Thursday, February 8, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks - Romance

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. You can join in the fun by picking three movies that fit the week's topic and writing a bit about them. That's it! Couldn't be easier!

Oh dear. A big topic this week. Romance. I'm not even sure I know where to begin with this one. There have been so many wonderful romances of every possible stripe captured on film, how can I possibly pick just three?

I don't know.

But, I'm in a bit of a mood right now, so I'll just pick the first three that come to mind and feel right and pick those, I guess. Sound good? GOOD. Here we go!

Summertime (David Lean, 1955) A "spinster" secretary from Akron, OH finally gets the courage to take her dream summer vacation to Venice. But Venice is a city of lovers, and she is alone. But one day, she meets a swoon-worthy local who confesses his attraction to her, and convinces her to not give up on the possibility of happiness. So she gives in. But how will their romance turn out? I will not say, but for the fact that Summertime has one of my favorite endings of any film, thanks in large part to the power of Katharine Hepburn, giving one of her best performances. David Lean's shooting of Venice is like a dream, and Rossano Brazzi IS a dream as the Italian lover. Summertime is one of the most undersung movies in Lean's filmography (which also includes the tremendous Brief Encounter). Do yourself a favor and watch it.

Letters to Juliet (Gary Winick, 2010) In 1957, Claire Smith couldn't work up the courage to defy her parents and stay with her love in Italy. In desperation, and finding herself in Verona, she wrote a letter to the Shakespearean heroine Juliet, leaving it stuffed into the brick wall at the Casa di Giulietta, where Italian women serving as "Juliet's secretaries" take it upon themselves to write back to every letter left behind. But Claire's letter remains unseen for 50 years, until an enterprising young New Yorker magazine fact checker named Sophie, on "vacation" in Italy with her distracted chef boyfriend, finds it, and answers. Claire then comes to Italy - with her handsome grandson in tow - and Sophie uses her fact-checking skills to help her find the Lorenzo she left behind half a century ago. I'll be upfront: This is not anything more than an utterly average (if gorgeous-looking) movie, and even if the trailer didn't spoil it, you'd still know exactly what happens at every moment. BUT. Vanessa Redgrave plays Claire, and she is sheer perfection, creating a truly indelible, memorable woman out of a plot device. She's a wonder, and when she's onscreen, Letters to Juliet shines.

La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2015) Mia, a struggling actress, meets Sebastian, a struggling jazz pianist, on one of the worst days of both of their lives. Then they meet again at a party, where they discover that they have incredible chemistry. But can two artists make it together in a world defined not just by dreams, but by settling for less than your dreams? Damien Chazelle's thoroughly modern yet utterly classic musical is a wonder in its best moments, when it completely embraces the medium of film and the possibilities of the musical genre. From the moment I realized the opening number was going to be done in a single take tracking shot, La La Land owned my heart and soul, and after seeing it three times in theaters, I still wasn't over it. It's a total sensory experience, and even if I can concede that it might get a little wonky there in the middle I wouldn't give up that dance among the stars, "Audition", or that gorgeous, dazzling, perfect epilogue/finale for anything.

13 comments:

  1. We match with 2 movies! I love Summertime which is pure romance and it’s a genre I don’t love but I love this movie. Venice is beautiful and I want to go back. La-La Land has good music and the opening is excellent but I was not enamoured with it. I do t know if it was all the hoopla but Ryan Gosling can’t sing. He holds the notes but his voice is weak although he shines when he plays the piano. Emma is better but she is no musical gal from the wondrous years of the musicals. I have jus5 marked down Letters to Juliet..it looks predictable but I still would like to see this movie.

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    1. Venice is definitely one of my bucket-list places to travel to.

      I kind of liked that Emma and Ryan weren't the best of singers in La La Land; I think it went with what the director was trying to go for - a sort of Jacques Demy "these are just two regular people who happen to be singing" thing, but I thought their voices were quite pleasant to listen to.

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  2. La La Land is a great choice! It' also the only movie I've seen from your list this week. lol

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    1. hehe You should definitely blind spot Summertime next year! Letters to Juliet isn't anywhere near "classic" territory, but it is a nice time-passer if you have a couple of hours to spare and are in the mood to escape to Italy.

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  3. Summertime is a sumptuous looking film full of breathtaking vistas...and Rossano Brazzi! I also love the ending, it's bittersweet but so apt and Kate is very good indeed.

    Love the choice of Letters to Juliet! It isn't a "great" film but very romantic with one of the greatest actresses ever doing beautiful work that does elevate the film above other romantic dramas.

