79. Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella)

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Movie: Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella)

Release Date: December 20, 1997 (Italy), October 23, 1998 (USA)

Director: Roberto Benigni

Starring: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi.

Tag Lines: “An unforgettable fable that proves love, family and imagination conquer all.”

Relevance: ‘Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella)’ was one of those movies that I wouldn’t have seen if it wasn’t for the Academy Awards. The film received a lot of critical praise as well as some controversy and was a commercial success when it was released, but it was the Oscar nominations that drew my attention. And I am very glad that my attention was grabbed.

‘Life is Beautiful’ was on my radar, but I did not go and see the film in theaters until early 1999 after the Academy Award nominations were announced. It was nominated for seven awards, including the coveted Best Picture. Thankfully there were a few theaters around where I lived at the time that added the Best Picture nominations back on their marquee after they were announced. So one evening alone, except for my usual tub of buttered popcorn, I got my ticket for this Italian drama.

I really had no idea what to expect from the film, and for that I was very grateful. I was surprised by every single element of its beauty. When it was funny, it was laugh out loud hysterical, when it was romantic, I wanted to fall in love again and when it was dramatic, I needed the napkins I usually had reserved for my buttery hands. The story was exceptional and the actors, especially Roberto Benigni, were out of this world fantastic. I had seen many foreign films before, but none that moved me the way that this film did. It quickly jumped to the top of my favorite films that year and was by far my favorite of the Best Picture nominees.

Although I knew it was an underdog to take home that specific award, I was thrilled at the outcome of the Academy Awards that year. After the telecast, I was just as excited as Mr. Benigni was when he won the Best Actor Oscar. (If you need a smile, YouTube his acceptance speech as soon as possible.) ‘Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella)’ remained one of my favorite films and I rented it numerous times from my local Hollywood Video store. I just couldn’t get enough of the gorgeous story it was telling. I bought the DVD as soon as I could and it has been a part of my movie collection since then. Every time I need a reminder that my life is actually decent, I watch it and get reminded that ‘Life is Beautiful.’

Today’s Thoughts: “This is my story. This is the sacrifice my father made. This was his gift to me.”

I definitely needed a reminder today about my life. After all, it is 2020. However, if that wasn’t enough, I have now been unemployed for over eight months with zero prospects on the horizon. So much for getting my Master’s degree to become more marketable. I also have had a shoulder problem since June that seems to be getting worse and worse as the days progress. I am currently typing this with one hand, so if it is short, please forgive me. But ‘Life is Beautiful,’ right?

Actually, it is. And so is this film. I watched it today, in pain, on my couch, and despite said pain fell in love once again with Roberto Benigni and company. It truly is a remarkable film. I laughed. And boy, oh boy did I cry. I love the simplicity of the story, a father trying to make the best for his child out of horrific circumstances. I also understand the controversy. How can you make a film about the holocaust a comedy? If you ask that question, then you really are missing the point of the film. I think it is so poignant and moving and really takes my breath away every time I watch it. Today was no exception.

‘Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella)’ is definitely worth the time for anyone that loves a great story. Even if you are not the type of person to “read” a movie, give it a try. I promise you will at least be beguiled by Mr. Benigni and you might even understand that life really is beautiful despite all of our little pains and suffering.

Now excuse me while I go take a hot bath.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (winner), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Roberto Benigni (winner) Academy Award for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, Nicola Piovani (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, Roberto Benigni (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Vincenzo Cerami, Roberto Benigni (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Simona Paggi (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Roberto Benigni (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film not in the English Language (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay – Original, Vincenzo Cerami, Roberto Benigni (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, Roberto Benigni (winner), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign-Language Film (winner), Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Roberto Benigni (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Foreign Films (winner), National Board of Review Special Award, Roberto Benigni (winner), PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, Elda Ferri, Gianluigi Braschi (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Hulu. HBO Max, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, DVD Availability.

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