Tag: romantic comedies

Recent Romcoms Worth Checking Out

Tonight I went and saw the new romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians and it is delightful. I read the book of the same name prior to seeing the film and they change a bit but it is a pretty dead-on adaptation. I will post my full review on either my youtube channel or my other movie blog but I thought it would be fun to share something here first. With the success of Crazy Rich Asians you will definitely hear about the ‘return of the romcom’ and while I agree with that there have been some fun films that went under the radar that I think are worth checking out. Some aired on Hallmark Channel (check out my Hallmarkies podcast if you haven’t already) and some were feature films.

So here is my list of recent romcoms you should check out! (in no particular order)

everybody loves somebody

Everybody Loves Somebody

I feel like this film should have been a bigger hit than it is. You have Karla Souza playing a doctor who has put romance on hold after a disappointment with a love played by Jose Maria Yazpik. She convinces her coworker played by Ben O’Toole to accompany her to a family wedding and when her ex shows up things get complicated. One of the coolest things about this movie is it is effortlessly bilingual. Clara speaks in Spanish with her family and then English with Asher and others at work. This is very unique and made the movie feel special. Clara can be a bit unlikable but she eventually won me over. It’s really sweet and fun.

all for love

All for Love

All for Love comes from Hallmark and it is one of the best from last year. It stars Sara Rue as a romance novelist named Jo who has lost her mojo. Her last book didn’t go over well and she is facing a deadline that her manager needs to do well. Since the book is about a navy seal Jo’s manager gets her brother (Steve Bacic) to put Jo through boot camp. They spar at first of course but they have a sweet chemistry and there are really cute scenes like when Colin teaches Jo how to swim and when he writes her a letter because he is too scared to tell her how he feels. It’s really sweet and the supporting cast is very charming.

rewrite

The Rewrite

Despite getting decent reviews, The Rewrite flew under people’s radar. Hugh Grant teams together with Marc Lawrence again (2 Weeks Notice, Music and Lyrics) and make a really good romantic comedy. Hugh Grant plays a screenwriter who won an Oscar early in his career and has struggled to duplicate that success. Desperate he takes a job as a screenwriting professor at a small college in New England hoping something else will come along soon and get him out of there. A big key in enjoying this movie is if you can put up with his terrible behavior at the beginning of the film and if you feel like his change is sincere. I did. I love him and Marisa Tomei who plays one of his students. I love Allison Janney who is his Jane Austen loving supervisor. I love J.K. Simmons as a fellow professor who loves his family so much he cries whenever he talks about them. It’s a movie that has something to say about writing, reading, movies and work which I appreciate. It’s a good one!

off the menu

Off the Menu

Off the Menu actually came out in 2018 and I think I’m the only one championing it. I thought it was so sweet and winning. It stars Santino Fontana as Joel a trust fund kid who works for his family Mexican fast food chain and is sent to the Southwest to find some new flavors. There he meets the fiery chef Javiera (Dania Ramirez) who is protective of her recipes but has instant chemistry with Joel. The food porn is great. The romance is sweet and funny. I just really enjoyed it.

cafe societyCafé Society

Woody Allen can definitely be hit and miss but I enjoyed his 2016 offering Café Society. This film stars Jesse Eisenberg as a young man named Bobby who goes out to Hollywood in the 1930s to make it big. Along the way he meets Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) who is dating a married man and the stunning Veronica (Blake Lively who is the classic shiksa goddess in this). It’s light and breezy and has great performances. Corey Stoll steals every scene he is in as Bobby’s mobster brother.

bridget jones baby

Bridget Jones’s Baby

While not as strong as the original Bridget Jones movie this 3rd installment is a significant improvement over the terrible 2nd film. Renee Zellweger is back as Bridget and this time she has gotten herself pregnant and she isn’t sure is it Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) or the super sweet Jack (Patrick Dempsey). To be honest, the shenanigans involving the father and being pregnant didn’t do much for me but what I loved was every scene with her at her work for a television news station. Sarah Solemani as an anchor was hilarious and a scene where she mistakes a limo driver for the North Korean ambassador made me laugh. It’s not the greatest movie but I enjoyed it!

