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Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Facts & Stories

    Anything Goes: Spending Carnival with(out) Captain Coward

    Batman, Spiderman and Iron Man are just a few of the superheroes that every year come alive and appear in the Halloween parade or trick or treating door to door. Apart from the classics, every year there is a growing trend toward pop-culture references: Halloween 2011's top choices for men was actor Charlie Sheen, who caused a frenzy following his departure from the sitcom Two and a Half men, while women included Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Snooki (or any member of the gang from the "Jersey Shore" cast). As for the kids, it was all about the popular mobile phone app Angry Birds according to Spirit Halloween, the country's largest seasonal Halloween retailer.

    Italy does celebrate Halloween too but its real masquerade party happens for Carnevale, a huge winter festival celebrated with parades, masquerade balls, entertainment, music, and parties ... and this year, there is one costume coming from pop culture that the press has declared the country's most popular... Costa Concordia's captain Francesco Schettino, Italy's infamous anti-hero. Whether he “tripped” into a life boat and didn’t mean to abandon ship or he is a victim of a witch-hunt, as his wife Fabiola Russo declared in an interview for Oggi Magazine, “Captain Coward,” has become a carnival costume.

    Several web sites, including, Ebay sell a reproduction of the Captain's hat that can be worn with a white uniform, absolutely kept unbuttoned at the top to show the guy's chest hair just like the captain did.

    (on Ebay people can also buy gadgets like casino tokens, mugs and glasses, menus, and so forth. More macabre postings were removed by the administration of the web site that does not approve of profiting from tragedy).

    In the days leading to Carnevale, which begins 40 days before Easter, (the 2012 date for Carnevale is February 21 but celebrations in Venice and many parts of Italy start in early February, as did the one in the Tuscan town of Viareggio that started on the 4th) the buzz was that an actor portraying Schettino was going to participate to Viareggio's famous carnival float parade but the official committee has denied them all.

    The Italian press was reporting that a Schettino character was to be added at the last minute to one of the floats; as there was no time to create a mask in papier-mache, singer Gianluca Domenici was supposed to dress as the captain and sing a song “We are on the Titanic” while starring in the “Where is the crisis?” float.

    The Fondazione Carnevale, the official foundation in charge of the organization of Viareggio's Carnevale, is very adamant in explaining that they never authorized the presence of a Schettino impersonator in one of the floats that is participating in this year's competition.
     

    The float, created by Fabrizio Galli, titled “Where is the crisis?” portrays the difficult international economic situation by featuring the Titanic as it is sinking. The boat hits the iceberg of public debt and is slowly immersed into the abyss. Behind the Titanic there is the imposing figure of Mario Draghi, president of Europe Central Bank, an Italian economist at the helm of one of the most important banks in the world.
     

    The idea for this float was presented by Mr. Galli himself to the foundation last September, months before the Costa Concordia tragedy. So the similarities with what has recently happened are just a mere coincidence. The original project foresaw the presence of an actor, a singer to be exact, dressed as a naval captain. Neither the designer or the Fondazione Carnevale di Viareggio wish to exploit the tragedy that has recently affected Italy and the rest of the world, so there is absolutely nothing on the float that will refer to Captain Schettino.
     

    Alessandro Santini, the President of the Foundation, and the rest of the staff wish to emphasize their lack of involvement in the rumors that the float was going to somehow portray “Captain Coward” and he declared “Here in Viareggio we know what pain is and our Carnevale, since the moment of its inception, wishes to bring joy and solidarity to those who are suffering. We have done it for the victims of the railroad accident of June 29th (the Viareggio derailment was the derailment of a freight train and subsequent fire which occurred on 29 June 2009 in the train station of Viareggio. 26 people were injured and 32 died) and we want to do it now for the victims of the Costa Concordia.”
     

    There is a time for everything and Carnevale is a moment to throw confetti at each other, play pranks, celebrate heroes and satirize on what is wrong. There is no room for the Schettinos in the world, they have been thrown overboard. 

  • Art & Culture

    Celebrating Italian Cinema: Los Angeles-Italia Film Fashion and Art Fest

    Italian cinema is celebrated in Los Angeles just a day before the much awaited Academy Awards at the Los Angeles-Italia Film Fashion and Art Fest.

    As announced, the Feb. 19-25 festival -- which will take place in Hollywood's Chinese Theater -- will feature a retrospective from horror master Dario Argento, it will present the Los Angeles-Italia Excellence Award to Italian production designer Dante Ferretti and set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo (both are nominated for Oscars this year in connection with Martin Scorsese’s Hugo), and it will honor Sergio Corbucci, the Italian director best known for his violent interpretations of the Spaghetti Western genre.
     

    “This festival is important for Italian film because it’s a window for the world to see what is happening in Italy,” Italian filmmaker Pupi Avati, the festival’s chairman, said in an interview to The Hollywood Reporter on the sidelines of Monday’s announcements. “When you bring an Italian film to this event and to Chinese Theatre, you are not bringing the film to America, you are bringing it to the cinema industry’s heart. Italy needs this kind of exposure, and I think the cinema industry will find things of interest as well.” Avati will be honored with a special screening of the documentary A Poet out of the Crowd by Adriano Pintaldi on the 25th.

