Sunday, July 13, 2008

Romantic Movies: Bridget Jones's Diary

Even though I'm American, I have to admit that romantic movies seem even more so when they incorporate English accents. That's particularly true with period films. But it also happens to apply to Bridget Jones's Diary, which is as contemporary as they come -- in spite of being an update of Pride and Prejudice.

Ironically, Bridget is played by Texan Renée Zellweger, who manages a spot-on English accent that allows her to seem realistic foil for her authentically English co-stars, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Firth uses upper-crust Englishness to give his character Mark Darcy a distant but oh-so-gorgeous quality, while Hugh Grant's Daniel Cleaver oozes sexy malevolence and shows us that all English men aren't prim and proper, no matter how their accents might make us think otherwise.

Watching these three characters -- dotty, lonely and odd but lovable Bridget; uptight Darcy and snake-in-the-grass Cleaver -- interact always makes me feel this is the stuff love triangles should be made of. I heard a movie critic put this movie down recently and I couldn't figure out why. To me, it's the perfect blend of comic silliness, clever writing, romance (don't miss the last scene!) and manly eye candy that makes it the perfect romantic movie.

Here's the trailer from Bridget Jones's Diary:

If you're lucky, you might even be able to find Bridget Jones's Diary as a movie download, instead of having to rent it.

Don't forget to check out my
100 Romantic Movies list.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Romantic Movies: Pride & Prejudice

It's hard to beat Miss Jane Austen when it comes to romance. She made a career out of chronicling it, and rightly so.

Like Emma and it's updated version, Clueless, which also were adapted from Austen novels, Pride & Prejudice captures the power of a romantic tug-of-war. Why is that so compelling that people keep making this movie over and over? Because that's what human beings do: they court and spark, to quote an old Joni Mitchell song. To use another cliché, seldom does the course of true romance run smooth, and Austen knew how to convey that in a way that sucks you in and doesn't let you go until you finish the book or the end credits roll.

There are many good movie and mini-series versions of Pride & Prejudice, but one of my favorites was the movie made in 2005, which stars Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett and Matthew Macfadyen as one of the sexiest actors ever to play Mr. Darcy ever (IMHO). (Colin Firth from a 1996 version is neck-and-neck with him, though.)

On the unsexy end of the spectrum, there's Brenda Blethyn, who played the matriarch, Mrs. Bennett. That comment isn't a reflection on the appeal of actress, who is quite lovely. Her character, however, had a voice that could strip paint. She was well-matched with Donald Sutherland, who played Elizabeth's long-suffering father who somehow cheerfully endures his wife's vapors. And they're all joined by Elizabeth's grab bag of sisters, who run the gamut from classy to bookish to downright twitty.

These and the other well-crafted characters, combined with incredible scenery and well-above-average cinematography, make for an incredible viewing experience on every level. Not only is the movie a feast for the eyes, but it also has the capacity to fill up the empty spaces in your heart and complete your inauguration into the ranks of the romantic film lovers. I challenge you to not be moved by the closing scene. If you've seen this version, you know what I mean. If you haven't, do yourself a favor and see it -- even if it's only the last 10 minutes. It will make your heart go pitty-pat.

Here's the trailer from the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice:

Don't forget to check out my 100 Romantic Movies list!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Romantic Movies: Clueless

Clueless (film)Image via WikipediaClueless is one of my favorite romantic movies because it combines two favorite genres in one: romance and teen movies. It also gets bonus points for being a stylish '90s update of the classic Jane Austen story, Emma.

This movie proves some things are eternal. Like in Austen's day, meddling friends, devotion to fashion, showing off for the object of our affection and falling in love for the first time are part and parcel of growing up. But in this case, the spot-on teenage lingo creates a fresh and delightful take on an old story. And when you add in the very specific wardrobe of richie-rich Beverly Hills teens, you have a perfect snapshot of love in a specific place in time. Most of us probably didn't have quite as much privilege and wealth while growing up as the characters in Clueless, but that doesn't matter. You can pile as many designer mini-skirts, BMWs and mansions into a story as you want, but love will always be universal.

In my opinion, Clueless would be half the movie it is without Alicia Silverstone playing the lead character, Cher. She manages to be beautiful to look at while revealing flaws that could be too obnoxious to bear in a lot of other people. Silverstone's innate charm caused her character to nearly float around on energetic, un-self-conscious self-involvement. And her own personal inexperience factored into the mix when she mistakenly pronounced "Haitians" as "Hate-ee-uns" during filming and director Amy Heckerling left it in the movie. It's just that type of vulnerability that made her well-suited for the part.