birthday wish

The Birthday Wish

One of the best films to come out of Hallmark in recent years is The Birthday Wish. In a very clever screenplay by Julie Sherman Wolfe, the delightful Jessy Schram plays Gwen a woman who takes her career seriously as a commercial director and has been in a relationship with someone she seemingly has lots in common with (the always great wrong guy Marcus Rosner). Meanwhile her assistant director Dave played by Luke MacFarlane is just a friend she hasn’t paid much attention to. Well one day she makes a wish on her birthday and gets a glimpse of her life in 10 years and to her shock Dave is there! I like that it doesn’t go all Family Man on her and that her career and dreams are always respected by the screenplay. Luke MacFarlane and Jessy Schram have great chemistry and it’s really sweet and pleasant. I love it!

love and friendshipLove and Friendship

Honestly it feels a little unfair to have Love and Friendship in the same conversation as these other films as it is so far superior but oh well! Kate Beckinsale is so great as Lady Susan Vernon a woman who delights in manipulating and getting the best out of her friends and relatives. This might make her unlikable but as her relatives are stupid it is just hilarious. I love Whit Stillman’s adaptation. Someone like Lady Susan isn’t supposed to win in Jane Austen and yet I found myself rooting for her especially in her scenes with Chloe Sevigny’s character (so funny). It looks gorgeous and the entire cast does a great job. The fact that it got snubbed at the Oscars is ridiculous.

dash of love

Dash of Love

One of my biggest take-aways from covering Hallmark last year was how great director Christie Will Wolf is and how much I love Jen Lilley. I wasn’t crazy about their recent collaboration Yes I Do but Dash of Love and Eat Play Love from last year were delights. In Dash of Love Jen Lilley plays Nikki an aspiring self-taught chef who dreams of working in a fancy kitchen. Through various contrivances she ends up getting a job at her culinary idol’s (Peri Gilpin from Frasier) restaurant. There she meets chef Paul (Brendan Penny) and they start a really sweet engaging romance. Some of the conflict involving Paul’s family is a little much for me but this is classic romcom executed very well. The leads have chemistry and all the food porn is great. It’s very romantic and enjoyable.

So there you go! That is my recommendation for recent romantic comedies. Are there any I missed? Let me know in the comments section and if you’ve seen any of these I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Unnecessary Enemies

Last week I had an interesting experience over on my youtube channel. I reviewed a film called Southside with You. This is a romantic comedy about President and Mrs Obama’s first date. As you all know I am a conservative who strongly disagrees with the president on nearly every major issue. As a bit of a joke I even wore my Romney t-shirt from the 2012 election to do my review. The interesting thing is that I actually liked the film. It’s not groundbreaking but a solid, sweet romantic comedy.

What? You say? How could I like a movie about the Obamas? Well, just because I disagree with the President on policy doesn’t mean I think he is a terrible person. From everything I can see he is a good person and he and Michele have a healthy solid relationship. Why wouldn’t I want to find out about their first date? The script was solid and it felt like an authentic voice of a young Barack and Michele. There was one moment where I felt the writers couldn’t help but aggrandize their hero president but for the most part it was about 2 people going on a date and that’s it.

The interesting thing is I posted my review and the next day lost 10 subscribers which is a big dip for me (I just can’t seem to get to that big 1000 sub number!). I don’t know if it was because I said nice things about the president so I upset my conservative viewers or because I wore a Romney shirt and upset my liberal viewers. Either way it is very silly.

Why do we have to turn people who think differently into an enemy? What is so wrong about a conservative person learning and admiring something about a democratic president? Why must we be so partisan to not even listen or admire an opposing view in any way? It’s all nonsense if you ask me! I have actually read both of President Obama’s books and I can see why he thinks the way that he does. I don’t agree with him but I can see his perspective. And isn’t there a famous quote about you never understand your own argument until you can adequately explain your opponents?

I’m not saying Southside with You is some kind of masterpiece but it was an enjoyable romantic comedy.  It certainly was much better than say the Tyler Perry romantic comedies often served up to African American audiences. But the target demographic shouldn’t really matter. We should all be able to appreciate good writing and acting and want to learn more about our elected leaders.

