Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Romantic Comedies


Love is in the air again for this week's installment of Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks.

The "Romantic Comedies" -- When done right, they can become your favorite movies. The sad thing is that so many aren't done right. It's a genre that can easily become cheesy and predictable. The best ones have to find the right blend of truth, charm, a touch of drama, and real human comedy. Care must be given to how a romantic comedy ends. Too much perfection is cheap. Too little is devastating.

I feel I've picked a few this week that find the right blend of those aspects. They are true and charming, dramatic and comedic. They are perfect movies.


Here are my Thursday Movie Picks:

The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)


What can be said about this movie. It's just a masterpiece. The Best Picture Winner that year, it stars Jack Lemmon as bachelor C.C. "Buddy Boy" Baxter, ambitious drone in a New York City insurance firm. In an attempt to make his way to the big office, he starts lending his pad to the executives upstairs and their various mistresses, including Mr. Dobisch (the great Ray Walston) and the head honcho, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). He sacrifices for his hopeful big promotion in the darkest, shortest days of the year, right around Christmas. That as a time setting is perfect for this material (credit to screenwriters Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond) as the loneliness is even stronger around the holidays. Baxter is lonely, lives a lonely life, a life made even more complicated by his crush on the elevator girl, Miss Kubelik (the cutest Shirley MacLaine you've ever seen), but he is a nice man, good spirited and funny. This is the most charming movie I've ever seen. And it's influence on other "romantic comedies" is evident still today.

Chasing Amy (Kevin Smith, 1997)


Kevin Smith's best work as a screenwriter, Chasing Amy stars Ben Affleck as Holden McNeil, a comic book artist whose work chronicles the stoner antics of Jay and Silent Bob (a.k.a. Bluntman and Chronic a.k.a. Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith). He works and lives with his foul-mouthed best friend and "tracer," Banky Edwards, played by Jason Lee, who is probably the best actor period for Kevin Smith's dialogue. At a local ComicCon, Holden meats Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), thinks he has a chance, only to find out...dum dum dum...she's a lesbian. There is a scene recounting battle scars from sexual encounters in high school that is just the most perfectly written comedy ever, and, then later, a heartfelt and equally perfectly written profession of love that is unmatched in any "romantic comedy" I've seen.

Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)


When asked by Marc Maron in a recent interview, "What's that about?", Paul Thomas Anderson could only say, "Love, baby." Punch-Drunk Love is one of the most pleasing movies I know. It's weird, sort-of sad, also about a lonely, awkward guy, who just doesn't know how to deal with pretty much anything in his life. The guy is Barry Egan (a perfectly-cast Adam Sandler), owner of a business specializing in novelty bathroom fixtures and equipment. In addition to being an awkward loner, he also has to deal with his seven domineering sisters, one of whom sets him up with Lena (Emily Watson), a woman charmed by Barry's boyish innocence. As his life begins to unravel in the wake of one fateful call to a phone sex line, his love story (and a newfound passion for Healthy Choice pudding) begins.

Seasonal Bonus Pick

Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)


Since Monday was the day of all days of all days of all days that means very little, I am bound to remember one of my top ten favorite movies of all-time, the Bill Murray/Harold Ramis comedy Groundhog Day. Murray plays Pittsburgh TV weatherman, Phil Connors, a cocky, sarcastic jerk, who travels to Punxsutawney, PA, every year for the famous Groundhog Festival. When a blizzard hits outside of town, he finds himself stuck in this town he hates for another day...to say the least...and must learn how to make himself a better man and win the love of his producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell). The brilliance of this screenplay and Ramis' direction is in the fact that this flick is immensely re-watchable. In fact, it must be seen over and over. I've seen it a dozen times at least, and I still can't keep the timeline in order, or how much time actually passes. It is just beautiful, hilarious, and ultimately..."romantic."

The Balder & Dash blog over at RogerEbert.com is featuring Ebert's "Great Movies" review of this classic. It's miraculous. Head over there by clicking here, and check it out!

20 comments:

  1. Good call on Chasing Amy! It's been awhile since I've seen that. Punch-Drunk Love is an interesting pick, because I never thought of it as a rom com, but it kind of is. And I've yet to see The Apartment. Great picks!

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    1. Thanks! It's funny. I've always thought of PDL as a rom com. It's a weird one but it is just the same. I definitely get that feeling at the end. Chasing Amy is just so good and so true. I actually haven't watched it in a while but it's endlessly memorable.

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  2. Love Chasing Amy. Ben Affleck's speech in the car to Alyssa is SO swoon-worthy. I long to one day have reason to quote it in full to someone. I don't LOVE The Apartment like everyone else seems to, but I really really like it. Jack Lemmon has never been sexier than when he's using that tennis racket to make pasta. I need to see Punch-Drunk Love.

    Groundhog Day definitely stakes a claim to being the greatest comedy ever made.

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    1. I know right! I've always wanted to be able to go off like that. I sort of did once. It didn't work as well.

      And Oh yeah! Jack Lemmon and his racket. Hot!! Lol. Love it.

      Punch-Drunk Love is great! So strange and gorgeous to look at. As for Groundhog Day, you said it. It's true.

