omg this effect on the sky is like one of my favourite things. how do they do that? is it just a polarization filter on the lens?
next hard drive addition I’m making a folder that will have every movie in this thread along with the accompanying review
hoping for a Serendipity review to cover the rom-com-synchronicity subgenre
i’m interested in checking that one out at some point! not sure if it’s a romantic comedy but there’s probably at least an argument that mcconaughey is drawing from some deep collective memory of his old romcom roles.
Valentine’s Day (2010) - another seasonal Garry Marshall movie in the lineage of New Year’s Eve. But it feels more like Love Actually, maybe because it has the same subplot about an unbearable little child who announces he’s in love because his heart goes boom boom boom and other cloying shit only this one appears even more frequently and causes even more hassle to everyone. He gives people love advice, he tells people in class not to be so rowdy, he runs off and goes on wacky journeys to yell at the florist he (cutely?) underpaid for not delivering flowers on time, he reveals him and his best girl friend are the only people in their class who listen to Frank Zappa, he is essentially a walking version of one of those youtube comments that announces the author may only be 8 years old but they still love The Doors. Maybe it’s the greater screen time but I was much more bitter this time about the adorable moppet segments. Every time he shouted at some new person that he was in love i wanted them to shout back “you’re TEN” and just send him off to play pokemon or watch winx club or do whatever 10yos were doing in 2010.
Who else is in this movie? Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah, Anne Hathaway… Shirley MacClaine is in it, and has a fight with her husband, and the husband then goes off to attend an open-park showing of an old movie (same park as in The Wedding Planner?) And the movie is Hot Spell starring Shirley MacClaine, and the husband points to her and says she represents his ideal, “literally”. And it’s just a goofy recursive in-joke but so totally aimless and self-contained that it feels like dream logic. Julia Roberts is in it as a TROOP:
The guy next to her spends the whole flight respecting her, and then he gives her his fancy limo to drive home in. And that’s the last we see of him - until the conclusion of another arc, that of a rich football player who comes out as gay. The football player gives a press conference, then he’s home asleep on the couch, and… the door opens and a faceless, suited figure creeps in and softly strokes his face with a flower… is the message that now he’s out potential romantic partners are going to just start tracking him down like hired killers? No! because the suited figure turns out to be the guy from the plane with Julia Roberts, so I guess the twist instead is Gay Man Respects The Troops. It has a sort of similar feel to the scene of Halle Berry skyping with her enlisted bf in New Year’s Eve, where it’s completely banal but sort of comes off like it’s intended to be surprising because it’s held off so long. I guess these movies came out in the first Obama term… symbolic reconciliation of the inclusive and the patriotic…?
Taylor Swift is in this movie and is introduced in the above quite offputting way. She plays a highschool student in love with her teen bf, who can be seen in the below screenshot hovering around in his Ball Mode on the left of the picture.
The main arc is about Ashton Kutcher and… Jennifer Garner? Another thing about these movies is that not to be snarky but after a certain point I genuinely just hit a brick wall in ability to distinguish between skinny brunette women with the same frantic klutz energy and personality, of which there are AT LEAST three of in major roles of this film. Anyway he’s a florist who loves to scream out how he’s engaged, how he’s so happy, how his engagement is going so well and how from now on his name is Mr Engaged, I give no points for anyone predicting how long this state of affairs will last. The rest of the plot is too tiresome to get into. There’s a weird scene where he’s at the airport, and at a row of quiet check-in desks, and he goes to the one for oversized baggage. No, sir, this is for oversized baggage ONLY. But instead of moving three feet to his left and starting again he stays there, and gets in an argument with the check-in guy, and then hoists a bin on the counter and says its his luggage, and the check-in guy hoists ANOTHER bin on the counter in response (?!), and then Ashton Kutcher says the girl he’s chasing is “like… sunshine” and the check in guy is incredibly impressed, and gives him a magic all-access ticket which “will take you wherever you need to go”, and pays for it with HIS OWN MONEY. And then Ashton Kutcher loses his shoes at airport security and runs barefoot around the airport bumping into people and pulling open those stretchy line barrier things and yelling, and only recieves the mildest of security admonishments for his trouble. When he’s sad he stands on a bridge beheading fancy flowers that nobody wanted and tossing them into a canal.
Inexplicable references: the George Lopez character carries around a Rumi book and quotes from it twice and calls Rumi “the master” and the guy on the radio also coincidentally reads Rumi poems over the air.
Queen Latifah takes over Anne Hathaway’s phone sex job customers and the last shot of her arc is of her slapping a ruler on the table as she orders a russian guy named Vladimir acknowledge the power of “a true African Queen”. Queen Latifah investigated for kompromat.