I think it is kind of sad I lost those 10 subscribers but I have gained 6 of them back so good riddens! 😉 Life is too short to create enemies where no enemy exists and to not listen to all kinds of perspectives. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Austenland: A Review

austenlandI know I am about a year and half late on this review but I put off seeing Austenland because I hated the book so the movie didn’t hold much promise for me.  However, enough of my friends and family encouraged me to see it, and claimed it was better than the book, I finally decided to watch it on my Netflix.

And the verdict is….

Basically the same as the book but I didn’t have to live in the movie for days so I suppose the movie is more tolerable.

So some things to mention before the review- I am a huge Austen fan.  I read her 4 most popular books in the winter break of 1998 and was hooked.  Since then I have read all 4 and even all 6 every year usually in the summer.  They are witty and the heroines are bold and yet weak.  Of course, I love the romance but it is the characters journey as told through romance that works.  The romance itself is fairly predictable.

That’s where this book and movie are misguided.  Austen’s stories are not great because they are romantic.  They are great because they involve choices, judgements, forgiveness, foolishness and of course love.  In the story of Austenland we lose all but the love and it makes for a very unsatisfying story.

The story of Austenland starts out with an interesting lead character.  Jane, played by Kerri Russell, is a die hard Austen fan.  This could be the female version of the many ‘manchild’ movies we’ve seen with men who can’t grow up (usually with Will Farrell or Seth Rogan).  I would be interested to see more movies with these type of women.

Austenland was also directed, written, and produced almost entirely by women, which I think is great.  In the words of Cate Blanchett ‘the world has curves’ and movies should reflect this.  The fact that so many movies fail something as basic as the Bechtel test is very sad indeed. We should do better.

That said, I am not going to give it a pass merely because of it’s female pedigree. That would be unfair.  I have to judge it like any other movie.

So, back to the story… Jane gets an inheritance and decides to fulfill her life dream and go to a living play experience called Austenland.  It is similar to the murder mystery parties that were popular about 10 years ago but over a few weeks.  All of the staff are actors playing parts down to the servants.

Jennifer Coolidge gets some of the funniest bits as a ditzy American guest (she has played this role many times before with funnier dialogue. See the Christopher Guest movies).  But even her lines feel so strained and molded into this ridiculous premise.  Whether in the book or movie I couldn’t buy this place existing and appealing to anyone, even the most die hard of Austen fans.

However, even if you accept the premise, so many of the jokes fall flat. For example, there is an extended scene with a play that I didn’t think was funny.  There are pratfalls and falls on horses that weren’t funny.  And a horse giving birth scene, which would have you believe a foal comes out in the time it takes a woman to grab a handful of hay or at least that Jane believes such a thing. Really, Jane?

Then things became awkward when a member of the ‘cast’ assaults Jane and yet she continues on with her stay.  Did she just think that was part of the play?  A little regency era attempted rape to complete your stay….Like I said it went from unfunny, to uncomfortable, to even a little creepy.

You also see the behind the scenes of the actors which makes the scenes in costume feel even weirder.   And yet with all that they tag on the most unbelievable ending.  Like I said earlier, Austen’s romances worked because of choices the characters make, tough choices.  They are often brave and loyal to a fault.  The characters that are impetuous, romantic and silly, are all either taught to be more sensible or are unhappy in their choices (Lydia, Marianne, Mary Musgrove, Catherine and even Emma).

Aside from coming to the park and then leaving, Jane in Austenland, doesn’t really make any tough choices.  Everything happens to her not by her, making the story less gripping. There is not the sense of a character growing and the viewer isn’t left wondering ‘will Jane’s foibles spoil her chance at real love?’.

Austen’s heroines do not need rescue, and they would not have had dramatic romcom scenes at airports.  Maybe a letter perhaps (or lengthy email). but I can’t think of any bold romantic gestures in any Austen book.  Perhaps Darcy fixing Lydia’s problem but even that expected no fanfare. and he didn’t even want Lizzy to know of his involvement.  Such soft and subtle characters build tension and makes the endings so satisfying.  They are not simply wild passionate love but the careful consideration of two hearts meant to be together, that almost weren’t.

