Tag: when harry met sally

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!