The rest of the cast is accomplished, too. Paul Rudd is the perfect choice as Cher's tormentor and the undersung Dan Hedaya plays the part of her dad to a tee. Stacy Dash also convinces us she's gleefully self-involved, as does bad boy Jeremy Sisto. Together, these accomplished actors; which also included Brittany Murphy, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Justin Walker, Wallace Shawn and Twink Kaplan; created a classic romantic movie that has every right to sit proudly beside any of the other adaptations of Jane Austen's work.

Here's the trailer:

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Romantic Movies: Tootsie

TootsieImage via Wikipedia
In honor of the passing of Sydney Pollack on May 26, 2008 at 73, I thought I'd write about the first movie I ever saw him in: Tootsie.

Why am I including a comedy in a blog about romantic movies? Because the twisted love story between Dustin Hoffman's character Michael Dorsey and Jessica Lange's character Julie Nichols was one of the better-crafted romantic plots ever put on film. It takes a lot of skill to put a man in a dress, have a woman fall in love with him in spite of his cross-dressing and then have her forgive him when she finds out that the woman who made her worry she was a lesbian was a man after all.

One of my favorite scenes from the movie deals with this ambiguity and features Sydney Pollack as Michael Dorsey's agent, George Fields. In trying to understand why Michael was on the brink of desperation, he ran through a variety of questions about his and other people's genders that you have to see to really appreciate. His comedic timing was impeccable -- especially since he didn't even want to play the role. Hoffman begged him repeatedly to play his agent before production began, but Pollack still refused. So Dustin took to sending him flowers every day with a note that read, "Please be my agent. Love, Dorothy." Eventually Pollack caved in and he agreed to take the role.

A clever and well-written script, plus stellar performances by Sydney Pollack, Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange are just some of many reasons to see this movie if you never have or to take another look if you've seen it before. Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman and Charles Durning also were great, and Bill Murray's performance is not to be missed. (He ad-libbed most of his lines.) This reliable comedy is great to have on the shelf, because you know if you need a laugh, it won't disappoint.

Here's Sydney Pollack being brilliant as the agent in Tootsie:

Don't forget to check out our 100 Romantic Movies list!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Romantic Movies: Spanglish

Spanglish (film)Image via Wikipedia
If you're not an Adam Sandler fan, put your prejudice aside as you read this review of the very romantic movie, Spanglish. The reason I say that is because this isn't your usual Adam Sandler role. From what I understand, the character Sandler plays in Spanglish is actually much more like his true personality than the usual goofball we see on screen. If that's the case, Sandler is probably someone we'd all want to know.

But just because Sandler embodies a more toned down version of his usual movie persona, that doesn't mean Spanglish isn't funny. It is. And it gets even funnier with repeated viewings. After all, it was written by Sandler's real-life neighbor James L. Brooks who also brought Jerry McGuire and As Good as It Gets to the screen.

Spanglish also stars the underrated Téa Leoni, who in my opinion is the best female physical comedian since Lucille Ball. In fact, I dare say that Leoni brings a subtlety to her work that Ball didn't have. (See her in Woody Allen's Hollywood Endings for another chance to experience how talented she is.)

Sandler and Leoni are also joined by a stellar cast, which includes the radiant Paz Vega in her first American movie. To get an idea of how amazing she was in this role, consider that the non-English-speaking Vega learned the language right alongside her character. I can't imagine what it was like to star in a movie and not even know the language. Don't try this at home, kids!

Also lending considerable talent to the project was Cloris Leachman of Mary Tyler Moore fame. Like Leoni, her performance has a subtlety that comes from a marriage of experience and natural comedic ability. Her boozy but still very sympathetic character couldn't have been pulled off by too many actresses. And the three children in the movie, played by Sarah Steele, Ian Hyland and Victoria Luna, weren't just there to fill space. Each delivered a totally professional performance that added to the whole.

If I were pressed to condense this review to a cliché consisting of just a few words, I would probably call Spanglish a story about a love triangle. But that wouldn't do at all because there are triangles intersecting triangles and various other shapes in this movie, with a little salsa and nouvelle cuisine thrown on top for good measure. In the end, this movie defies description; that's one of its great surprises.