The couple in Austenland don’t spend much time together, and they have even less actual conversations (and a lot of that is staged for a long time or we don’t know how much is staged by either one).  The ending would have been a lot more satisfying if she had sued the place and changed her life (actually learned something…).

In the end, it just didn’t make me laugh.  A big problem in a comedy.  I think I’ll go watch Mr Collins propose.  Now that is funny…

Overall Grade D

Content Grade B+ (It’s pretty innocent.  Even the assault is tame, birth tame, some heaving bosoms, no bad language)

I’m always open for others opinions.  Don’t worry I have thick skin, so please comment.

If you want a more satisfying, if still imperfect, modern version of women confronting Jane Austen try The Jane Austen Book Club.

The 500 Day Problem

Ok.  I have a bone to pick with Hollywood…Not that anyone will read this post but let me pretend for a second that they will.

In 2009 a little independent movie came out called 500 Days of Summer.  (Spoiler). This little film did something very brave.  They were courageous enough to tell a love story that wasn’t THE love story.  The poster even says

‘This is not a love story.  It is a story about love’

So it tells a story about a couple that needed to be together for a period and then needed to say goodbye.  That was perfect.  It was brilliant.  It was brave.

It was also unique…

It also made 7 times it’s budget and cemented it’s 2 leads as stars, and make no mistake it deserved every penny it made.

Unfortunately there is nothing Hollywood loves more than a cloning device trying madly to duplicate any success- especially one that is 60 million dollars of success.

Here’s the thing.  The reason that ending worked for 500 Days of Summer is that they were legitimately wrong for each other.  It was the happy ending to have the couple split.

Normally that is not what I want out of a romantic plot line in a story.  I can’t believe I actually have to say this out loud but I generally want the couple we are told are going to get together to actually get together!  And it does not make you a better writer or director or producer because you surprise me with a break up or the couple you have been telling me are wrong for each other actually get together.  That is the opposite of what 500 Days of Summer did.

500 Days also made it clear from reel one that this was a different kind of story.

As viewers we are prepared for a non-traditional ending.  In fact, we know that Tom believes when he finds ‘The One’ he will be happy.  That is a pretty clear sign that he probably won’t be and that he’s going to learn a little bit about happiness. So again, as viewers we are prepared for a unique film and if Summer and Tom had gotten together at the end I would have been seriously ticked off.  I would feel cheated.

The writers would have wimped out on their promise from reel one and nothing ticks me off more than that…hmmm I wonder what has happened recently where writers promised one thing on day one and then wimped out on the ending? 😉

It’s not just How I Met Your Mother but I’ve seen it so many times lately.  I was watching TV yesterday and there it was again.  The bittersweet break up.  The writers of that show made us wait 4 months for a couple to get together, gave us 1 episode and then the break up.  I wanted to scream.  Stop it!

Stop leading us to love and then stomping all over it.  Given only 2 romantic comedies came out last year and both were stinkers I’m beginning to wonder if Hollywood knows how to write romance any more?  It’s really not that hard.  Go into a typical bookstore and you will find shelves after shelves of romantic stories.  Why?  Because people like them!  People like me!

The other thing we like is seeing our characters happy.  If you have spent 9 years convincing us a character is bad for another person don’t have them end up together.  We won’t like it….I digress (it’s still tough guys).

I’m actually getting to the point where I resent 500 Days of Summer because I can’t take the copy-cats.  As I said, the characters in 500 were happy in the end.  We want our characters to be happy and most of the time that involves finding true love.  I mean are we so jaded as a culture that we don’t believe in love? We don’t believe everyone can have a great love story?

I mean thank goodness for Frozen.  At least Disney hasn’t lost a happy ending for its heroines but I’m telling you if I see an animated bittersweet ending I think I will scream.

Please take a lesson from 500 Days of Summer and actually give what you say you are going to give.  Actually tell the story you promise to tell and if that naturally ends in your characters falling in love and being happy that’s ok.  That usually happens to most of us, or so I am told…I promise I will not think less of your writing skills because you have the courage to have a happy ending. I promise!

