Romantic Comedy

Romantic comedy

This week sees the opening of Blended, a comedy ostensibly fashioned as a romantic(ish) outing that stars Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, who have previously made a pair of mostly charming rom-coms together over the last sixteen years (yes, it’s really been that long). Although the film is rife with classic Happy Madison humor — rhinos humping! women being kinda shrewish! Shaq in a supporting role, for zero reason! – Blended is rooted in some real world issues that should feel quite relatable to plenty of movie-goers. Both Barrymore and Sandler play single parents looking for love, despite being ill-equipped for the job. The film’s title refers to the process of blending families, as such relationships don’t just hinge on how the actual lovers feel about the situation, but how their kids feel, too. Still, there’s rhino-humping. Yet the themes of Blended echo a new trend in the world of the romantic comedy — more mature storylines for more mature talents. The traditionally youth-focused rom-com genre has been circling the drain for quite a while now (it doesn’t help that no one has really stepped in to fill the shoes left vacant by talents like Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Tom Hanks, Kate Hudson, and Matthew McConaughey from the height of their rom-com years), and while that might initially seem like a bad thing, maybe we really don’t need a new crop of rom-coms about ditzy twentysomethings, perhaps these more adult outings are actually better.

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Dr Strangelove

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Gravity - Rom-Com

George Clooney as a dashing pile of handsome, Sandra “Miss Congeniality” Bullock and a meet-cute that’s out of this world? You can’t tell us that Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity isn’t a romantic comedy. Weightless in Seattle. Or maybe Romancing the Moonstone. It’s in an unconventional location to be sure, but the vacuum of space can’t keep sparks from flying. Naturally, we turned to our old pal Sleepy Skunk to put together a trailer that sells the movie for what it really is. With a little help from Old Blue Eyes, he was up to the task:

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Culture Warrior

It’s nothing new to say that the term “independent filmmaking” has come to no longer reference the actual practice of making films outside the studio system, and alerts more directly to an aesthetic of hipness. That the cute-and-quirky consecutive multi-Oscar nominees Little Miss Sunshine and Juno were similarly marketed by Fox Searchlight as “independent films” despite the fact that the former was actually produced independently and the latter was funded by studio dollars, effectively put the nail in the coffin for actual independent filmmaking to have any meaningful visibility. Meanwhile, first-time directors who make their name at Sundance like Marc Webb, Doug Liman, and Seth Gordon quickly reveal themselves to be aspiring directors-for-hire rather than anti-Hollywood renegades. Tom DiCillo, Hal Hartley, and Jim Jarmusch seem ever more like naïve, idealist relics each passing year. It’s clear what the blurring of the lines between independence and studio filmmaking has meant for the mainstream: as my friend and colleague Josh Coonrod pointed out last week, it renders “platform release” synonymous with “independent,” it means that movies featuring Bradley Cooper and Bruce Willis are the top competitors at the “Independent” Spirit Awards (see the John Cassavetes Award for actual independents), and it means that Quentin Tarantino is, for some reason, still considered an independent filmmaker. American independent filmmaking has lost its ideological reason for being. But when it comes to films that are actually independently financed – films for whom the moniker is less an appeal toward cultural capital and more an accurate […]

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Wuv! Twue wuv! While there are a million twists on Shakespeare, Franco Zefferelli‘s version of the star cross’d lovers remains an enduring classic of tragic romance cinema. But what would it look like if it were marketed today as a heel-clicking romantic comedy? In continuing our exploration of Modernized Classics, we’ve turned again to master mashup artist ChugsTheMonkey to take a shot at Romeo and Juliet. The result is an adorable, upbeat look at two youngsters who are destined to be together forever. Wacky sidekicks not optional.

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Nora Ephron on Set

Nora Ephron‘s film career – despite three Oscar nominations and credit with re-inventing an entire genre – somehow doesn’t get the legendary status that it probably deserves. She only wrote and/or directed a few more than a dozen movies, but in those films she delivered iconic characters that achieved a sense of honesty that few filmmakers are even brave enough to approach. She fought myopic views about her sex to build fame as a journalist, an essayist, a novelist, a screenwriter and a director. She got started in screenwriting because everyone else was writing scripts, her film school was being on set with Mike Nichols, and her work made a huge impact on popular culture and faked orgasms. So here it is, a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a comedy genius.

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Nora Ephron

On June 26th, writer/director Nora Ephron died at the age of 71. According to CNN, she was undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. After a stellar career as a journalist and essayist – writing sharply and often with caustic humor – she got her start in film with television (writing an episode for Adam’s Rib in 1973 and penning the TV film Perfect Gentlemen in 1978. Her first feature as a writer was Silkwood, a biopic exploring the mysterious death of whistle-blower Karen Silkwood which earned Ephron an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and began a professional relationship with Meryl Streep.

