MovieHype00578 – Love
My plan for the weeks leading up to the Oscars was to run several “theme” columns, where we look at movies that tie together somehow. I’ve got some doozies lined up. This is still my plan, but late Saturday night it occurred to me to run a Love Movie column for today instead of what I originally had. So, I’ve thrown some material together, but given the short time-frame, I don’t have full reviews on the all the films. What I do have is a list of what you should and should not rent for that special night.
Bear in mind three things: As I am philosophically opposed to Valentine’s Day, this column is not an implicit endorsement of the holiday, or the Card, Flower and Candy companies who sponsor it. Rather, it is simply a recognition that a lot of people need a good flick to watch tonight (or perhaps some other night soon). This brings me to my second point: this column is mainly for guys, to give them an idea of what will make the women happy (shockingly, it’s not an action film), and perhaps make them more receptive to…whatever. And finally, I consulted an actual girl on this (Jerrica), in case you doubt my own legendary knowledge of the scary, I mean gentler sex. On with the show.
WHAT NOT TO RENT
Jerrica was quite down on LOVE STORY and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. On the surface these seem like fine date movies, but look beneath. Jerrica points out that in LOVE STORY, the conversation turns to who Oliver will date once Jenny is dead. (Note: I DO NOT consider it giving away the plot by mentioning that Jenny will indeed die. Every girl already knows this, and every guy should know it, so that they are prepared for their girl to cry like she got her leg broken in two places.)
With WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, the conversation includes a discussion of how men and women cannot be friends, as sexual thoughts always get in the way. Of course, obviously Jerrica is insecure and has many issues, but that’s what makes her a great consult: so is every woman in the world. Anyway, best to stay away from these and let your girl rent them for Chick Night or something.
WHAT TO RENT (IF YOU ARE COMPLETELY IN LOVE)
If you happen to be in that grandest of stages, when you are head over heels in love and can practically live off a charged phone call with your new paramour, the best recommendations are SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, and MOONSTRUCK. Note that both movies are not that great, but the girls will eat them up. And, if you’re in that phase, so will you. Just don’t tell other guys you like the movies, because they will mock you at least until Easter.
WHAT TO RENT (IF YOUR GIRL LIKES OLD MOVIES)
It used to be money in the bank to get an old romantic movie, as far as pleasing your woman. Unfortunately, many modern girls are Movie-illiterate when it comes to the classics. You may still win major points, but she might also be bored at the old-fashioned sentiment. Nonetheless, there are some great romantic ones out there, like CASABLANCA, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, and THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. All of these have stood the test of time, and while AFFAIR TO REMEMBER isn’t quite in the same league, it’s so romantic you’ll be fighting her off all night. However, make sure this is what she wants instead of watching TITANIC for the 15th time.
ABSOLUTELY CAN’T GO WRONG (UNLESS SHE’S A TOTAL PRUDE)
If light-hearted romantic comedy is the call, you simply can’t miss with Richard Cutis’s best offerings. One of my very favorite movies is FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL. This is a hysterical movie, filled with warm performances, great characters, easy-going romance, just a touch of sadness, and a breezy style. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like this movie. (Well, I did meet one person, but I quickly concluded she wasn’t worth talking to, and terminated all contact with her.) This is a good bet, especially for an early date. It’s romantic, but not enough that there will come that awkward pressure moment. Really, though, everyone will love this.
Curtis not only wrote but directed LOVE ACTUALLY, another gem. Set in London the five weeks before Christmas, LOVE ACTUALLY shows the lives and loves of about a dozen intermixed characters. You’ll have a hard time deciding which story line is your favorite (mine were the little boy and the writer with language block), as the action zips from one to the next. There is plenty of humor here, lots of romance (but not in a chick-flick sort of way), and even a little touch of sadness, to make you appreciate the good parts all the more (a la the funeral in Four Weddings).
One caveat: both FOUR WEDDINGS and LOVE ACTUALLY are rated R, and contain a bit of language, sex and nudity. Most people won’t even notice, and it’s not put in for shock value, but simply how they do things across the pond. Nonetheless, if your woman is someone who would get mad at these things, stick with the classics. (Although, honestly: if you’re dating a woman who would get bent out of shape over a few swear words, consider cutting your losses. Obviously if you’re married you’re stuck, so que sera sera.)
WHAT TO RENT IF YOU’RE ADVENTUROUS
I can’t recommend the following, but I watched it for a Film Noire column, and then realized that it might work for today. Get it at your own risk:
Antonio Banderas is Luis, who lives in Cuba somewhere around the turn of the century. (Although down there, it’s hard to tell. The fashion is all Gone With The Wind-ee, but I’m reasonably sure it’s about 1900.)
Anyway, he sends for a mail-order bride from Baltimore (why Baltimore when you’re in freaking Cuba with hot Cuban women? This is never addressed). Chided that he’s not entering a marriage out of love, Luis says love is for the people who believe in it. (He doesn’t. Foreshadowing alert!)
