Valentine Special – A Dozen Cinematic Romances We LOVE

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

DozenRosesMy blog buddy Cindy Bruchman and I have been thinking about collaborating on a post and since V-day is around the corner, we decided on a topic about cinematic love stories that are dear to our hearts.

We’re talking about films that has a love story that we often revisit again and again because it touches us in a way that no other love stories did. It doesn’t even have to be a romantic film, as love stories can exist within a variety of genres.

So here are six picks from each of us… 

Cindy’s Picks:

The love stories in film which have lodged in my heart bear a similar theme. I have agonized with the characters and felt their pain. Yes, infatuation and adoration is quaint, but love is complicated. Dark. Painful. Unrequited. Denied. Disappointing. A conglomerate of emotions, it brings out the worst and best in you. I salute everyone who has experienced and survived love. It truly is all you need and what the world needs now.

Here are my favorite six films about love:

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel, The Age of Innocence, features Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer at their best.  For years, I contemplated why, oh why, didn’t Newland Archer claim Ellen Olenska for his own when he was finally free to do so? It took a couple of decades, but now I understand.

1. He was devoted to convention. Here the adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” applies.

2. The beauty of her and their love was pure, avoiding time’s tarnishing power. In his mind, their love lived on in glorious perfection complete with reciprocating passion and submission. To resume would pop that vision he nurtured for decades. Oscar Wilde would have approved the ending.

The Painted Veil (2006)

Another satisfying adaptation, this W. Somerset Maugham’s tale of married couple, Kitty and Walter Fane, who travel great distances emotionally and physically, come together as companions and experience selfless love. It’s a film where feelings go backwards from discontent to liberation. The power of love and their “falling” is as beautiful as the film’s location in rural China.

West Side Story (1961)

This Romeo and Juliet version set in NYC is timeless. Jerome Robbins’s direction/choreography and Leonard Bernstein’s score have never been bested, and I doubt a picture will ever capture the energy and the dark side of love between ethnic rivals, the Jets and Sharks, as did the 1961 film version. Maria comes of age as the Puerto Rican sister whose brother is gang leader of the Sharks. By the film’s end, she is a woman who understands that the merging of two people with all its dimensions create a new entity. With the strength of two, life isn’t so scary anymore. God gives his glowing approval through the cross paneled window at the mock wedding. I love the simple harmony of this duet. And of course, the prophesy, “Only death can part us now.” Where’s my Kleenex?

Notorious (1946)

Oh, poor misunderstood, Frau Lieberman. Devlin, you idiot, taking so long to realize her love for you was true and you loved her back. This is my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film.

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

I reckon it’s the musical score and the clifftop scene that makes me ache for Lizzie. Two lovers in denial eventually need a walk at dawn’s early light to come face to face and honor each other. Mr. Darcy is perfect. So is Keira Knightley. Did I mention the score?

The Notebook (2004)

Okay, I know it’s sentimental beyond belief, but it’s the James Garner and Gena Rowlands story that has me bawling, for at the end of your life, I predict all that matters is that your true love was there by your side. Even when dementia kicks in. I can’t imagine a more heartbreaking, yet fulfilling ending to a life than knowing one experienced that type of love. How proud one would feel knowing it!

My thanks to Ruth at Flixchatter for pairing up with me on Valentine’s Day. Love, love, love.


Ruth’s Picks

Romance at the movies are perhaps rosier than they are in real life. But the ones that often leave a lasting impression are the ones that love stories that aren’t the happy-ever-after variety. As Cindy said above, love is indeed complicated. But don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s not worth it. The struggle these couples go through moved me to tears, more so than a lot of other movie romances I’ve seen over the years. Some stories have such an enduring quality, and will likely be my lifetime favorites. Some of them are my picks of unconventional love stories I posted five years ago, but I had to include two films I saw last year, two VERY different love stories that has to overcome various barriers.