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Nacho Vigalondo Extraterrestrial

Let’s face it. When the alien invasion comes (and it will), most of us are going to be useless to help fight them back. We’re either going to be hiding or running for our lives into government-run bunkers. Nacho Vigalondo gets this, which is part of the reason why he chose not to focus on the heroes for his latest film, Extraterrestrial. His follow-up to TimeCrimes is a sci-fi flick married to a conversational screwball romantic comedy. He was gracious enough to give us a glimpse of his madcap mind – explaining his love for guilty characters, celebrating Invasion of the Body Snatchers and explaining the connection between his latest movie and the TV show Moonlighting. Extraterrestrial is out Friday, June 15 in select theaters, and you can demand it through Tugg.

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Culture Warrior

Imagine what some of our most beloved romantic films would look like if they were made in the 21st century. Laura and Alec of David Lean’s Brief Encounter could have managed their secret meetups over text. Harry and Sally could have checked each others’ okcupid accounts before explaining every aspect of what they seek in a partner over a cross-country road trip. And Ilsa would never have had to get on that plane because, y’know, the war’s over. This is a fruitless endeavor, I know, but it brings one thing into light which poses both problems and opportunities for the contemporary romance film, specifically the romantic comedy: politics, economic conditions, shifting gender roles, and technological evolution means different kinds of relationships and, thus, different kinds of romantic movies. How can the 21st century romance film expect the wedding-bell-chiming happy ending to work in a society full of emerging adults who feel less and less of a need to get married? How can new romantic comedies account for the fact that today’s working professional must move constantly – putting all their human relationships at risk – in order to find a job that suits them without only making films about the uber-privileged? Will there ever be a mainstream romantic comedy featuring a non-monogomous or non-heteronormative protagonist? Several recent screen romances have attempted to tackle the changing nature of relationships – or, at least, the type of relationship typically depicted in the Hollywood romance.

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Why Watch? I fell in love with Finite Films, the crew of creators who give themselves (and ask for) constraints on their short film projects, with their horror short Forest Falls. With this one, they tackle the romantic comedy genre with some interesting rules, and the result is something with more heart and humor than the Heigl-rific crap that passes for rom-coms these days. In Occupational Hazards, a teacher with debilitating social anxiety braves a party to catch the eye of a guy she likes. It’s twitchy, sweet, dangerous, and it’s definitely smile-inducing. What does it cost? Just 20 minutes of your time. Trust us. You have time for more short films.

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A beam of light threatens the poor, hungover eyeballs of Julio (Julián Villagrán) who wakes up in a bed he’s never been in before. That bed belongs to Julia (Michelle Jenner) who slinks around her apartment cleaning up from a night of drinking and random sex with a stranger. Up in the sky, a UFO has appeared floating above the city. In fact, they’re all over the place. Overnight, while two people were blacked out drunk, at least thirty have appeared over Spain. Who knows how many more all over the world. However, writer/director Nacho Vigalondo is less concerned about the ship and more concerned about the play-like humor and drama to be mined from a tangled relationship because, as it turns out, Julia is in high demand (especially by her boyfriend).

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If the multiple storylines, loose connections, and a total lack of chemistry of Valentine’s Day was simply not enough for you, director Garry Marshall has yet another holiday-themed film for the masses – twice the storylines! twice the loose connections! twice the total lack of chemistry! Wait, that math isn’t right. Even less chemistry! Everyone, meet New Year’s Eve. Like last year’s chillingly empty Valentine’s Day, Marshall’s latest film tracks a group of romantically challenged love losers across the course of one holiday. Will they find love? Will I hiss in the theater again? When is he making Flag Day? New Year’s Eve moves the action to New York City, though it inexplicably features two stars of VD (Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Biel) who appear to be playing totally different roles than in the previous film. If that hints at some sort of alternate universe, well, that’s still not very interesting to me. The really strange part about this trailer is the sense it gives off that all of its many stars were thrown into a blender, set to “frappe,” and poured out onto the pages of the script. How else can we possibly account for a film that pairs up Katherine Heigl with Jon Bon Jovi, Michelle Pfeiffer with Zac Efron, Lea Michele with Ashton Kutcher, or Jessica Biel with Seth Meyers? And that’s only about a quarter of the cast, everyone else flew by so quickly that my own mother could be in this film, and I wouldn’t […]

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Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as MrSmith1939 and 2BorNot2B in order to discuss some topical topic of interest. This week, the two daydream the ultimate reboot – an entire era of filmmaking brought back to life through the lens of modern directors. What styles should we bring back and homage? It is a good idea to let nostalgia drive us artistically? Will people in 30 years be harkening back to the Abramsian style?

