Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Top 5 Tuesday: Date movies for smart people

Well, I wrestled with today's title a bit -- "Date movies for people who read" was one alternative, and I thought of a few others that wouldn't perhaps make me sound like an intellectual snob. But then I thought -- damn it, I am an intellectual snob, and if we can't all get together on the fact that Maid in Manhattan was a stupid-ass movie, then I have little hope for our future as a species.

Keep in mind that this list is quite distinct from the category of guilty pleasures -- a list with entirely different criteria. Plus, if you do in fact adore Maid in Manhattan, I'm not calling you an idiot, if for no other reason than that I probably don't lack for people to do that for me.

One important rule here: for the sake of keeping things relatively simple, I'm excluding classics from this categorization, for the reason that they open a whole new can of worms. Start including Casablanca or His Girl Friday, and the field just gets too big -- to the point where you could make a Top 5 Bogart Date Films (which, incidentally, would be Casablanca, African Queen, To Have and Have Not, The Maltese Falcon and Sabrina) or Top 5 Cary Grant Date Films (which would be His Girl Friday, Nortorious, North By Northwest, The Philidelphia Story, and Arsenic and Old Lace).

So, in descending order this time:

5. Intolerable Cruelty. This one didn't do as well by the critics as Cohn Brothers' films usually, which is a crying shame, because it's such a wonderfully sharp satire on romantic comedies while still being a romantic comedy. It is, as a friend of mine once observed, the anti-Hugh Grant movie. George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones have this amazing chemistry, which makes me fear for the possibility that they may one day get together, in which case I think their uber-children might be poised to take over the world.

4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I include this for several reasons: one, I simply love this film; two, I think anyone who doesn't get swept up in the grand, epic romantic sweep of the story and enraptured by the visuals Ang Lee offers us quite simply has no soul and might well not cast a reflection. Which is something that can be used as a litmus test for potential mates, as I should have been more aware of when I took a certain ex to see it, and she informed me that it wasn't bad -- but that it totally ripped off The Matrix.

3. Moulin Rouge. I imagine this is a choice that will be contested, as in my experience you either love this film or loathe it. As far as smart films go, however -- I've now taught it three times, and beyond its beautiful bombast and sheer absurdity, it is a truly brilliant piece of filmmaking. That is, in my not-so-humble opnion.

2. Much Ado About Nothing. The original romantic comedy, the one that perfected the genre long before we had the notion that pictures could move. Like pretty much all of Kenneth Branagh's films after Henry V, a deeply flawed endeavour -- let's try and ignore Robert Sean Leonard's incredible wooden performance as Claudio, and the less said about Keanu as the villain the better -- but all is redeemed by the extraordinary interplay between Branagh and Emma Thompson as Bennedick and Beatrice, by the heartbreakingly beautiful Tuscan landscape, by the beautifully dignified and yet mischievous performance by Denzel Washington as Don Pedro (it makes me wish he'd do more Shakespeare), and by Michael Keaton's fabulous Beetlejuice ... I mean, Dogberry.

1. Shakespeare in Love. My favourite story about this film is that it started as a whimsical project by Tom Stoppard, who conceived of it with the thought that Shakespeare would have had to deal with more or less the same ringamarole as a Hollywood screenwriter ... and it then passed through the hands of various studio execs, each of whom ordered the script modified, until it made it into production in barely recognizable form. That is, until the actors realized that Stoppard had been the original writer, at which point they demanded to see the original version. And the rest is history.

Runners-up: Annie Hall (though this might qualify as a classic), Big Fish, Shaun of the Dead, Chicago, An Ideal Husband, Truly Madly Deeply, Sense and Sensibility, High Fidelity, Three Days of the Condor, Out of Sight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang ... and I'm forgetting a bunch.

8 comments:

Reel Fanatic said...

Great list of movies that definitely fit the category .. My only changes would be to move High Fidelity into the top 5, and add Manhattan in the place of Annie Hall

Lesley said...

I’ll be honest here, normally when I read your entries I start to compose my response in my head, based on my initial reaction to either the title or the beginning paragraphs. This time was no exception. I was all ready to type “Clearly these are five dates I will not be going on since I’m not so SM4RT” but then when I read through the list, I had to agree with almost every single one! Come on! The best movies EVER! Shakespeare in Love? I’ve seen this movie about a bajillion times and IT’S STILL GOOD EACH TIME! And dude, Moulin Rouge? BEST MOVIE EVER! Not just the writing and the photography but also the acting. SUPERB! Ditto on any Shakespeare movie done by Kenneth Branagh (I'm a little partial to Hero's speech at the wedding ceremony but I can't tell if it's because Kate Beckinsale was so awesome or because I was so far gone with how great the movie is).

Now if I could just find a man who is intellectually snobby enough to watch these movies and isn’t gay (cue the macho jock dudes who say “Moulin Rouge? I ain’t watching any fru fru pansy ass movie with dancing let's watch Aliens exploding with guns and bombs dude”).

Anonymous said...

The problem with fessin' up to intellectual snobbery is the intense scrutiny that goes along with it! Yep, the spelling police are here:

First up... NoRtorious?! Ok, I'm granting a pass on that one as it's a likely candidate for a typo.

Philidelphia?! The city called and it wants its name changed back to the way it was in the good ol' days.

Cohn Brothers? Ok, an honest mistake (names are hard for some people, especially teachers) but next time I see the Coens I'll run the alteration by them to be sure it's greenlit.

Finally, I prefer Benedick over Bennedick in Much Ado... but I'm splitting hairs now.

I'm just ribbin' ya, but you asked for it! Now make those changes, chop chop.

Chris in NF said...

I would argue that "intellectual snob" and "spelling police," while certainly having overlap, are different designations ...

The dangers of writing a blog entry first thing in the morning before coffee, I guess.

Anonymous said...

>I would argue that >"intellectual snob" and >"spelling police," while >certainly having overlap, >are different >designations ...

Agreed.

Grant Edmunds said...

fuk yeh man get ur speling rite hahaha fuk yes

luv gant

the dewaard said...

out of sight only a runner up? the brilliantly edited/photographed dinner/sex scene alone should put it in the top 3 at least, let alone a surprisingly fantastic performance by j lo. and i would add amelie. but good list yes. ive been meaning to add a weekly list to my blog for some time, so if you see it, i only half stole the idea.

mentwras said...

Great list man, I will definitely write a top 5 date article for my site www.finestfive.blogspot.com.
I have to add Reality Bites, Singles, and As Good As It Gets.