, Sunday, May 19, 2013
WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley counts down the best movie couples.
It's too soon to know whether "(500) Days of Summer" will go down as one of history's great romantic comedies. But as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel rise Hollywood's ladder, I have a hunch this one will catch fire.
The film jumps around in time, shows split-screens of "expectations vs. reality" and inserts a Hall & Oates musical number. Still, the most telling scene is a debate over love's existence. Summer asks, "You don't believe in that do you?" Tom says, "It's love, not Santa Claus."
Few names are as synonymous with Hollywood romance as Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. They fell in love on the set of "Woman of the Year" (1942) and stayed together until Tracy's death just before the release of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967). But of all the films they did together, none was better than "Adam's Rib," playing dueling lawyers in the case of a woman (Judy Holliday) who shot her husband.
While Ruth Gordon teamed with her husband to write "Adam's Rib," she acted as Maude in Hal Ashby's quirky masterpiece, three years after winning an Oscar for "Rosemary's Baby" (1968).
Set to a Cat Stevens soundtrack, Ashby gives us the most bizarre pairing in movie history: 23-year-old Bud Cort and 75-year- old Ruth Gordon, proving that love is eternal and age is just a number.
Meryl Streep was dynamite as the neglected housewife who strikes up a steamy affair with Clint Eastwood's traveling photographer. The shot of Eastwood hanging a necklace on his rear-view mirror remains one of the most heartbreaking images in movie history.
The film was fittingly directed by Eastwood himself, who showed a soft side just two years after winning Best Picture for "Unforgiven" (1992).
Cher won an Oscar for her portrayal of Loretta, a Brooklyn bookkeeper who falls for the brother (Nicolas Cage) of the man she's supposed to marry.
Her line, "Snap out of it," became the slap heard 'round the romance world.
Forrest and Jenny were like "peas and carrots," and while they led very different lives, they came together to birth Haley Joel Osment as Forrest put things in perspective, "I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is."
Lying on her death bed, Jenny heard all about how Forrest ate chocolates, broke leg-brace barriers, taught Elvis to dance, returned kickoffs for Bear Bryant, saved Vietnam troops, made ping-pong peace with China, mooned sitting presidents, exposed Watergate, stunned protest rallies, launched a bayou shrimpin' business, invested in a gazillion-dollar "fruit company" and traversed the country in his worn-out Nikes.
"I wish I could have been there with you," Jenny longingly says, to which Forrest replies, "You were."
Everyone knew David Lean could direct epic adventures, from "Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957) to "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962). But he showed his romantic chops when he took on Boris Pasternak's novel of snow-covered passions amid the Bolshevik Revolution.
The central relationship between a married doctor/poet (Omar Sharif) and a political activist's wife (Julie Christie) is one for the history books, inspiring many to follow, including Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton in "Reds" (1981).
"Lara's Theme" remains one of the greatest film scores ever done.
While Richard Gere swept Debra Winger off her feet in "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982) and Julia Roberts dazzled Hugh Grant in "Notting Hill" (1999), they were never better than when they were together as the businessman and prostitute in "Pretty Woman."
Garry Marshall's film remains one of the most charming romantic comedies ever done, particularly the scene where Gere shows Roberts a sparkling necklace, then closes the box just as she's about to touch it. That Roberts laugh is infectious.
Frank Capra's masterpiece is remembered as a holiday classic, but its central love story is the film's lifeblood. Few movie scenes are as romantic as Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey singing "Buffalo Gals" with Donna Reed's Mary Hatch and asking, "What do you want, Mary? Do you want the moon? Say the words and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down." "I'll take it."
As they throw rocks at an abandoned old house, Mary makes a silent wish that comes true when she and George have a low-budget honeymoon, as Bert the Cop and Ernie the Cabbie sing "I love you truly" outside the window.
While Nora Ephron's "Sleepless in Seattle" brought Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan to the top of the Empire State Building, it had been done twice before, first in "Love Affair" (1939) and then with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in "An Affair to Remember" (1957).
Grant has had plenty of romances, including with Grace Kelly in "To Catch a Thief" (1955), as has Kerr, dancing with Yul Brynner in "The King & I" (1956) and kissing Burt Lancaster under crashing waves in "From Here to Eternity" (1953). But put Grant and Kerr together with Vic Damone's title song, and it was magic.
"Sleepless in Seattle" makes sure to reference its source, having Rita Wilson describe the movie in a flood of tears, to which her real-life husband Hanks quips, "That's a chick's movie."
Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia" (1993) opened the floodgates and Wong Kar-Wai's "Happy Together" (1997) pushed the envelope. Then, just as "Crash" (2004) was discussing racism in America, Ang Lee rocked the moviegoing public with his western romance "Brokeback Mountain."
Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger made convincing cowboy lovers, entering a phrase into our vocabulary: "I wish I knew how to quit you."
Rumor has it that director Howard Hawks was fishing with Ernest Hemingway when he bet the author he could turn his worst book into a hit film.
No one could have expected the birth of one of the greatest movie couples in history: Bogie and Bacall.
Despite the age difference, Bacall wowed Bogart on, and off, screen, telling him in that raspy voice, "You do know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow."
The film opens with Cary Grant face-palming Katharine Hepburn into the ground. Soon, it becomes a star-studded love triangle between Grant, Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart. That combination alone is worth a watch, but when you add one of the greatest script's ever written, "The Philadelphia Story" becomes a timeless treat.
May their relationship be forever "yarr."
Pottery bowls, ghostly embraces and "Unchained Melody."
Patrick Swayze brought his "Dirty Dancing" passion to the afterlife, solving his own murder while romancing Demi Moore with Whoopi Goldberg's conduit.
