Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Favorite Films: Romance Films

With Valentine's Day upon us, let's talk about romantic films. Finding a good romantic film is nearly impossible because they're so damn formulaic. They are even worse than action films in that regard. Indeed, you can set your watch by the various required plot points in these film. Blech. Because of this, I've actually done my best to look for romance movies overseas because the American stuff is so hopeless. Anyway, here goes:

1. Strictly Ballroom (1992): Yes, this is the ugly duckling story done in a bizarre way, but this is also the most romantic film I've encountered. The dancing is amazing. The characters are wonderful. The sense of humor is awesome. And the romance is strong and believable. I'm really shocked this film didn't lead to a bigger career for the male lead Paul Mercurio.

2. My Sassy Girl (2001): Check out the original Korean Version, not the fetid Hollywood remake. What makes this film so interesting to me is that it feels genuine for once. You know how in every rom-com the heroine will be a bitch (in a very safe and cliche manner) and drive away the male love interest at some point, only to have him return when he realizes that he does love her and that he accepts her the way she is? Aw. Oh course, we also learn that the heroine is not really a bitch because no American starlet would accept such a part as they all want to be "America's sweetheart," so her bitchiness is written off as a mistake or misunderstanding. Well, not here. What I love about My Sassy Girl is that for once, the heroine really is being a bitch and she's trying hard to drive away this guy. But he's a good guy who insists on trying to help her with her issues and they fall for each other. The ending is heartbreaking too.

3. Pride and Prejudice (1995): This is a miniseries, but hell, I make the rules. This is the original from which so much of the formula comes and it's also just an amazing romance. In particular, this is a romance for real people... people who feel awkward and who think of love as something deep and genuine, not something you find in a one-night stand. This one is both a real tear jerker and a very uplifting story. The adaptation Clueless fits here as well.

4. Hero (2002): Yep. This is ostensibly a martial arts film, but it's really a romance in disguise. It's also a BIG romance in the sense of being about true love and sacrifice rather than just some couple finding each other. Beautifully shot and wonderfully told, this is one of the stronger romances I've ever encountered.

5. WALL-E (2008): Yeah, surprising. Can you have a romance between two robots where one of them can't even speak? Well, yes, you can and it makes this a truly beautiful film.

6. Shakespeare In Love (1998): Normally, Gwyneth Paltrow leaves me cold, but this story of a love that cannot happen is extremely touching.

7. Grease (1978): The classic tale of two lovers who want each other but are kept apart by peer pressure and an inability to understand each other. Will it all work out? Of course, it will... in the final act!

8. Out of Sight (1998): From a book by Elmore Leonard, this was a stylized romance between Jennifer Lopez, a cop, and George Clooney, a criminal, back when both were still sex symbols. This one is well written and fun to watch and they have real chemistry.

I would like to add The Princess Bride to list, but I think the male relations really are the key in that one.



AndrewPrice said...

Sad. John Henson just died at 48. His father died young too - 53. RIP

Kenn Christenson said...

Definitely sad. But they accomplished a lot in their short lives.

On the romance subject: I liked the film version of Pride & Prejudice with Keira Knightley - and that's about it - unless you count another Knightly film: "Bend it like Beckham" - there was a romance in that one - amongst the soccer.

AndrewPrice said...

Kenn, True. They did accomplish a lot. It's just kind of shocking to see people die so young these days.

I thought the film version of P&P was good, but I really do prefer the miniseries. Somehow, it just does everything perfectly.

Kenn Christenson said...

Agreed, Andrew. John Henson was just a year older than I - and I still feel pretty young. :)

shawn said...

I don't know if I love any straight romances, but I do have a couple of films worth seeing. Both have Pierce Brosnan.

"The Thomas Crown Affair" in which Brosnan is a rich art thief who steals for kicks, and Rene Russo is the woman tasked with recovering the stolen painting.

"Laws of Attraction"- Brosnan and Julianne Moore are dueling lawyers that find get drunk at a party and accidentally get married. Highjinx ensue.

Floyd RTurbo said...

1. The Quiet Man... Wayne and O'Hara
2. Singin' in the Rain
3. Notting Hill
4. My Man Godfrey... screwball romance
5. Once from 2008 with Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova.... they make the right choice, but that doesn't make it any easier.
6. The Sound of Music
7. The first few minutes of Pixar's Up are as romantic as anything ever committed to film... or digitized.
8. It Happened One Night
9, The entire The Thin Man series. A good marriage is romantic dammit. I loathe adultery "romances" by and large.
10. Casablanca... see 9 above. Rick... you magnificent bastard!

tryanmax said...