    The festival will open on the 19th with the documentary Becoming Sophia by Gianluigi Attorre. From Pozzuoli to Los Angeles, Sofia Loren has gone far and her career is told in this collage of never-seen before images coming from cinematic archives from all over the world. The pictures portray the actress and the woman, a person of great charisma, talent and tenacity. Visual imagery is commented by those who have been close to Sofia, from director Lina Wertmuller, her press agent Enrico Lucherini and her sister Maria who said: “When she won the Oscar I gave her a basil plant to remind her of where she came from.”

    The program features other documentaries: Peppino 50, a film by Vincenzo Mollica on the career of Italian singer and songwriter Peppino di Capri (screening will be held on the 24th) and Vasco Rossi This is my Story by Alessandro Paris and Sibylle Righetti on Italian rocker Vasco Rossi (also to be held on the 24th).

    The focus on Italian comedies is one of the centerpieces of the festival, bringing the increasingly popular and often domestically high-grossing genre of films to an audience that might not see them otherwise. Among the titles is Fausto Brizzi’s Come è bello fare l’amore (Isn’t it great to make love), the first Italian comedy to be made in 3D and which will open in Italian cinemas this coming Friday, and Benvenuti al Nord (Welcome to the North), which is setting records at the box office so far this year.

    There will also be, on February 20th, a special screening of The Professor by Giuseppe Tornatore in honor of the recently deceased Italian American actor Ben Gazzara. The gangster film is loosely based on the career of one of Naples' most sadistic crime bosses, Raffaele Cutolo. Here, the mobster, played by  Gazzara is simply called “The Professor,” and we witness the progressing of his career until a police chief, played by Leo Gullotta, enters the picture.

    A tribute to producer Marina Cicogna, best known for her work in the 1970s, including Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, will take place on the 24th . This is her second major honor this year as she was previously the Grand Honor of Merit from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, one of Italy’s highest civilian honors.

    All of the events at the Los Angeles-Italia Film Fashion and Art Fest are open to the public free of charge. The full program is available on the festival site www.losangelesitalia.com

  • Events: Reports

    Remembrance Day: Special Screening of The Refugees of Cinecittà

    In 1937, Fascist leader Benito Mussolini founded in Rome a movie studio to create propaganda films for his Nazi-sympathizing regime. Cinecittà (‘Film City’) was heavily bombed by the Allies during the war, and afterward, its sound stages were used to house thousands of Italians who had been displaced by the war. Buildings, backdrops and sets – from Roman temples to French boudoirs – were adapted to accommodate the refugees’ most basic needs. One section of the movie complex was run by the Italian Post-war Assistance Ministry, the other half was controlled by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). No matter what side they were living in, life in the camp was extremely hard.

    There hardly is any documentation on this topic, but the “Hollywood on the Tiber,” where Audrey Hepburn rode a Vespa scooter in Roman Holiday, Charlton Heston learned to pilot a chariot for Ben-Hur, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love while making Cleopatra, and Fellini shot La Dolce Vita, his famous film inspired by the glamor of visiting Hollywood stars, housed displaced people of 30 different nationalities, among them Italians, Poles, Russians, Iranians, Chinese, Gypsies and Jews – including survivors of Nazi extermination camps.

    In honor of Remembrance Day, the Primo Levi Center in cooperation with Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò presented a special screening of The Refugees of Cinecittà a documentary film by Marco Bertozzi, director, writer and film teacher, based on the research by Noa Steimatsky, Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, that “explores the historical conditions at the time of the camp's creation, the magnitude of its population, the duration of its existence and the broader social and political forces that governed its development,” Casa Italiana's promotional material describes..

    “Federico Fellini established Cinecittà as his city, and Stage 5 his home,” Cinecitta's web site says.

    His La Dolce Vita, which captured the decadence of Rome's cafe society, was shot at Cinecittà's Studio 5, the same sound stage where Fellini shot his other films and where his own wake took place, the same sound stage where Bruna, Flora, Iole, Angelo and many other refugees, when they were young kids, played war with stage props and appeared as extras in propaganda videos and, later on, in film productions (in 1949, MGM filmed the colossal production of Quo Vadis, and among the 14,000 extras that filled the set many were refugees). “They used us because we were real,” one of the the survivors is heard saying, “I never told anyone I was one of the Children of Cinecittà as I was too embarrassed of having been a refuge,” another one adds as their voices overlap while historical images show faces of people they knew... one recognizes his mother, his sister, the boy that ended up marrying his sister, a neighbor in the barricades and so forth.

    “My challenge as director of this documentary film was to find harmony between two different types of sources, personal stories from the survivors of the camp and historical (fictional and not) footage,” Bertozzi, present at Casa Italiana, said of his collection of interviews, scenes of films, archival footage and photographs.

    Director Marco Bertozzi and film scholar Noa Steimatsky were able to track down several of Cinecittà former refugees as well as “Humanity, the only surviving visual document of post-war life in the ruinous remains of the Fascist propaganda empire. The documentary was shot in 1946 by Jack Salvatori and produced by Luce under the aegis of UNRRA and the Post-War Assistance Ministry. Conceived with narrative simplicity and ideological correctness, the film also contains several high panoramic shots. They reveal thousands of people living inside a hallucinatory labyrinth of roofless boxes, squeezed tightly together among their meager personal belongings, inside massive movie sound stages,” Casa Italiana's material explains.

