Friday, February 1, 2013

Froggy's 13 Day Valentine's Film Festival

     Okay, so it was pretty popular when I did this with horror films for Halloween, so I see no reason not to do another little love letter to another appropriately seasonal genre:  love stories.  I'm not saying these are my favorite thirteen of all time (gotta save some for the 2014 festival).  They are a good balance though, bringing comedy, romance, the span of time, and a little hint of the bizarre.  Be mine...

2/2 - Bringing Up Baby (1938)  "Let's start at the very beginning".  Howard Hawkes' classic is remarkable for two main reasons.  First, it is one of the great early classics in the careers of two of our finest film stars:  Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant.  Second, it was the film that invented the screwball romantic comedy practically all on its own.  Without this film, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock might have never had careers at all.  Oh, third's a delightful, funny, and charming film that is just almost perfect.

2/3 - Dead Again (1991) Kenneth Branagh doesn't just do Shakespeare and super-heroes (who speak like they're doing Shakespeare).  He also directed (and starred in) this little supernatural thriller about a love that could survive multiple decades...and incarnations.  Emma Thompson plays his leading lady.

2/4 - 500 Days of Summer (2009) Director Marc Webb (Amazing Spider-Man) doesn't just do super heroes either.  He made his mark with one of the best romantic comedies of the twenty-first century, helping to launch Joseph Gordon-Levitt's career as a major Hollywood leading man.  An unusual progression of chronology helps this one from falling into the most of the genre's more tiring conventions or predictable story structures.

2/5 - The Graduate (1967) The film that launched Dustin Hoffman's career and gave us "Mrs. Robinson" and "The Sound of Silence" is just as fresh today as it was when director Nichols first made it.  Anne Bancroft sparks the Cougar Revolution.

2/6 - Harold and Maude (1971) Perhaps the best (and strangest) May/December romance ever stars Ruth Gordon (age 75) and Bud Cort (age 23) as the title characters.  This film is a true cult classic that made director Hal Ashby's career.

2/7 - City of Lost Children (1995) And then we reverse the May/December in French director Juenet's (Amelie) own cult classic.  This film is also notable for launching Ron Perlman's career.  He was forty five.  His leading lady is eleven.  He's willing to wait.  If you like your freaky love stories with circus strong men, orphan thieves, Siamese twins and lots of clones (and, yes, subtitles), then you are in for a real treat.

2/8 - True Romance (1993) This early Tarantino script was directed by Tony Scott and put a modern twist on the Bonnie and Clyde style love story.  Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette play our reckless lovers at the height of their indie cred.  They are backed by an AMAZING supporting cast including Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Samuel L Jackson, Bronson Pinchot & Michael Rappaport.

2/9 - When Harry Met Sally (1989) I think it safe to say that this Rob Reiner classic is the yardstick against which all modern romcoms are measured.  When people say that great comedies never get the respect at the Oscars that they deserve, this film (nominated only for screenplay) is one of the SPECIFIC ones they mean.  Billy Crystal has never been funnier and Meg Ryan has never been cuter, while Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby give supporting turns among their finest work.  "I'll have what she's having..."

2/10 - The Princess Bride (1987) I'm not sure if "Harry" or this film are Rob Reiner's finest moment as a director, but this is perhaps the best true "fairy tale" romance ever made.  Cary Elwes and Robin Wright play our couple, and are supported by a cast including Mandy Potenkin, Chris Sarandan, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, Billy Crystal, Fred Savage, Carol Kane & Peter Falk. Highly satisfying as a romance, an adventure, and a comedy.

2/11 - Annie Hall (1977) Arguably Woody Allen's finest film, and the one that introduced the world to Dianne Keaton.  What else needs to be said?

2/12 - Weekend (2011) Yeah, you knew I was going to throw one gay love story into the mix.  Writer/director Andrew Haigh's debut is one of the most mature and realistic I've ever seen.  Stars Tom Cullen and Chris New give remarkable, breakout performances.  You can read my review right here if you need more convincing.

2/13 - Dangerous Liaisons (1988) Stephen Frears, story of love as a curse and a weapon is the perfect choice for the day before Valentines so that all of us without sweethearts this year can get all our "love sucks" bitterness out before we spoil someone else's life the next day.  Glen Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman at their very best...and Keanu Reeves.

2/14 - The African Queen (1952) What starts with Katy should end with Katy.  Hepburn and Bogart in one of the all time great onscreen romances.  Legendary director John Huston directs.  She may be eternally associated with Spencer and he with Bacall, but they are simply delectable together.

     I hope these films help to get you in the spirit of the season.  They would all be great to curl up with your sweetie and watch on a cold February evening.  Well...maybe not Liaisons, but the rest of them.

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