    I know I'll take some heat for this but La La Land, meh. Did it have some nice set pieces? It did but I didn't really like the characters. I was disappointed because being a musical fan I had expected to love it.

    Unlike the narrow scope of last week's theme there was a huge pool to choose from for this. Like you I went with the first three I thought of, all very big favorites of mine.

    Blue is the Warmest Color has been on my watchlist for a long time but I've just haven't gotten to it yet. Maybe with it being the appropriate time of the year I'll finally correct that.

    The other two though, so sad but terrific films. I haven't watched either in a while but I have seen both multiple times. Brokeback has such beautiful performances, even Anne Hathaway who I usually find rather risible. Atonement has all those amazing performances as well, even Vanessa Redgrave's tiny cameo at the end is a knockout, plus that incredible imagery.

    I went with films where love's course does not run smoothly either but all three are among my favorite films.

    Waterloo Bridge (1940)-A distinguished officer walks slowly across London’s Waterloo Bridge one evening during WWII pulling a talisman out of his pocket he falls into a reverie of his great lost love. On that same bridge in WWI then young soldier Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor) meets ballerina Myra Lester (Vivien Leigh-fresh off GWTW) when they are forced into a shelter during a bombing raid. Falling almost immediately in love they plan to marry but Roy is called to duty before they can and Myra pledges to wait for him. Having stayed out with him beyond curfew she is dismissed from the ballet and when Roy is reported killed in action full of hopelessness she falls into a life of degradation. On the stroll a year later in Waterloo Station Myra meets Roy, recently released as a prisoner of war and he whisks her off to his family estate in Scotland but is it too late for the pair? Beautifully directed by George Cukor, tragic and heart wrenching romance was the personal favorite of both Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor of their respective filmographies.

    The President’s Lady (1953)-In 1789 Andrew Jackson (Charlton Heston) seeking living quarters at the farm of the Widow Donelson (Fay Bainter) meets her daughter Rachel Robards (Susan Hayward) separated from her abusive husband Lewis. They strike up a friendship and after an attempt by Rachel to repair her marriage fall in love. Word arrives that Lewis has divorced her and the pair marry only to discover that Lewis never finalized the papers and their union is bigamist and he is now suing on the grounds of adultery. Truly free they remarry but scandal plagues them for the rest of their days as Andrew rises higher in politics towards the presidency but their love remains strong. Tender romance with a strong central performance by Susan Hayward looks at the mores of an earlier time and shows that mudslinging and the damage it causes are nothing new.

    Love with the Proper Stranger (1963)-Young na├»ve Angie Rossini (Natalie Wood) finds herself in quite a predicament after letting her guard down once and having a one night stand with feckless musician Rocky Papasano (Steve McQueen)….she’s pregnant. Seeking Rocky out she finds he at first doesn’t remember her but he steps up to help with the situation and despite interference from her very Italian family, his former showgirl squeeze and Rocky’s fears an attraction slowly blooms but there are bumps ahead before romance triumphs. Two movie stars at their peaks make this both gritty and swoony at the same time.

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    1. I totally get not liking the characters in La La Land. They are kind of thin, although Gosling and Stone are infinitely appealing and have amazing chemistry with each other.

      Waterloo Bridge is one of those holy grails of film for me - I always seem to miss it whenever it's on TCM, and I've heard such wonderful thing about Vivien Leigh's performance in it. HOWEVER, I now see that it is available to stream on Amazon Prime, so perhaps that will be my Valentine's Day viewing this year?

      Love With the Proper Stranger is another one that's been on my list for a while - I ADORE Natalie Wood. The President's Lady I'd never heard of before, though, and it sounds good.

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  4. I loved La La Land, and Letters to Juliet was a really nice movie. I haven't seen Summertime, but Brief Encounter is a masterpiece so I'm adding it to my watchlist ;)

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    1. Brief Encounter really is a masterpiece. Summertime isn't quite on that level, but it is REALLY good.

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  5. Oh dear, not a fan of the latter two. But i've not seen Summertime and I think I'd like it.

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    1. Summertime is really lovely. I hope you see it and like it!

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  6. I'm not in love with La La Land like everyone else, but it was a solid movie and definitely fits the category. Haven't seen your other two picks.

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    1. I definitely recommend Summertime - especially for a "date night" with Mrs. Dell. It's swooningly romantic.

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  7. I'm hoping to see La La Land this weekend...it looks like something I'll love.

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