I won't be able to think clearly about this subject until after I loose my ire on You've Got Mail. That movie is just awful. If you didn't have any prior impression of Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan as a nice guy and a sweetheart respectively, you would come away from this film thinking of them as truly awful people. They're both really drawing on their laurels in that film. More after I've calmed down...

Anonymous said...

Joe vs. the Volcano - it's more about the journey Tom Hanks' character takes but it really is a beautiful movie and a sweet romance (Meg Ryan plays three different characters):

"There's a woman here!"

"Don't you think I know that, Frank? Don't you think I am aware there is a woman here? I can smell her, like, like a flower. I can taste her, like sugar on my tongue. When I'm 20 feet away I can hear the fabric of her dress when she moves in her chair!"

Annie Hall - the tagline was "A nervous romance" though I'm slightly more partial to Manhattan and Everyone Says I Love You

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - this is a movie I so wanted to like more than I did, but the scenes in the middle of the movie with Benjamin and Daisy - now both the same age - building a life together get me every time

AndrewPrice said...

Kenn, He's about 5 years older than me and I can't imagine dying for decades yet. Hopefully.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, I find that a lot of times, the best romantic moments happen in films that aren't romances on the surface. Look at the romance in The Empire Strikes Back or how romances develop in long-running series. I think it's all about coming to like the characters and seeing them as right for each other. And the more it seems to happen organically (i.e. not just as the plot itself), the more natural and stronger it feels.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I almost added The Sound of Music to my list. Good call on the opening of Up.

Notting Hill sadly doesn't work for me. I have come to really dislike Julia Roberts and watching her and whatshisname smirking at each other for 1,000 minutes drove me crazy.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I don't like that one either. I don't find Ryan "cute," I find her annoying. And that film felt really manufactured to me. Once of the only Meg Ryan sort-of romances that I liked was IQ.

AndrewPrice said...

Interesting list, Scott. Annie Hall is listed as one of the top romances by a lot of people.

I also wanted to like Benjamin Button a lot more than I did.

BevfromNYC said...

Groundhogs Day...

AndrewPrice said...

No Gone With the Wind?

Backthrow said...

If you want good romance (as the main theme) in Hollywood movies, you mainly have to dive into the distant past, plus some foreign films, as has been said.

Sunrise (1927)
Bird of Paradise (1932)
One Way Passage (1932)
It Happened One Night (1934)
Ball of Fire (1941)
The Lady Eve (1941)
I Married a Witch (1942)
Random Harvest (1942)
Heaven Can Wait (1943)
The More the Merrier (1943)
I Know Where I'm Going! (1945-British)
Beauty and the Beast (1946-French)
A Matter of Life and Death (1946-British) --Truly amazing, as are most Michael Powell/Emeric Pressberger films. Try anything they made in the 1940s, and you can't go wrong.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
Portrait of Jennie (1948)
A Holiday Affair (1949)
The Quiet Man (1952)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Sabrina (1954)
Marty (1955)
Picnic (1955)
The Apartment (1960)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964-French)
The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom (1968-British) --An 'adultery comedy', but so crazy/cartoony and proto Monty Python-ish, it sort of takes the potential offensiveness out of it.
Melody (1970-British) --A 'puppy love' romance, a little like TV's 'The Wonder Years', except set in then-modern London. The ending is fanciful, childhood wish-fulfillment, and would end very badly in reality. But a cute little movie, overall. I bet those in their 40s/50s in the U.K. would find it very nostalgic.
Only the Lonely (1991)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Shall We Dance? (1996-Japanese) -Avoid the senseless Richard Gere remake!
Under the Sun (1998-Swedish)
Amelie (2001-French)
Wall-E (2008)

The last modern Hollywood straight-ahead love story that I remember being half-way decent was The Notebook (2004), but I only saw it once; hard to say how it'd hold up to repeat viewings.

Good calls, Floyd, on the Thin Man series, My Man Godfrey, Casablanca and the beginning sequence in Up (the only part I liked).

tryanmax said...

I'm gonna give a nod to all of Adam Sandler's rom-coms. I don't know if any can hope to become classics, but they are quirky, unique and sincere.

tryanmax said...