In fact, my favorite movie of all time tells the perfect love story in the first 5 minutes.  It is predictable and sappy but oh how moving.  Life and death can be bittersweet enough on their own.

Just tell the story you have promised to tell.

Ok. Rant done. Do any trends like this make you nuts?

Nora Ephron

I am woefully late on my tribute of Nora Ephron, one of my favorite modern authors.  While she wasn’t really  a novelist her scripts and essays had a way of commenting on life in a funny and charming way.   Some people might claim her to be a soft writer, overly nostalgic and romantic but to me this is part of her charm.  She gave us something familiar, something to smile at and taught us a lesson along the way. She passed away from leukemia on June 26th. My condolences go out to her family and friends.  I loved her work.

For example, in You’ve Got Mail she taught us the different ways human beings absorb conflict:

One character, Joe Fox says,

“Have you ever become the worst version of yourself. That a pandora’s box of all the hateful things, your spite, your arrogance, your condescension has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and walking away… you zing them.”

While Kathleen Kelly says,

“No, I know what you mean, and I’m completely jealous. What happens to me when I’m provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then, then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said. What should I have said, for example, to a bottom dweller who recently belittled my existence?”

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve related to both sentiments.  I’ve even said the lines over in my head while making an expression choice.

Another favorite from You’ve Got Mail that I have to share:

“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.”

And one more I’ve turned to again and again:

“People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened.”

I like when Roger Ebert said “Ephron’s dialogue represents the way people would like to be able to talk. It’s witty and epigrammatic, and there are lots of lines to quote when you’re telling friends about the movie”.  That is so true.  I wish I could pontificate charmingly about books, romance, New York City etc. Perhaps Ephron sets the standard too high but isn’t that the job of writers to elevate the language of the masses?

Not all of Ephron’s dialogue was witty.  In fact, her description of grief in Sleepless in Seattle is one of the most touching passages I have ever read:

“Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while”

He then goes on to describe an ideal love:

“Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together… and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home… only to no home I’d ever known… I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like… magic. ”

Who doesn’t yearn for such a relationship?  Perhaps it is unrealistic but that is the type of fantasy I enjoy. More than swords or mystical lands, a fantastical view of life and romance.

When Harry Met Sally is another favorite and most of the memorable  stretches of dialogue are too long to repeat here but they are just divine. Watch it again and you’ll remember how great the conversation is. Some  feel such pithy dialogue is inauthentic but I totally bought the characters.  Sure maybe nobody really talks like that but I don’t go to the movies for realism (or total fantasy for that matter).  I go to the movies for heightened or at least exaggerated realism.

WHMS is probably Ephron’s funniest script, helped greatly I’m sure by a great deal of ad-libbing by Billy Crystal.  Of course, there is the famous scene in the diner with the classic line ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ and the long introductory debate over the plausibility of male/female friendship, but my favorite line probably goes unnoticed by many but it makes me laugh every time I hear it:

Sally: No, no, no, I drove him away. AND, I’m gonna be forty.
Harry: When?
Sally: Someday.
Harry: In eight years.
Sally: But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end. And it’s not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had kids when he was 73.

It is just sitting there like a big dead end  but at least with this line Ephron made me laugh about it!

I could spend this whole post listing quote after quote.  There are so many great movies.  I love what she did with Julie and Julia turning the insufferable book into a charming story by adding the life of Julia Child.  In that movie she  adapts from the wonderful memoir My Life in France by Julia Child, the most touching depiction of marriage I have seen in a movie:

Paul Child: You are the butter to my bread, you are the breath to my life.

How beautiful is that? It’s perfect.

Paul Child is the ideal marriage partner because he sacrificed his whole life to make Julia’s dreams come true.  An artist himself, he was satisfied to work as a bureaucrat for years so that she could publish her book.  I love this speech in the movie:

“I’m not kidding you; I’m not. Someone is going to publish your book. Someone is going to read your book, and realize what you’ve done. Because YOUR BOOK is amazing. YOUR BOOK is a work of genius. YOUR BOOK is going to change the world. ”

I wish I had someone in my life who believed in me that way.  What a beautiful portrayal captured by Ephron of a beautiful marriage.

