Tuesday, June 19, 2012

50 Favorite Romances: The Sweet Ones

If you are privileged enough to know us both, then you may be aware that my sister's been listing her 50 favorite movie romances on her blog. Her list is filled with many movie "classics" starring "great actors" that I have never seen but also sometimes serious missteps, like her affection for (500) Days of Summer, which in addition to inexplicably beginning its title with a punctuation mark, I have many personal feelings about. So anyway, in true sibling rivalry* oneuppersonship fashion, I decided to make my own, clearly superior list. Through a scientific process that involved looking through my (respectably large) DVD collection and perusing my highest-rated viewings on Netflix, I have come up with 50 romances that I really, really like. Some of them are from TV shows or miniseries because I am more TV-centric than movie-centric (cinecentric?) in my watching habits, but most of them are films. I used an Excel spreadsheet to put them into five even-ish-sized and slightly arbitrary categories because I sure as hell wasn't going to pretend to rank them because numbers.

I present to you the first set: the ones I've labeled "sweet." (This may or may not mean kind of sappy/your mom likes this movie/relatively formulaic romantic comedy time!) The numbers are just to keep track of how many I've listed so far. THEY HOLD NO MEANING.

1. Amelie (2001)
Couples biking can be treacherous--TAKE CAUTION. This is not a plot point, just advice from my real life experience.
This movie is so cute. Cute, cute, cute. Gnomes and secret good deeds and photo booths and quirky types quirkily finding each other. Amelie never thought she needed love for herself. But she does, you guys. She does.

2. Bend It Like Beckham (2003)
"Your dad's not here, is he?"
FACT: This is my ultimate comfort movie. I watch it when I'm depressed because it is cute and clever and Jonathan Rhys-Myers is at his least sleazy and adorable and soccer and I love it. The love story could be classified as a "slow burn" one perhaps since of the coach-player forbiddenness, but the entire movie makes me so overwhelmingly happy, that it had to go into the "sweet" category. ALSO AT THE END HOW HE PLAYS CRICKET WITH THE DAD AND IT'S SO CUTE.

3. Bread and Roses (2000)
Even the douchey '90s hair and goatee** can't stop the hotness.
After expressing my lust for Adrien Brody all over the internet, a friend of mine recommended this film to me, which I had never heard of. Basically, Mr. Brody stars as an idealistic white guy in cargo pants who has read a lot of Marx and speaks a bit of Spanish and now organizes unions and would totally be Occupying some shit if this film had been made a decade later. But he's not actually that douchey! He's sweet! A feisty and charming undocumented Mexican worker lady (who is actually the film's protagonist, but we all know why I watched it in the first place) joins him to protest her exploitative employer and they FALL IN LOVE. Uh-oh, deportation! What will happen, you guys?

4. Clueless (1995)
"Granola breath, you got something on your chin."
First of all, despite being in many, many terrible movies, Paul Rudd has barely aged in the past two decades and remains just as dreamy to me as ever as ex-stepbrother Josh in this adorable and totally '90s Emma adaptation. Alicia Silverstone is, of course, completely lovable as ditzy-seeming (well, and -acting) Cher and Paul Rudd cannot do wrong as the "older brother type" who is SO IN LOVE with being a "college guy" in the '90s. The scene when they finally kiss on the Barbie Dreamhouse staircase is still one of my all-time favorite on-screen crush consummations. This movie stands up remarkably well over the years and (many, many) viewings. Twelve year-old me who fell in love with it (and Rudd) at a slumber party has good taste.

5. Corrina, Corrina (1994)
Totally approved for screenings by Ethnic Studies TAs who don't feel like teaching.***
This movie is worth it for the killer soundtrack alone. I originally saw this a fourth-grader, and this cute movie helped capture a simplified (but still somewhat nuanced) vision of race relations in the late 1950s. I'm a sucker for forbidden romance anyway and Tina Majorino was the most adorable child star of my generation HANDS DOWN, PEOPLE. But Whoopi Goldberg is the housekeeper/nanny (Corrina) who takes care of the grieving (and silent) little girl, and they become good buddies and then Ray Liotta comes home from writing Jello jingles and finds himself getting pulled into a totally inappropriate but strong mutual attraction situation with the black maid UH-OH SOCIAL DISAPPROVAL! It's very sweet. Very cute. I don't know how this movie didn't solve racism worldwide after it came out.

