The Honor Roll is a Great Stories feature column that gives you the best in class movies, books, and multimedia from the Great Stories team. This month Jim and Chris make their top picks for the best Valentines Day features of all time! Here are Jim’s selections!
Titanic“Nothing on Earth could come between them.”
The most expensive movie ever made up until that time became the most successful movie ever made up until that time (not adjusted for inflation). This is an all too rare case of a movie living up to it’s blockbuster hype. It still sucks me in every time I see it, even 18 years after I saw it for the first time. James Cameron’s sweeping epic is a triumph of both technical filmmaking and old-fashioned storytelling, expertly dovetailing eye-popping visuals (the actual sinking is just unbelievable) with an absorbing love story. Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet deservedly became superstars (and still are!). Titanic needs no help from me in feeding it’s hype, but I have to admit—it’s one example of a movie that makes people into lifelong movie fans.
Chris’ Comment: Ho-hum…how original! Haven’t we just seen this one before?
“Romance is romantic in Rome!”
The moonbeam that is Audrey Hepburn graces our movie screens for the first time in a leading role. Gregory Peck stands back and lets her glow. I was never much of a Peck fan, always found him a tad dull and upright. Here, though, he relaxes and enjoys himself as a cynical reporter. His smoothness blends nicely into the enchantment that Audrey creates. Eddie Albert is on hand with some bits as Peck’s photographer pal. Put them together with the lively feel of early ‘50s Rome (it was shot in it’s entirety there) and you have a Romance Classic for the ages.
Chris’ Comment: A fine selection and true classic. Gregory Peck is a strong lead along with the beautiful and charming Audrey Hepburn. The story bears a striking resemblance to many of the formulaic Disney animated princess tales that we are all fondly accustomed to, with the exception of the non-Disney ending. Watch without fear of wasted time!
“Life. Family. Love.”
A boisterous valentine. Cher’s best movie performance, as well as one of Nicolas Cage’s best early roles (oy, whatever happened to Nicolas Cage?!). Great support by many others including Vincent Gardenia, Olympia Dukakis and John Mahoney. The Italian stereotypes abound, but since the movie keeps it’s footing just outside of reality, there’s nothing here that I’d call offensive. John Patrick Shanley’s Oscar-winning script overflows with great lines (Feodor Chaliapin Jr. has a couple of well-timed comic triumphs). It’s impossible to feel depressed after watching this movie!
Chris’ Comment: If you like your movies done with over-the-top motif and grand stereotype, you may have found the perfect film to satisfy your romantic heartstrings. Featuring Cher as the adult daughter of an Italian family that is struggling through their relationships and Nicholas Cage in one of his earliest and finest performances as the disaffected brother of Cher’s hapless suitor (played by a very entertaining Danny Aiello), this romantic film manages to not take itself too seriously. Check out the scene with Cher confronting Nicholas Cage about attending his brother’s upcoming wedding in the basement of the bakery for one of the best performances of Cage’s career.
When Harry Met Sally
“Can men and women be friends, or does sex always get in the way?”
Rob Reiner’s modern classic, with Nora Ephron contributing the witty script. It’s now pretty much considered the prototype of the modern romantic comedy, although you could argue that Annie Hall and Manhattan got there first. Billy Crystal is at his absolute best (some of his observations about love and dating really hit home with me) and a new movie star was made with Meg Ryan (she’s missed!). With cinematography by future Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld.
Chris’ Comment: Really Jim….you thief! LOL. Just kidding. My man Jim does have a keen sense for quality most of the time. Here is no exception, but you can see my comments in yesterday’s entry. 🙂
“A Lloyd meets girl story.”
The Spectacular Now
“Life is a series of moments called now.”
Both of them have misfits finding each other at the conclusion of the turbulent high school years. Say Anything is Cameron Crowe’s wonderfully eccentric directorial debut, with his warm and mellow humor leaking out all over. John Cusack made women all over the world fall in love with him and made guys all over the world want to be him (well, except maybe for the kickboxing aspirations). Ione Skye isn’t completely convincing as a superbrain about to become part of some illustrious thinktank, but she’s attractive, appealing and matches up well with Cusack. With a dream of a supporting cast, including John Mahoney as Skye’s slippery dad. James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now is the most recent addition to my list. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley make the most electric cinematic couple I’ve seen in quite some time (this is one of those movies where you yell at the screen, telling the hero to wise up already and go out with her!). Looking at them, there’s no question that they belong together and they belong together NOW. This doesn’t have the hangdog appeal of Crowe’s film, but it has a smart humor all of it’s own.
Chris’ Comment: Tale of two movies here folks. On the one hand, you have a classic 80’s teen romance with John Cusack under Cameron Crowe’s fine direction. The other, a movie that in my mind will fall into the dustbin of celluloid history with nary a whimper. And that is not to say it is a terrible film. It is just that The Spectacular Now, to me, features one of the most unlikeable leads in the history of romance movies. Miles Teller, whose most high profile role to date was in the equally unimpressive Project X, could end up making a living off of portraying these types of characters but I am hoping that there may be a role for him in a future film that does not ask to be punched between the eyes by the average movie-goer. Not that I would ever stoop to such a level of course.
And that does it for this edition of The Honor Roll. We’ll be back with a graphic novel review and another comic pick of the week in the coming days. Hope you had an awesome Valentine’s Day!
-Chris and Jim for the Great Stories Team