    “A refugee was seen as less than a poor person, because refugees are totally lost, they don't even have a place where they belong. They were more poor than the poor portrayed in Neo-realist films. Women, for example, could not say they had been in the camp, or nobody would have married them, they had to keep it a secret. There was a lot of discrimination, embarrassment,” Bertozzi added.

    The feeling among the refugees is different: there are those who want to forget and totally remove those years from their memory, while there is who is using it as inspiration to write books. Memory is never 100% right but they probably all agree with what one of the refugees, Katrin, said in the documentary “it was an experience that ended happily but it was not happy.”

  • Life & People

    Sleeping Beauty: Marco Bellocchio Addresses Euthanasia

    “When I prepare to shoot a movie I tell people, ‘judge it for yourself, make up your own mind.’” Italian film director Marco Bellocchio thus commented, in an interview published in the newspaper La Libertà, on the decision of the Regional Council of Friuli Venezia Giulia to refuse, without having even read the script, any public funding to his Bella Addormentata (Sleeping Beauty), a film inspired by Eluana Englaro, a young woman from Friuli whose story plunged the Italian governemnt into a constitutional crisis.

    Eluana Englaro was left in a vegetative state after a car crash in 1992 when she was twenty years old. “For years (17 total), Englaro's father, Beppino, fought to have her feeding tube removed, saying it would be a dignified end to his daughter's life. He said that before the crash his daughter visited a friend who was in a coma and told him she didn't want the same thing to happen to her if she were ever in the same state,” CNN reported back on February 9, 2009 when Eluana's life was ended.

    “After a decade-long court battle, doctors reduced her nutrition on Friday in preparation for removing her feeding tubes, which her father claims would be in accordance with her wishes,” The Guardian wrote two days earlier, “But in an extraordinary turn of events, the country's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, after consultation with the Vatican, issued an emergency decree stating that food and water cannot be suspended for any patient depending upon them, reversing the earlier court ruling. On issuing the emergency decree, Berlusconi declared: ‘This is murder. I would be failing to rescue her. I'm not a Pontius Pilate.’ Justifying his campaign to save Englaro's life, the prime minister added that, physically at least, she was ‘in the condition to have babies,’ a remark described by La Stampa newspaper as shocking.” But President Giorgio Napolitano refused to sign the decree as “an emergency decree cannot be in contrast with a court decision.”
     

     The case was very controversial as Italy is a heavily Catholic country where the Vatican has great influence. “Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims that ‘euthanasia is a false solution to suffering,’” CNN reported, “Euthanasia is illegal in Italy, but patients have the right to refuse treatment. It is on that basis that Englaro argued his daughter should be allowed to die, because some time before her accident she had expressed the wish not to be kept alive while in a coma -- indirectly refusing treatment, he said.”

    And now the debate continues. Public funding or not, the film director is planning to proceed. The cast has not yet been finalized, but as of now the few that have been confirmed are: Alba Rohrwacher, Toni Servillo, Michele Riondino and Piergiorgio Bellocchio. Sleeping Beauty was written by Sandro Rulli and Stefano Petraglia and it is produced by Cattleya in collaboration with a French partner.

    Udine's mayor, Furio Honsell defined all the controversies against shooting in town “puzzling,” on location production costs have indeed been significant, and “censuring the work of such a great Italian filmmaker, an artist the whole world wishes to have” is simply something that should not be done.

    Meanwhile, Cattleya has not asked the Cinema branch of the Ministry of Culture to get financing for a film of cultural significance. “We might do it later, meanwhile we proceed knowing we have all the requirements needed by the regulations,” Riccardo Tozzi, the film's producer has said. “This film is a beautiful meditation on life and death, a declaration of love for life and all those who talked badly about it did it because of ignorance and misinformation. This has been seen as a film pro euthanasia, but it is not so. It has been seen as anti-religious, but it is not so. There is a deep love for life in each of the three stories that are told in the film.” Tozzi continues to say that by refusing, the Friuli region is guilty of intellectual obscurantism, “it is a question of ignorance not politics.”

    This is a work of fiction that meets the real story of Eluana during the last week of her vegetative life, when, after the judgment of Milan's Court of Appeals authorized the father to end the treatment that was keeping her alive. Beppino Englaro had a difficult time finding a place... he then found a clinic in Udine where he was allowed to pull the plug. “There are shots of real documents and of Beppino Englaro himself (Bellocchio had the man's authorization), and there are scenes shot in fron of the clinic. This is all there is in the film that has to do with Eluana, everything else is pure fiction. There is, for example, the story of a doctor who desperately tries to help a drug addict who wants to kill herself. The message is to help life not help death.”

    Obstructing a film before it has been shot simply is anti-democratic, and Bellocchio' stories of life and death started shooting in Udine today, January 30, 2012.

  • Art & Culture

    Oscar Nominations 2012: Italian Creativity is Still in the Game

    Nominations for the 84th annual Academy Awards were announced this morning with Hugo by Martin Scorsese leading the way with 11. The Italian-American director (one of the nominations is for Best Director) was reached by the Hollywood Reporter and his comment was “I am deeply honored to have been nominated by the Academy for my work on Hugo. Every picture is a challenge, and this one – where I was working with 3D, HD and Sacha Baron Cohen for the first time – was no exception. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve been recognized by the people in your industry. I congratulate my fellow nominees. It’s an impressive list, and I’m in excellent company.”