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There are a lot of movie called Lucky. In fact, there are at least 2 coming out in 2011 alone, and there’s now a trailer for the one that doesn’t involve a stolen dog. The Colin Hanks-starring film features blood, blondes and a Bluth. Writer/Director Gil Cates Jr. doesn’t like the conventional, and it looks like he’s playing around with more black romantic comedy here. It doesn’t hurt that he’s got the unassuming Hanks in a murderous lead role alongside Ari Graynor, Ann-Margaret and Jeffrey Tambor. But honestly, why give him such a big knife to cut the cake with?

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I spent two of my three available afternoons this weekend watching the Kristen Wiig-led anti-romantic comedy Bridesmaids. I love everything in this film from the honest exploration of emotions in a life-long female friendship to the feelings of exclusion when one person’s life seems to skyrocket towards awesome and the other one is left in the dust. But at the film’s center is a story about female friendships that are supportive and real, not destructive and solely dependent on what man is in their lives. I am excited for what the success of it says for funny women, and hopefully what it will do for the future of smart lady-driven films that are neither led by Katherine Heigl or about coming to terms with the death of a child. Previously, I crowned Lucas (Rory Cochrane) from Empire Records King Slacker Lover. But my vault full of imaginary film boyfriends does not end with the loyal yet meddlesome Lucas. Rather, there are handfuls of male characters from influential and not so influential films that make up pieces of the perfect imaginary husband pie. Men like Gone with the Wind’s Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) exemplify the ruffian with a heart of gold, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tom from (500) Days of Summer proved that men could have just as many crazy “girl” feelings as the objects of their desire. The ideal imaginary husband combines all the traits of the perfect boyfriend, while still offering something a little extra (and I’m not just talking […]

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The voice over in this trailer is exactly the kind of thing that gets parodied today, but it’s sort of perfect for this flick. That Touch of Mink was a fairly standard romantic comedy starring Cary Grant and Doris Day. Surprisingly, Grant just wants to fool around, but Day wants to save her precious purity for marriage. The man wants something casual and the woman something serious? Unheard of! It’s a fun movie – one that Cary Grant reportedly hated.

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Whether you’re trying to avoid the releases this week or augment them with even more movies, Your Alternate Box Office offers some options for movies that would play perfectly alongside of (or instead of) the stuff studios are shoving into the megaplex this weekend. This week features a hammer-wielding Norse God from the pages of Marvel, a woman who can’t keep her hands off her friend’s fiance, and a crazed Mel Gibson with a puppet on his hand.

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In a way, it’s sort of sad to see the director of Ali G Indahouse and The Big White (that frozen corpse comedy) make a romantic comedy that’s so by the book they might as well have looped print pages through the projector. Anna Faris plays a woman scared to death of having sex with one more man because, gasp, a poll shows that 96% of women who sleep with 20+ people end up as old spinsters. But she wants true love! So let’s all play a game. See how many cliches you can spot while watching the trailer for What’s Your Number?:

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We’ve seen her on TV shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, she shows up in a lot of Internet videos at places like Funny or Die, and she even gets a handful of smallish film roles whenever she has time off from all that other stuff. But now Rashida Jones is set to get her own starring vehicle, and she also co-wrote the script. The film is called Celeste and Jesse Forever, it’s set to be directed by Lee Tolan Krieger, and it will star Jones and Andy Samberg in the male and female leads. Celeste and Jesse will tell the tale of a married couple who is trying to figure out how to get a divorce, but still remain friends afterward. I’ve had a crush on Rashida Jones that’s been growing exponentially over the last six months or so, and after this quote from the writer/actress making fun of casual sex comedies; my crush might have hit critical mass. Jones says, “Our movie is about two people who love each other a ton but they don’t know what to do with that love, and how do you let that person go. It’s very different from: ‘I like having sex with this person because I’m so modern but then, ooh, maybe I like them.’ I’m less interested in that story.” That sounds interesting to me, and God bless her for taking the piss out of the lame state of the modern romantic comedy.

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Leave it to Tom Hanks to be part of the salvation of romantic comedies by making what looks like a throwback to the heyday that ended at the end of the 90s. Plus, he manages to do it all in his tighty-whiteys. He goes about 20% Forrest Gump for Larry Crowne where he plays a lovable, completely sweet guy who tucks his polo shirts in. Larry gets fired from his job because he doesn’t have a college degree, so he takes a public speaking class taught by Julia Roberts’s character. Love ensues. The trailer is adorable like a cat sitting in a sink wearing a hat:

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