Obstructed reView: ValenTime!
For Christmas I did a quick rundown of topical movies from the decade that provided the best look into Hollywoodâs Christmas POV. With that one in the rear-view, it might be time to tackle this weekâs elephant: an originally dark celebration that became a remembrance of a pretty violent death that with increasing inertia became all about flowers and candy and anxiety (and this one massacre that gets a ton of coverage in the trades). Now Hallmark makes out like a bandit and people who are desperately in love (like yours truly) have another fun night (but this one with more chocolate and wine). That said, itâs the perfect lame excuse to write a column dedicated to romantical comedies and some off-the-radar choices worth watching. Letâs get to it.
Love Me if You Dare (Jeux d’enfants) was overshadowed by similarly gorgeous imports of the early century. Itâs dark, funny, French and increasingly sexy as it plays out. If Watch It were remade by Polanski, starred Bradley Cooper and Helena Bonham Carter (though Iâd never replace the amazing Marion Cotillard) and was entirely in French, hereâs what youâd get. Find it and enjoy it.
Sweet Land is a movie few trumpeted upon its small-scale release in 2006. Itâs a quiet movie. Graceful. Like many unique movies without Major Movie Stars (and some with), this one never interested Hollywood. Visually stunning, the movie features Tim Guinee as Olaf, a Norwegian-American farmer in Minnesota. Heâs in need of help in the wide-open prairie where eligible brides arenât easily identified. This is how mail-ordered Inge (Elizabeth Reaser) arrives to her new world. This isnât a quick, predictable love story that you can fold the laundry to. Itâs instead a piece of simple art that tells a genuine story in an extraordinary way. Itâs something to sink into and experience. The dialogue is split among English, Norwegian and German (no need for subtitles here, though). The imagery and score are stunning and the performances are among my favorites of the decade. In addition to the two leads, weâre treated again to fine work from Alan Cumming (also produced the film along with Gil Bellows),Â Ned Beatty, John Heard and the wonderful Lois Smith. The movie was written and directed by Ali Selim, who spent nearly 15 years developing the project. Heâs not found sustained success as a feature artist yet, but the promise of this film has me eagerly hoping to pay full-price to see his next project, whenever it arrives. If this kind of movie is not your bailiwick, keep reading, weâll soon get to mechanical bulls.
It Happened One Night/His Girl Friday: For my soul, I would not be able to make this decision. It was hard enough to narrow the decade down to two romantic comedies. I could (and likely will) do a column (or series of columns) comparing the 30s to the 70s. Both were decades of enormous growth and innovation in Hollywoodâs sophistication and technology. The storytelling was fresh, the visuals and sound quality unlike anything the world had ever seen. These two moviesâin an era choked with classics I could have chosenâare smart, surprising and unapologetically smart. The dialogue is quick, as are the actors. In Capraâs (and Riskinâs) It Happened One Night, Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable take clichĂ©d caricatures weâve seen for hundreds of years and turn them into a hilarious study of two people falling into a shallow puddle of love. Itâs by turns mean-spirited and condescending, sometimes crossing the line into downright abuse. Itâs also one of the best and funniest movies ever made. One of three films ever to win the big 5 Oscars (for Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay and Picture), the other two pale in comparison. All that, and itâs not by any means better than His Girl Friday. Maybe the fastest-talking comedy in film history, Howard Hawkesâ comedy is an example of an adaptation that soars past source. Based on the play âThe Front Pageâ by the HoF duo of Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht, the creative team (led by Hawkes and screenwriter Charles Lederer) changed one of the two male lead characters into Rosalind Russell (never a bad artistic move). This twist turned two good-but-antagonistic friends into ex-spouses, suddenly tightening the tension and upping the already-high stakes. Capital punishment and freedom of the press form the backdrop of this love story where the obtuse section of the triangle (the perfectly wooden Ralph Bellamy) of course never has a chance. Itâs a similar vibe to my favorite of the next decade, but this is the superior film.Â Canât go wrong with either of these.
Bound: Lady parts! The movie where the girls kiss! Itâs at once a shame and totally understandable that this one (admittedly incredible) scene was the overwhelming image in every piece of criticism or advertising surrounding the initial release of this movie. There is a ton to celebrate about the groundbreaking social aspects of the film. Unfortunately, weâre a nation of puritanical 14-year-old boys a lot of the time, so many folks missed the point. As such, the filmâs central relationship being a romantic one between (gasp!) two women was too much for us to deal with (for âusâ read âyouâ or âyour grandmaâ or âmany major and minor critics or politiciansâ). Lady parts, I say! Completely overlooked was the terrific accomplishment that was the movie itself. In this first feature from the Wachowskis (Reservoir Dogs to The Matrixâ Pulp Fiction), Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly give their most fully-fleshed performances as a couple of cons trying to break the mobâs bank. These characters are connected by greed, lust and a severe mutual manipulation that can only be called love. Their trust is fragile and their plan complex. Itâs a tight, beautiful little thriller. Bound is neo-noir in the style of DOA or Double Indemnity, but with a look and sound that is wholly of its place and time. Joe Pantoliano (NSFW: Joey Pants) is crazy-good and Christopher Meloni channels both Sonny Corleone and Bruce Campbell. The supporting cast includes iconic folks like character man John P. Ryan, activist and author Susie Bright (NSFW: frank talk about sex) and influential director Richard Sarafian. Itâs violent, fast-paced, funny and filled with dread. Perfect for February 14th. Or 15th. Whenever.
Debra Winger Triple Feature: Urban Cowboy/Officer and a Gentleman/Terms of Endearment: I like to pretend that Debra Wingerâs three best performances are all the same character whoâs had an exciting three years. Maybe sheâs not good with settling down. It could be a WitSec thing. Most likely, though, when Sissy and Bud settled down the whole Scientology thing freaked her out and she pulled a midnight runner. Iâm actually suggesting here that you (re)watch all three, and in the order they were made. All three. Thatâs a less-than-9-hours commitment. The stories are neither new nor flawless, but the casts and characters make up for the sometimes condescending storytelling. The best moments of each have been copied and deconstructed dozens of times in the last 30 years but each remains thrilling. Scott Glenn and Barry Corbin are perfect; Loggia and Gossett are better; Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson are still the best screen couple since Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck. But I think we forget how natural and fascinating Debra Winger can be onscreen. Not one of these films is a straight-up love-story and neither are they often remembered as new or original. I donât think thatâs quite fair. The worst one can fairly say about them is that theyâre good movies with great moments and terrific casts. That description makes any film worth watching (again).
The Breakfast Club: Basket-Case and Athlete seem to be hitting it off. The Princess and The Criminal would be a great (wait, I mean terrible) sequel. You donât really need a new reason to watch this, the most romantic of the John Hughes epic romantic cycle.
There are probably at least four other romantic movies that someone made at some point. You should probably start with these, though. Since weâre only allowed to be romantic for a couple of days every February, this window is closing. Â Pitchers and Catchers are in Surprise, AZ, after all. Get to it.
About The Author
Leave a Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.