    He was not working first time with the Oscar-winning Italian duo Dante Ferretti (production design) and Francesca Lo Schiavo (set decoration) who have been nominated in the Art Direction category.
     

    Wikipedia writes that “In his career, Ferretti has worked with many great directors, both American and Italian, such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Federico Fellini, Terry Gilliam, Franco Zeffirelli, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Anthony Minghella and Tim Burton. He frequently collaborates with his wife, set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo. Ferretti was a protégé of Federico Fellini, and worked under him for five films. He also had a five collaboration with Pier Paolo Pasolini and later developed a very close professional relationship with Martin Scorsese, designing seven of his last eight movies.” His first Academy Award was for his work on Scorsese's The Aviator.

    In an interview published in Variety Ferretti had to say “”Martin Scorsese is a genius to me … when you work with him you are working with a master director. He brings out the best in everyone that they can bring to a film.” At the moment of the interview he was in London working on Hugo.

    Hugo is based on Brian Selznick's 2007 book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and was shot on a full-scale train station set built from scratch, directly inspired by Selznick's illustrations. “It was really as if my drawings had come to life around me, except everything was bigger and more beautiful than I even could have imagined,” Selznick, who was particularly struck by the production, having done theater set design at Brown University in Providence, R.I. said in an interview for The Los Angeles Times.
     

    The article explains how the Italian husband-wife team constantly turned to the source material to create the look of the 1930s-era tale about an orphan who lives in a train station. “The book looks like a storyboard, [which] helped me a lot,” Ferretti said (the book contains 284 pages of drawings that tell the story as much as the 200 or so pages of text).

    In addition to the novel, Ferretti and Lo Schiavo were inspired, just like the book's author, by the history of pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès. “The turn-of-the-last-century inventor is incarnated in the book as well as the film adaptation as Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley), the owner of a toy shop in the station modeled after photos of the real toy booth Méliès operated,” The Los Angeles Times article continues. “To create a historically accurate look, Lo Schiavo painted several period toys to make them look new but also made hundreds of toys from scratch — teddy bears, dolls, horns, balls, model ships, miniature carousels and more, plus the wind-up automaton central to the story.”

    This was not the only nomination for Italians working in Hollywood. The Short Film (Animation) category finds, amongst its nominees, Italian born filmmaker Enrico Casarosa with La Luna.

    On www.thefilmexperience.net blogger Michael Cusumano writes in his interview with Enrico Casarosa (interview done months before the nomination) “La Luna is a fable about young boy caught in an inter-generational conflict as he joins his Papa and Grandpa for the first time in their nightly work. The slow reveal of the exact nature of that work is one of the film's delights which also include its elegant dialogue-free storytelling, glowing moonlit atmosphere and an especially lovely Michael Giacchino score. La Luna is the baby of Enrico Casarosa, who is making his directing debut with this love letter to his Italian roots. He began with Pixar as a story artist on Cars and Ratatouille, and he is currently working as Head of Story for an upcoming feature.”

    By reading the interview we learn that Casarosa originally is from Genoa and he grew up with is grandfather in the house who did not get along with his father... so as a child he found himself stuck between the two. “That feeling of being a little bit stuck in the middle was something I was after. And I would be really fun to try to give a positive message of a kid choosing his own - you know - it’s not Papa’s way, it’s not Grandpa’s way, but it’s his own way. So he finds his own road. I thought that was worth sharing, it could be the core of it,” Casarosa says to Cusumano in his interview. His inspiration was not just personal experience, he mixed it with something more “fantastic” that comes from Italo Calvino' style. “He has, all through his novels and short stories, making the very fantastic juxtaposed with very simple characters, peasants, so that’s the kind of a feel I wanted to capture,” Casarosa continues.

    La Luna is presented with Brave (2012) Pixar's dark tale of a rebellious princess that will come out next summer.

  • Life & People

    Remembering an Italian-American Legend: Joe Paterno

    Thick, smoky-lens glasses, rolled up khakis, jet-black sneakers, blue windbreaker... Joe Paterno was easy to spot on the sidelines. The sidelines he worked on for 61 years.
    Joe Paterno, the longtime Penn State coach who won more games than anyone in major college football, died yesterday morning at the age of 85 due to lung cancer that was originally diagnosed in 2001. He passed away at 9:25 am at Mount Nittany Medical Center (Pennsylvania), where he was admitted back on January 13 for observation for what his family had called minor complications from his cancer treatments.

    His death comes after just a few months after his firing due to a child sex abuse scandal that tarnished his reputation
    According to an article published on NPR “Paterno failed to go to the police in 2002 when told a young boy was molested inside the football complex. ‘I didn't know which way to go,’ he said in the Post interview. Jerry Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator expected to succeed Paterno before retiring in 1999, was charged with sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years. Two university officials stepped down after they were charged with perjury following a grand jury investigation of Sandusky. But attention quickly focused on an alleged rape that took place in a shower in the football building, witnessed by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant at the time.

    McQueary testified that he had seen Sandusky attacking the child and that he had told Paterno, who waited a day before alerting school authorities. Police were never called and the state's top cop later said Paterno failed to execute his moral responsibility by not contacting police. ‘You know, (McQueary) didn't want to get specific,’ Paterno said in the Post interview. ‘And to be frank with you I don't know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.’