Here's the trailer:

Don't forget to check out our 100 Romantic Movies list!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Romantic Movies: The Lake House

The Lake House (film)Image via WikipediaThere's just something so romantic about unrequited love or a romance that's denied the right to flourish for one reason or another. That's probably a pretty sick perspective, but it's true -- at least for me.

This is one of the reasons that The Lake House (a remake of the foreign film, Il Mare) is so appealing. These two people try so hard to get together but they're literally separated by a wall of time that pushes them apart, even though they both live in the house designed by Keanu Reeve's character's father. Naturally, this resistance factor makes them want to be together all the more. And as an audience member, you're right there with them -- cheering and hoping everything will somehow work out all right.

But this isn't your everyday romantic movie. There's a complex existential aspect that makes this movie a romance, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in a 2,000-piece crossword puzzle. As a result, it took at least three viewings for me to unravel the structure and all the ins-and-outs. A lot of work? I suppose. But it was worth it in my estimation.

Without giving away the ending, I'll say that by the time the movie is through, you not only will feel satisfied; you might just have a new respect for the fact that anything is possible. To quote the title of another of Sandra Bullock's movies, there's a certain practical magic going on here. When you watch this movie, you might even feel some of it will rub off on you.

Here's the trailer:

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Romantic Movies: Gone with the Wind

I just couldn't have a blog about romantic movies without mentioning Gone with the Wind. I don't remember whether I read the book or saw the movie first because I've done both so many times.

I'm sure I don't bring anything new to the party by focusing on this particular romantic movie, but I can't help myself. The themes are huge and iconic: love war, infidelity, The Old South, family and love of the land. All those and more are packed into just under four hours. It's like The Jerry Springer Show with hoop skirts and a side of crack cocaine to keep the energy level up.

One of the things I love most about old movies like this is that the surroundings start out so beautiful, then move into ruin and decay and are restored to beauty again. Somewhere during that journey in Gone with the Wind, however, you start to realize that beauty is relative. Scarlett, played by the lovely English actress Vivien Leigh, is universally acknowledged as the belle of the county and beyond. But how beautiful is she really? As the movie progresses, she lies, cheats, steals, manipulates and mis-marries. The question is, does Scarlett's long slide into selfishness and depravity make her any less beautiful? I say yes.

For me, her beauty is only restored at the end when she realizes that the man who loved her all along is the man that she loves too. Maybe her luster is restored in my eyes because I also know what it feels like to make the wrong choice where love is concerned. Maybe that's why we all watch romantic movies -- we're all just trying to figure out that thing called love.

Here's the trailer:

Don't forget to check out our 100 Romantic Movies list!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Romantic Movies: Someone to Watch Over Me

Talk about a romantic movie! But then again, if you're a female, the mere presence of Tom Berenger in his 1980s prime makes it romantic.

Someone to Watch Over Me succeeds in the romantic genre because it has some essential contrasts. As with many such movies, the characters in question are thrown together through no choice of their own. In this case, gritty and oh-so-adorable Detective Mike Keegan (played by Berenger) is thrust into the upscale world of crime witness Clare Gregory (played by Mimi Rogers) when he has to protect her before she testifies.

Dutifully waiting at home is Mike's wife, Ellie (played by Lorraine Bracco) and their young son, Tommy (played by Harley Cross). Ellie's no shrinking violet; she's lived as a cop's wife for years and she has no illusions. So it doesn't take her long to figure out that Mike is at the very least fascinated with Clare's upscale Manhattan lifestyle. His fascination soon turns to love, however, when Clare and her night-shift guard Mike spend time together until the wee hours.

I know adultery hurts people. But this film makes it so compelling, it almost makes you glad they're being so naughty. And don't worry, it all works out in the end -- not that there aren't lots of complications in between. There are bad guys galore but, naturally, someone as cute as Berenger just has to win. But to the writer's credit, I'm surprised at the outcome every time I see the movie.

Even though there's a lot of action, this is definitely a romantic movie. If you're a romantic movies fan, this is one you won't want to miss!

Here's the trailer:

Don't forget to check out our Top 100 Romantic Movies list!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why Romantic Movies?

Classic Image via WikipediaRomantic movies are often sold on at least the possibility of "the great kiss" between two famous movie stars, making the viewers wish they could be kissed like that. They're usually also filled with plots in which the guy doesn't give up until he gets the girl (or the guy gets the guy or the girl gets the girl) and they live happily ever after. This formula works because who doesn’t dream of their Prince or Princess Charming at some time in their lives? Romantic movies externalize that desire and project it onto the big screen.

