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An example is when Antonia rides his bicycle to hang up posters and advertisements for the cinema. A large image of the American film star Rita Hayworth provides an ironic and telling contrast between the glamour and wealth of Hollywood and America and the lives of the ordinary people in postwar Italy (Ebert, 1999).
There are many reasons why this film has been critically acclaimed. As one critic notes; " 'The Bicycle Thief' is so well-entrenched as an official masterpiece that it is a little startling to visit it again after many years and realize that it is still alive & #8230; ( Ebert, 1999). It is the films exploration of human nature and the insight that it provides into human motivation that is one of the central reasons for the popularity of this film. For example, in the last sequence of the film, Ricci is also tempted to steal a bicycle, which implies that the cycle and theft and poverty would continue ( Ebert, 1999). In the final analysis this film is a tribute to the human spirit and of endurance in the face of adversity.
3. Kramer vs. Kramer
This drama was directed by Robert Benton and is based on the novel by Avery Corman (Curran, 1998, p. 187). The movie stared Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep as the two main characters.
The film revolves around the break-up of a marriage and the fight for the custody of a child. The husband and wife in the film live in New York and the marriage ends when the wife, Joanna, becomes disillusioned with domestic life and leaves to "find herself" and explore her own potential (Curran, 1998, p. 187). As a result the husband finds that he has to deal with bringing up a young child on his own, as well as a demanding career. This change in his life leads to him losing his job because of the pressure of single-parenting. However he also finds a new value in his life -- which is a "love of parenting" (Curran, 1998, p. 187). Despite her initial absence the wife decides to fight for the custody of the child, which leads to the tense and well-acted drama of the court battle.
The film was very well received by the public and critics. It received a plethora of Academy and other Awards. These were for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress (Streep), Adapted Screenplay; Academy Award nominations for Supporting Actor Supporting Actress, Cinematography, and Editing; as well as the New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Picture, Actor and Supporting Actress. (Curran, 1998, p. 187).
Kramer vs. Kramer has been dismissed as being been overly sentimental by some critics but has also been applauded by many others. The positive response to the film is based on its exploration of human nature, as well as its investigation and dramatization of the topical issue of marriage and the family. The film is also seen as being relevant in terms of the contemporary debate about gender issues. This refers the role of the woman in society and in the home and the liberation of the female stereotype from male orientated perspectives.
Joanna leaves her husband and son in order to search for her own sense of self. This film has also raised the ire of some feminists as Joanna appear in less than a complimentary light in some scenes compared than there husband. The plot also suggests the disruptive influence on the family of the woman who enters the workforce and is involved in a career. One critic notes, " in Kramer vs. Kramer, female independence and entry into the job market threatens the family and forces the man to take on new domestic burdens" (Lipsitz, 2001, p. 169).
The film is also about human development and learning through new and often painful experiences. Ted, the father, has to learn a completely new role in becoming a single parent. "Ted learns how to take care of Billy, devoting more energy to his family than to his work, and finally losing his high-powered job because of his new priorities" (Kramer vs. Kramer,1979, NYT Critics' Pick). In this sense the film can be compared to many other films in this genre; particularly with those that have explored the female side of parenting and the question of the women's role and right to freedom in society. One can refer to films such as an Unmarried Woman (1978), Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), and the Turning Point (1977) (Kramer vs. Kramer,1979, NYT Critics' Pick).
This film tends to view the situation more from the male point-of-view in the focus on the changes that the main male character has to undergo to become a father. The divorce forces Ted to change his perspective as well as his lifestyle. However, the learning curve and the process of understanding the complexity of gender roles also refer to Joanna's character. While she wins the intense court battle for custody of her son, she also becomes aware of the intensity of her husbands care and love for the child. This leads her to reassess and rethink her ideas and desires when she "…finally grasps how close father and son have become" (Kramer vs. Kramer,1979, NYT Critics' Pick). The film can therefore be seen as an exploration of both male and male desire for selfhood and self-actualization.
A possible reason why this film was to garner five Academy Awards is that it deals with a problem that has become increasingly common in modern society, as well as exploring the issue of the male and female search for meaning, identity and personal freedom. The film also deals with the issue of the family at a time in when the nuclear family is under threat and a pervasive topic of debate and discussion. In the final analysis the film is also carried by the excellent performances of all three main characters.
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