    On the morning of Nov. 9, Paterno said he would retire following the 2011 season. He also said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ by the abuse case. ‘This is a tragedy,’ the coach said. ‘It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.’ But the university trustees faced a crisis, and in an emergency meeting that night, they fired Paterno, effective immediately.”

    Many of his admirers want to set the record straight. A Penn State student, Isaac Luber, writes in his blog  “Now Joe Paterno is gone, and some say his legacy has been tarnished, or at least damaged. I say it hasn't. If you actually look at the facts, and see how Joe Paterno, if anything, is the least to blame in this scandal, along with everything he has done for this University and for many people in and out of the University, you will know that his legacy should not, and will not be tarnished. While some people, who may be uninformed or blinded by hatred and lies, may attack Joe Paterno and his legacy, those who knew him, were affected by him, or knew the truth, know that his legacy is not even scratched.”

    The man known as “JoePa” won 409 games and took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games and two national championships. More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL was substituted by one of his assistants, Tom Bradley, who said Paterno “will go down in history as one of the greatest men, who maybe most of you know as a great football coach.”

    Penn State erected a statue in his honor in front of Beaver Stadium and, as of yesterday, it is surrounded by flowers, candles and prayers from current students, alumni and fans. The family is grateful and has released a statement to announce his death: “His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled.”

    “He died as he lived,” the statement said. “He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”
    “As the last 61 years have shown, Joe made an incredible impact,” the statement from the family continued. “That impact has been felt and appreciated by our family in the form of thousands of letters and well wishes along with countless acts of kindness from people whose lives he touched. It is evident also in the thousands of successful student athletes who have gone on to multiply that impact as they spread out across the country.”

    Paterno was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1926. His father was an Italian brick layer who studied law at the age of 40. His mother was Italian as well and, as most Italian moms, she was a great cook. Paterno often reminisced about long talks at the dinner table with his neighborhood friends who enjoyed eating at the Paterno household.

    Paterno played quarterback and cornerback for Brown University and set a defensive record with 14 career interceptions, a distinction he boasted about to his teams all the way into his 80s. He graduated in 1950 with plans to go to law school. He said his father hoped he would someday be president.

    When he was 23, a former coach at Brown, Rip Engle, was moving to Penn State to become the head coach and persuaded Paterno to come with him as an assistant. He was not excited to leave Brooklyn for a “hick town.”
    In 1963, he was offered a job as general manager and coach of the AFL's Oakland Raiders. His salary would have tripled but he refused. Rip Engle retired as Penn State head coach three years later, and Paterno took over.

    At the time, the Lions were considered “Eastern football” inferior and Paterno courted newspaper coverage to raise the team's profile. In 1967, PSU began a 30-0-1 streak.
    But Penn State couldn't get to the top of the polls. The Lions finished second in 1968 and 1969 despite perfect records. They went 12-0 in 1973 and finished fifth. Texas edged them in 1969 after President Richard Nixon, impressed with the Longhorns' bowl performance, declared them No. 1.
    A national title finally came in 1982, in a 27-23 win over Georgia at the Sugar Bowl. Penn State won another in 1986 after the Lions picked off Vinny Testaverde five times and beat Miami 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl.

    They have made several title runs since then, including a 2005 run to the Orange Bowl and an 11-1 campaign in 2008 that earned them a berth in the Rose Bowl, where they lost 37-23 to Southern California.

    His last game as head coach was on October 29, 2011 when they beat Illinois 10-7. That was is 409th victory. “The fact that we've won a lot of games is that the good Lord kept me healthy, not because I'm better than anybody else,” Paterno said two days before he won this game and passed Eddie Robinson of Grambling State for the most in Division I. “It's because I've been around a lot longer than anybody else.” Just a few days later he was fired.
    Paterno believed success was not measured entirely on the field. From his idealistic early days, he had implemented what he called a “grand experiment” to graduate more players while maintaining success on the field.

    President Ronald Reagan said “Paterno never forgot his role as a teacher, who prepared his students not just for the game season but for life.”
    “He teaches us about really just growing up and being a man,” former linebacker Paul Posluszny, now with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, once said. “Besides the football, he's preparing us to be good men in life.”

    Paterno is survived by wife, Sue, five children and numerous grandchildren. And to conclude we quote Isaac Luber: “Not only is he the winning-est coach in college football history, the greatest college football coach of all time, have the most bowl appearances and bowl wins, but he has won in life as well. He has won with the hearts of all who he has affected.”

  • Art & Culture

    Italy Excluded from the Foreign Language Oscar Race

    On January 24th, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President's Tom Sherak and Academy member and Oscar-nominated actress Jennifer Lawrence will announce the final nominations for the 84th edition of the Academy Awards...  as always there might be some surprises, good or bad,   but one thing is for sure, Italy is not included in the final selection to be presented in the Foreign Film category.

    Terraferma, Emanuele Crialese's film on immigration set in modern day in Sicily, has just been excluded from the race. Indeed the Italian film is not one of the nine (on Tuesday they will become five) that will compete for the much coveted Oscar. The director himself, on the set of his new film, immediately replied “I am thinking about the future! I am in Brazil! My congratulations to all those who made it.” Riccardo Tozzi, the film's producer, did not complain and simply had to say that “things did not go as we wished, despite all our efforts to promote our candidate in the US.” “That's too bad,” Paolo Del Brocco of RaiCinema added, “It is a wonderful film and in tune with the historical moment we live in.”

