THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO LOVE & MOVIES HOW TO PICK THE RIGHT ROMANTIC DVD FOR VALENTINE'S DAY.
This is the worst weekend of the year for men who love movies. And women.
Look at what's new out there: One of those sweet Adam Sandler movies where the rage and slobbishness his arrested male audience enjoys so much is neutered in pursuit of Drew Barrymore.
Don't get me wrong. We will happily put up with movies such as ``50 First Dates'' or ``The Wedding Singer,'' or even grudgingly sit through the likes of last year's Valentine season endurance test ``How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,'' if the ladies in our lives enjoy it. That, after all, is what love's about.
But so is shared pleasure. And if you gals haven't figured it out by now, we fellas are, deep down, a sensitive bunch that enjoy a good cry or a stimulating romance just as much as you do. That we weep mostly at movies about baseball and draw the romance line somewhere between ``There's Something About Mary'' and ``Last Tango in Paris'' may be a bit of a problem, but heck, I know at least one woman who agrees with all mankind that ``Bull Durham'' is the most romantic movie ever made.
Maybe there is more middle ground. Maybe there is a good crop of movies designed for women, or primarily about women, or at least about couples, that both genders can enjoy together.
Maybe not. But following are some of our best stabs at identifying chick flicks that guys could like. Gals may disagree with some of the choices. Guys may disagree with most of them. But let's face it: Most of these movies wouldn't even exist if men and women agreed on much of anything.
Which brings us to our first - and easiest - category of true date movies. Any good romantic comedy exaggerates mating behavior that most men and women can recognize. The trouble is, the majority of romantic comedies aren't conversant with any recognizable human behavior at all.
Of course, the modern master at doing this right is Woody Allen. But guys, don't rent any of his movies if you're hoping for a romantic evening; it's been a dozen years since the Mia/Soon-Yi thing, but every woman on Earth seems to remember it like it was yesterday.
So, first no-brainer choice is the ultimate non-Woody Woody film, ``When Harry Met Sally ...'' This one has all the wit and insight we expect from Allen, plus a more relatable spokesman for our point-of-view in Billy Crystal. Plus, there's Meg Ryan's deli scene, which both sexes can agree is highly instructive, albeit for vastly different reasons.
Other acceptable romantic comedies of recent vintage include two by Cameron Crowe, ``Say Anything ...'' (why ellipses dots are a sign is one of the mysteries of love) and ``Jerry Maguire'' (there's a sports subplot). Last year's ``Down With Love'' was a fun, knowing gloss on those Doris Day-Rock Hudson virginity-protection comedies of the 1960s (which you definitely don't want to rent this weekend). ``Moonstruck,'' though starring Cher and therefore, by definition, borderline, has such wonderfully bizarre characters, it never comes close to getting boring.
Going back a little further in time, the only guy-endurable Barbra Streisand movie is 1972's ``What's Up, Doc?'' That's primarily because director Peter Bogdanovich built it like an Old Hollywood screwball comedy.
Which brings us to the most reliable set of gender-transcending love laughs. You can rent just about any movie from the 1930s, '40s or early '50s that stars Claudette Colbert, Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard or Barbra Stanwyck and be confident that you and your honey will have a jolly good time (make sure, however, that they are clearly marked COMEDIES; otherwise, you might be in for a long night of ``Stella Dallas'' hell).
Among many to choose from, a few standouts include the speed-rapping, Cary Grant/Rosalind Russell newspaper satire ``His Girl Friday''; the special-effects-laden (for 1942, anyway), much-sexier-than-``Bewitched'' Veronica Lake laugher ``I Married a Witch''; and the best, not to mention most hilariously passionate, Hepburn-Tracy battle of the sexes, 1949's ``Adam's Rib.''
Here's where mutual movie love gets tricky. Not all women enjoy watching sap and not all men are immune to it, but, you know, there's a reason why Hollywood perpetuates and panders to stereotypes.
So, to do some of the same, I will first suggest that the best way to get men interested in serious romance is to toss in some war. Humphrey Bogart understood this better than anyone ever has. ``Casablanca,'' ``To Have and Have Not,'' ``The African Queen'' - formidable women were won and lost while bad guys got shot. There's a primal metaphor in there somewhere; but, basically, nothing makes our hearts beat faster than babes and bullets, at least when there aren't any baseballs around.
Two decades after Bogart's heyday, David Lean got the formula almost as right with ``Doctor Zhivago.'' Yes, I know that the director's ``Brief Encounter,'' made 20 years earlier, has a better critical reputation - BUT NOTHING HAPPENS IN IT! ``Zhivago's'' got World War I, the Russian Revolution, hissably predatory apparatchiks and lots of long, cold, comfort-deprived nights when there's nothing else worth doing than to keep each other warm. Sounds like the full monty to me.
More recent productions that might be worth a try include ``A Room With a View,'' the liveliest and most amusing of the Merchant-Ivory period pieces; for intellectuals and attracted opposites, the lovely true story of Christian academic C.S. Lewis' relationship with Jewish poet Joy Gresham, ``Shadowlands''; and, if she isn't turned off by Clint Eastwood's fine-if-elderly physique, ``The Bridges of Madison County.''
Yes, I know, this is the last thing men are supposed to want to hear about, let alone watch a whole movie on the subject. But there are a handful of really good conjugal films that even the highest levels of testosterone can't resist.
If you're of a full-blown cinematic bent, there was no more artful, nor more moving silent film than F.W. Murnau's 1927 masterpiece ``Sunrise.'' The story of a country boy who almost kills his wife, then repents and reaffirms his love for her on a trip to the big city, it covers all the emotional bases with a lyricism and dreamy/nightmarish beauty that's never been matched.
Perhaps the most unlikely ode to wedded bliss ever filmed is ``The Sundowners,'' a 1960 study of a family of Australian sheepherders (!) headed by Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr, who could not enjoy a healthier bond. It's the only film I can think of that ever made me want to get married.
As for that old standby subgenre, the disastrous wedding farce, ``Lovers and Other Strangers'' (1970) does it with just the right balance of bite and good-natured sweetness - which is sort of a movie marriage made in heaven, if you will.
STORIES OF WOMEN
There are the soapy ``Stella Dallases'' of the world. And then there are really good character studies that can leave viewers of both genders admiring and feeling for their female protagonists.
Among relatively current examples are Salma Hayek's portrayal of the legendary Mexican artist ``Frida'' Kahlo; the fascinatingly dysfunctional, multigenerational members of the ``Lovely & Amazing'' family; and, before she became the queen of murderous marriage thrillers, Ashley Judd's subtle study of self-building as hillbilly lass ``Ruby in Paradise,'' finding a better life on Florida's Gulf Coast.
The 1970s were the last decade when women regularly landed interesting roles. Two of the best were Ellen Burstyn's in ``Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore'' and Jill Clayburgh's in ``An Unmarried Woman.''
But the last two movies that made this guy cry came later. ``Sophie's Choice,'' of course, and a decade later ``The Joy Luck Club.'' Both have some flashback war scenes. You do the math.
And as long as we're calculating, how about that ultimate grand slam chick flick for guys, ``A League of Their Own''? Female bonding and empowerment. Sports (during wartime!). ``There's no crying in baseball!'' If that one doesn't cover all of both your bases, you may want to consider couples therapy.
Bob Strauss, (818) 713-3670
(1 -- 5 -- cover -- color) CHICK flicks for GUYS
(6) no caption (Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler)
(7) Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in ``Casablanca''
(8) Tom Hanks and Bitty Schram in ``A League of Their Own''
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Feb 13, 2004|
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