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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love at the Movies

Another favourite pastime of couples is the movies.

In regard to films, I have already posted my top five and top ten, but I thought it would be interesting to give such lists a Valentine twist. Although I have to admit that romantic movies are not usually preferred viewing for me, there are always exceptions and perfect moments for them.

I've prepared two lists with love and the movies in mind.

Films That Make Men Cry »
Usually men like to complain they are forced to watch what some may term "soppy films for girls" with their partners - but how about this Valentine's Day reversing the roles with the lady watching a "soppy boy film" instead? Or better still watch one of each.

Here are my eleven favourite films (plus one) that tug at those male heartstrings:

  1. It's A Wonderful Life - George Bailey (the incomparable James Stewart) is ground down by life and attempts suicide. A guardian angel turns up and shows him what the world would've been like had he not existed - and it isn't pretty. This film takes viewers on the George Bailey rollercoaster ride; we feel his utter despair and then his delirious delight. Eventually, he realises how wonderful his life actually is and we're crying with him. But don't be fooled by the ending - this is one of the darkest Christmas favourites ever made.
  2. Stand By Me - Four inseparable friends set out in search of a dead body. Wil Wheaton is the sensitive Geordie, rebel Chris is played by the late River Phoenix, Corey Feldman is the emotionally disturbed Teddy and Jerry O'Connell is chubby Vern. This coming of age tale makes you laugh one minute, and cry the next. The problems these boys have ease when they're with each other. The strong evocation of childhood, and the friends that have long drifted away, is enough to make anyone cry, but add that to the perfect use of Ben E. King's 1961 song and the tragic death of River Phoenix and you have palpable poignancy.
  3. Dead Poets Society - Robin Williams' manic energy is toned down to great effect in this 1989 movie about an unconventional, textbook-tearing teacher who asks his students to stand on their desks and see the world from a different angle. His charges, including Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard, are inspired to 'seize the day', to live boldly. The boys find their voice through poetry and literature - but it leads to tragedy. And if you can make it through that bit without crying, you've got the tear-inducing "Oh Captain, my Captain!" scene to come. After this film, we all knew what 'carpe diem' meant...
  4. Schindler's List - Based on a true story, Steven Spielberg's visually stunning, haunting Holocaust epic tells the story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a womaniser and war profiteer who creates a list of 'essential' Jews to work in his factory. By the time the Allies arrive, he's lost his entire fortune, but saved 1,100 Jews. So many images break your heart: the little girl in the red coat, the showers, Schindler's breakdown at the end ("I could have done more...I could have done more"). It's so hard not to cry at the inhumanity man is capable of and it's so hard not to cry at the humanity man is capable of.
  5. The Shawshank Redemption - Although critically acclaimed, this beautifully crafted 1994 movie starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins was unsuccessful at the box office. However, through VHS/DVD rentals, the Internet and word of mouth, The Shawshank Redemption has grown into a phenomenon. At its heart is an uplifting message about friendship (particularly male bonding) and the human spirit. No wonder the hardest of men cry watching this. A personal favourite of mine.
  6. The Green Mile - Director Frank Darabont's second adaptation of a Stephen King prison tale (the first being The Shawshank Redemption - see above) is an emotionally-charged film about a prison guard (Tom Hanks) and black inmate John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), convicted of raping and murdering two white girls. Gentle, kind and afraid of the dark, Coffey doesn't fit the mould of a psychopathic killer and it soon becomes clear that there's something special about him. Few people are able to watch this movie without crying buckets of tears at the end, moved by lost innocence in every form...
  7. Glory - Triumphantly acted by a cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher and Denzel Washington, Glory is a tribute to the selfless bravery of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts, a troop of free black men long prevented from fighting during America's Civil War. Based on the letters of Colonel Shaw (played by Matthew Broderick), on July 18, 1863, he volunteered the 54th for a death mission. As they set out to die, the black soldiers finally win the respect denied them as black men; the irony is enough to make you weep. And you will.
  8. Gladiator - Ridley Scott's epic drama stars Russell Crowe as captured general-turned-gladiator Maximus. His heart literally breaks when he discovers his slaughtered family and his obvious undying love for them makes living alone almost too much to bear. Again, it's the themes of family, close and extended, that appeals. But also, it's Maximus' nobility, his values - he's a good man and that quality speaks to a great deal of men watching. All he wants is to be with his wife and son again; it's heartbreaking and it induces tears.
  9. Field Of Dreams - "If you build it, he will come." That's the ethereal message which inspires a debt-ridden farmer named Ray (Kevin Costner) to construct a baseball diamond in his cornfield. Everyone thinks he's mad, but his wife supports him. Driven by forces he doesn't understand, Ray's faith and incredible journey ends with the most precious gift of all. Field Of Dreams moves men to tears chiefly because it's an emotive film about fathers and sons and the ties that bond. You'd have to be made of stone not to be moved at the sight of Ray playing with his father again.
  10. Kramer vs Kramer - A housewife (played by Meryl Streep) walks out on her son Billy (Justin Henry) and husband Ted (Dustin Hoffman). He evolves from absent parent to ideal father, but a bitter custody battle ensues. Why do men cry at this movie? Although made in 1979, its issues of divorce, child custody, shifting gender roles and a father learning how to look after and love his son, are as relevant today as they ever were. The film's realistic depiction of Ted and Billy's relationship melts the hardest heart.
  11. The Champ - If you're a man who doesn't like an audience when you cry, see this 1979 remake of the 1931 classic alone. Jon Voight plays a washed-up boxer fighting to retain custody of his son and Ricky Schroder is the boy he absolutely loves to death. The Champ is the champion of tear extraction; I guarantee you'll be blubbing like listeners at a Tarkan concert by the time the credits roll. Three words: "Don't die Champ!"
  12. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial - Okay I'm cheating a little here with this last one - it's not my favourite. A friend of mine once told me that after a couple of dates, he always suggests dinner at his place and E.T. The reason for this? He cries when E.T. 'dies'; he cries when E.T. recovers. He cries when Elliott and E.T. escape from the government facility; he cries at E.T.'s "Come" plea and Elliott's heartfelt, "Stay". Moved at his sensitivity, one thing always leads to another and with the help of E.T., he cries women into bed. His justification? "The tears are always genuine." Somehow, I'm not convinced - even if the ladies are.