Sense & Sensibility

It’s no surprise to people who read this blog how much I adore this movie. Many of the main characters suffer for love, but none more so than Col. Brandon and Elinor, both are so tormented for their feelings for Edward and Marianne respectively. If there’s a love story that exemplifies 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 that’s often-quoted at weddings, it’d be THIS. Neither Brandon nor Elinor wallowed in self pity, and their love is patient, kind and not self-seeking. THIS scene is why Brandon is one of my favorite period drama heroes:

GiveMeAnOccupation_SS

There are many memorable quotes from the film but this one never fails to move me to tears whenever I watch that scene…

“…It is bewitching in the idea of one’s happiness entirely depending on one person”

A Walk in the Clouds

I know most of you probably scoff when you see Keanu Reeves as the lead but then you’d be missing out. Aside from all the bad ass sci-fi and action flicks, Reeves make for a pretty convincing romantic lead, too. Here he plays a soldier on the way home from war to be with his wife when he bumps (literally) into Victoria Aragorn on a bus, a woman who’s pregnant out of wedlock. Paul offers to pose as her husband after she tells him her traditional father would kill her if he knew her condition. There’s a warm chemistry between him and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, and there’s a palpable earnestness in Keanu that sweeps me off my feet. I doesn’t hurt that the film is set in the lush and romantic scenery of the Napa vineyards. Victoria aptly refers to it as ‘the clouds’ as it definitely gets you in head-in-the-clouds frame of mind.

Somewhere in Time

There’s a bit of the hopeless romantic in me and this fantastical time-travel love story gets me every time. It’s always best to have a box of tissue handy whenever I watch this film as it just moves me to my core. He’s most famous for playing Superman, and he shall always be my favorite in that role, but this one shows Christopher Reeve‘s also a capable romantic lead. Reeve’s a playwright who fell in love with a photo of a beautiful actress in the Grand Hotel gallery, he used a self-hypnosis method to transport himself to 1912. The way he looked at Jane Seymour always took my breath away, and you just ache for them to be together. John Barry’s sweeping score is as beautiful as it is haunting, practically woven into the plot that it’s impossible to separate the music from the movie. There’s not many film as unabashedly romantic as this one, its melancholic tone is part of its charm.

Belle

Oh how I love LOVE this film… it’s just sweepingly beautiful. One of the things I love about this film is the heartfelt love story that developed between Belle and her family’s vicar’s son, John Davinier. Gugu Mbatha-Raw‘s affecting performance is deeply moving that I long for her to find happiness she deserves. Both Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid have such a scorching chemistry that made for some breathless moments. The strict societal norm was made even more convoluted by the fact that Belle was a Black woman living in an upper class British society under Lord Mansfield’s care, so naturally that was a major hurdle for them.

Belle_Davinier

I love their passionate convictions and their longing for each other is heart-wrenching. That scene when John carefully touched Belle’s hand by the window… and that night when he suddenly pulled her close in the garden… oh be still my heart. At one point, John was so overcome with emotions that he yelled to Mansfield that he loves her, with every breath he breathes… it  I always feel a lump on my throat every time I watched it.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

It’s too bad this film was barely marketed as it’s a beautiful and poignantly-moving look at love and loss. I don’t want to give anything away but what I can say is how the film is grounded in realism and excellently portrayed by Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. I could almost feel their heartache. Their agonizing pain was so unbearable that one of them resorted to drastic measures. But it’s also an affecting depiction of not giving up on love and the belief that it could overcome even a seemingly insurmountable grief. There is a scene of McAvoy alone in a long-abandoned apartment that moved me to tears and later joined by Chastain. The way they conveyed such deep emotional heartbreak felt so real and it made me think how I’d react if I were in their shoes. I pictured how my own friends would be in such a situation, that’s how involving the story was.

Roman Holiday

One of the best classic rom-coms ever, Roman Holiday just never gets old. I posted my 59 reasons I love this movie already, I love how it manages to be fluffy & playful but also deep & heart-wrenching. True love is transformative and sacrificial… Joe Bradley went from the rogue-ish, self-serving reporter to the sincere, compassionate, love-stricken man who no longer had it in him to sell the Princess story for his own gain.

