Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Romantic Comedies


It's February, which means that we've already had a full month of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks!  This has been so much fun, and I'm looking forward to playing along for another month.  In case you missed them, here are the previous themes and my corresponding posts:


And so, now we move on into January with a pretty popular film genre...



I tried to cover a wide range of films here.  I wanted to touch upon a classic, I wanted to touch upon a more intellectual comedy.  I wanted to touch upon what you might expect from the genre.  I wanted to just go there, and then I kind of wanted to touch upon the greatest of all Romantic Comedies that isn't really a Romantic Comedy even though it kind of is (it's, like, so many, many things) and so I have my three choices AND a bonus this week!

Holiday
Most people think of Katharine Hepburn and they see this severe actress, serious minded and completely in control, and yet in the late 30's, Cary Grant took her by the hand and made her fun and flirty and relatable and hilarious.  The two were a magnetic and charming pair, and 1938's Holiday is a perfect example of how great they were together.

Harold and Maude
Quirky, indeed, and funny in the way that makes you smile as apposed to barrel laugh, but this film is so oddly charming, funny and romantic (but, like...yeah) because it feels so incredibly clever in the way it spins both aspects of the genre.  This was like pre-Wes Anderson quirks for the romantic soul.

10 Things I Hate About You
When I think of the teen genre of romantic comedies, this is probably the best of the best, at least in my eyes.  This is how you make Shakespeare relevant (and it doesn't hurt that this modern telling of his famed comedic classic, 'The Taming of the Shrew', is better than any Shakespearean adaptation I've ever seen) and this is how you make romance funny.

BONUS

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I almost feel like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is so perfect at everything that it doesn't even really have a genre.  It's a comedy, but it's a romance, but it's a drama, but it's a character study, but it's a quirky adventure story, but it's a dissection of memory, but it's...so many other things.  Like, I just adore this movie so much it hurts.  It is the greatest Romantic Comedy that isn't really (or I should say "isn't JUST") a Romantic Comedy!

32 comments:

  1. How can you say no to Harold & Maude and 10 Things I Hate About You? Those are the finest films of that genre. And of course, Eternal.

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    1. I love how well 10 Things has stood the tests of time. Like, even hardcore cinephiles who usually scoff at things like that are in love with it's charm and authenticity. It just owns!

      I weep for the career Julia Stiles should have had!!!

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  2. I so almost went Harold and Maude. I love that movie so much. One of the great oddball romantic comedies. Also, love 10 Things I Hate About You! Amanda loves that one. Eternal Sunshine is awesome as well. One of the more powerful and intelligent romantic comedies Great picks bro.

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    1. Thanks! Harold and Maude is just a perfect little film, and I'm glad that more people are seeing it!

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    2. I picked up the Criterion Blu over the summer during the July Barnes and Noble sale. So great! The Cat Stevens is what really makes it, I think.

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    3. I'm with you on Stevens. His contribution, musically, gives the film it's soul!

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  3. I had 10 Things I Hate About You on my list as well. That one is a classic to me. I love what you said about Eternal Sunshine not really having a genre. That's so true. Love that film.

    Haven't seen the other two.

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    1. You should totally see Harold and Maude and Holiday, both superb films!

      And Eternal Sunshine is the only film that can challenge my favorite film of all time (Jules and Jim) as my favorite film of all time, and it's eternal placement at #2 in my Top Ten of All Time is proof of that...it's that perfect.

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  4. Harold and Maude is a sort of textbook for quirky. I like it rather than love it but it is definitely unique. 10 Things is a great choice, sweet and loose it respects its source material without being afraid to stretch it to make it feel contemporary. I'm going to have to be a dissenting voice on Eternal Sunshine. I know its beloved, everybody I saw it with during its initial theatrical run thought it was great but I'm not a fan.

    Romantic comedy is such a rich field I ended up with an extra this week too.

