Friday, April 13, 2012


The above photo shows the great Woody Allen discussing a scene with the stars of one of the segments in his newest film, TO ROME WITH LOVE. Playing a married couple are Academy Award winner Roberto Benigni and my dear friend, Monica Nappo, a genuine rising star whom I'm sure we'll now be seeing a lot more of. Benigni, of course, won Best Actor in 1999 for LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, though he's remembered more for climbing over the seats at the ceremony to accept the Best Foreign Language Film award as the director.
Interestingly, there was some criticism at the time about treating the Holocaust in a humorous way.

And now, with a showing in Rome, some Italian journalists are complaining that these hard economic times, with austerity hitting Italy in a big way, are no time for feel good movies. This is pretty silly, as historically the bleakest times have produced the most lighthearted, uplifting, happy-go-lucky entertainment. The greatest period for this in movies was the 1930s, during the Great Depression. There were dozens of great comedies, musicals, even the birth of the cartoonish American gangster films like Scarface and Little Caesar to take peoples' minds off the hard times. Many of the films were about ordinary working class men and women falling in love with very rich women and men. Frank Capra got to shine with such classics as IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, and MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and Shirley Temple danced and sang their way into hearts around the world.
Monica Nappo first contacted me via my, and, serendipitously, I had just enjoyed watching her in a delightful Italian film on Netflix, AGATA AND THE STORM. I was probably almost as excited as she was when she got the role in Woody Allen's film, as I have seen everything he's ever done, and even enjoy his not-so-great efforts as masterpieces of vivid and quirky perspectives on love and life. With her positive attitude about life, her commitment to growth and adventurous creative spirit, I can hardly wait to see my friend when the film opens in the U.S. in June.

As I read about the Italian doom and gloomsters who decry happy films during hard times, I was thinking of a very conservative friend who keeps sending me reports of the impending financial collapse of Europe, and how it will destroy the American economy. Right wing blogs particularly seem to take great pleasure in predicting catastrophe. I've always said that the best way to triumph over negative input and negative people is to drown them out with positive people and positive messages. Monica and Roberto and Woody can certainly help with that, and I'll do my part by recommending TO ROME WITH LOVE to everyone I can.

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