A recent Thursday Movie Pick series was on the topic of unrequited love – and this is one of them that sprang up to mind.

RomanHolidayFinale
Source: Pinterest

Oh this finale gets me every single time. It’s absolute perfection in its depiction of unrequited love… Perfect in its elegant simplicity… quiet yet packs such an emotional punch. I don’t think I’ve ever loved Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck more than in this very scene, followed by THAT walk of Peck’s character… alone as everyone else’s left the building, there’s sadness in his eyes but you [hope] there’s a hint of contentment that he’s done the right thing.

 


CindyRuthVdayWish


Hope you enjoyed our picks of cinematic love stories! Now tell us which movie romances left you breathless 😉

Special Anniversary Post: Nine Wonderful Movie Husbands

Today is my 9th Wedding Anniversary. Can’t believe we’ve been married that long, I feel like we just got married a few years ago! I’ve been blessed  to marry my best friend Ivan whom I still adore him as much — if not more — as when I first met him when I was only 19. I don’t really believe in the notion of a ‘soul mate’ but maybe he is mine as we’re both from the same hometown, went to the same Jr High, but yet we found each other thousands of miles away years later in Minnesota 😀

Ivan and I in a gorgeous day in Venice

Now, I don’t mean to rant on my anniversary post, but as I was looking for a good list of great husbands in movies, I couldn’t find any. I did find some list of WORST movie husbands full of cheaters, psychopaths or wife beaters! There’s really not a lot of films depicting healthy marriages either, but you’ll be sure to find a plethora of those depicting troubled/doomed unions. Heh, I find that disheartening. But in any case, this post is my tribute to my gorgeous, loving husband who seems to only get better with age 😀

If you’ve been following this blog long enough, you might notice that I included the four husbands I included in this list from Thanksgiving 2009. I added five more movie husbands that I think any woman would be blessed to have. The movie itself may not be perfect, but the husband portrayed here certainly seems that way.

John Rolfe – The New World

The Pocahontas-inspired story actually centers on her love affair with Capt. John Smith (Colin Farrell). But it’s the last twenty minutes of the 2.5-hour movie that touched me the most. Christian Bale’s John Rolfe fell in love with the grieving young woman after losing her first love, and eventually married her. His brief scenes with her show how patient and loving he was towards her, even until the end when their love is tested. Their scenes together are definitely one I can watch over and over again. It’s a testament of that Bale can play a hopeless romantic convincingly. I wish he’d tackle this type of role more often!

Paul Child – Julie & Julia

I just love Stanley Tucci, the man can do anything. Now this is one of his underrated roles which my friend Paula guest blogged for me in this Flix Character Spotlight. This movie is definitely all about the heroine that is Julia Child. But just like the phrase ‘behind a great man, there is a good woman,’ the same can be true vice versa. Paul Child was a loving and sympathetic husband who stood by Julia even before she became famous, and even when fame beckoned, he’s still supportive of her instead of becoming jealous of it like a lot of men would.

Duke – The Notebook

I’m probably the only woman on earth who isn’t head over heels in love with The Notebook nor Ryan Gosling. I do like parts of it, and mainly the love story of the older characters. James Gardner’s Duke shows how love transcends devastating circumstances. He never gave up reading their love stories over and over again to his Alzheimer-stricken wife Allie (Gena Rowland), giving us a whole new meaning and inspiration to what ‘in sickness and in health’ marital promise is all about.
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Gerry Kennedy – P.S. I Love You

Gerry Butler might be a confirmed bachelor, but he sure can play a dreamy husband, dead or alive. Hilary Swank’s Holly can be quite a pill but Gerry handle her rants and mood swings in stride and sense of humor. His love for her even transcends death as he leaves notes from the afterlife to help her move on. Plus, any husband who’s willing to do this silly but sexy strip dance absolutely deserves to be on this list.

Oh btw, I LOVE this deleted scene when Gerry booked the vacation for his wife days before he died. They did a good job making Butler look frail and sick, but even in this delicate condition he still hasn’t lost his sense of humor!