    Mine are:

    Holiday (1938)-I didn't mention Holiday above because we match! This is my favorite Kate Hepburn film. While she'll always be associated with Spencer Tracy, rightly so since they had a rare something, she had a stronger romantic chemistry with Cary Grant. He did seem to bring out a kittenish playfulness in her that no one else did and and their delicate interplay really puts the romance across. The film is so much more than a romantic comedy though. It's subject matter is very contemporary, the quest for what life actually means vs. the things that money can provide, it keeps it fresh despite the age of the film. Strong as the star pair are it's not just them that makes the film so good. Binnie Barnes and Henry Daniell (two fantastic, sadly little remembered performers) are wonderfully venal as Kate's cousins who can easily be read as fascists. Jean Dixon and Edward Everett Horton balance them out as Cary's surrogate parents, the two of them share a hilarious chemistry. This also contains, along with All Quiet on the Western Front, the best work Lew Ayres ever did as brother Ned. He steals every scene he's in.

    Barefoot in the Park (1967)-An appealing comedy of the first few weeks in the marriage of a young couple played by Jane Fonda and Robert Redford as they adjust to each other's idiosyncrasies. She's an expansive free spirit and he's a buttoned down attorney so obviously conflicts ensue. Jane and Bob are delightful together, it's a nice reminder that they were both expert at comedy since their general personas are rooted in more serious subject matter. They're matched by terrific performances from Charles Boyer as their eccentric upstairs neighbor and especially Mildred Natwick, who was Oscar nominated, as Jane's flummoxed mother.

    The Wedding Singer (1998)-Cute 80's nostalgic romantic comedy with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore charming the pants off the audience. Perhaps not the best constructed comedy but the leads are so disarming and the supporting cast sprinkled with good actors, Christine Taylor, Steve Buscemi, Ellen Albertini Dow, as fun characters it makes up for any weakness of direction or logic. Sandler's big breakthrough as a movie star and aside from Punch Drunk Love his best movie so far.

    Honorable mention-Last Holiday (2006) Love this film but and while it has a romance as a story thread it's not strictly a romantic comedy. A remake of an Alec Guinness comedy with a gender switch and Queen Latifah stepping into the role. A hard working but unappreciated woman, who secretly pines for a co-worker, mistakenly believes she only has weeks to live and decides to blow her life savings on a last big adventure at a jaw droppingly beautiful European resort. The romance comes in when the co-worker discovers her secret crush and sets off in pursuit. Queen Latifah carries the whole film on her shoulders and has rarely been better. Light as the air.

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  5. Yay, I've seen all of your pics!

    Of course, we agree on Holiday, and I love that you mention Lew Ayres, because he delivers one of my favorite supporting performances of all time.

    The Wedding Singer is cute, but Barrymore truly does bring out the best in Sandler (at least, she did until that last awful mistake of a movie). Last Holiday is also really fun, and Latifah is eternally watchable. I love that you mention Barefoot in the Park, too, because that is one of Fonda's most relaxed roles and certainly one of her more charming moments.

    Sad that you're so down on Eternal...I just fawn all over that movie.

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    1. I haven't seen the latest Adam/Drew movie because it does look truly dreadful but then Tracy & Hepburn had Keeper of the Flame and Sea of Grass on their sheet so a good team doesn't guarantee a winner every time. Hopefully they'll find something better if there is a next time.

      Maybe someday I'll break down and re-watch Eternal Sunshine and discover something new there but I was counting the minutes the first time. I do feel out of the loop when a film is so venerated and I don't connect with it, it's the same with Lawrence of Arabia-people have rhapsodized over it and I have no idea why. I loathed it finding it endless and dull despite liking everyone in the cast. I remember going to see Wonder Boys with my sister, I loved it and she most definitely did not. It just goes to show every film isn't for everybody. That's great though, it keeps the discussion interesting.

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    2. Well, I'm with you 100% on Lawrence of Arabia. Like, it's pretty to look at, but boring as hell!

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  6. Love 10 Things I Hate About You. I think everyone who was a teenager when it came out does. It's probably the best teen comedy of the 90s (and there were a lot of good ones). I cherish Harold and Maude. Pitch perfect quirk. I don't love Holiday, though. Pales in comparison to The Philadelphia Story and Bringing Up Baby.

    Eternal Sunshine, though. There are just no words. I wrote it up for The Film Experience's Hit Me With Your Best Shot and it is just such a beautiful movie. Definitely way high up on my all-time favorites list.