    Crialese's film did not seduce the jury of the Academy or the American public, and the general idea we get from the Italian press is that the film did not make it because it has not been promoted properly not because of its quality. There has not been a strong promotional campaign or a thorough distribution in the nation's movie theaters. In New York City's film school, New York Film Academy, during a class when asked about Terraferma, only a few film students (three) knew about it and mostly because of personal Italian connections.

    Meanwhile, Italian cinema is extremely successful in other countries, such as France where Gomorrah and Il Divo have won prestigious awards at Cannes. Questions are raised: is Italian cinema hard to be appreciated by American audiences?
     

    When the film was presented at the Venice Film festival, the Hollywood reporter wrote “Riding the wave of Italian immigrant dramas that have been topical for years, writer-director Emanuele Crialese’s Terraferma is an unremarkable story flying a passionate moral banner.

    The film contrasts Italy’s traditional humanist values to inhuman new laws aimed at stemming illegal immigration and insists it’s morally imperative to rebel against them. Its main commercial outlet will certainly be Italy, where the terrible clash between Italian law and “the law of the sea” will resonate the most.” In just a few lines the topic has been labeled as “old,” the story “unremarkable” and the film not “commercial” in other countries.

    Or should we blame weak promotional campaigns? Or better yet, should we blame a lack of good luck? Or simply tough competition?

    The last Italian film that made it into the final Oscar list was Don't Tell by Cristina Comencini, back in 2006.Through the history of the Academy Awards, Italy has received twenty seven nominations and won 12 awards. The last Oscar to an Italian film was awarded in 1999 to Benigni's Life is Beautiful (nobody can forget the Tuscan director and actor, he also won an Oscar for Best Actor, jumping on the theater's seats when Sofia Loren read his name aloud).

    The Academy has selected the following films/countries: the Iranian A Separationby Asghar Farhadi, (it has already won a Golden Globe), the Belgian film noir Bullhead by Michael R. Roskam, the Canadian Monsieur Lazhar by Philippe Falardeau, the Danish Superclasico by Christian Madsen, the German Pina by Wim Wenders, the Israeli Footnote by Joseph Cedar, the Moroccan Omar Killed me, by Roschdy Zem, the Polish In Darkness by Agnieszka Holland and the Taiwanese Warriors in the Raimbow: Seeding Bale by Wei Te-sheng.

    Italy might be represented in other categories, as it is a strong country in more technical areas such as art direction, costume design and cinematography.

  • Art & Culture

    Hollywood Dreams: a Portrait of Dino De Laurentiis

    “He was a real Renaissance man from southern Italy.”

    “He was a total Neapolitan who convinced bankers to give him money while eating a plate of spaghetti made by him.”

    “The day he died he had a meeting with some Chinese investors in order to open a chain of pasta restaurants in China.”

    He was the film mogul who helped resurrect his nation's film industry after World War II and for more than six decades produced films as diverse as the 1954 Federico Fellini classic La Strada and the 1976 remake of King Kong.

    He was Dino De Laurentiis.

    In collaboration with 41º Parallelo, the American spin off of the Napoli Film Festival, the Italian Cultural Institute paid homage to the memory of the great Neapolitan film producer Dino De Laurentiis holding a round table with the participation of Scott Foundas, associate program director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, AntonioMonda, film critic and professor at New York University and Francesco Zippel, filmmaker.
     

    The panelists discussed the career of one of the greatest producer of international cinema who worked with immortal legends such as Fellini, Rossellini, Visconti and Lynch, before the screening of the documentary Dino by Francesco Zippel.

    Shot in 2009, for his 90th birthday, the documentary is a portrait of a man who always believed in what he was doing. As a boy of 14, he travelled around the municipalities by his hometown, Torre Annunziata, selling his father’s spaghetti. Everybody liked him as he was always in a good mood and had a special way of dealing with people. He loved going to the movies and he would see one or two a night, as many as he could. When he realized he did not want to continue the family business but he’d rather work in the film industry he had a talk with his dad who gave him permission to go… to leave. He joined the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome but his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. Still that was the beginning of a life-long dream.

    “De Laurentiis was a great ‘director’ who produced the films he wanted to make,” Antonio Monda joked, he “was definitely involved in his films. He was active in the production process not just someone who gave money for their realization,” Scott Foundas continued. “He made both artistic films and blockbusters as he was not interested in anything that is in the middle. He gambled with many filmmakers and projects. The failure of Dune, directed by David Lynch, did not discourage him to work with Lynch again. They then worked on Blue Velvet and that was the real success,” Foundas added.

    “He also made some ‘mistakes,’ like not doing La Dolce Vita.” Monda added. “He made La Grande Guerra, which is with no doubt an amazing film but not as recognized as Fellini’s masterpiece is throughout the world.” His relationship with Fellini was a love-hate relationship, but mostly it was love. When he decided to do King Kong Fellini was the first director he contacted… “Can you imagine Fellini directing it?” De Laurentiis himself jokes in the documentary. He knew how to deal with the famed auteur and in the documentary he told a funny anecdote about a scene shot by Fellini without his approval that he himself stole from the editing room as he thought it was ruining Le notti di Cabiria. He never admitted to stealing it and only decades later, after the film was a great success, he returned the “lost” footage.