I'll also confess to being a sucker for teen movie romances. Every single one of them is heavily clichéd, yet all but the worst of them can capture the anxious awkwardness of young love. And I'm a sucker for it.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, The Japanese Shall We Dance is fantastic. The American version is crap.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, The teen movies generally work for me too. Some are very touching.

I've enjoyed some Adam Sandler films, but honestly not too many.

Backthrow said...

Whoops, I forgot to add The African Queen (1951). Both a classic love story and adventure movie, where neither element overwhelms the other.

Anonymous said...

I usually cannot stand straight romance movies, I avoid Rom-Coms at all costs.

But I can live with romance if it isn't a straight romance movie, like The Wedding Singer is not a Rom-com, if anything it is a Com-rom with the comedy up front. Also Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon mixes Martial Arts with romance really well, actually you get two romances for the price of one.

I could also include Lord Of The Rings, with the Aragorn/Arwen and Frodo/Sam romances giving us another twofor.


AndrewPrice said...

Scott, In my experience, straight rom-coms are ultra formulaic. Really, the only distinction is location and the identity of the two leads. If the leads have chemistry, then the film works. If they don't, then the film fails. It really is the inverse of the formulaic action film -- one intended for women, the other for men.

To me, the good romantic films avoid the formulas and tend to develop out of something more natural. Indeed, some of the best most romantic moments happen inside films that aren't considered rom-coms. Look at Strictly Ballroom, for example, which really isn't a rom-com. It's a comedy about a dance competition which gets married with the ugly duckling story and the story of the arrogant hero who needs to learn humility. Inside of that, they've jammed a hell of a romance. Even the romance in Empire StrikesBack is fantastic and that film has nothing to do with romance.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, Africa Queen is a good film.

Dwizzum said...

Hello? True Romance!

AndrewPrice said...

Dwizzum, An excellent film.

Kit said...

Currently reading Pride and Prejudice. Very good book!

AndrewPrice said...

Excellent book!

Anonymous said...

I never watched Strictly Ballroom, it's an Australian movie and it was huge when I was in my teens but it just struck me as something I wouldn't like.

I do agree about straight romances being formulaic and being a man I like me some action movies! But I don't mind romance in and of it self in movies, just the same old crap they always deliver. Though I do hate it when they try to force a romance into a movie when it's not needed (usually to try to get women to watch a mans movie), it's forced and quite often distracts from the movie.

And yes True Romance is a great movie!


Kit said...

I love Princess Bride. But you have a point about the male relations. Cary Elwes probably says "As you wish" a hundred times to Robin Wright yet its Peter Falks' delivery of the line to his grandson at the end that is the most memorable.

Your point might also explain why so many guys love would appears at first glance to be a chick-flik.

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

djskit said...

Ahh, The Quiet Man! When we first see Maureen O'Hara, with her red hair back-lit and the fire in her!

Anonymous said...

Can I just be the dork who points out that Clueless is an Adaptation of Emma?


My favorite Rom Com, hands down, is You've Got Mail, which IS an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. :)

AndrewPrice said...

goldvermilion, Crud. I knew that. Thanks for the reminder!

Koshcat said...

Good call on Hero. I love that movie. Wall-E and Shakespeare in Love not so much for me. My wife love Grease, but I've never been able to get into it. The rest I haven't seen.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I don't like that either, when they add a romance just to try to get women to watch a movie aimed at males.

You should try Strictly Ballroom, it's got a wicked sense of humor.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, Hero is a great film. I love it.

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, Great movie!

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Very true.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone mentioned Bringing Up Baby? Because that's basically the romance I want to have one day. :-P

And definitely seconding It Happened One Night, Sabrina, and Roman Holiday.

KRS said...

I like The Big Country (1958) with Gregory Peck and Jean Simmons. No better place for romance than a western with lots of menacin' and shootin'. Peck appears to be a dandy to the local men because he doesn't care to prove himself in public, but in fact he is tough and smart. And despite being condescended to and treated as the odd duck by lesser men, he returns their treatment with respect and is much more at ease and in control of things than anyone else.

The fact that he starts off the movie engaged to the wrong gal is forgivable.

Jean Simmons is the second most cool-headed person in the movie and I say 'second' only because she is no stranger to the locals. You know that the two of them will get together, Peck will ride the bull and fight the bully and he will get in the middle of the range war and save the day - but you don't mind any of it. And, at the heart of the thing, it's the two of them falling in love and preparing to sacrifice themselves for the others welfare.