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Bob Rueland – Return to Me

In this movie, David Duchovny doesn’t play the role of a husband for very long but in those brief scenes, he makes for such an adorable and supportive partner to his zoologist wife. He’s funny, charming, and sweet as can be. When he suddenly lost her, his grief was genuinely moving and heartbreaking that we all root for him to find love again. When he does, he was the epitome of a perfect boyfriend, too, which is a far cry from the womanizer role he plays in Californication.

Prince Albert – The Young Victoria

I always love a good period drama and this one is one of my favorite films about British Monarch. It takes a humble and loving man to take up the role of a queen’s husband. But Albert loves Victoria so much that it hardly matters. In fact, right from the start when they were playing chess, he understood her predicament and knew what a woman in her position would need.

Princess Victoria: You don’t recommend I find a husband to play it for me?
Prince Albert: I should find one to play it with you, not for you.

It’s a heartwarming love story and it’s clear that Victoria relies on her husband’s support and love to carry through such a heavy burden of ruling a monarchy at such a young age. In fact, he’s instrumental in helping her build her self-confidence. It seems that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his wife.

Michael Green – When a Man Loves a Woman

I saw this years ago and I was quite taken by Andy Garcia’s performance. The film is quite heartbreaking, as do films that deal with any kind of addiction. Now, his behavior might not always be wise as he loves her too much to put his foot down and confront her addiction, but what matters is he sticks by her. He abides by the ‘through thick and thin’ vow of his marriage that’s often forgotten by people as soon as trouble strikes. I think even if addiction is not involved, anyone can relate to this story as no marriage is ever perfect.

Walter Fane – The Painted Veil

Now if you’ve seen this film, you might initially disapprove of Walter’s decision to take his unfaithful wife Kitty to China. It seems like a punishment for her initially and there’s perhaps an element of that in Walter’s mind but he obviously loves her so much and wants their marriage to work. I reviewed this film a while back, saying that it’s rare to find a movie that tells a wonderful human drama without being too cutesy or overly romantic. I do think that love is more than a bed of roses or candlelit dinner in fact, it’s best experienced when you’d least expect it. The journey that these two go through together sends a hopeful message that nothing is beyond repair if we’re willing to take a personal reflection and seek forgiveness.

Carl Fredricksen – Pixar’s UP

I’ve featured this scene a year ago on this day for my 8th wedding anniversary, so Carl Fredricksen definitely has to be on this list. Who says animated films can’t contain a profound message, certainly Pixar films have done so and it’s filmed in such a delightful, charming way. Of course it’s not always a picture of marital bliss and sometimes it’s downright tragic. But the real beauty is how they shared every moment of sorrow, disappointment, as well as happiness together. I certainly hope Ivan and I will grow old together like Carl and Ellie 😀


Now, I’m not one to give advice but if I could give just one tip to anyone looking to get married… it’s the same as the one I said last year and the years after that: ‘Marry not just the one you love, but the one you LIKE spending tons of time together with.’ 

Thank you my darling Ivan, for putting up with my antics, mercurial moods and endless blogging hours 😀


So to help me celebrate this special day, do tell me what’s your favorite film that depicts a healthy marriage. Bonus if you could name your favorite movie husbands 😀

Favorite Unconventionally-Romantic Films

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, readers!
Whether or not you’re spending it with a special someone — be it spending time with friends/family or simply doing something you love — I hope your day’s filled with things that bring you joy.

As I’ve mentioned in my Friday post, below are some of my favorites that don’t exactly follow the conventional formula of courtship. I certainly would rather re-watch these ten times over before I shell out my hard earned $$ to see the ensemble crap cast rom-com Valentine’s Day in the theater (but apparently I’m in the minority as it’s the number movie at the box office this weekend.

Anyhoo, here they are:….

