion, Honigmann’s latest, is her second film shot in Lima, Peru, where she was born the daughter of Holocaust survivors in 1951. Though she’s now based in the Netherlands and works internationally, Honigmann seems entirely at home on Lima’s teeming streets where acrobats perform at crosswalks and then beg for change amid the idling cars, musicians entertain, and vendors hawk everything from fancy dresses for Barbie dolls to tiny sewing kits. These choked avenues run through the film; lit up and alive, they are a public stage for the poor and the enterprising.

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