Love me a good western, ... I mean romance.

PikeBishop said...

For an overlooked romantic film, check out "Only the Lonely" with the late great John Candy, Ally Sheedy and the last performance by Maureen O'Hara, who almost steals the show as Candy's Mom. Candy, who proved again to have decent dramatic acting chops is a shy, Mama's boy of a Chicago cop, who falls in love with another lost soul, Ally Sheedy, a mortician's daughter. He's Irish and she's Italian and it is Chicago. Anthony Quinn even has a nice little role. A sweet, funny, truly romantic film. It features a little-known Van Morrison song from the late 80s that is one of his best "Someone like You" which I had played at my own wedding.

Benjamin said...

Glad you included Out of Sight. Some may disagree, but first impressions mean alot and mine of George Clooney is From Dusk Till Dawn when I was 20 years old.

Even after all the @sshatery he displayed during the W. years, Dawn, Out of Sight, and the Ocean's series provide insulation.

Out of Sight also made me a life-long fan of Steve Zahn.

Unknown said...

It is absolutely spot-on to observe that the most romantic movies usually mix the romance in with some other genre. Out of Sight is fantastic: the conversation in the trunk and the bath fantasy set it up, but it wouldn't have worked without the sharp script and chemistry between Lopez and Clooney. I'm also a fan of Strictly Ballroom, where the comedy, and the contrasting two dads add depth and passion to the romance. Thomas Crown and Groundhog Day are great too, but the romance in the latter is not particularly compelling, because Andie MacDowell's character could just as well be anyone. I find Cypher more romantic: the real plot twist is not who Rooks really is, but that he went though all that trouble to protect his girlfriend (Lucy Liu at her hottest!).

That said, I find myself surprising tolerant of straight romances and rom-coms, even though they are typically formulaic. The rom-coms I dislike usually combine the romance with some sort of comedy of errors or embarrassment. I even quite enjoyed some of the recent faux-cynical rom-coms such as I Give It a Year or Friends with Benefits.

As for the British contribution, Shakespeare in Love is not bad, but among the Working Title/Richard Curtis productions, I think the best is not Four Weddings or Notting Hill, but Love Actually. The multiple stories shine different lights on the facets of love, and even the trite stories are quite compelling. Plus, Bill Nighy is awesome as Billy Mack.

For pure youthful romance, however, I recommend Before Sunrise with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Following the two characters as they explore Vienna together, it is simple spellbinding.

AndrewPrice said...

Benjamin, I liked Clooney before he became an ass too, so I still enjoy seeing him on the screen. I particularly like the Ocean series and Out of Sight, and I loved Dusk til Dawn!

AndrewPrice said...

John, I thought Love Actually was very good. Good call!

I am tolerant of the straight romances as well, but some become very painful to me. I agree with you about the embarrassment or comedy of errors. Those lower the film to a sit-com level. And when I feel like screaming at the screen, "Why don't any of you ask what he actually meant, you idiots?!!!!" then I struggle to enjoy the film.

But I have liked some straight romances like While You Were Sleeping, 27 Dresses, The Proposal and Sweet Home Alabama. Still, I prefer the films that bring more elements.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I've never seen Cypher. I'll have to look for that one.

Unknown said...

There's a lot to like about Cypher. Jeremy Northam plays the lead brilliantly, and the cinematography and art design are beautiful.

For post-ass Clooney, have you tried The American? It also has beautiful cinematography and art design, with a romantic final segment. However, what I like most about the movie is the way it contrasts sound and vision, the harsh narrative that unfolds before the apparently tranquil backdrop of nature.

AndrewPrice said...

John, I did try The American and I didn't care for it much. The problem with Clooney's newer stuff is that while he think it's deep and biting, it tends to be superficial, cliched and flat. Syrianna is another like that where it just wasn't profound like he thought it was. Ditto on The Men Who Stare At Goats.

Unknown said...

Having a perception about what the lead actor thinks about a movie is worse than a spoiler, in my view., so I think you were unfortunate in this case. The American also had a director (Anton Corbijn), whose style left a distinctive stamp on the movie, for better or worse (e.g., the trite butterfly at the end). Fortunately, directors are usually more circumspect in discussing the depth and meaning of their films, because they don't want to spoil them.