6. Keeping the Faith (2000)
Forget the romantic leads, I just want to have an inappropriate crush on Father Edward Norton.
This is a slightly embarrassing choice, I'll admit, but this Edward Norton-directed love letter to New York City/interfaith romantic dramedy holds a special place in my heart. I actually own it on VHS, that's how much I was willing to spend on it at the Goodwill so I wouldn't have to pay to rent it (yet) again. Ed Norton is a Catholic priest, Ben Stiller is a rabbi, Jenna Elfman is some chick they were friends with growing up who suddenly reemerges in their lives. Honestly though, the ultimate romance between Stiller and Elfman is kind of the lamest part of the movie. The parts that keep ME faithful to this movie (GET IT??? OH MY GOD AM I STILL AT THE OFFICE AND MAKING TERRIBLE PUNS ON THE INTERNET?) are Norton and Stiller's adorable best friendship and also Norton's character's longing for Jenna Elfman (who manages to be mostly inoffensive if kind of a two-dimensional character). It's that whole forbidden romance thing I like best, I guess. Will this friendly love triangle be able to weather the storm and blahblahblah SPOILER ALERT: YES. It's cute. Noteworthy fact: Edward Norton has a lot of rolled-up shirtsleeves action in this film. It's worth watching at least once, though it's hard to tell where it's supposed to take place. JUST KIDDING IT IS ALL NEW YORK ALL THE TIME.

7. Me and Mrs. Jones (2002)
Clearly written and filmed before 9/11, this plot largely hinges on this random journalist having free reign of Number 10.
This made-for-TV movie would now fall under PBS' "Masterpiece Contemporary" banner. It is so cheesy and British. He's a gossip reporter, she's the Prime Minister and married. Romance, scandal, and incredulous plot twists abound. It's basically pure escapism. And Robson Green is hot. Obvs.

8. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
"What do you mean he don't eat no meat? Oh, that's okay, that's okay, I make lamb."
Another cheesy rom-com, yes, but a very, very funny one. Windex! Joey Fatone! At least one joke involving a parasitic in utero twin! (Basically any scene featuring Andrea Martin is worth sitting through the whole movie for.) Nia Vardalos is charming in this movie that is basically about her life and though John Corbett well never recapture his Chris in the Morning sexiness, he is still very likable as her secret "white bread" boyfriend in this sweet movie about how families are a very large and obnoxious inconvenience to romance. Also, there's a physical/attitude makeover montage section and plenty of (mostly) good-natured ethnic stereotypes. WHO CAN RESIST?

9. That Thing You Do! (1996)
Their cuteness makes up for the hideous '60s pantsuit she's wearing in this scene.
If you were to ask me my all-time favorite movie, I would not be able to give you one answer, but this would be in the top five. A favorite of mine since the sixth grade, this Tom Hanks-written and -directed project is one of the funniest things basically ever. The romance between the Wonders' drummer Guy and the lead singer Jimmy's girlfriend Faye is really a B plot in this tale of a 1960s band's meteoric rise (and fall) from fame. Good guy Guy gets ditched by Charlize Theron early on and the way he outclasses Jimmy and swoops in for Faye at the end fulfilled many of my teenage romantic fantasies. Though I will admit that now that I'm older, Guy seems a bit boring and I personally would go for Lenny instead, the cuteness still gets me every time.

10. Who Am I This Time? (1982)
I'm sorry, did all that passionate acting rip up your shirt? Who knew Christopher Walken could be un-creepy? Desirable, even?
This is an early 1980s American Playhouse presentation based on a Kurt Vonnegut short story. I will credit my sister someone else somewhere on the internet probably for recommending this sweet (and sexual tension-filled) TV movie. Basically Christopher Walken is a completely socially dysfunctional man who is nevertheless an amazing actor (Autism spectrum disorder, anyone?) who stars in all the local theater productions. Susan Sarandon is single lady working for the phone company and new to town. She gets drawn into the town's production of A Streetcar Named Desire and into Christopher Walken's ARMS (see how I did that?). Anyway, their love story is so awkward and sweet and intense and even if they only relate through reciting lines from plays to each other, it doesn't matter because now they're not alone anymore.

So take that, Kelsy! Many, many more romances to come. Good thing I'm at this very, very quiet office all week.

*We do not actually have sibling rivalry. That I know of.
**Technically a Van Dyke, but colloquially since the '90s, everybody calls these goatees.
***Pro Tip: Ask your students to identify which of Patricia Hill Collins' controlling images of black women Whoopi's character either conforms to or defies. You're welcome for that lesson plan, BTWs.


  1. Good choices, sister. Some of them eventually make an appearance on my list, although I'm kind of regretting not putting Bend it Like Beckham on there.

    Also, I've never heard of this Christopher Walken film you credited to me, but it sounds kind of awesome. Also, how have I never seen this Adrian Brody movie?

  2. I don't know you, but I used to work with Kelsy at the Writing Center. We bonded over great movies and a theater history class and her use of the word also. And I just have to say that That Thing You Do! is, in fact, my actual favorite movie, so I know I can trust your list because you included it. Although I think I would still choose Guy over Lenny because he wears cardigans so well and appreciates jazz.