    He discovered a few stars like Jessica Lange, who he cast in King Kong, and Arnold Schwarzenegger who he cast in Conan the Barbarian. Their first meeting was rather “interesting:” the ex Governor of California was sent out of the room after a minute and forty seconds because he had made a comment on his thick Italian accent. De Laurentiis himself had an issue with the actor’s Austrian accent.

    At 51 De Laurentiis moved to the United States, it was difficult at that age to lose the accent! “I left because of the Corona Law, a law that said that a film was Italian only if everybody, cast and crew, was Italian. Just a person of different nationality compromised the country of origin of the film.” 

    America was where impossible dreams came true, while in Italy everything was difficult… it was all about bureaucracy… for anything. First stop in the United States was New York where he arrived still enthusiastic of his Italian successes. Then a question arose: “can I make Hollywood films?” He immediately started looking for stories. That’s when he met with Peter Maas, the author of Serpico. He had written only one chapter of his story but that was enough to capture him. He paid the writer $ 500.000.

    He started his American adventure bringing to life a great dream and he continued to dream until he was 91. “Cinema will never die,” De Laurentiis himself concludes in the documentary, “because it is a big toy in the hands of adults and these adults don’t want to lose it. It represents the world of dreams and every human being loves to dream.”

      

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Flavors of the Fall at Eataly’s La Scuola

    Inside the Grinzane Cavour Castle, a 13th century marvel, set on a hilltop in the middle of Piedmont with dazzling views all over the wine country, there is a magic place where you can eat dishes like Risotto with burrata, eggplant and caper crumble, Pumpkin gnocchi with sautéed baby calamari and fried eggplant skin or Cod in new oil with milk cream and toasted hazelnuts. The place is the restaurant Il Castello di Grinzane, whose magician in chief is the young and talented Chef, Alessandro Boglione. His magic has earned him one Michelin star.
     

    “Piedmontese cuisine is rich and full of history, mostly as a result of the varied terrain and climates found throughout the region. In combination with the varied terrains, the presence in past centuries of a population divided into distinct social classes has created a very differentiated cuisine: the poor, commoner’s cuisine and a rich, elaborate, upper class cuisine. A cuisine of the valleys and a cuisine of the mountains. We believe in serving an honest rendition of the local gastronomy. We use only the highest quality products and strive to make every meal at the castle a sumptuous tasting of traditional local ingredients and typical wines.”

    Reading the reviews of people who actually have had dinner at the Castle, the menu is a mix of local specialties (veal, hazelnuts, truffles, etc.) and non-traditional dishes alike. All the reviewers particularly enjoyed Buglione’s cuisine.

    Chef Buglione was the guest of honor at Eataly where he starred in a cooking demo at La Scuola on The Flavors of Fall. He prepared a few dishes - Cod with potato mousse and Lavazza coffee dust, Tajarin pasta with porcini mushrooms and pork cheek, Duck breast with chestnut puree and orange honey, and saffron custard with Lavazza coffee gelatin and hazelnut praline - that featured ingredients of the fall (porcini mushrooms, chestnuts and honey) and incorporated Lavazza coffee.   

    Eataly has indeed teamed up with Lavazza to host a series of classes, in which top Italian chefs, and longtime Lavazza partners, visit La Scuola to teach and celebrate the traditions, secrets and authentic tastes of the food Made in Italy. Each chef has a chance to introduce his/her creative cuisine also featuring Lavazza coffee.

    Sara Peirone, Top Gastronomy Manager of Lavazza “Lavazza has been collaborating for many years with the world of gastronomy. Back in 2001 we started cooperating with some of Italy’s greatest talents, in order to promote the best of Italian cuisine.” Among the longtime chefs/partners we find, Moreno Cedroni, whose dishes are some of the best examples of contemporary Italian cuisine (he invented Italian “susci”), the Neapolitan chef, Antonio Cannavacciuolo who reinterprets creative Mediterranean food, producing a genial blend of Southern and Northern flavors, and Davide Oldani, one of the most talented young chefs in Italy who studied under Gualtiero Marchesi.

    Lavazza regularly brings the Top Italian Chefs and long-time partners to La Scuola di Eataly to celebrate the traditions, the secrets and the real taste of the food Made in Italy. The Michelin Awarded Chefs cook, teach and present the final mise en place to the guests of La Scuola. As educators, they blend their skills and knowledge with the right ingredients and actual techniques to convey the quintessential experience of the finest cuisine.

    “Lavazza is also in partnership with the Slow Food association, founded by food guru Carlo Petrini,” Sara Peirone continues, “The success of this alliance between two enterprises based in Piedmont rests on their shared ethics and intentions for food.” 

    This year Lavazza has brought to La Scuola chef Giovanni Grasso of La Credenza (Turin) back in September and it will bring chef Alfredo Russo of Dolce Stil Novo (Turin) in January to for a demo on The Italian cuisine: tradition and innovation.

    La Scuola’s fall calendar includes many other interesting events such as The Art of Risotto with Patrick Lacey, the Executive Chef of La Scuola, where he will share with the public his practiced techniques (to be held on November 22nd); Baked Pasta with Felipe Saint-Martin, Eataly’s resident pasta maker (to be held on November 29th); Say it with a kiss with Perugina’s School of chocolate, where Vivien Rembelli, chef of Perugina’s Scuola del Cioccolato, will teach guests, among other things, to make their own Baci chocolates (to be held on December 9th).  