Some remaining screenshots: the world’s least convincing apology scrapbook. Jamie Foxx awkwardly teaching… Emma Roberts…? to fistbump.
run best girl friend
There was a mini-Rumi boom around this time among the magazine-reading set in the US, sold under a generic spiritualism/self-help label
HARVEST MOON (2015) - another netflix hallmark movie BUT one i was specifically meaning to check out for a while ever since i read that the plot summary was “spoiled shopaholic reduced to living on a pumpkin farm”. the ultimate indignity!!! pumpkin serf! pumpkin serf!
actually it’s quite a nice farm with one of the big mcmansion main buildings that you get in these movies, even though we learn the barbed wire fences appear to just get haphazardly balanced upright by hand rather than pounded in or anything. but we see how it could come as a downgrade to the main lady, who is introduced drinking wine in a luxury shoe store before lunch no less.
her family home is also a mcmansion, but one which looks more like the eerie fake ones you’d see in a sidebar ad and which has some kind of particle accelerator balanced above the main seating area.
anyway it turns out she’s broke and the bank got everything but the pumpkin farm her dad got her for her birthday (?). she goes down to check it out and then the movie turns into a series of variations on basically the same two jokes:
RICH GIRL: umm can i have non-dairy yogurt on my avocado toast?? i’m anemic
FARM GUY: i hope you’re ready to start fucking these wild broncos or whatever farmers do
RICH GIRL: please… you should see my yoga class!! [comically, is underprepared for her difficult chore]
one thing i enjoyed is a particular piece of royalty-free-sounding background music with sort of a wave race 64 vibe, very relaxed bloopy synths. but it’s not credited anywhere…
my favourite fish out of water bit was when she is woken by a rooster, and immediately runs through the house yelling “WHAT IS THAT??”. there’s also a part where she proves herself by planting pumpkins with a selfie stick.
i feel as reluctant at the prospect of trying to extract a coherent politics from a hallmark movie as you probably do to keep reading this sentence but in fact there is some stuff going on. the farm is failing when she visits it, and even though she eventually goes through the countrygalification process and learns to twist barbed wire and etc, what eventually ends up saving things is - - her previous expertise as a makeup blogger!! the pumpkin farm is retooled into a cosmetics business by using an old family recipe for pumpkin-based skin cream. and luckily there’s no competition because it can only be made in that particular farm, where there is some “special mineral” in the ground which “gets into the pumpkins”. we are not told if the mineral is love… anyway i feel the hallmark movies i’ve watched so far all feel some kind of impetus to address and re-synthesise traditional opposites (country and city, community and business etc) via some ingenious trick which unites them both. this one is no different but the specific way they merge, like, a kind of exaggerated but recognisable obscenely frivolous wealth with the ongoing existence of humble pumpkin farms (pumpkin serf! pumpkin serf!), with an inspiring story of “why not just convert the farm into an artisanal skincream workshop serving the existing rich?” or similar, feels kind of creepily on the nose. don’t worry, they make sure to point out that the pumpkin skincream is in fact still edible. so we can all eat it after society collapses or whatnot, and in fact it could be preserved longer than an actual pumpkin because it’s in a jar. sustainability!
it’s true the main hunk does resist her suggestions to monetise his dead wife’s rare breed of violets. but i don’t think the movie comes down one way or the other on the issue. just weighing up all the options.
as part of the process for working on the miracle formula she also does some vital research:
at the end she finds out that the people working on the land she didn’t even know she owned had originally intended to try surreptitiously driving her off, so that they themselves could purchase the farm they’d worked on for generations for cheap and so the settled farmhands wouldn’t have to be laid off to top up a trust fund etc. and she’s upset and betrayed and everyone on the farm feels shameful and apologetic. back then they did not know she was a NICE rentier.
they all have a country style hoedown at the end and it fucking sucks. i usually enjoy dance sequences in movies, i don’t know if this is an accurate depiction of modern country linedancing or just a crude facsimilie but it was bad.
in conclusion this movie was ok but not as good as hallmark’s rune factory series.
( sighs )
have you seen cow belles? rich sisters forced to work at a milk factory??
