RIP Dino De Laurentiis

Another link to cinema’s past has left us with the passing of the legendary Italian and eventually American producer at age 91. A truly old school style movie mogul with all the good and bad that went with that, creatively speaking, Dino De Laurentiis was instrumental in launching the worldwide vogue for European cinema, particularly in his partnership with fellow powerhouse producer Carlo Ponti and ultimate Italian auteur Federico Fellini.

During a period I personally consider Fellini’s creative prime, De Laurentiis co-produced two of the director’s most powerful films, the classic tearjerker “La Strada” with Anthony Quinn and the great Giulietta Masina, and “Nights of Cabiria” also with Masina, a great tragicomedy and a huge personal favorite of mine. He also produced two now somewhat obscure adaptations, a version of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” with Audrey Hepburn and “Ulysses.” Fortunately, the latter was not an adaptation of the James Joyce stream-of-consciousness meganovel, but Homer’s “The Odyssey,” and starred Kirk Douglas in the heroic title role.

No snob, De Laurentiis had a gift for commingling arthouse fare, quality middlebrow entertainment, and complete schlock — some of it fun, some it merely schlocky. Geeks cried foul when he eschewed stop-motion for an unworkable animatronic monstrosity and, mostly, Rick Baker in a monkey suit for his silly mega-blockbuster remake attempt, “King Kong,” but that movie was a classic when compared to something like the hugely regrettable killer-whale flick “Orca.”

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Harry Potter and the more family-friendly rating

Early ticket sales are outpacing “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which naturally warms my Michael Bay-unfriendly heart, but that’s not the only news for the upcoming “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

A day or two back, Pamela McClintock of Variety wrote an article detailing the possible box office up- and downsides of the milder PG MPAA rating the upcoming Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” will have in comparison to the stronger PG-13 rating of the previous film. (Shorter version: parents may be more likely to encourage to allow kids to see it, but teens may prefer the allure of mild cinematic transgression promised by the PG-13.)

This PG-rating seems like another example of the arbitrary nature of the ratings. (It’s actually worse than that, but that’s another blog post.) Of course, I haven’t seen the new Potter film — and I’m not half way through reading the book yet — but by the very nature of the series, with the characters maturing and a war of wizards raging, the new film should, if anything, be at least slightly more violent and sexually charged than the prior film.

Even with most of us lucky enough to lead lives more or less without violence, real life is NC-17 from a fairly young age. For most of us, daily life is full of cursing, scatology (assuming we’re reasonably regular), sex and/or thoughts of sex. It’s not implying any scandal whatsoever to say that a sufficiently frank documentary about the making of a Harry Potter film could get an quick R-rating simply for language. Thanks to Ricky Gervais and company, we already have an idea of what such a documentary might be like.

  

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