Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Valentine's Edition - Star-Crossed Lovers


"From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, 
A pair of starre-crost lovers take their life"

Whoa whoa whoa now, Shakespeare! I ain't trying to go that dark. Well, maybe a little bit. My picks this week aren't devoid of tragedy. But isn't there just something about a doomed love that makes it all the more heartfelt for the audience? I love a good romance, and more than anything I love a good one riddled with unclear destinies, for the truest, most-lasting, of loves are the ones we rush into without the clarity to know it probably won't work out. 

So, it's Thursday, and love is in the air. Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks is going Valentine's themed this February. First up, of course, Star-Crossed Lovers


Here are my picks: 

Harold and Maude
Dir. Hal Ashby, 1971


Harold (Bud Cort) is a rich kid of about 20, lost in life, nowhere to go, spoiled to no end, reaching for attention in any way he can, including through faked suicides virtually ignored by his mother. Maude (Ruth Gordon) is nearing 80, fast-living, totally sure of her fate, in full control of her life. What these two find in each other is more special than just about any found in movies. And that it is so odd just makes it all that more powerful...and truly star-crossed. Filled with both humor and sadness, Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude is perennially one of my favorite films. It gets better with every watch. 

Cold Mountain
Dir. Anthony Minghella, 2003


Inman (Jude Law) is a man of few words, a hard-working man, a hired hand. He rushes to join the fight with the rest of the young men of western North Carolina on the cusp of the Civil War. At the same time, he has fallen into passionate love with Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), a minister's daughter. The War will separate them for years. But through those years, all Inman ends up with is that love, drawing him back to his home in Appalachia on Cold Mountain. I don't particularly like the casting of Jude Law in this role, but he does his best, I suppose. And the film itself is lovely and a perfect adaptation of Charles Frazier's love letter to his mountain home, just a couple hours from where I, myself, grew up. 

The Spectacular Now
Dir. James Ponsoldt, 2013


Sutter (Miles Teller) lives his life on the edge, right here and right now. He is a budding alcoholic and may not even realize it. Aimee (Shailene Woodley) isn't part of his crowd, humble but destined for success in life. In each other, they find the missing piece, the best in themselves and a first true love. This movie filled me with life when I saw it. It is THE MOVIE that prompted me to write about movies again, making this blog what it has become up to this point. It is a story of young adults that respects young adults and their problems more than just about any story of its kind. I felt love and pain in every moment of pure chemistry between these two young actors, and I applaud director James Ponsoldt's subtle storytelling with each film of his I watch. 

15 comments:

  1. Nice picks buddy. I particularly love Cold Mountain. It's shameful how some people regard that film as sub-par. It's a lavish and beautiful film with a very finely tuned ensemble.

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    1. I'm so glad you love Cold Mountain. I always thought it was a lovely film.

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  2. I caught part of Cold Mountain on TV again the other day and I was enjoying it a lot more than I remembered. I'd like to watch the full film again. I've never seen Harold and Maude, but I really liked The Spectacular Now.

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    1. There is plenty of good about Cold Mountain. I'm into because my late grandmother loved the book so much. I spent a lot of my childhood a mere few miles from Cold Mountain itself, where that particular grandmother lived.

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    2. Oh, and definitely see Harold and Maude. It's an "Indie Gem" from way back.

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  3. I didn't like Harold and Maude much at first, but after rewatching it several times I've come to love it.

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  4. Harold and Maude! Harold is teen angst incarnate. LOVE it! And The Spectacular Now is so great, beautifully underplayed and subtle. Never saw Cold Mountain, although I will because I'm an Oscar completist.

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    1. Finally, someone else in our little blog world, who thinks The Spectacular Now is great. I love that movie so much. And Harold and Maude...it just doesn't get better as far as odd romances are concerned. Cold Mountain is far from a perfect movie, but it is gorgeous and features some great performances from a great cast.

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  5. Wonderfully unexpected pick of Harold & Maude, it never occurred to me but it's so perfect for the theme. A unique, odd individual picture.

    I wish I had similar words of praise for the other two. Kidman and Zellweger are two actresses I disdain and the presence of both in one film was almost more than I could bear, CM was a total duty watch for me considering the prizes it was up for and the fact that I liked the book, it turned out to be an unrewarding one. I detested The Spectacular Now utterly, Shailene Woodley's appeal escapes me entirely. They fit the theme well they just weren't for me.