I have not!! it looks really good but in the end this week I decided to take a break from the farm theme so I wouldn’t tire myself out. hopefully I can return to that rich soil soon…
Bedazzled (2000) - first off i feel lied to and betrayed because i found this on the wikipedia page for 2000s romantic comedies and that’s absolutely not what it is. but because i watched it in good faith i may as well put it here. this is a harold ramis (!) retelling of the faust myth starring brendan fraser and elizabeth hurley (!!), she plays the devil and brendan fraser sells her his soul in exchange for seven wishes. it seems initially like this will be the framework for a love story but it very quickly turns into a collection of extremely middling monkey’s paw themed comedy sketches. for example he wants to be rich and famous and wakes up a columbian druglord in ‘swarthy’ makeup and fake nose, he wants to be a famous and articulate writer of wildly acclaimed existential novels and it turns out he’s a “flaming homosexual” (which bugged me mainly because if anything isn’t this precise type of insufferable MFA guy almost proverbially heterosexual? i guess this was before Franzenmania hit the US, but even so). he becomes a sports guy and has a little dick that we never see. just extremely poor stuff. if you are wondering whether the sports guy constantly talks in a meathead postgame-interview voice about “giving 110%” and how “there’s no I in team” then i will not spoil the movie for you.
It is worth mentioning that the 3d used for the huge jock sequences is wonderfully nightmarish looking, though. more terrifying than any horror film.
the absolute weirdest thing aside from this is the tonal shift when he only has one wish left, he’s desperate, he gets thrown in prison for being crazy and… his cellmate is a wise but mysterious black man, who starts up a conversation out of nowhere, seems very knowledgeable about the nature of human souls and supernatural contracts thereof, describes himself as “just a good friend”, and etc… and like even if you decided you want your sketch comedy movie about brendan fraser doing different funny voices to take an abrupt turn into actual religious symbolism rather than just cartoon devil shit… i do not understand why even then you’d do it in THIS WAY.
(also it turns out the company he works for is called SYN even though it’s actually called synergystic something something. i guess they might use SYN on their stock ticker name but otherwise would they really make their company logo feature just those three letters? ignore this, just being pedantic.)
this is a remake of a peter cook and dudley moore movie which i haven’t seen so idk if the religious parts were in that too. i also don’t know if the repeated theme of brendan fraser having his balls threatened, hit with things, narrowly avoid being stepped on etc is also in the earlier movie, or if that’s just the hand of god.
at one point we are given a montage of how god sees the world.
The Last Days of Gore Vidal
See also Bret Easton Ellis.
I watched this when I was a kid on VHS, I liked it a lot at the time. It’s…not the same movie, really.
When I was a freshman in college in 2000, the only decoration I can remember my roommate Ian wanting to put on the wall was this Bedazzled movie poster. I never watched the film, but knowing what little I know of Ian, this synopsis makes perfect sense.
yeah, i watched this semi recently, and the original is a fun and weird and kind of dark British 60s film. totally different vibe and much better movie
ADMISSION (2013) - in light of the ongoing US college admissions scandal I thought it my international duty to watch a romantic comedy in that setting directed by the guy who did American Pie. Tina Fey is a top admissions officer at Princeton who gets contacted by Paul Rudd, head teacher of a sort of experimental anarchist school, who thinks his student is the son she gave up for adoption while in college, and who doesn’t know she’s his mom but wants her advice in applying to Princeton, causing quandaries etc.
I think this one was adapted from a book and has a very book-club-pick-of-the-month feeling in terms of plot, characterisation etc - lots of twists, mirrored characterisations, social issues and wrestling with self-discovery, etc. But also, like, it’s a romantic comedy with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, and has the genre tendency towards both goofiness and treating characters as essentially unchangeable and singular apart from the one big romantic narrative journey. She has to help out with a cow birth like in City Slickers, she gets called out by highschoolers who want to know why they’d want to apply for a site of “anti-black, anti-female elitism” (presumably leading to an outraged Atlantic article accusing them of being jackbooted tots in response), she does funny warmup speaking exercises, etc. It’s all sort of treated as fairly light but then adopts plot points from I presume the book, which can be very strange and in fact sometimes hallucinatory in this context. Paul Rudd’s character is played and treated as a typical rogueish free-spirited romantic comedy love interest, but there’s also a sort of vague background plot about him being a control freak to his adopted son, at one point he picks up a large horse statue and gives a speech about how precious the horse statue is to him and how much he suffered to hold onto it when travelling the world, and then he violently throws the horse statue to the ground and smashes it as proof of his far greater love for his son. And this is played totally straight, happens midway through the movie and then is never mentioned again. Her cartoonishly wimpy longterm english professor boyfriend runs away with a visiting Virginia Woolf scholar, and the way this is shown is by the two of them abruptly hopping into a convertible mid-dinner party and driving away like in a cartoon. But then a far greater running time than usual is devoted to showing how seriously, non-comedically depressed this makes her.
