Note: In writing this post I’ve discovered the recurring anomaly of this song, pretty much if you’re making a romantic comedy, you need this song.
The second installment in this ongoing list of favorite films is likely to be leaning toward the romantic. What got me thinking along these lines is that it was recently brought to my attention again how different people perceive things in different ways. There is, on this very webpage of mine, something of a review of a novel, and a I guess of the film version of it as well, of “The Great Gatsby” and apparently there are those who think of that story/film as a romance. I think that perhaps because I am a writer it might be that I appreciate things in a different way than most people initially understand. I’m using “The Great Gatsby” as an example here, for the sake of discussion. I don’t like “The Great Gatsby” as a story, it is a horrible story about horrible people and it is a tragic story. It isn’t a book that I’m going to read over and over again, nor is it a film that I’m going to watch over and over again, because it is awful. However, both versions of the film are visually stunning, beautiful costumes and sets, and the book, as a piece of writing, as a piece of craft, is a masterpiece and as a writer, I can appreciate that. Fitzgerald’s skill in revealing the true ugliness of these characters to us, in crafting them on the page, is. I think, unquestionable. You might think that a car or a house or a beaded gown is hideous looking or designed awfully, and yet still be able to appreciate the work that it took to create. You can appreciate the skill involved, the hours that it took to sew a million beads on by hand, or to paint a ceiling, even if you think the finished product is ugly, you can still understand it as a masterful work. That said, you will not find “The Great Gatsby” on any kind of a favorites list of mine, ever. Yet I’ve realized that a great many people think of “The Great Gatsby” as a romance. It is romantic in places, it has romantic overtones, but that story isn’t a romance, and as a story, it isn’t one that I care for.
I was going to say that I’ve realized that I tend to dig a little deeper than most people do or have time for, in general, but I don’t know that I do. That’s just who I am, that is the culmination of my life experiences, I see things from different angles, nuances, the layers, and perhaps some of it does go with being a writer. That said, I was thinking about where my love of good films emanated from and realized that I don’t really know. Again, I think, the accumulated experiences of a life. However, I do know that my love of a good film began to truly hone itself during bouts with illness when in too much pain to be able to concentrate enough to read, watching television was pretty much all I could do, the magic of film. That is what we love the movies for, the ones that we love, anyway, that take us out of ourselves, the films that transport us to other worlds, other ideas, if only for a while.
The Age of Adaline
The Age of Adaline, 2015, Lee Toland Krieger, Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker. I didn’t expect to like this film. I think that films of this kind are very tough to get right but this one does at it is a stunner. It is sentimental, without being sappy. It is poignant, without being corny, nuanced without being cliche, romantic, and ultimately, hopeful. The story of a woman who is not aging, and will she ever know love again? Blake Lively did an outstanding job of portraying someone from another era, older, residing in a younger body. It was also wonderful to see Ellen Burstyn onscreen, I’ve been a fan of hers since a film called The Resurrection (1980), it is wonderful to see her in these kinds of roles. This film is fantastical, it is fantasy, but this film is a romance. I love this film.
The Last of the Mohicans
The Last of the Mohicans, 1992, Michael Mann, Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig, Jodhi May, Steven Waddington. I have no idea how many times I’ve watched this film. We’ve laughed about parts of it, quoted lines from it, it has changed the way that we say “Kentucky” to “Can-tuck-eee” and yet, it never fails to leave me breathless at some point. I become enthralled by it every time. Not to mention there are some truly beautiful looking, exceptionally easy on the eyes, people in this film. The actual scenery is gorgeous as well. While I do appreciate a good historical setting, I’ve realized that what I find so appealing about this film is the sense of connection between the characters, the relationships, they’re all so very serious and intense, and yet, it works. This film is soaked in long looks, knowing looks, understanding, even among the more minor characters. The Cameron’s at their cabin exchange a smolder of a look across the table that you could start a forest fire on, “Yes, we’re here in our cabin with our children and life is hard on the frontier, but it is good, for we love so completely and we never have to say a word to know everything.” (That line isn’t in the film, if you haven’t seen it, I just made that up.) It’s all madly passionate ( mad-pash) and understanding. It is also heartbreaking. The end scenes are so well done, the choice that Alice makes, the final battle between Uncas and Magua is one that I watch still hoping that it will end differently. This film is romantic, however it is also brutal, depicting some graphic scenes of war and battle, it is a sweeping historical epic story of survival, one that isn’t entirely without hope.