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  3. I've only seen The Apartment. Liked it, didn't love it. I know it's a classic, though. Been meaning to see the others for a while. Just haven't gotten to them, yet. I'm more curious about Chasing Amy since you've said it's better than either Clerks and Dogma. I have to check it out pretty soon, now.

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    1. Now, I won't say it's "better" than Clerks. It is better than Dogma though. It is definitely the best that Kevin Smith has done as a writer. It's the closest one to Clerks in that regard. Check it out definitely, especially if you're a fan of Smith's earliest work.

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  4. I remember the first time I ever saw The Apartment.It was Christmas Eve and I went to the video shop (long since closed) and picked up It's a Wonderful Life and The Apartment.
    I was going to just watch It's a Wonderful Life because it was a Christmas movie and I didn't know much about the other film, imagine my surprise when it turned out to be not just a great movie but also a Xmas movie too. I really felt the magic!!

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    1. The Apartment is great, and I love that it's set at Christmas but doesn't make a super huge deal about it. It's just sort of there. I think that really makes it a smart movie. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  5. Punch Drunk Love is the only one I watched on your list. I know it's this well love quirky romance but I didn't get any of its charms at all. Like why does the Emily Watson character seem overly determine to date Sandler's character before meeting him....just based on his sister's recommendation...

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    1. PDL works for me every time. Honestly, I think she's just intrigued by him. She mentions at one point that she saw a picture of him and thought he was cute, so that's why she wanted to meet him. The way their romance plays out is just so original and odd. I loved it!!

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  6. The Apartment! Such a great pick. I also love that you went with Groundhog Day as a seasonal bonus.

    I kind of hate Punch-Drunk Love...but I also have only seen it once and am going from my declining memory of it.

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    1. The Apartment is seriously the first movie I thought of for this category. I wanted to try for sort of odd picks. There are so many to choose from. Punch-Drunk Love is certainly odd. I love that PTA loves Adam Sandler movies and wrote this for him. I say watch it again. It really is a special movie, strangely original and charming.

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  7. Nice mix. The Apartment is loaded with wonderful touches by Wilder and Jack & Shirley are perfect together. Fred MacMurray always made such a strong impression when his characters were morally corrupt, as he is here as Sheldrake and in Double Indemnity, yet he spent most of his career playing the lightweight leading man. He seems like such ideal casting but was a last minute replacement when the original actor cast, Paul Douglas, died suddenly just prior to the start of filming.

    It's been years since I saw Chasing Amy but I liked it. Punch-Drunk Love is an interesting inclusion, definitely the darker side of romance. Sandler really put a great deal of effort into this, it's a shame he's become so lazy in his film work and doesn't seek out material and directors that might challenge him. One of my three choices this week was his The Wedding Singer, a lighter project but one where he was invested in the character and he and Drew Barrymore made a very charming couple.

    I resisted Groundhog Day for years since I'm not overfond of Bill Murray but happened upon it when it was just beginning one day and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It wasn't what I had expected, in a good way.

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    1. Thanks, man. MacMurray is great in The Apartment. Slimy without being obvious about it. I love that. He just is who he is. Many actors in a lesser movie would play that sort of character as a heartless jerk.

      I so agree about Sandler. He scores huge with just horrible movies these days (the last I saw was Grown Ups 2, which is up there with the worst movies I've ever seen). I don't get it. He is so good when he works outside of his own productions. I wish he did it more. He has become lazy. Stuff like The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates really had heart and worked. HIs latest stuff is just thrown together and it shows.

      Groundhog Day is endlessly watchable for me. I love it. But I'm a huge Bill Murray guy. He can almost do no wrong for me.

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  8. I actually haven't seen The Apartment -- I am going to hand in my Film Buff card right now.
    :-) It is on my "to see" list along with Punch Drunk Love.

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    1. Both great movies. Movies that are close to my heart. It seems Punch-Drunk Love has become a debatable pick if you've read any of the other comments here. I seem to be in a bit of a minority on it as a romantic comedy, but I think it fits the bill nicely. The Apartment is a full-on classic. I recommend everyone watch that one.

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  9. Great list. Oddly enough I had just watched Groundhog Day and completely bypassed it as a prime candidate for this week's theme. I was always fond of The Apartment, loved that movie. Punch Drunk Love was actually one of my less likeable of Adam Sandler's filmography (...well except the Grown Ups sequel), and I have yet to see Chasing Amy - but I'll put that on the top of my to-watch list since you said it was as good as Clerks.

    Thanks for following my blog, I''ll show my appreciation here as well :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Mike. Glad you stopped by. I always liked the fact that PTA wanted to do a movie with Sandler and this is what he came up with. He played on the Sandler persona without it being silly, like the majority of his work even up to that point. Chasing Amy is just great, especially if you're a fan of Smith's humor but even if you're not.

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  10. I've never seen The Apartment, but you make it sound great! I'm going to add it to my list of films to see.
    I love your bonus pick the best. It's a romantic comedy that both men and woman can own up to watching. That's extremely rare.
    BTW, It is cool to find new bloggers!

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    1. Thanks so much. The Apartment really is, for me, the start of the modern romantic comedy, though I haven't seen a whole lot of super old movies, which I aim to fix. Groundhog Day, I think, really works with this topic, and it was fitting that this category should fall on Groundhog week.

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