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    1. I think that Holiday pales when compared to those two greats as well, but for me, it was the more romantically angled and the less well known, so I featured it. It's still damn good :-D

      Eternal...you're right...no words.

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  7. Harold and Maude is a fabulous choice, not just because it's so darkly funny in a way few films dared to be at the time of its release, but because the relationship is absolutely engaging and earnest.
    It's the exact opposite of a typical, marketable romantic movie, and could be seen as creepy by some, but the performances and the strength of the material transcend the age difference of the characters.
    The ending never fails to blow me away, with Cat Stevens beautiful "If You Want to Be Free, Be Free" playing as Harold plays his banjo, looking at life in a completely new way. This movie just uplifts me every time I watch it.

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    1. So much yes! I feel like the film has this unfair target on it's back put there by some who want to discredit the impact as mere gimmicky quirk, but it's so much more than that.

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  8. I love Harold & Maude. Almost picked it, myself. Eternal Sunshine is one of my all time favorites. Like you say, though, I struggle to peg it as one genre or another. It just does everything so perfectly.

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    1. I am loving all this love for Eternal Sunshine...LOVING IT!

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  9. Harold & Maude is another on my list to see. I love Holiday and it is an under-rated gem of a film. I always wanted to those 2 to make a film later in their lives because they did have great chemistry. 10 Things I hate about You..I can't remember if I saw it or not(sorry-hahahaaa) If it is the one I am thinking of , it is a cute story but it didn't wow me. I would have picked "Summerime" with Katherine Hepburn-it always makes me laugh that she goes to the hairdresser and when she leaves her hair looks the same. " Roman Holiday" is so wonderful and bittersweet and "Return to Me" with, of all people David Duchovney and Minnie Driver. It didn't get great reviews but it is a sweet tale of love and loss and love again.

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    1. I'm thrilled that someone mentions Return to Me!! That's what I'd have put down on my list if I were to participate on this blogathon. I LOVE LOVE that film.

      Great pick on 10 Things I Hate About You Drew! I love the pairing of Stiles/Ledger and Heath singing Can't Take My Eyes Off You is my favorite scene!

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    2. Birgit, I haven't seen Summertime, but I have seen the other two. I really like Return to Me. It just has that something special, and Driver is wonderful in the film.

      I kind of hate Roman Holiday...like...a lot, but I know I'm in the minority on that one.

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    3. Ruth, didn't you write a post on Return to Me?

      And yes, that Ledger 'Can't Take My Eyes Of Off You' scene is aces!!!

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  10. Holiday I haven't seen, the other three I love. Harold & Maude and Eternal Sunshine I'd say are like dark romantic comedies, the kind I like...funny, bittersweet and ends on a hopeful note rather than a happily ever after.

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    1. YES, that ending note, that hopeful tone but not complete happiness feels so human, so real, and that's why I love those kinds of endings.

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  11. I can't BELIEVE I didn't pick Eternal Sunshine -- it's one of my favorite movies of all time! I did consider 10 Things I Hate About You. I haven't seen the others on your list.

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    1. There are really so many great films to choose for a theme like this (really, every week), that 'snubbing' one is inevitable. I feel that way every time I read someone else's picks!

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  12. I love 10 Things I Hate About You, how can anyone not? Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles had great chemistry. Same goes for Eternal Sunshine, one of my favorite films ever. It really is a sum of a lot of things.

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    1. 10 Things was the first one that came to mind...it's so damn likable, and it has maintained it's likability over so many years.

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  13. I'm going to have to check out Holiday. I've never heard of it, but you're 100% correct about my thoughts toward Hepburn, and the still alone is very entertaining!

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    1. Her comedies from the 30's are really magical. Holiday, The Philadelphia Story and Bringing Up Baby would make a great triple feature! You really should check them out. Grant brought out the 'fun' in her.

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  14. Brilliant picks. I haven't seen 10 Things I Hate About You in ages. I need to rewatch it.

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    1. I rewatched it recently, while wrapping up my 99 Fistis, and loved it even more than I remembered!

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