Even if you have a less than perfect love life, you can always experience the thrill of romance by going to a theater or by popping in a DVD in the privacy of your own home. It's amazing how satisfying that can be.

This blog is all about giving you choices in romantic movies. To get you started, we have a list of 100 romantic films, which is linked to yet another list that contains over a hundred more. And each of our reviews contains the original trailer for the movie. When that's not available, we include the best video compilation we can find so you can get an idea of what the movie is like before you rent or buy it.

So put your feet up, get a cup of coffee and have fun perusing this collection of romantic movies. You might just find it inspirational!

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

100 Romantic Movies

These 100 romantic movies are in no particular order. They're just what I consider to be the best romantic movies. I certify them to be romantic! But that doesn't mean they're all hearts and flowers. Some of them are tales of obsessive and not-too-healthy love. Yet even those manage to at least inform and, in some cases, inspire.

At the bottom of the page is a link to even more romantic movies. As extensive as these lists are, some of your favorites might have been left off. If you have a favorite romantic movie that's missing, please leave a comment to let me know and I'll add it.

Click the "Read review" links to read my reviews.
Tootsie - 25th Anniversary EditionGone with the Wind (Two-Disc Edition)The Lake House (Widescreen Edition)
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Read reviewRead review

Someone to Watch Over MeSpanglishPride & Prejudice
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Clueless (Special Whatever! Edition)Mansfield Park (1999)Bridget Jones's Diary (Collector's Edition)

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Love Actually (Widescreen Edition)Sweet Home AlabamaShakespeare in Love (Miramax Collector's Series)

The Princess Bride (Special Edition)Rear Window (Collector's Edition)Maid in Manhattan

Knocked Up (Unrated Widescreen Edition)The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Unrated Widescreen Edition)My Man Godfrey

Sense & Sensibility (Special Edition)Becoming JaneJane Eyre (Masterpiece Theatre, 2006)

Walk the Line (Widescreen Edition)84 Charing Cross RoadTime After Time

The Wedding PlannerGuess Who's Coming to Dinner (40th Anniversary Edition)Love is a Many-Splendored Thing

Mystic PizzaLady Chatterley's LoverThe Shop Around the Corner

CocktailMemoirs of a Geisha (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)My Fair Lady (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Tin CupSophie's ChoiceDear Frankie

Four Weddings and a Funeral (Deluxe Edition)Brokeback Mountain (Widescreen Edition)You've Got Mail

Something to Talk AboutMessage in a Bottle
A Room with a View (Two-Disc Special Edition)

TitanicJames Clavell's ShogunThe English Patient (Miramax Collector's Edition)

50 First Dates (Widescreen Special Edition)Sliding DoorsA Walk to Remember

Murphy's RomanceSomething's Gotta GiveThe Graduate (40th Anniversary Collector's Edition)

Same Time, Next YearBeing ThereLove Story

As Good As It GetsDirty Dancing (Ultimate Edition)Ladyhawke

The Wedding Date (Widescreen Edition)AlwaysThe Age of Innocence

American Beauty (Widescreen Edition)The Thorn BirdsMy Big Fat Greek Wedding

The Remains of the Day (Special Edition)Like Water for ChocolateGhost (Special Collector's Edition)

The Bridges of Madison County (Deluxe Widescreen Edition)The Great GatsbyA Walk in the Clouds

Annie HallSecretaryThe American President

The King and I (50th Anniversary Edition)Return to MeDoctor Zhivago (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Harold and MaudeDances with Wolves - Extended Cut (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)Benny and Joon

Under the Tuscan Sun (Widescreen Edition)Notting Hill (Collector's Edition)Music and Lyrics (Widescreen Edition)

Ever After - A Cinderella StorySleepless in Seattle (10th Anniversary Edition)Amelie

Beauty and the Beast (Disney Special Platinum Edition)Moonstruck (Deluxe Edition)Out of Africa

The Way We Were (Special Edition)While You Were SleepingSabrina

French KissSteel Magnolias (Special Edition)An Affair To Remember (50th Anniversary Edition)

All About EveJezebel (Restored and Remastered Edition)Lost in Translation

P.S. I Love YouEnchanted (Widescreen Edition)Atonement (Widescreen Edition)

Bridget Jones - The Edge of Reason (Widescreen Edition)