Film's 10 Romantic Couples »
Big-screen love always seems sweeter than the real thing, doesn't it? If you've never given up your love to fight an evil empire or married behind your families' back, I am assuming that these genre of films are here to remind us, in their bigger than life way, that love is something special. It may not always involve swords, sandwiches, or Queen Elizabeth I, but it's up to you to remember that it's something extraordinary nonetheless.

Here is a selection of ten screen couples (not all from films I enjoy) that attempt to show us of how love is supposed to be...

  1. Rick Blaine & Ilsa Lund from Casablanca (1942) - One of my personal favourites - they'll always have Paris and we'll always remember a love that was sacrificed so that two people could fight the evil of Nazi Germany.
  2. Romeo Montague & Juliet Capulet from Romeo & Juliet (1996) - Shakespeare's classic couple defy their families and deny their names to engage in an affair doomed by Verona politics and re-created in so many guises that this list could be filled out with only its innumerable incarnations. I prefer the play, but this modern adaptation does rather well.
  3. Rose and Jack Dawson from Titanic (1998) - I personally do not enjoy watching this film (okay ladies you can stop groaning now), however this was a love that transcended social class and enabled Rose to break free from the constraints of familial duty and become her own woman. Its tragic ending serves to cement their love for all time...or so the film tries to make us believe.
  4. Baby and Johnny from Dirty Dancing (1987) - A coming of age romance between a young girl and an older, professional dancer. Their differences and mutual admiration serve to help each other become better people...though not how to speak to well meaning parents apparently. There’s nothing like love to make people want to be better people...or better dancers, is there.
  5. Lloyd Dobler & Diane Court in Say Anything... (1989) - If there's any argument against having "our song", Lloyd puts it to rest with a scene repeated by unworthy men all over who held their ghetto blasters aloft for love.
  6. Harry Burns & Sally Albright from When Harry Met Sally... (1989) - Passing over the cringe-worthy male stereotypes, this classic answer to whether or not a man and woman can be friends without sleeping with each other still sets the standard for the romantic comedy and forever alters the sandwich eating experience - remember the girl as she fakes an orgasm?
  7. Charles & Carrie from Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) - This proves that romance can blossom across the Atlantic with this charming tale of bad timing, slightly worse timing, tragic timing, and appallingly unforgivable timing that ends up quite lovely in the end, despite the rain.
  8. Laszlo de Almasy & Katharine Clifton from The English Patient (1996) - Casablanca's doppelganger portrays a man who will sell his country out to the forces of evil for the sake of the woman he loves.
  9. William Shakespeare & Viola De Lesseps from Shakespeare in Love (1998) - Ignoring the Hollywood assassination of my favourite bard, Shakespeare becomes entangled with a young woman defying Elizabethan tradition and taking to the stage as a man. When she is betrothed to another, Stratford's playwright concocts the second story on our list and defeats the writer's block that threatened to derail his course to classrooms the world over.
  10. Christian & Satine from Moulin Rouge (2001) - True love (of the Bohemian variety) leads a writer into a doomed love affair with a Parisian showgirl promised to another, but in love with the hero in this manic musical medley of pop music and period drama.

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