You see, the girl who’s coming is rather plain, but women are for companionship and babies, not to look at.
However, to our eternal shock, Julia Russell of Baltimore is not Miss Plain Jane, but actually Angelina Jolie. (More on this later.)
She confesses that she sent a false picture because she didn’t want to be picked because of how remarkably pretty she was. For his part, Luis admits to a secret of his own: he is not a humble clerk in a Coffee House (the international distribution kind, not the Java Joes kind), but rather the owner of said Coffee House, and his deception was because he didn’t want to be picked for his money.
Ahhhhhhh. The adorable couple is just made for each other. Or, as Julia puts it: they have one thing in common; they both cannot be trusted.
Now, if you’ve ever watched a movie, you should be able to figure out where they are going with this. Go ahead and think it through. I’ll wait.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what ORIGINAL SIN has going for it, and what it doesn’t.
First of all, there is plenty of nudity, including both Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie. This would be all well and good if I did not despise her, but that’s my bias, and most men will heartily approve (as I’m sure most women will of a frequently naked Banderas).
Moreover, there is a bunch of steaminess. It’s actually pretty trashy, like a Harlequin Romance novel, but with Jolie, you get what you pay for. I personally felt the “heat” between the two leads was manufactured, but again I’m in the minority.
What else is good? The costumes are fabulous. I’m relatively sure that the entire population of Latin America does not dress for a Cotillion Ball, but that’s what we get. It makes sense, though, if you buy the theory that this is a trashy romance for women. Chicks tend to like all those lacy bodices that have to be undone languorously, or else ripped off in mad passion.
It took me awhile (the first act is so transparent I started doing a crossword puzzle), but eventually it occurred to me this was pretty much a Latin Film Noire. I like most Film Noire, and since there are conventions that Film Noire movies follow, you could forgive ORIGINAL SIN for some of its predictability. For example, there’s usually a Femme Fatale, a nice guy who gets caught up in horrible circumstances, murder, intrigue, double crosses, etc. So, looking at ORIGINAL SIN that way, they did an okay job.
Finally, Antonio Banderas is always watchable to me, especially when he’s mad. He should be mad basically all the time (or else a vampire or else singing. Those are the two best performances of his I can think of when he’s not mad).
What’s not so good? Basically everything. The dialogue is howlingly awful (although I suppose you could enjoy the camp of it, and therefore like it). They try this flashback time-line set up, which definitely doesn’t work here. To arty for this much trash.
And Angelina Jolie is simply a train wreck.
I’ve often tried to explain to people what I find so unappealing in her. I think it was the previews for this movie four year ago that did it. The camera spends an inordinate amount of time on close-ups of her lips. And to me, they are simply hideous.
Secondly, Jolie’s best feature by far is her eyes, but instead of letting them shine on their own with natural tones, movies often have her with a raccoon-like slut look. This is such a turn off. I realize it sounds like I’m just grading her on her looks, but be honest: nobody puts Angelina Jolie in a movie to get Oscar nominations. They do it because for some unknown reason there is a perception that she’s a sexpot. Therefore: it’s fair to make these judgments.
But let’s talk about her acting. She does this flirty “I see the joke in everything that you do not” thing. It could be good once or twice, but she does it with almost every freaking character!! It’s beyond played. I’ve seen TWISTED, so I know she can bring more to the table than this, but that’s usually all we get.
So what’s the final analysis? ORIGINAL SIN is a pretty terrible movie. It telegraphs its “surprises.” The acting is pretty bad, the lines worse, and if the plot is serviceable, you’ve seen it done 20 different times much better.
But for all that, I handled ORIGINAL SIN okay. Wasn’t the worst movie I’d ever seen, and I got some great laughs out it. There was even one REALLY GREAT moment that I hope to copy in my own screenplay.
Just don’t tell anyone I stole from an Angelina Jolie movie. I’d never live it down.
More importantly: what about for your evening of love? If your girl likes just a bit of trash every now and then, and you think this could, uh, prime the pump, then by all means go for it. Many girls like watching Antonio Banderas get naked, and the bonus for you is that he’s not around to finish what he starts. (Note to the eternally clueless: this is where you come in.)
One final thing: if you want to really impress her, ask her what the “Original Sin” is in the movie. Obviously they are talking about deception. I suppose you could say that’s what happened between Adam and Eve. The serpent deceived Eve and she deceived Adam. However, here’s where you get deep and impress her with your knowledge. Tell her that in the movie, as well as the Garden of Eden, the only real deception going on is people deceiving themselves.
Eve talks herself into believing a snake must be more right than God. Then Adam talks himself into believing it’s okay because Eve pressured him. Antonio Banderas deceives himself into believing that Angelina Jolie has only the best intentions (and she deceives herself into believing she can act).
Actually, probably no modern relationship would take place without self-deception, so tell her that you obviously deceived yourself into believing you deserve such an angel, when in reality she’s far far out of your league.
And let the good times roll.
February 14, 2005
Thanks to Jerrica