Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Playwrights teach us nothing about love. They make it pretty, they make it comical, or they make it lust, but they cannot make it true."

I have often been accused by Jackamo of not being forthcoming with my mushy feelings. I let people know how I feel, and I'm sincere about it, but I rarely gush. And since I've grown up, I've found that I despise most romantic comedies. On the rare occasions when Ickie is out of town, my plan is to move a few movies up on our Netflix queue that only I'd enjoy. But each time I have the same realization: we like and dislike the same things. If I like a romantic movie, he'd almost certainly enjoy it as much.

Now, I know there are just as many BAD romcoms as comedy, drama, horror, or action movies. I think what bothers me is that people who don't know me assume that I'll enjoy this trash just because it's aimed at women. I also believe the superficial relationships and manifold fallacies found in romcoms are quite damaging to lonely, impressionable females (we've all been there at some point). For several fine examples, I direct you to a list of "10 beloved romantic movies that are cloying, annoying, or unintentionally dysfunctional." There are so many I thought of adding to this list that there's no room here to discuss them. But just in time for Valentine's Day, I thought I'd mention some films I find to be genuinely romantic as well as having other fine qualities.

Northanger Abbey (2007): The leads are charming and funny, the satire is spot on, and the love story is never too heavy.

BBC Pride & Prejudice (1995): Once again I'll point out Austen writes comedy, not romance, but Lizzie and Darcy are able to achieve both with their clever banter and the depth of admiration they build for each other. Woe to all remakes.

A Room with a View (1985): This movie as well as the book has my favorite kisses in it: they are sudden and lusty--on an Italian hillside, in an English garden--and they make me feel all swoony.

Amelie (2001): Sure, there's a love story between two quirky characters, but the real love story is of a free-spirited life in candy-colored Paris.

Mostly Martha (2001): This German movie has all the conventions of a romantic comedy, but it still manages to do them well, and it's improved by an abundance of good food and culture shock.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): This is the most heartbreaking and true of the list. They know the relationship is hopeless, but they are so drawn to each other they're willing to take the risk anyway. Beautiful.

Sliding Doors (1998): This is probably the weakest entry on the list, but I still like the way it contrasts two separate story lines and toys with the themes of chance and destiny.

Roman Holiday (1953): This is my favorite romantic classic, not to mention the ideal date: joyriding around Rome on a Vespa. And like the most moving stories, the characters make selfless, honorable decisions in the end.

Shakespeare in Love (1998): It's a clever, hilarious story about the world's most famous playwright, and it's wonderfully passionate.

An Ideal Husband (1999): Who better to portray the nonsensical madness that is love than a gay playwright and a gay lead actor?

Before Sunrise (1995) & Before Sunset (2004): Both of these movies feature actual dialog between two people falling in love with each other, which is typically removed from romcoms (in favor of insipid montages). Both movies are a snapshot of the couple's life, set in a day, casually wandering around European cities. I applaud the opened ended conclusions of both movies. The second movie's ending rather goes against my moral judgment, yet I still can't resist it.

Strictly Ballroom (1992): Baz Luhrman combines pop music, tacky subculture, and comic opera like no one else. It's ridiculous and laughable, and the melodramatic final scene makes me absolutely giddy.

Much Ado About Nothing (1993): This is my favorite of Kenneth Branaugh's efforts to take Shakespeare to the modern masses. The scenes lush and gorgeous, and the rapport between Branaugh and Emma Thompson is positively delicious. (Although, Ickie and I are always sad when we watch it, regretting that those two broke up in real life.)


Manalive said...

What about Harold and Maude?

Watoosa said...

I've never been a big fan of Harold and Maude. I acknowledge its influence on Wes Anderson and its uniqueness, but it didn't do a whole lot for me. There were some parts that amused me, but by and large I found the characters a little too self-involved.

Josh said...

I really liked the romantic statements/aspects of "Juno". A

lso, I'm a too-big fan of THE Baz Luhrmann epic, "Moulin Rouge".

I'm impressed that you left off "The Notebook" (not that I agree) but I'd hazard a guess that it might have been intentional &/or just too obvious to mention. Either guess true?

Watoosa said...

I too loved Juno, but for some reason the romantic relationship in the movie (though sweet) left less of an impression on me than some of the other themes. I almost put it on this list.
Love everything by Baz Luhrmann, of course.
Never seen The Notebook. Doesn't seem like my cup o tea. But I thought Ryan Gosling was brilliant in Full Nelson and Lars & the Real Girl. The Notebook doesn't seem to fit his resume.