  • Jane Austen’s movies: Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Pride & Prejudice

    Col. Brandon & Elinor in Sense & Sensibility

    Ok, so all of Austen movies do end happily. But slow-burn romances mixed with a few misunderstandings thrown in seems to be a reliable recipe for irresistible love stories. S & S is one of my all-time favorites of all genres as it’s features not one but two bewitching characters: Elinor Dashwood & Col. Brandon, whose love for Edward Ferrars and Marianne Dashwood respectively seems for a time hopelessly unrequited. But that doesn’t make them bitter or unkind, in fact, their love seems to exemplify this Bible verse: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4 … Though I’ve seen this movie a gazillion times, the scene towards the end where Elinor’s whimpering uncontrollably as she can’t contain her emotion any longer never fails to get me sobbing as well!

    On a related note, I adore Persuasion‘s story of second chance at love, though since the 1995’s version with Ciaran Hinds, there hasn’t been a decent film adaptation. The BBC version left much to be desired, mostly the lack of chemistry between the two leads (though hunky Rupert Penry-Jones makes for a striking leading man) and uninspired direction – having the heroine Anne Elliot running about town is just plain silly. With a ton of trite remakes of flicks that shouldn’t even be made in the first place, I long to see the beguiling love story between Anne and Capt. Wentworth gets a chance to come alive again on the big screen!
    ….

  • BBC’s miniseries North & South
    Mill owner John Thornton and Margaret Hale didn’t meet cute the way most rom-coms start with. In fact, they met under the most brutal of circumstances as she witnessed him beat the living daylight out of his mill employee. But love works in mysterious ways. Evidently nothing – not his possessive mother, initial prejudices, even economic collapse – can keep these two apart. When we saw this on one of our gals’ monthly movie nites, every girl in the room pretty much fell for Richard Armitage’s mesmerizing Mr. Thornton. Thornton and Margaret’s restrained passion definitely gives P&P’s beloved couple Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennett a serious run for their money! If I were to make a list of best movie kisses like Hatter did, this breathtaking one at the end of this miniseries definitely takes the cake.


  • A Walk in the Clouds
    Whaddayaknow, one of my favorites Keanu Reeve’s movies is a chick flick! He isn’t the most expressive actors of the bunch, but he’s quite convincing here as a soldier who finds love when he least expects it. Paul Sutton’s just on the way home from war to be with his wife when he bumps into (literally) Victoria Aragorn on a bus who’s pregnant out of wedlock. Paul offers to pose as her husband after she tells him her traditional father would kill her if he knew her condition. He and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón share a warm chemistry, and the lush and romantic scenery of the Napa vineyards she aptly refers to as ‘the clouds’ definitely gets you in head-in-the-clouds frame of mind.
    ….
  • P.S. I Love You
    I’m still puzzled as to why the critics hate this movie so much. Everyone I talked to, even my guy friends + my hubby, actually enjoyed it, even if they won’t openly admit so. The opening scene of a married couple bickering in their apartment is both funny, sweet and surprisingly real. I also LOVE the catchy tune Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken by Camera Obscura in the beginning credits! At first I thought Hillary Swank is miscast in the role of Holly but given the weighty subject of dealing with the loss of a husband, she actually offers the right balance of pathos and exuberance her character needs. Gerry Butler follows his ultra-machismo role in 300 by playing the goofy but tender-hearted dead husband. The flashback scenes show him at his funniest and most appealing, he’s so darn charming you’ll be more than willing to forgive him for his ghastly Irish accent 🙂 The best part is, I love how this movie leaves the ending open for possibilities, instead of rushing to pair Holly with another soul mate that sweeps her off her feet.