  • Art & Culture

    Enter the Magical World of the Italian Fairy

    This is for the little ones, all the cuties who want to learn Italian while they are having fun. The famous Christmas song goes “Santa is coming to town,” in this case i-italy has a variation “the Italian Fairy has come to town.”

    Yes, the Italian singer and actress Simona Rodano (aka The Italian Fairy) has debuted in New York with her theater show ITALIAN, The Magical World of the Italian Fairy, an interactive performance that teaches children, three to ten, the Italian language while they are having fun.

    The story begins on a hill where the Italian Fairy performs magic tricks while communicating in Italian. She involves the young and the old in a feast of foreign words, fun songs and little dances.
     

    This Off-Broadway show is performed by the Fairy herself and a cast of eight dancers-acrobats from some of the most famous dance companies in the world, such as MOMIX, Theater on Ice and Magma Dance Company.

    i-italy was “granted the wish” to speak with the Italian Fairy and ask her a few questions.

    How did you become the Fairy?

    The Italian Fairy first started when I arrived in New York about 7 years ago, when music and theater were inspired by the world of “the little ones,” children who were learning Italian here in NYC. Those children I started to write educational songs for, songs that mixed together words, movements and video.

    These children themselves created the Italian Fairy. I was observing their reactions to my songs and elaborating their ideas. They are my first source of inspiration! Back in the fall of 2005, while I was performing for a class of children, I heard a father say to his child, “the singing and dancing Fairy is about to show up!” I realized I was “the Fairy,” and from that day on I adopted that name. I started performing as the Italian Fairy in schools, family get togethers and special events.

    After years spent working for the Italian television and theater (including Pinocchio the musical by Pooh) I accepted the challenge to walk down a new artistic path, one that I never would have imagined to be mine and to take me, today, on a stage performing for students of Italian who want to sing in our language, a language that they love. New York is a city that can open many doors and pay you back for your efforts and endeavors.  

    How was this show born?

    The show was a major step, a challenge that I, along with the group of both my Italian and American collaborators (the group is comprised of education specialists, teachers and volunteers) have decided to face after 5 years of hard work on the “Italian Fairy” project.

    We started from the songs, considered the fabric to “sew a dress” that can be “worn” by children and adults alike. Then we focused on the so called “book,” the spoken part that narrates the story and makes it flow in about 1 hour.

    The next step was the artistic one: we had to chose the dancers, all coming from the best international companies, acrobats, like Elisa Angeli, the first ice skater and aerialist in New York, and jugglers. The costumes were designed by the Florentine Enrica Masini, while all props were created by Johna Mancini. The team is 90% Italian!  The choreographer was Simona Di Tucci, the music score was composed by maestro Marco Bigi (composer of Albero Azzurro on RAI TV).

    Our goal was to create an original show that is interactive, fun and educational.  I believe it is important to stimulate our young ones and learn new languages through a fun, original and current approach in order to preserve our traditions and to keep an interest for Italy and its language alive.

    Up to now, the Fairy could be found only in schools, private homes and special events in New York or other American cities, but things have changed. Now the Fairy is in the theater.

    The response has exceeded our expectations: over 2000 people attended our 4 shows (held back in October). The collaboration with IACE (the Italian American Committee on Education) and other Italian American organizations that support the project, with new schools and teachers, the collaboration with the Danny Kaye Playhouse Theatre, have definitely contributed to the success of the world premiere of the show.

    Tell us about the story of the show and how it is interactive, what do the kids do?

    The show mixes together songs, movements and videos. On top of this, the Fairy interacts directly with the audience: the person addressed repeats, singing, the words suggested by her (me) and moves following the music, even with some simple movements of his/her arms. Children are extremely reactive, and even though they are not studying Italian, they are more than happy to repeat what they hear and sing with happiness. 9 spells, in Italian, are what’s needed to keep the Fairy alive and her Castle safe.  With magic the audience saves the day…

    Do you have any cute anecdotes to share with us? Something that happened during the show?

    I always like to think back about something that happened during the show. There were three different types of people who came to watch: the child who says "I love the Fairy... she will fly to my house." The 13 year old that says: "The show is pretty cool, I like the frog song." And the adult who says: "I feel like a kid again, and I have sung in Italian!”

    How did you get to work with kids?

    Parallel to my musical and theatrical activities, I teach singing classes to children and adults alike. Being in New York gave me the chance to enter the world of the Italian language and its teachings. That’s something I had never considered when I was back in Italy.

    How is theater an effective way to teach Italian?

    Theater has great impact on any human being, no matter the age or the ethnic background. In the theater one feel emotions, laughs, cries, learns… You observe, listen, sing and talk: there are all the ingredients to live through a global experience. I strongly believe in this kind of educational and entertaining approach to keep our language and culture alive in the world.

    What are your plans for the future? Is this show touring or are you working on something new?

    Incanto Productions LLC wishes to secure a yearly appointment with the Italian Fairy in NYC. We are talking with institutions in other cities so that the show will also tour. I am confident that through collaborations with local authorities and communities, the project will continue to grow and reach a broader audience who wishes to learn Italian directly in the theater.

    For upcoming shows and information: http://www.italianfairy.com

      

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