In addition to screenplays Nora Eprhon is a fabulous essayist. My favorite is her book I Feel Bad About My Neck. I bought it years ago at an airport bookstore and loved it.  Nearly every essay rings true and is funny without being over-the-top.

“Maintenance is what you have to do just so you can walk out the door knowing that if you go to the market and bump into a guy who once rejected you, you won’t have to hide behind a stack of canned food…I dont mean to be too literal about this but the point is that I still think about them every time I’m tempted to leave the house without eyeliner”

But my favorite essay by far is on parenting.  I don’t have any kids but I still think it is brilliant:

“Back in the day when there were merely parents as opposed to people who were engaged in parenting, being a parents was fairly straightforward.  You didn’t need a book…You understood that your child had a personality. His very own personality.  He was born with it.  For a certain period this child would live with you and your personality and you would do your best to survive each other.”

She goes on:

…One day there was this thing called parenting.  Parenting was serious.  Parenting was fierce.  Parenting was solemn.  Parenting was a participle, like going and doing and crusading and worrying; it was active, it was energetic.  It was unrelenting.  Parenting meant playing Mozart cds while you were pregnant, doing without the epidural…Parenting began with the assumption that your baby was a lump of clay that could be molded into a perfect person who would be admitted into the college of your choice…

and concludes with this profound thought

“Meanwhile every so often, your children come to visit.  They are, amazingly, completely charming people.  You can’t believe you’re lucky enough to know them.  They make you laugh.  They make you proud.  You love them madly.  They survived you.  You survived them.  It crosses your mind that on some level you spent hours and days and months and years without laying a glove on them, but don’t dwell.  There’ s no point.  It’s over.  Except for the worrying.  The worrying is forever”

I’m not even a parent but I found this to be the most touching description of parental emotion I’ve ever read.  I think it is perfect.

Well, that’s a lot of writing but what better way is there to pay tribute to a favorite author.  I’m sincerely going to miss her voice and the way she made me smile.  Thanks Nora!

6 Best Summer Movies

As the readers of this blog know I am a huge movie buff year-round.  Unfortunately sometimes I grow weary of the blockbuster movies that are usually popular in the summer.  For some reason I don’t usually like super hero movies.  I’ve always prefered characters that I can relate to, even in a complete fantasy.  For instance, Harry Potter may be in a complete fantasy world but his character and skill-set are mostly things I can relate to.   The Incredibles is one of the few super hero movies I like because it moves super heroes into a real world setting and it makes me laugh.  Most super hero movies are very show-offy and just for the fluffy special effects.

Christy Lemire, an AP movie critic I follow, recently posted a list of her top 5 summer movies.  I have to admit I’ve only seen 1 of the movies she lists but I thought the idea was a fun one, especially for me given my usual distaste for summer movies.  I had to make a list of 6 because I just couldn’t leave one off.  So here goes:

1. Up- Up is one of my favorite movies. It is the story of an elderly man that fulfills his dream to go to Paradise Falls (a promise he made to his beloved wife) by flying his house to South America.  It is a sweet, funny, endearing movie that never fails to move and inspire me.  Just the first 5 minutes are more moving than 90% of the current romantic movies made.

The reason why I think it qualifies as a summer movie is its focus on travel (I actually saw it in Hawaii and then loved it so much to see it 2 more times in the theater when I got home.).  The spirit of adventure and freedom also feels very summery.  I think without a ‘summer vacation’ you lose a little of that sensation as an adult and a movie like Up reminds you to be a little more bold.

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/pixar/

2. When Harry Met Sally- I love Norah Ephron’s writing, whether in book or movie form I think she is hilarious. Hidden in the romantic banter is nuggets of wisdom and insight.  I could easily pick You’ve Got Mail as that is a favorite of mine but I went with WHMS because it begins with a road trip with lots of conversation. To me that is an ultimate summer experience.  I must admit that usually such trips are ripe with peril for me but the idea of hitting the road and enjoying the conversation of a good friend is very American and very summery.