There’s an ongoing strangeness having characters act out of interior, novelistic motives while existing in a genre context that sort of continues to treat them as depthless placeholders. I sort of enjoyed that but it did make the pacing a bit gruelling. It sort of feels like a different writing team was given alternating 10min chunks of the movie.
I did like the one extended purposeless scene where Paul Rudd’s meeting an uptight college guy, and turns away at the end and says “prick” under his breath, and the guy turns back around and is like “what did you say?” and Paul Rudd says “Um… I… called you a prick” and the guy says “what! that’s very rude” and Paul Rudd says “I know… I’m sorry. I’m working on my own issues.”
There are some good minor characters with MVP going to Lily Tomlin playing Tina Fey’s mom as a gruff, ramboesque feminist radical who saws her own metal in the woods for bike parts, had both breasts removed, is trying to detrain her pet dogs into becoming independent scavenger animals and has EAT THE RICH painted on the wall of her kitchen. Why isn’t she the main character?? Olek Krupa (Home Alone 3) is a suave and perpetually horny russian professor who reacts to the Virginia Woolf elopement by saying Gertrude Stein was better anyway and who then ends up dating the mom. And Wallace Shawn is in it as the dean of admissions!
The way it deals with the focus on “getting into Princeton” is interesting. It has all these scenes mentioning desperate overachiever parents, but never actually shows us any - is it because joking about them would feel too cruel if it’s happening from the perspective of an actually elitist institution, or because “parents obsessed with getting their kids into ivyleague colleges” must only be a familiar real-world archetype to a tiny cohort of the population? The subject of money never ever comes up, even in a joking way - any gibes about privilege are directed instead at “fourth generation legacy cases”, and even those are pretty mild. The scenes within Princeton portray it with sort of a fond familiarity, there’s an extended glee club song and lots of referring to how preeminent it is, but from characters outside the campus it’s mostly spoken of as a gruesome, irrelevent relic. It sort of feels simultaneously like it was sponsored by Princeton and like it was meant to be an attack on it. Maybe they had to dial back for any scene specifically shot on the premises???
The one consistent viewpoint of the film is the college admissions process as a cruel and stupid meatgrinder with no place for any deviation from prescribed success. But even here the way they do it is weird. Tina Fey’s kid is shown as like a cartoonish movie-genius autodidact who got 100% without training in [variety of AP and SAT things I neither know or care enough about to remember], but he’s denied for being too individual. But also, to recap:
- the admissions officer pushing for him in the big meeting is actually his mom, but hasn’t told anyone
- the head teacher at his school is dating the same admissions officer that’s pushing for him in the big meeting
- the scholar who wrote a recommendation letter for him is in a relationship with his grandmom, mom of the admissions officer pushing for him in the big meeting, and he only ever met the kid in order to get a date with that mom
Maybe the point is to show the inflexibility of the system even when the odds are stacked for an individual case’s favour but it’s still kind of a weird example to use as the basis of a critique.
Anyway at the end Tina Fey hacks the college admissions list (in the form of just a big Excel spreadsheet) and gets her son into college, and is discovered and gets fired immediately, and then it turns out the kid is not her son and he gets freaked out that she was doing all this stuff for him on that basis, and asks her to stop talking to him, and she puts in a request at an adoption agency to find and talk to her real son, and the real son sends a letter that he doesn’t want to. And she’s pissed at Paul Rudd as well because he pushed her into it on the basis of a faded adoption paper, and gets mad at her mom who reveals she’s always been so sad she couldn’t tell Tina Fey who her father was. And basically every character is revealed to have been aimlessly inflicting pain on someone else in the belief they were doing good. Except I guess for Princeton whose probity remains supreme.
Anyway ultimately what this film tells us about the college admissions scandal is that everyone involved probably thought they were secretly each other’s child. Case closed!!
This joke and the general career arc of Paul Rudd are making me wonder if it is possible to trace the exact moment that this like… Apatow-esque style of joke crosses over into more general RomCom turf
Like say what you will about the Apatow Brand but all of his movies are basically rom coms, and I think they are responsible for creating the tonal shift that makes the earlier stuff described ITT seem so… alien? from a contemporary perspective
It’s weird because as I was writing that I was thinking “when I put this into text it reads like snarky comedy dialogue 101 but nothing else in the film is working in that style and it doesn’t seem like the actors or director are aware of it.”
My gf compared it just now to feeling like failing a dialogue selection in LA Noire or something and having to stumble through a weird disconnected non-conversation before rejoining the main branch and being told to try again
I was enjoying this thread until it inspired me to check out the musical stylings of McFly and now I hate it