"I love you," Demi says, to which Patrick says, "Ditto."
While many view "Rocky" as an underdog sports movie, I insist it is first and foremost a love story.
Note how Rocky helps Adrian "escape the cage" of her pet show existence. Note how he helps her stand up to her alcoholic brother Paulie. And find me a more unique first date scene than Rocky and Adrian's empty ice-rink trip.
After Rocky goes the distance in his fight with boxing champ Apollo Creed, he doesn't care what the scorecard says; he simply screams Adrian's name as she makes her way to the ring, calling his name back to him. Need more proof? Look no further than the film's final line: "I love you."
Few plots are sadder than Oliver losing Jennifer to cancer in "Love Story."
The tone may seem dated and melodramatic today, but Arthur Hill's clever direction and Francis Lai's Oscar- winning music made "Love Story" one of the highest grossing movies of the '70s.
The script offered the AFI's No. 13 Movie Quote of All Time: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
A few years later, Ryan O'Neal mocked the line in Peter Bogdanovich's "What's Up Doc?" (1972), saying, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard."
To this day, "Annie Hall" remains one of the few comedies to ever win Best Picture. The film got its name from Woody Allen's real-life nickname for girlfriend Diane Keaton.
Together, they were dynamite on screen, shattering storytelling conventions by showing competing split-screens, offering alternate subtitles for rooftop conversations and pulling experts in from outside the frame to settle disputes.
Their chance meeting in the lobby of a tennis facility is a classic, with Keaton inspiring a fashion craze while speaking a classic line of awkward flirtation, "La-dee-da, la-dee-da."
Cameron Crowe gave us a classic romantic comedy image with John Cusack hoisting a boombox to Peter Gabriel in "Say Anything" (1989).
But he must have been on screenwriting crack when he penned this gem. Not only did he write macho sports lines like "Show me the money" and "Help me help you," he also have us one of the best chick-flick climaxes in history.
As Tom Cruise bursts into a women's group to find Renee Zellweger, he pours out his heart, saying, "You complete me," before she cuts him off, saying, "Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at hello."
The perfect date movie with football for the guys and romance for the ladies.
Barbra Streisand ("Funny Girl") and Robert Redford ("The Sting") were at the top of their respective games when they teamed with director Sydney Pollack, who later romanced Redford and Meryl Streep in "Out of Africa" (1985).
Katie and Hubbell's competing political views ultimately pulled them apart, but their journey led to a classic final final embrace, with Streisand rubbing Redford's cheek. The film's Oscar-winning title song is magic, composed by the late Marvin Hamlisch and sung by Streisand herself:
"What's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget. But it's the laughter, we will remember, whenever we remember, the way we were."
Name any romantic comedy you like, and it owes credit to "It Happened One Night." Frank Capra's classic invented countless rom-com conventions, as Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert debated doughnut-dunking techniques, hitched a ride by lifting a skirt and broke down the "Walls of Jericho."
The film's plot of a newspaper man falling for an undercover heiress was copied by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday" (1953).
It also remains one of just three films ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "The Silence of the Lambs") to win the Big Five Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay.
Robert Wise's 20th century take on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" replaced the Montagues and Capulets with the Sharks and the Jets.
The feuding New York groups of Italian and Puerto Rican descent had no love lost for each other, but beneath all the switchblades and snapping fingers was a powerful love story.
Tony and Maria swear, "there's a place for us, somewhere a place for us," vow to find true love "tonight, tonight," and relish the name Maria: "Say it loud and it's music playing! Say it soft and it's almost like praying."
Upon its release, "Titanic" was both the highest grossing movie of all time and the most acclaimed with a record 11 Oscars. You don't win such approval without a killer love story, which James Cameron found in Jack and Rose.
The relationship between Kate Winslet's corset socialite and Leonardo DiCaprio's starving artist was a commentary of the 99 vs. 1 percent and a tragedy of star- crossed lovers.
The film launched two of this generation's brightest stars, and Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" was voted the AFI's No. 14 Movie Song, ahead of Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek."
Love it or hate it, "Titanic" is unsinkable.
James Cameron's "Avatar" may be the highest grossing movie of all time in sheer dollars, but bread also used to cost a nickel. When you adjust for inflation, "Gone With the Wind" is history's top grosser, and it all has to do with the volatile relationship between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara.
Clark Gable was the ultimate macho man, lifting his mustache to say, "You should be kissed often, and by someone who knows how," while Vivien Leigh was an Oscar-winning brat who vowed, "I'll never go hungry again."
Like many of the best romances, the two lovers can't wind up together, as Rhett grows tired of Scarlett after four hours of abuse, descending those red steps and giving the best exit line in movie history: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." Even so, the resilient Scarlett believed that "tomorrow is another day."
Wannabe writers should study "When Harry Met Sally" in the art of romantic comedy greatness. Nora Ephron's script inspired many a "Seinfeld" episode on sex ruining friendships, while Rob Reiner's mother delivered a classic response to a public orgasm: "I'll have what she's having."
Still, the best part is watching Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan go to work: "I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
As much as I love "When Harry Met Sally," even its main characters lie in bed watching the king of all Hollywood romances, "Casablanca."
The stakes couldn't be any higher, as Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman must choose between their hearts and saving the world from a Nazi takeover.
The WGA voted it the Greatest Script of All Time, thanks to such romantic staples as, "We'll always have Paris," "Play it, Sam" and "Here's looking at you, kid."
The film's beautifully haunting piano tune explains exactly why we keep returning to "Casablanca" after all these years:
"It's still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die. The world will always welcome lovers, as time goes by."
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