Perhaps because so many weddings happen in the summer but it seems to me you have to pick one romance in such a list.  People always compare WHMS to Annie Hall but to be honest I like it better.  I think Annie Hall is kind of boring and it did not make me laugh near as much as WHMS.  It just didn’t- let the name calling begin. 😉

For more of my thoughts on romantic comedies check out these posts-

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/romantic-comedies-that-are-actually-romantic/

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/romantic-comedy-cliches-im-sick-of/

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2008/05/28/open-to-change/

3. Endless Summer- A summer movie list absolutely demands a beach movie.   I LOVE the beach and fantasize about it on a daily basis.  Endless Summer is a landmark documentary that introduced many people to the sport of surfing.  In 1966 director Bruce Brown follows surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August (perfect last name for a summer movie!) as they introduce people around the world to surfing.  They travel from Hawaii, New Zealand to Africa and Australia.   The idea is that by surfing around the world summer never ends.  What a glorious concept!  What a happy thought!

Having tried surfing myself it is amazing what these athletes can do and what a thrilling experience it must be.  Other good surfing documentaries are Step Into Liquid and Walking on Water.  All 3 films are available as an instant stream on netflix.  It will make you want to go to Hawaii and try surfing for yourself.

4. Inception- I picked Inception because for my money it is the best blockbuster type of movie ever made (was going to pick Raiders of the Lost Arc but this is even better).  It is the puzzle piece of a movie where Leonardo DiCaprio goes inside dreams to attempt to retrieve and ultimately change the behavior of the subjects.  Eventually an inception becomes so complicated that there are over 4 levels of dreams within a dream.  In fact, the final ending it is unsure whether there are even more levels.

I think Inception transcends the action movie genre because it has so many well developed characters surrounding the action and special effects. All of the acting is really good, especially Marion Cotillard as DiCaprio’s wife.  Her scenes give an emotional resonance to the film that is missing in most big budget action films.  I also love Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon Leavitt.

I also like that it is a movie 100 people could see and all feel differently about.  I like a movie that doesn’t spoon feed you a moral or a message.  I’ve seen it probably 7 or 8 times and I still don’t know what the ending is.  To me chatting about movies and books is a very summery thing.  Something you just don’t have time for the rest of the year, so Inception makes the list!

5. 12 Angry Men-  This may seem like an odd choice because it is such a small movie.  The reason it made the list is because heat is such a critical element to the story.  Told more like a play, 12 strangers (all played by amazing character actors) must deliberate on a murder case during a hot stifling summer day.  The more they talk the more heat is used to convey stress, emotion, loneliness and anger.

Henry Fonda is excellent as the stick in the mud who insists on conversation but his performance is really the easiest to pull off.  Lee Cobb and Ed Begley as the most explosive jurors are wonderfully nuanced but ALL of the actors are great.  Its remarkable that a movie set in one room with a mere table and some pencils for props can be so compelling.  Perhaps it is because human beings are compelling enough when written well without all the explosions and special effects.

You feel hot watching the movie.  I’ve always wanted to see this in the theater but haven’t gotten to do so.  I wonder if the power of movie to invoke heat and temperature would be missing in a live theater?

Still, an excellent movie for anyone interested in a good script, great acting and perfectly executed sets.

6. 5oo Days of Summer–  My last choice is another romance.  This movie uses Summer in a more broad sense.  Summer comes to mean the time of a romance; hence it lasting for 500 days instead of 90.   It is an artsy movie without being annoying telling the story of two young people Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gorden Leavitt who have a 500 day romance.  It’s a simple story but told so creatively that it does not feel simple.

First it is told in a non-linear way with days 5 followed by day 453.  This might sound confusing but it totally works.  There are also other creative touches such as a mid-movie musical number and a scene that floats into a charcoal drawing.  I also love the scene where a split screen gives two versions of an evening- what is actually happening, and what the character anticipates happening.  Brilliant.  All of these methods, however, could be incredibly irritating if done in a showy way but they aren’t.  It just melds into the picture and makes sense.  Plus, the chemistry between all the performers is really good.  This is especially important for Deschanel who plays a kind of unlikable character, but she’s so likable it works.