The only post-Ocean Clooney movies I have seen are Michael Clayton, Burn After Reading, Up In The Air, and The American. I find them neither particularly deep or biting (pretentiously or otherwise) nor superficial or flat. They raise questions about the human condition in contexts outside of most people's everyday experience, which is valuable thing that many movies do. The American asks if it is possible to retire from your past, a classic question about redemption, but I think it presents the idea in an interesting way, and with beautiful cinematography and direction.

AndrewPrice said...

John, Michael Clayton is another good example of a film that doesn't really say anything. It feels like we're supposed to be shocked (or outraged) that a big firm would hire a guy like Clayton to "fix" problems. But then they never really do anything with it to make a realistic point. It ends up feeling like they wanted to say something, but then thought better of it.

Unknown said...

Maybe I am cynical, but I wasn't at all shocked or outraged about the idea of a "fixer", or at least someone at a law firm who specializes in the dodgy cases, legal loopholes, and getting the firm out of trouble. And I don't think we are supposed to be shocked or outraged - that's part of the point. For me the striking thing about Michael Clayton is how untidy it is. Things happen for no good reason, and there are loose ends all over the place. The characters have issues and complications that seem incidental to the plot. Clayton is clearly a smooth cool-headed character, and could have been portrayed at the peak of his game, an ace fixer who has an epiphany that his work is morally wrong. That would be a typical "message" film. Instead, he is shown past his prime, having messed up his personal and business life, struggling to survive: fixer fix thyself! He's never going to be fully recognized in the law world because of his background, yet relies upon that background to access a crime scene and avoid jail when he gets caught. He is just plain lucky that he doesn''t get blown to bits in his car, and only after this attempt on his life does he get his act together. Similarly, the antagonist is not cool, calculating and cold-bloodedly in control, but naive, stressed, overworked and not really handling her job at all well. Having to authorise murder is a work-related stress akin to making a good speech before the shareholders. The whistleblower also screws up by going off the rails, making it obvious to everyone that something is wrong. It is just one big mess.

And I think that is the point.The underlying plot is utterly black-and-white. A corporation attempts to hide the fact that a product is lethal to avoid financial consequences, an evil act that leads to more evil as the cover-up becomes more desperate. However, the movie does not focus on this, but on the messy lives and interactions of the characters. None of them fully appreciate their complicity in this evil until a crisis forces them to face it. In this way, I think the film encourages the audience to be complicit: when Clayton is offered a renewed contract and bonus which will solve his financial problems, surely he should take it.

I'm not saying this is a great movie. For one thing, the ending is a cliche (or indeed several cliches), even if viewed as a ruse to let the audience off-the-hook. I also think that the "critic bait" criticism used elsewhere could legitimately be raised here. Critics love a movie that doesn't have an obvious message because they can pretend they have seen something deep that regular audience-goers have missed.

In this case, in my opinion, the untidy smoke-and-mirrors nature of the film is part of its message. We can all recognise black from white when they are presented clearly to us. However, in the murky grey struggle to survive and make it in life, it is easy to lose sight of the things that really matter (health, happiness, relationships etc.), or turn a blind-eye the blatantly wrong.

AndrewPrice said...


Clooney has done a series of films, e.g. Michael Clayton, The Men Who Stare At Goats, Syriana, The American, and The Ides of March, which suggest to me that he's looking for his own Three Days of the Condor. Each of these films presents something that Clooney thinks will shock and outrage the public: law firms hiring criminals to fix things, big companies killing people to save money, the military engaging in torture, corruption and naivety in political campaigns, rogue elements of the CIA trying to overthrow "good Arab princes" so we can get oil from the bad ones, etc.

What he wants is that people will see these films and jump up and say, "I had no idea my government could be so evil! Is this true? We must investigate." And then people will forever talk about the film that changed the way the public thinks, i.e. his own Three Days of the Condor or Wall Street.

The problem is that the topics he's picked have already been done to death and the public sees them as old news. So the reaction he gets is a yawn.

Let me give you the perfect example of this (though it’s not a Clooney film). Do you recall the film Contagion? The idea behind Contagion was that it would be THE definitive film about a viral apocalypse. But everything they did had already been done a dozen times in other films. So as you watch this film, you keep waiting for the "ah ha!" moment, but it never comes because they wrongly think they are showing you something fresh when all they are doing is presenting tired clichés.

