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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Best and the Worst Movies on Love

Romantic films are hard for me to call “good” at times. Far too often are they classified as romantic when in actuality they’re nothing more than a bunch run-of-the-mill chick flicks with the same cliché ending that’s expected of all of them. Such a formula has made the classic romances age horribly and given our culture a false look at what love should be. Now, as the song suggests, I’m not here to tell you what love is, but I am going to provide a list of GOOD love stories to boost your intellect.

Granted, they’re overlooked, but the mainstream audience doesn’t want love stories facing reality. They want love stories that work on paper, but could lead to divorce in real world. Thus, I provide my post-Valentine’s Day list of the five best films, concerning the now superfluous subject of love I’ve ever seen:

Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal – An anime film? Really? Really. “Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal” does more than just borderline an NC-17 rating with animated violence. The characters may very well be the most believable couple in a romantic relationship. Himura Kenshin is a samurai assassin in Japan during the late 1800s. His sad and violent life is finally given rest in the form of his first wife Tamoe. But not all is as it seems. Any synopsis I can give this movie really won’t do it justice, but rest assured, the portrayal of love is stronger than 95% of the live action, “romantic” American drek released every year.

A Beautiful Mind – Russell Crowe delivers his greatest performance as mathematic genius John Nash and his decent in to madness. The beauty of this story is not an easy-going romantic tale. Nash’s wife, Alicia, nearly goes insane herself staying with Nash. Her own life even ends up at stake. There are crucial points in the movie where you can tell there isn’t much love between Nash and Alicia. There’s even a point where she nearly leaves him. (In reality she did.., but came back.) The hardships of their relationship are a far truer look at love than most movies portray. There are moments where they can’t stand each other, but they stay together. They work through the difficult times and in the end it pays off. But it’s a painful journey. None of this, “you make me feel amazing 100% of the time, every day,” crap.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – I want to note that I think “A Beautiful Mind” is an overall better film, but this one probably portrays the essence of love better. In this film Jim Carrey plays Joel Barish, a man who falls in love with Clementine Kruczynski. Though they’re drawn to each other, their radically different personalities end up being the cause of their break up. Too hurt by the memories of one another, they find a doctor capable of erasing the memories of each other. Joel decides to do this but soon finds he wants to keep his memories—It’s too late though. However, the two meet up again, remembering what happened due to a specific twist of events, and decide to continue their relationship despite their differences. This is important because it seems all too often couples in reality don’t want to work through their problems. People get too caught up in the emotion of a moment that they forget about the actions that make love significant. “Spotless Mind” is an excellent reminder of trying against the odds, even more so than “A Beautiful Mind.”

Juno – Though not specifically a romantic film, the themes in “Juno” are some of the most important pieces of information any film has given on the subject. In a world where everyone she knows is breaking apart, Juno ponders if two people can stay together forever. Can love really conquer? Realizing that it is possible to stay with a single person forever, it is also very hard. “Juno” takes time to remind the audience that divorce is possible, but if a couple is committed to each other even in the worst scenarios, it is very possible to remain as one. Don’t look for the guy that makes you feel good, instead, as Juno’s father suggests, “the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with.”

The Fountain – The beautiful tale of love spanning over thousands of years. Or simply a love so powerful that it could span over thousands of years? Either way I’ve never experienced a movie so great that in transcends the theatrical and moves in to the spiritual. Probably the most underrated film in history, and easily one of cinema’s greatest, my favorite film shows Hugh Jackman in his greatest performance. Becoming the character Tom, instead of simply acting as him, we watch a man so in love with his wife that he will go as far as to cure life’s end and transcend time and space to do it. The emotion this film provides is so genuine and so powerful that many people just don’t get it. I however am constantly overwhelmed by its pristine power and can only urge others to marvel at its intense story of love in both life and death.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, what about the 5 “worst?” Granted, there’s probably worse out there, (or at least more bad chick flicks circulating bargain bins) but these strike me as the bottom of the barrel. This is going to be fun kids. Get ready for the 5 worst chick flicks:

Dirty Dancing – Patrick Swayze plays a dance teacher who falls in love with a very talented student. Typical drama follows with the worst, most cliché ending the movie could possibly have come down to. All flash and no substance; “Dirty Dancing” isn’t even dirty. It’s just bad.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days – The epitome of bad new millennium chick flicks. Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson embarrass themselves in this movie that’s so by the numbers and predictable you could fall asleep in the middle hour of the film and not miss anything. Naturally, there’s a final scene with the guy chasing down the girl before she leaves on an airplane followed by the obligatory, mind-numbingly bad speech of how she makes him feel. So you want this girl just because she makes you feel good? Well that’s rather selfish. The movie would have been better had McConaughey actually been “lost.” Otherwise it feels like it goes on for ten days.

The Wedding Planner – McConaughey knows how to pick’em! “J-Lo” stars as his love interest this time, and sat, watching this catastrophe, laughing harder than I did when I saw “Hot Fuzz.” With what is quite possibly the worst romantic script ever written, I find myself losing brain cells watching J-Lo attempt to act while McConaughey considers whether or not he wants to be with his bride-to-be or a wedding planner. Tough call!

The Notebook – The most overrated and despicable “love story” of my generation. This glorified chick flick has all the ingredients for getting naïve, teen girls to cry and has even tricked the male gender to think it has some cinematic worth. I will not fault the acting, but the story is designed to paint a picture of love that is false, melodramatic and, ultimately, a failure. When the story has to use typical, overdramatic plot devices to spice up the emotion it loses sight of what true love is really about. I wonder how many divorces this movie has caused?

Sleepless in Seattle – This is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous, far-fetched chick flick in history. Tom Hanks plays a recently widowed man with a son that uses a radio talk show to find him a new gal. “Aw! That’s so sweet.” Sweet would be if his son looked back on the memories of his mother at all. In the meantime the film flips back and forth from Hanks and his soon-to-be love interest, Meg Ryan who lives across the country. The two never interact at all and only see each another by the very end of the film thus we giving us the age old “love at first sight” cliché and a host of poorly constructed scenes. Cute right? “Rambo: First Blood Part II” was a better love story.

So there you have it. The good, the ugly and the super ugly. I hope the next time you sit down to watch a romantic film, or a movie simply dealing with the concept of love, you choose wisely. Happy belated Valentine’s Day.

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