    I had the initial idea to make this an all Barbra Streisand theme within the theme since star crossed lovers was part of her stock in trade during her peak years but her version of A Star is Born is such a stinking pile I just couldn’t bring myself to include it and turned to a MUCH better version of the same tale. I threw in a little snippet from each to highlight the theme.

    The Way We Were (1973)-Memories will light the corners of your mind after viewing this high quality drama of Jewish radical Katie Morosky (Babs) and "gorgeous goyish guy" Hubbell Gardner (Robert Redford) who attend college together in the 30’s then meet again during WWII and despite immense differences fall in love. The film follows their problem plagued relationship through dating, marriage and the Hollywood blacklist. Tale of doomed love is ultra-romantic with political overtones has nice period detail and perhaps Streisand’s career best performance.

    **Star-crossed quote- "I want us to love each other. The trouble is we do."

    Funny Girl (1968)-Gawky, burning with ambition and massively talented Fanny Brice is trying to make her way in show biz, by chance she meets suave professional gambler Nicky Arnstein who helps give her a step up. Sensing a spark but pulled apart by circumstances Fanny continues her ascent occasionally running into Nick until a fateful encounter leads to a great love. Problem is Fanny’s compiling one triumph on top of another while Nick feeling the pressure of being “Mr. Brice” suffers a series of bad luck deals leading to a disastrous decision (and an emotion packed finale). Oscar winning showcase for Streisand, how much is true is questionable though the real life Brice and Arnstein did have a troubled marriage.

    **Star-crossed quote-Nick: “I thought maybe, finally, at last my luck had changed…but it hadn’t. “Fanny-“So it will change tomorrow, the way it has a hundred other time. Everybody has a run of bad luck now and then it doesn’t mean anything.” Nick-“How would you know darling? You never lose.”

    A Star is Born (1954)-Band singer Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland) saves movie star Norman Maine (James Mason) from making a drunken fool of himself at a Hollywood benefit when he stumbles into her act. Intrigued he tracks her down to a late night club and discovers that she possesses “that little something extra” that makes a great star and convinces her to leave the band. After some complications a friendship develops leading to a romance and marriage but as Esther, now rechristened Vicki Lester, rises ever higher Norman, trapped by demons in a downward spiral, falls leading to tragedy for all. Judy’s pinnacle both vocally and dramatically. She’s almost matched by Mason and they are supported by strong work from Charles Bickford, Tommy Noonan and especially Jack Carson.

    **Star-crossed quote:
    “Love isn't enough, I thought it was. I thought I was the answer for Norman. But love isn't enough for him. No matter how much you love someone — how do you live out the days? How?”

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    1. I love your take on this. Sadly, I've never seen any of Streisand's early work nor either version of A Star is Born. Great quotes!!!

      As for Nicole and Renee, I pretty much agree. The casting was big for the time, I suppose. But that's Cold Mountain's downfall. The film itself is quite lovely and a fair adaptation of the novel, which is lovely in its own right, no doubt.

      I find Shailene Woodley quite natural and appealing. I don't dig her recent focus on making these shitty huge blockbusters though. Miles Teller is a fine young actor, as evidenced in this film and Whiplash.

      Glad you dug the Harold and Maude pick!

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  6. Harold and Maude is a great movie and really fits the theme. That said, I wasn't expecting to see it until next week. Love that you put it here. Cold Mountain is one of those movies I kept skipping over for something else with the intent on coming back to it, but never did. I'll have to check it out. As for The Spectacular Now...sigh...I know lots of people love it, but I hate it with a passion. It perfectly fits the theme, so there's that.

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    1. Thanks, man. I have a bad habit of not looking ahead at the themes, so I'll have to just pull some more out and kick myself going forward with these Valentine themes. Cold Mountain is worth a watch. It's gorgeously filmed. The casting leaves something to be desired. I remember your review of The Spectacular Now and understand why it missed for you. I love it. And it does work here, so..

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  7. I have only seen Cold Mountain and I really thought it was quite good even though Renee and Nicole can get on my nerves. It is a crime that I have not seen Harold and Maude yet and I expect it will be everywhere next week. I have not heard of The Spectacular Now but it sounds quite good especially since it brought you back to loving and writing about movies. I love what inspires us

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    1. Thanks so much. I found The Spectacular Now wholly inspired and inspiring. Some don't feel that way, but what do they know!? Haha! Harold and Maude is well worth a watch.

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