J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Romantic movies: A man’s guide, part 1.

With Valentine’s Day coming up soon, I figured now was as good a time as any to talk about this.

Regardless of how you feel about this particular holiday, and whether you believe it’s a trumped up occaision by greeting card companies to make money, or it’s superficial, or that it’s primarily a day to remind single people that they should be miserable, even if they have no reason to be, there’s one particular kernel of truth to be gleaned from it:

It’s never a bad thing to make that special someone in your life actually feel special.

For some men, this turns out to be a bit of a chore, more than anything. It’s like our mission is to survive it, to do whatever our women want out of us, so that they’ll be happy and won’t make us miserable for a while afterward. We’ll take them out to a romantic dinner, get them chocolates, get them a card, write them poems if we don’t suck at it (and sometimes we will anyway, just because love can do that to a guy), and, of course… the staple. The romantic movie.

Now, I’m a pretty typical guy. I like action movies. I like science fiction and fantasy movies. I like comedies. I like horror. I like all those manly things. And to be honest, I’ve been rather outspoken in the past about how I feel calling a movie a “romance” means that it’s pretty hollow and doesn’t have much else to it, compared to other genres*.

*Quick, think of five movies that DON’T have “Boy meets girl” as a plot line anywhere in it. It’s probably harder to do than you think.

But, that being said, there are some romantic movies out there that are genuinely good, and I feel, from a man’s view, that won’t put us to sleep this Valentine’s day if we suggest them as viewing material.

The Princess Bride (1987):

I’ll humor the 3 people on the planet that have not seen this movie with a basic bare bones overview.

Basically, it’s the case of a princess who is kidnapped by an evil prince who wants to force her to marry him, for political reasons (he wants to start a war, because EVIL) and not for love. Her childhood friend and beau returns from a long time away, except now he’s a pirate. He begins a quest to rescue her. Along the way he befriends a giant and a skilled swordsman out for revenge, and encounters thieves, giant rodents, and of course, the evil prince.

…have you ever noticed how the best movies always sound awesome, no matter how much you simplify the plot into a few sentences? This is a great example.

This movie really does have it all. It’s got humor. It’s got wit (you could easily argue that this is one of the most quotable movies ever made). It’s got action. And, of course, it has plenty of mushy stuff that makes it a great date movie too.

There are a lot of parts to this movie that make it great. Ask a roomful of people what their favorite scene is, and everyone could plausibly have a different answer. From the infamous poison drinking game, to when Inigo finally finds the man who killed his father, to the wedding scene, to the ROUS swamp scene… there’s a lot to be found here. But let’s be honest. At its heart, this is a classic love story, with some fairy tale stylings.

But this sums up what really makes the movie, in my opinion.

This scene says it all for the relationship between the Princess and Wesley. You can tell, just from the look in his eye, and the way he says “As you wish”, that he’d do anything for her. That includes going to get stuff for her in hard to reach places, or falling down obscenely large hills, if that is her wish. He goes to insane lengths in his life to do what she wants, with nary a complaint. I mean, in this particular spot, he just came back from a life of piracy, just for her. Even though he’s bitter, because he thinks she moved on the moment she heard of his “death”. And she shows him her gratitude by throwing him down a hill. Most guys would probably just give up by then, but him? It’s what she wants of him at that very moment. And that’s all he ever wants to give her. That’s some serious love.

And to top it off, you have the grandfather and the boy to lampshade it all, and give you a laugh in the middle of it all. This movie is ridiculously good at making you surf across different feelings in the span of minutes.

Fellas, if you have a girlfriend who has some geeky inclinations that, for some reason, has not seen this movie, make her watch it with you. I promise, you will look like a genius.

After all, true love doesn’t happen every day.

It Happened One Night (1934):

If you thought I was going old school by going back to the 80s, well, think again! Most people these days just groan and think of romantic comedies as brainless schlock at worst, and comfort food for the women in our lives at best. And for the most part, they’d be right. But there’s one important thing to remember about this genre: it used to symbolize some of the best movies that would come out, especially at their inception.

This movie was the first motion picture to EVER win the Oscar grand slam (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Director/Screenplay), back when Oscars actually meant something. And it’s a romantic comedy. Most people think of Clark Gable as “the dude from Gone with the Wind”. Me, I think of him as Peter Warne, the fast talking reporter who has a curious fondness for eating carrots*.

*It’s an obscure bit of trivia, but Friz Freleng mentioned in his biography that many of Gable’s quirks in this movie inspired the character of Bugs Bunny. Seriously.

Bare bones overview: A spoiled socialite girl throws a fit when her rich father forbids her to marry a snobbish aviator, and runs away. Her father puts out a $10,000 reward to anyone who finds her. She eludes anyone looking for her, riding a cheap bus for the most of the way. For the most part, anyway. She can’t fool Peter. Peter blackmails her, promising not to turn her in… as long as he gets exclusive rights to the story of her reuniting with her love. And of course, along the way they end up falling in love with each other, etc. Watch the movie for yourself.

The movie is dated in some ways, of course, what with it being seventy nine years old now. But the things you really need to tell a love story that’s actually funny are all there. Clark Gable is hilarious, and iconic in that “every man wants to be him, and every woman wants to be with him” kind of way. Claudette Colbert is gorgeous in that classic old school hollywood starlet way, and she’s actually a good actress to boot. And, most importantly, they have chemistry together in spades. That’s all you need, really. A good backdrop, place a couple with chemistry, and watch the sparks fly.

There are two scenes in particular that I find exceptionally brilliant in this one. Take, for instance, this scene where Peter and Ellie are in a rest stop, having breakfast, when two detectives working for her father almost find them. To fool them into backing off, Peter cleverly pretends to be an overbearing, borderline abusive husband to Ellie, and acts fiercely defensive of her when the detectives step in and start asking questions. And without him even offering her any cues, she instantly starts playing along, wailing and screaming like she’s being abused the whole time. This is a scene that wouldn’t go over well at all these days, but I find it brilliant. It also marks the beginning of when they start to not hate each other anymore.

The second one is the iconic hitchhiking scene. This was controversial back in the day, and Colbert allegedly didn’t even want to do it at first. I don’t know why, she has nice legs. Also notice the carrot chomping, bugs bunny style.

Guys, if you have a girlfriend that doesn’t mind watching classic movies, this is a freaking slam dunk of a pick. I guarantee it. And even if she’s not a fan of old movies before, this one just might convert her. It’s that good.

I’m not even close to being finished, and I’ll add more as Valentine’s day gets closer. But I just want to prove that you can turn on a romantic film and not expect it to bore you, even if you’re a manly man like me.*

*Relax, I’m kidding. Sort of.


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This entry was posted on February 1, 2013 by in Movies, Reviews.
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