2015 Oscar Nominees: Our Reactions

Source: US Magazine

This week was one of the most important weeks in my whole life. It started with the Golden Globes, the official kick-off to awards season, and then on Thursday, the 2014 Oscar nominees were announced. I don’t think I need to spend any time qualifying just how important the Oscars are. It’s like saying, “Hey, George Washington was an important dude.”

But of course, the announcement of Oscar nominees is never a simple process. No matter what, there’s going to be backlash – anger that a certain film was nominated, shock that a certain actor was snubbed, etc. It’s impossible to please everybody, no matter how many great films get nominated. So when I enlisted my frenemy Chelsea to once again help me out with this post, that’s the approach we tried to take – not looking at these lists in terms of what’s not on them, but focusing on what made it here, and how these nominees speak to the year in film overall.
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For Those Who Love and Hope for Love: The Mindy Project and Romance

The Mindy Project season finale aired last night, and any lifelong fan of romantic comedies was probably left squealing and clutching their battered copies of When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail. A perfectly crafted thirty-minute homage to some of the best and defining films of the genre, it saw (spoiler alert) Danny Castellano using some tricks from Billy Crystal and Tom Hanks to get back together with Mindy.

The Mindy Project is, of course, no stranger to some of the more popular romcom tropes, or even homage to some of these iconic films. An episode in season one was called “Harry & Sally,” and its storyline concluded in “Harry & Mindy”; the pilot episode included the standard revelation of feelings scene from You’ve Got Mail. Mindy Kaling herself has said many, many, many times how much she loves romantic comedies, and even interviewed Billy Crystal and gushed about When Harry Met Sally the entire time. So of course her love for romcoms is inscribed in the DNA of her show. The Mindy Project generally follows a boyfriend of the week structure, so we get to see Mindy chasing after all kinds of men. That variety allows for a mini-romantic comedy every week, because we get to see it all: the initial attraction, the honeymoon phase, then the crashing realization that something’s wrong. Sometimes, the boyfriends stick around for a few episodes, and when that happens, the trope changes. It’s not a romcom anymore; it’s allowed to expand and become something different. Continue reading

“You want to be in love in a movie” – Top 15 Romantic Comedies

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Like every rational person, I am well-versed in the art of watching romantic comedies.  And I’ve seen them all: from the terrible, overly cheesy films to the ones that are so well-done, you don’t even want to mention them in the same breath as some of the other drivel that makes up the genre.  I watch them all eagerly, and let myself get completely wrapped up in the sentimentality that drives them all.  Romantic comedies get a bad wrap for being unrealistic and falsely building up expectations, but there’s so much more to it than that.  In fact, some of the best romantic comedies are the ones that don’t follow those stereotypes at all, to the point where they might not even seem like romantic comedies at first glance.  Sure, a formula has developed, but really, every good romantic comedy stands on its own, and has its own definition of what it means to fall in love.  Ultimately, my definition of a romantic comedy (and what defines a film as such) is one that puts two characters on a journey that ends with both falling in love and becoming the person they need to become in order to have a happy and sustainable relationship.

A few friends and myself have decided to start a podcast, and our inaugural episode will feature a discussion of romantic comedies.  To preclude that discussion, Kim, Sage, Jenn, and I came up with our top 15 favorite romantic comedies (and all their picks can be found by clicking their respective names!).  This list took a while to come up with, and is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  So without further ado, here it is: my fifteen favorite romantic comedies.

 

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15. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

The only way you can beat my crazy was by doing something crazy yourself. Thank you. I love you. I knew it the minute I met you. I’m sorry it took so long for me to catch up. I just got stuck.”

After being released from a court-ordered stay in a mental health facility, Pat (Bradley Cooper) struggles with his return to his normal life.  His friend sets him up with his sister-in-law Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), but the two, both suffering from mental illness and instability, find countless flaws within each other.  But they quickly realize they need each other: Tiffany needs a dance partner for a competition she’s always wanted to enter, and Pat needs to prove to his estranged wife that he can be dependable.

Silver Linings Playbook is the youngest film on my list, and received tons of attention last year, including Oscar nominations for every acting category and Best Picture, among others (and a win for Jennifer Lawrence).  I think you’ll see a trend in my list where I often favor films that aren’t just romantic comedies; in fact, at first glance, Silver Linings Playbook isn’t a romantic comedy at all (and in fact, it’s only so low on my list because its status as a romantic comedy isn’t something that jumps out to me right away).  At times, it’s incredibly dark, and the focus isn’t on Pat’s growing romantic feelings for Tiffany, but his growing connections to the world around him.  But Tiffany is a huge grounding force for Pat; she helps him let go of his need to win back his wife and allows him to cut loose and have fun.  You don’t want Pat and Tiffany to fall in love for the sake of watching people fall in love; you want them to fall in love because it genuinely seems like it would be good for them.  One of the biggest draws of romantic comedies is the idea of fantasy; you want to see the characters find each other and fall in love because you want to fall in love.  But Pat and Tiffany are both suffering from deep-seeded issues, and are on heavy medication and under serious pressure from their families to show signs that they’re improving.  There’s no fantasy here; you don’t want to be Pat or Tiffany.  But you want the best for them, and at the end of the film, it’s clear that starting a relationship is the best decision either of them could make.

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“I think you’re great.” – My Thoughts on The Way, Way Back

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A few Communies (including the lovely ladies from Head Over Feels, who posted their own review of the film) and I were lucky enough to attend a screening of The Way, Way Back at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria last week.  I’ve been excited about this film for a while, for so many reasons.  Most importantly, it was written and directed by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, the Oscar-winning screenwriters of The Descendants, two people my Twitter timeline know very well.  But even if wasn’t interested in its creators, the film’s trailer seemed to hint that this film was going to be something special.

The museum was screening it as part of series on coming of age summer films, and I have to admit, I haven’t seen the other films they’ve shown (despite them all being very, very famous.  Whatever, guys, I was born in the ‘90s and my mom was apathetic about expanding my film knowledge), so I can’t speak to just how much they have in common with The Way, Way Back.  But I’ve always been drawn to character-based stories, especially ones about teenagers, because when they’re done well, they speak to the widest possible range of its audience: everyone has been a teenager, and remembers what that time is like.  But even though they have the ability to be the truest and most honest representations of life, coming-of-age stories, like anything else, have developed certain patterns and follow similar structures.  And there were certain elements covered in The Way, Way Back: there’s an awkward boy in a very, very unfamiliar environment, a girl who offers a different way of life, a role model outside his troubled family…But this film took those familiar elements and turned them into something else, something unexpected and fresh.  It wasn’t just a great film; it was something I’ve never seen before.

Warning: I don’t discuss the plot directly, but I talk enough about the emotional journeys of the film that it might spoil some of the impact of the film.  I think it added a LOT to the experience to not have an idea of where things were heading, so if you plan on seeing this movie, I’d wait to read my review.  If you don’t care about having it spoiled, or you’ve come back after seeing it, then proceed.

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