  • Lost in Translation
    Arguably one of Bill Murray’s best roles – and perhaps Scarlett Johansson’s as well – it’s a poignant tale of an unlikely friendship of a jaded movie star and a young neglected newlywed that grew into something more. I know this movie’s kind of an acquired taste as some people actually loathe it, but I though it’s not exactly ‘entertaining’ from start to finish, this movie had me in tears both in laughter and sadness. The ‘lip my stocking’ and other thigh-slapping scenes are obviously hilarious, but they’re not just ‘ha-ha’ funny as they’re tinged with heartache. Their unconsummated May-December romance is heartfelt and beautifully acted, and the unsugar-coated ending is exquisitely touching.
  • Return to Me
    I’ve written a whole post dedicated to this movie for good reason. The relationship of Bob & Grace is as unconventional as they come, and David Duchovny and Minnie Driver definitely deserves a spot in top ten movie couples list..
    ….
  • (500) Days of Summer (full review)
    I don’t think I need to explain this one. Billed as the anti rom-com, it’s a fresh and inventive look at relationship and how expectations hardly ever translate to reality. Great performances, witty script and innovative direction makes this one of the best modern love story of this generation.
  • Roman Holiday
    I absolutely adore this movie! The best love story is the unexpected kind, and neither Princess Anne nor American reporter Joe Bradley ever set out to fall for each other. Two extremely charismatic actors, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, plus the enchanting city of Rome they wander though makes for a lovely, whimsical and downright romantic classic. Despite the dreamy quality, I love how this movie has the good sense of not resorting to some fanciful, far-fetched denouement. In fact, the movie is all the more sweeter and meaningful because of it.
    ….
  • The Painted Veil
    Unlike a lot of romances, this one actually happens after the wedding.
    The story takes place in China in the 1920s, which tells the story of a mid-class doctor (Ed Norton) who marries an upper-class woman (Naomi Watts) and moves to Shanghai. As I said in my full review, it’s a rare gem that tells a wonderful human drama without being too cutesy or overly romantic. Love is more than a bed of roses or candlelit dinner, sometimes it’s mystifying and even thorny, but always worth fighting for.
  • Somewhere in Time
    For the hopeless romantic in all of us, this fantastical time-travel love story gets me every time. It’s an absolute requirement to have a box of tissue handy when you watch this movie. Forget Lois Lane. Christopher Reeve’s most heartbreaking movie romance is with Jane Seymour, as he won’t let the 60-year span between them get in the way.

    After falling in love with a photo of the beautiful actress Elise McKenna, playwright Richard Collier self-hypnotizes and wills himself to be transported back to 1912. He ends up meeting the woman of his dreams and they fall in love, but between Elise’s jealous manager (Christopher Plummer) and the time matter itself, can their love survive? If you’re not moved by John Barry’s lush score and the haunting Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini that runs throughout the film, you ought to check your pulse.

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I realize with a list like this, I probably commit a ‘sin of omission’ either because my memory fails me, or I simply have not had the pleasure of seeing those you don’t see on this list, as some fellow bloggers have already pointed out last Friday.

So readers, what else have I missed? Please sound off in the comment section.

FlixChatter Review: The Painted Veil

This is one of the most touching and poignant movie I’ve seen in a very long time. The tag line says “Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people.” And what a journey it really is.

The story takes place in China in the 1920s, which tells the story of a mid-class doctor (Walter) who marries an upper-class woman (Kitty) and moves to Shanghai. It’s clear from the beginning that she marries him only to please her family. In Shanghai, she has an affair with a fellow ex pat (Liev Schreiber, Watt’s real life partner), which is quickly discovered by her husband. As an act of vengeance, Walter whisks her off to a remote village ravaged by cholera. It is here, amongst the deadly epidemic and tough circumstances, that they rediscover their relationship and find purpose both as a couple and as a person.

The movie is superbly acted and well-written. Ed Norton is in top form as always (he’s easily one of the best actors working today) and Naomi Watts gives a wonderful, nuanced portrayal as the initially unlikable Kitty, but she slowly earns my sympathy as the film wears on. Toby Jones as the couple’s cheery neighbor Waddington also gives a notable performance.

What I love the most is how the movie presents the characters as they are, neither heroic nor evil (like most people are), they are simply human. The film does shy away from being ‘preachy,’ such as when dealing with a Catholic orphanage, focusing instead on how the characters evolve as the story progresses. Although the pace is a bit slow at times, the ending has such a redeeming quality that it’s worth every second. It also boast a beautiful cinematography of the lush rural setting in China.

It’s rare to find a movie that tells a wonderful human drama without being too cutesy or overly romantic. Love is more than a bed of roses or candlelit dinner in fact, it’s best experienced when you’d least expect it.


Have you seen this film? Let me know what you think.