It also has the guts to end in a bittersweet but perfect way.  This is the movie I would recommend for someone that wants to feel summer all year round.

So there is my list.  What would you have on your list of summer favorites? Please share!

 

Romantic Comedy Cliches I’m Sick of…

So today I had a great experience at a swim meet in Logan(something I will be posting about once I get all the photos from my friend). It was an intense meet with lots of college-level swimmers but I’m proud to say I came through with my best times so far! Like I said, more to come on that front….

For those that don’t know Logan is about 2 hours away from my apartment, so as you can imagine after such a long drive I came home exhausted.  My muscles ached all over and I had to fight falling asleep (I didn’t want to take a long nap because I knew it would be hard to sleep tonight).

Anyway, as I browsed the channels with my heat pad in toe I started and stopped watching several romantic comedies.  It got me thinking.  How is it that Hollywood can get away with using the same tired cliches over and over again?  Especially when stacked next to each other, it’s truly amazing how similar these movies are. Whatever happened to the romantic comedy writing of the 1950’s where scripts were sharp and surprising? (I think part of the reason is in the old system stars had to do whatever they were asked; thereby, putting more of the budget to the script, music, dance etc.)

As a response to this question I would like to put out a list of romantic comedy cliches I hope to never see again:

1. Characters trip, bump, topple, save each other from a moving dumpster (yes, that’s from an actual movie), and not only do they fall but they always happen to land in prime kissing position.

2. One character is forced to move, travel, or leave and his or her love must make a mad dash to the airport, subway station, bus depot etc.

3. Characters become unlikely dance partners and the sparks fly.

4.  A pair of glasses and some frizzy hair is the only thing keeping boys from flocking to Anne Hathaway and a million other “nerdy” girls.

5. The love birds become involved in a secret bet, challenge, secret identity, contest or investigative article and their success depends on wooing the girl (worked in Taming of the Shrew but get over it!)

6. A long makeover scene involving waxing and hair coloring turns the ugly girl into  an attractive specimen like magic.

7. A proposal/kiss has to be made in a crowded room where everyone applauds at the end.

8. The best friend is either a wisecracking gay man, Judy Greer, or some other sarcastic sidekick (where’s my compadre who exists only to make snarky comments about my life?)

9. The idea that every working woman is somehow cold and too preoccupied with their career to get a man.  I can’t even count the number of movies I’ve seen where Jennifer Anniston, Katherine Hiegel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lopez are painted as cold jerks too busy for love just because they have a job they are dedicated too (tell me did feminism happen? Sometimes I wonder with romantic comedies!)…Please!

10. A lip synching scene where the girl and her galpals dance around the house fake singing to songs like I will Survive or Aint No Mountain High Enough.

11. We hate each other at first but really we are in love.  Usually by the end of them finding their love you hate both characters too much to care about them getting together.

12. I’ve seen one too many movies in recent years where the beautiful lead is desperate for a baby and goes to a sperm clinic only to meet Mr.  Sunshine right after (literally in the Back Up Plan Jennifer Lopez meets her stud in the taxi on the way home from AI)

13. Characters magically switch places with a mother, brother, dad, best friend, rich friend, nerdy friend etc.  This is true for any other ‘magic’ cliche like the characters are in different time periods but still can exchange letters or a character steps into a painting and falls in love with the girl…so lame!

14. Its OK for a character to commit adultery if the spouse is a jerk and the guy is her ‘true love’…

15. The lead is a single mom waitress, baker, writer, unemployed, maid, and yet lives in a 2 bedroom 7 million dollar apartment in Manhattan.

16. Somehow our wonderful and loveable heroine is dating, engaged, or married to a total jerk who she has no problem dumping when the right guy comes along.

Here’s an idea Hollywood- how about you make a movie about a real girl who is happy with her career, happy with her body and then meets her man.  What’s so wrong with that?

A movie like 500 Days of Summer shows you don’t even have to give the movie a ‘happy’ ending for it to be a charming, wonderful romantic movie.  Let’s be creative and

So, there you have it.  What movie cliches bother you?