Clooney’s films do the same thing. The myth of the noble Arab prince goes back to at least the 1940s. The idea that corporations kill people appears in most Hollywood action films. The evil military or CIA is the only way they are presented by Hollywood. So what Clooney thinks is groundbreaking is actually so well travelled that it’s become boring. Hence, his movies don’t feel stale.

Moreover, to avoid his films being seen as propaganda, his films center on the messed up lives of the characters and only play the message in the background as something these characters know about but cannot stop. Essentially, these are tragedies of the lone good (but falling apart) character who could expose the greedy, corrupt machine, but doesn’t because they are struggling with their own problems. That’s the structure of each of these films. And the result of that is a film that lacks the punch of a more directly political tale, but simultaneously a film that feels political yet feels stale.

That’s why none of these have done that well with the public, why none of them have been seen as “significant” and why Clooney’s star is fading.

So while I agree with you that Michael Clayton is ostensibly about a fixer who is well past his prime, finds his morality, and doesn’t quite know how to fix the things he now sees as wrong, ultimately, the point to the film was to shock people that this is going on at all.

Unknown said...

There are many points I agree with in your analysis, but I see no justification for the perceptions and preconceptions you use, and I don't find such preconceptions helpful in appreciating a movie. I see no case that the point of these movies was to shock people. Indeed Michael Clayton goes out of its way to ensure the audience is not shocked, and is left reassured at the end. Clayton does not "find" his morality: it is forced upon him, and once it is, he fixes the wrong pretty damn quick!

The American attempts to shock the audience at the beginning, but not with a political agenda, and the rest of the film is much more subtle. All stories are variations on a few basic themes, but some are more interesting elaborations of those themes than others.

Even with genuine revelations about the overreach of government, Edward Snowdon cannot move the American people (the attitude I have encountered is "I would rather have my privacy invaded than my legs blown off", which is not an unreasonable statement, until you realise it is a victory for terrorism, condoned by the government). So do you really think the Clooneys of this world are hoping to do better using ambivalent movies with obfuscated plots? I don't think so.

AndrewPrice said...

John, I don't mean this as a preconceptions that I take into his movies with me and then judge them by. To the contrary, I want to like his films and I'm happy to give him a blank slate and benefit of the doubt every time. What I'm telling you here is not a preconception, what I’m telling you is why I think each of these films has felt so flat. Trust me, it’s not the message I object to, it’s the lifeless, derivative manner in which it’s presented.

As to why I would believe that he wants these films to be significant, there are multiple reasons.

First, he talks like that. He routinely talks about the “importance” or “significance” of his films. He’s not someone who just views his films as entertainment.

In fact, look at Clooney’s career. After he made his money, he’s almost exclusively switched over to these films. You see this all the time in Hollywood where actors start doing films with little likelihood of commercial success just to finally get that award. And if you look at it, you’ll see why: the academy (in fact the whole industry) gives these films awards, calls them “important,” dismisses commercial fare as “light,” etc. There is prestige to doing these. I get the sense he wants that prestige.

Secondly, he is a politicized actor and he’s made no bones about that. And those people want to make films with political angles. Moreover, none of them make any attempt to hide their belief that they can sway the public through their films.

And when you hear people like Robert Redford, Jane Fonda or a Michael Moore talk about their BIG film, they routinely brag (true or false) about how their film changed the minds of the public on (insert issue). Clooney doesn’t have a film like that, but he routinely describes each of these films as “important” or “significant,” which reeks to me of him wishing he had his BIG film.

Has he said, “I’m making these films in the hopes of catching up to Robert Redford”? No. But I think it is a reasonable inference based on his choice of films and his attempts to sell these films as important/significant.

Could I be wrong? Sure. But if this isn’t his purpose, then I’m left wondering why Clooney keeps picking eerily similar political duds.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

To be fair, in Clooney's case, he gets to make the movies he wants to make. Yeah, he's making these movies in particular (and I assume he's not getting the biggest budgets)... but we should all be so lucky. He found his success later in life compared to most actors/filmmakers and he's using it to do what he wants.

Now whether he's doing this subject matter because he's genuinely interested, or he's just after awards, I couldn't say. But it's obvious he's found his niche.

