Life is Beautiful

“Silence is the most powerful cry.”

By 1998’s awards season, Miramax’s marketing machine was cranking away at its hardest, and some would argue hit a point that was offensive. In the 1999 Oscar ceremony, not only did their film Shakespeare in Love usurp the odds-on favorite of Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture as well as Gwyneth Paltrow’s Best Actress award over several other arguably stronger performances, but their film Life Is Beautiful won for Best Actor, Best Score, and Best Foreign Language Film, not to mention the fact that it was one of the very small club of foreign films earning a nomination for Best Picture. Roberto Benigni’s chair-jumping and over-the-top pronouncement of his love for everybody was fun to watch, but in the end, was Life Is Beautiful all that and a bag of chips? Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our Foreign Language Films Nominated for Best Picture series with Benigni’s 1997 film Life Is Beautiful.

We talk about the passage of time and how that’s affected our feelings about this film, even if it’s hard to argue that it’s the worst film ever made as some do. We debate Benigni as director, screenwriter, and actor and try to figure out just how much is too much, and why the film often feels more like a chance for him to showboat than a solid story. We talk about the nature of telling a comedic story during horrible circumstances like the Holocaust and what it takes to make it really work right. We also talk about the nature of fables and debate the nature of this being a fable when pushed through Benigni’s prism. We look at the cast and some of the scenes they’re in that work really well. We touch on the music and how beautiful it is. And we chat about the awards circuit for this film with lots of opinions about its nominations and wins. (Central Station absolutely should’ve been receiving the accolades.)

It’s a divisive film that doesn’t hold up as well when revisiting 20+ years later, but it still makes for a delicious conversation. Check it out, make up your own mind, then tune in to this week’s show! The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins.

The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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Roberto Benigni