Summer Cinemacations Series #1 - ITALY

Every now and then I have a night where I just can't sleep, as I'm sure most humans with remotely stressful lives can attest.  You're exhausted and get in bed and then it's too hot, it's too cold, it's too dark, the alarm clock is too bright, it's raining, you wish it was raining, etc.  Whatever the case is, we all have some way of attempting to deal with the tossing and turning.  A long time ago, I found mine:  The soundtrack to the beautiful film Il Postino (The Postman). It was a gift to me on my birthday a long, long time ago (I can still remember) and but I didn't fully appreciate the wonder of it, or it's magical powers until about 7 years ago.  I had forgotten about it for a bit, mixed in and hidden beneath all of my other cds, until I had one of those re-discovery moments, when suddenly the beauty of this album carved out a place in my heart and has stayed there ever since.  The odd thing about the soundtrack is that in no way is it soporific, it's almost, the opposite, it's transportive.  The soundtrack, laced with Neruda poems and organetto, is the sonic embodiment of what I imagine it feels like to lazily roam around Positano or Sardinia or Sicily.  In other words, it's my American dream of what the perfect Italian vacation would be, and that simple thought of sundrenched beaches looking back on colorful hillside homes is enough to relax me to the point where I can once again, sleep, perchance to dream.

I write all of this as an introduction to what I hope will be a new series on this blog, which I'm calling 'Summer Cinemacations'.  Let's face facts, we're living in a recession (yes, that's still happening) and world travel is difficult.  Some of us have been reduced to "stay-cations" (a nice way for the state you live in to remind you you're too poor to travel) and some of us may even be reduced to "cinemacations"-hey, if the government can make up words, so can I.  In any of these situations, it's always nice to have some sort of escape from the daily grind, so every so often, when I remember to write a post, I'll have a new "destination" and 5 films that embody it.  I'm staying away from serious foreign films, for example, I'm not including "Bicycle Thieves" in this "Italy" entry because no matter how good or important it may be as a film, the story of a man at the edge of starvation and desperation, doesn't really scream "let me get my passport and buy the sunscreen" summer fun vibe I'm hoping for.  If you have any destinations in mind, leave a comment!  I'll see what I can gather.

So let's get started:

1. Il Postino:

You know how I feel about the soundtrack, but this gorgeous film is so simple and beautiful that it really should be sought out.  The story of an average Postman who dreams of getting the girl and finds help through the master of poetic love, Pablo Neruda, who happens to be staying on The Postman's island.  The two strike a friendship and through Neruda's poetry, love lessons and life lessons intermingle under the Italian sun.Check out the trailer below (and try to ignore the cheesy voiceover, man, trailers have come a long way)

2. Roman Holiday

Yes, like a ton of girls my age, Audrey Hepburn was the gateway drug to fashion and class and will always be one of my icons.  She might be the perfect woman.  With her doe eyes, elfin nose and pixie haircut, she was a fairy tale princess come to life.  Thankfully, that's how casting directors saw her too, and in this buoyant romantic comedy she actually plays a princess, in desperate want of her own vacation.  During a diplomatic tour, seeking solace from her royal existence, a princess (Hepburn) escapes for an unscheduled day off in Rome, only to be discovered by an American reporter (the indescribably charming Gregory Peck).  In the time honored tradition of great romantic comedies, the two adventure around the city with witty banter, fist fights, mistaken identity and Vespa rides galore.

3. Under The Tuscan Sun

All right, I'll finally admit it, I'm a hopeless romantic!  Are you happy now?! I have no idea how I wound up picking this one up, way back when there was still a Blockbuster in my town, but I'm glad I did.  The story of a writer (Diana Lane) who, after a painful divorce, makes a dramatic, spur of the moment decision to move into a dilapidated Tuscan villa and repair it (while at the same time repairing her life...get it?!) is basically what I wish I could do, without the divorce part, because, let's face it, that just seems like a hassle.  Along the way she runs into some eclectic neighbors and Italian hotties, and cheese-tastic moments, that make it a really fun time. 

4. Cinema Paradiso

If you can make it through this film without feeling anything, well then, you and I simply cannot be friends.  As you can see, I only wanted to pick Italian films that could be described by using the word "beautiful" and here we have another one.  I was introduced to this film in high school, by an amazingly insightful teacher, and it's one of those films, like Il Postino, that takes the small truths of life and lays them out so simply that, at least for any romantic, it feels as if a little part of your soul is being reflected back to you.  Cinema Paradiso tells the story of two lives: one a boy, Salvatore aka Toto, who grows up to be an Italian director and the other his father figure, a man named Alfredo, a projectionist in the only movie house on their small Italian island.  It's a story about love and love of movies and the life lessons we all need to learn at some point.  A coming of age tale that should be required viewing in our increasingly cynical (movie) world.

5. To Rome With Love

Released the year after Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen's To Rome With Love is another love letter to a European capital with entangled storylines of love, life, and neurosis.  In other words, it's another great Woody Allen film.  While it wasn't as touted as its predecessors, I quite enjoyed it, even if it's just for the scenery alone (and by scenery I mean Jesse Eisenberg, because I find him, also, indescribably charming).  The quirk factor is high, but Mr. Allen never has much trouble putting together an amazingly watchable ensemble.


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