And in this age of franchises and comic book movies, it's kinda nice that someone is making movies like this. Clooney's picking up where Sydney Pollack left off (just not as good - he has yet to make his Parallax View, to use my favorite 70s conspiracy thriller as an example.) :-)

And I've said it before, but he always came across as the more likable of the openly political actors (when compared to the likes of Fonda).

Just avoid The Good German!!!! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It's the fact he gets to pick his own movies which let us see the pattern.

And while I'm glad he chooses to do these kinds of films, I wish they were stronger.

Unknown said...

That's the bottom line of course. I don't particularly care *why* Clooney chooses/makes the films he does, whether it is to win awards or push a political agenda or both. What matters to me is whether each individual film is engaging/interesting/entertaining/intriguing/thought-provoking etc.

If Michael Clayton was intended as yet another swipe at corporate America, it does a miserable job of it. The corporation and its crimes are largely reduced to a MacGuffin and I had trouble remembering even which sector it was in. There's almost no coverage of the legal case or the victims, and we pretty much only see the corporation through the prism of Tilda Swinton's character, for whom we are actually encouraged to feel sympathy as someone completely out of her depth.

As a critique of the fecklessness of big legal firms, the film is slightly more convincing, but not much. So is it a strong film? Does it have something (original?) to say? Well,I doubt I would place it in my top fifty, but I did find it interesting to watch, and also to think about again to write these posts. The message I take from the film is "People make really poor choices sometimes, but life is tough and it is easy to lose a sense of perspective. Keep this in mind and maybe you will be able to avoid some of those poor choices in the future."

That doesn't rate too badly on my scale of things movies have to say.

Anonymous said...

It's kind of hard for me to really get into romance movies because it's easy to have a happy ending when it's fiction. Life is way more difficult than that, and movies can create unrealistic expectations or fantasies that just hurt chances of real life romance.

That having been said, I do have a few likes. ;)

Hitch--I just like how the guy who knows how to do everything right does everything right, but it turns out wrong. And the guy who doesn't know how to do anything makes huge mistakes, but they turn out being just right. Almost a parody of romance movies in a way.

Better Off Dead--I'm a bit of a sucker for the "your true love was right under your nose the whole time" cliché. Plus, it's downright hilarious.

It's a Wonderful Life--See aforementioned cliché. And Mary's unfailing, patient love for George.

AndrewPrice said...

I almost included Better Off Dead. That's another great romance.

Glenn said...

Here's a few more Romance films, or films with romance:

Charade: Not really a romance film, but a thriller, but the romance between Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn is so charming it can't be overlooked.

Two for The Road: Love this film! Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn are marvellous plus a great Henry Mancini soundtrack. What's not to love?

The Way We Were: Redford and Streisand ... yuk! But at the time this was a great romance and my ex-wife's favorite film. Also a great Marvin Hamlish
soundtrack. I think there's some depth to the story as well.

Father Goose: Anyone remember Cary Grant's second last movie? I was an usher when this came out and got to watch it a dozen times. A comic war movie that turned into a hilarious romance between Cary Grant and Leslie Caron. One of my favorite Cary Grant movies. His comic timing and charm are what made him one of the great stars of film and he was never better than in Father Goose.

When Harry Met Sally: A lot of people write this off, but it is a nice story about how a long term friendship between two mismatched characters can turn into a romance.

The Graduate: This film had a major effect on me at the time. It broke all the rules and Dustin Hoffman really made the film unique since he wasn't the
typical romantic lead ... "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me!"

Dr Zhivago: Historical drama as well as a great romance that sets a lot of ladies heart's a flutter.

Stardust: A fantasy romance featuring a marvellous performance by Michelle Pfeiffer as the wicked witch (love her!).

The First Time: This one surprised me. Written and directed by Lawrence Kasden's son Jon, the two young actors make this coming of age romance a cut above what I expected.

The Artist: The whole concept of a silent movie was genius. The lead actors are charming as hell and the finale dance sequence is dazzling.

Ghost: A different kind of love story and a good one. I have mostly despised Whoopie Goldburg in her film roles, but she's great here as a supporting
character and Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore do that 'ditto' thing to perfection.

The English Patient: Okay, everyone hates this film, I get it, but I thought the acting, setting and story were great.

Of the Romance films you've listed I'm really glad you included Strictly Ballroom. Great film. Also love Shakespeare in Love, what a unique story line -- Shakespeare has writers' block! Also enjoyed Grease and Out of Sight, but I think Princess Bride is strong enough as a romance to be included.

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