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2013, Wes Anderson, Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Tony Revolori. A cast to die for as they say. This film is completely ridiculous. Sometimes when there’s that much star power in the line-up, it falls flat. What I think keeps this film from going belly up is that it is being told as a remembrance of the days of his youth by Mr. Moustafa, which immediately lends a quality of wistfulness to the unbelievable proceedings. Billed as a comedy, and it is, it is also however, something of a “fish story” because of that narrative. Is the fantastical tale true? Well, it’s sort of horrible in places, however in the most charming way, a comedy of manners, perhaps, one that certainly made me smile.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Only Lovers Left Alive, 2013, Jim Jarmusch, Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska. I didn’t know what to expect from this one and I was so pleasantly surprised. It is simply the tale of vampires in love in the modern age, Eve and Adam, married…forever… but they can’t always deal with being under the same roof. Her sister is a pain and a pest. John Hurt is brilliantly wonderful as Christopher Marlowe, as in, was he Shakespeare? And there are those allusions throughout. The backdrop of Detroit as Adam’s home, adds to the moody depths of this piece. It is a terribly subtle horror story with a love story woven in. Vampires trying to go about their business in the modern world. About this one though, what gives it an edginess, is Tom Hiddleston’s performance, because you know he’s a vampire and you really don’t know, based on how he’s very quietly lost patience with the antics of these human zombies, when he just might lose his cool and bite someone. This one isn’t a terribly happy movie, it feels sort of like a beautiful dirge all the way through, one that I couldn’t look away from. I think it’s a film for when one needs a good wallow. It’s wonderful though.
Tears of the Black Tiger
Tears of the Black Tiger,2000, Wisit Sasantieng, Chartchai Ngamsan, Stella Mallucchi. This is a quirky Thai western, action adventure, romance, that I was immediately trying to find a copy of. I love this film. It is, also, however, billed as a “tearjerker” and I would say that it runs something along the lines of a Romeo and Juliet type of story. It’s so pretty though, so well done, a technicolor spaghetti western parody that manages to still be serious.
So I Married An Axe Murderer
So I Married An Axe Murderer, 1993, Thomas Schlamme, Mike Myers, Nancy Travis, Anthony LaPaglia, Amanda Plummer, Charles Groden, Steven Wright, Phil Hartman, Debi Mazar, Brenda Fricker, Matt Doherty, Alan Arkin. This movie still makes me laugh, some of the best comedy lines. Anthony LaPaglia is so great in this film. Charlie thinks he may finally found the right woman, until he begins to suspect that she might be an axe murderer. “Hey, did you happen to see, the most beautiful girl in the world…”
Kate and Leopold
Kate and Leopold, 2001, James Mangold, Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Breckin Meyer, Natasha Lyonne, Bradley Whitford. Kate’s ex-boyfriend finds a portal to 1876 and brings back Leopold. Kate is a jaded, hardworking, advertising executive. Leopold is, well he’s from 1876. Where chivalry meets the modern woman, sort of. This movie has some great one liners and a couple of decent side stories happening with regard to the romantic lives of Kate’s younger brother and her ex-boyfriend. I thought I’d get my Hugh Jackman films out of the way all in one go.
Australia, 2008, Baz Luhrman, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Bryan Brown. This is another of those sweeping epic historical films with a romance, a love story, as the center piece. A lovely widow trying to keep what is hers against the backdrop of the bombing of Darwin during WWII. It’s a wonderful one.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000, Ang Lee, Yun-Fat chow, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Chang. This one didn’t quite stay with me until the second time that I watched it with my husband. It is so terribly beautiful.
As I’ve written this and begun considering other films for future additions to this list, part three. I’ve realized that there are several actors who show up repeatedly in my favorite films. Yun-Fat Chow, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Pierce Brosnan, Kurt Russell, and that I’m a fan of John Carpenter films, I like a couple of Wes Anderson films, I like movies about manners, romances, love stories, historical epics, fish stories, fish out of water stories, beautiful scenery, nice threads. I also noticed that many of the films that I like have very dark themes and undertones to them, serious themes, most of which I decided to save for another time as I give that some thought.
Until part three!
One for fun…
All star cast makes lake monster movie, also, possibly the most sarcastic film ever.
I may also do a write up at some point of films that I think are great films, or that there is something great or important about, that I recognize as great films, but that aren’t necessarily favorites. We’ll see.