Written by John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Norman Jewison
Moonstruck was a continuation of what a strong journeyman director Norman Jewison was. This time he tackles a screwball romantic comedy that at once hearkens back to his days making movies with Doris Day yet a more modern feminist take on the genre. He works from a screenplay written by John Patrick Shanley, who would write and direct Joe Versus the Volcano and Doubt. This was Shanley’s first screenwriting gig, but he’d been writing for the theater since the early 1980s. Moonstruck is an enchanted picture, much like Joe Versus the Volcano; it’s a subtly heightened world where the moon can appear exaggeratedly large in the sky and have a magical effect on the people of New York City.
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The African Queen (1951)
Written by John Huston, James Agee, Peter Viertel, and John Collier
Directed by John Huston
Despite his track record of dark, crime-centric movies, John Huston was also a romantic. That was on full display in The African Queen. This wasn’t Huston’s last film with Humphrey Bogart, but it is considered his last great film working with the actor. He was working with a lighter, comedy type of film. Huston also shot on location in Uganda and the Congo. The African Queen was a Technicolor picture that added difficulty to the production. The cameras needed for the Technicolor process were large and somewhat unwieldy. But in an effort for authenticity, Huston refused to shoot most of the picture on a soundstage.
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The Age of Innocence (1993)
Written by Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese
Directed by Martin Scorsese
New York City has played a central role in almost every Scorsese film. I think Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Cape Fear were the only movies at this point that didn’t take place in and around NYC. Mainstream perceptions about Scorsese probably think he’s most concerned with a specific NYC era, but I’ve found he’s interested in the city at all stages of its development. Other than Temptation, this is the film that had occurred the furthest in the past in the director’s filmography. The movie adapts Edith Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence, set when New York City had a very prevalent aristocracy with its own subculture of ritual & performance in public. This creates tension between our characters’ relationships and their inner thoughts, and it’s on that tightrope the whole film rests.
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Somewhere in Time (1980)
Written by Richard Matheson
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
I approached this film with moderate expectations but found myself enjoying it quite a bit. Somewhere in Time is a melodrama dripping with maudlin sentimentality. But it’s a well crafted one, so those excesses and silly bits can easily be ignored or enjoyed. The film is based on the novel Bid Time Return, also written by Richard Matheson. Between this film and my Twilight Zone series, I have enjoyed Matheson’s work this year. I’d only previously read I Am Legend, but I think I may need to do a deeper dive into his work. Somewhere in Time feels like a Matheson episode of Twilight Zone, which is stretched out a little longer and gives us a relatively decent tragic love story.
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The Apartment (1960)
Written by Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond
Directed by Billy Wilder
As we come to the end of this Billy Wilder retrospective, we get to what might be the most excellent comedy of his later years. It’s so interesting how we began with the dark & bleak Double Indemnity and come to this comedy-drama. That isn’t to say that The Apartment lacks maturity. It’s a finely developed and sensitive picture about adults and the complexity of relationships & sex. The two films have more in common than what you might think at first glance as they are both about the darker side of adult relationships, one more outlandish than the other.
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Written by Billy Wilder, Ernest Lehman, and Samuel A. Taylor
Directed by Billy Wilder
Sabrina is not my favorite Billy Wilder film. I’ve never been a big fan of the romantic comedy, but compared to modern fare in that genre, Sabrina is a masterpiece. This feels like the ur-text of romantic comedies, all of the serendipitous tropes and plot contrivances to work towards a happy ending. The plot couldn’t be more simple, but that is to the film’s favor, keeping the cast pared down so that time is spent developing core relationships. There are side characters that exist to provide comedic relief. It’s all very fluffy & light, a great tasting meal of cotton candy.
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The Slugger’s Wife (1985)
Written by Neil Simon
Directed by Hal Ashby
I truly despise this movie. It makes it hard not to dislike Hal Ashby entirely because it is so against everything he made at his peak in the 1980s. The characters are vapid and unlikeable. The story is terrible. I am still trying to make sense of how we ended up here. It’s honestly even more flabbergasting than anything we’ve seen before from Ashby. It is at complete odds with the moral sense the director brought to his early films and is absolute dreck.
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Written & Directed by Spike Jonze
Theodore is a recent divorcee who has receded from life outside his work/home bubble. This reclusive nature changes when he installs an advanced artificial intelligence on his networked devices. She calls herself Samantha, a name she picked because she liked how it sounded. Samantha and Theodore feel a spark between them, but for obvious reasons, there is reticence and awkwardness. Eventually, they begin a relationship, and both of them find great solace in their intimacy. Samantha starts developing as a being, frustrated with her lack of physical form but finding emotional satisfaction in her day to day life with Theodore. Theo struggles to accept the finality of his divorce, the pangs of a love he thought was forever lingering in his heart.
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The Lovers (2017)
Written & Directed by Azazel Jacobs
Mary and Michael have been married for over a quarter of a century. Their marriage hasn’t gone up in a cloud of smoke, but it has fizzled to the point they both have secret affairs. Michael has told Lucy that after their son’s visit in the next week he will announce he is leaving his wife. At the same time, Mary has told Robert she will sit everyone down during their son’s visit and relay the new changes coming. However, Mary and Michael wake up in each other’s arms one morning. One thing leads to another, and they are suddenly having an affair with each other behind their lovers’ backs. When their son, Joel and his girlfriend arrive, things get even more complicated.
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Obvious Child (2014)
Written by Anna Bean, Karen Maine, & Gillian Robespierre
Directed by Gillian Robespierre
Donna Stern is an amateur stand-up comedian in New York City whose life, while not the greatest of successes, is comfortable and stable. Then her boyfriend breaks up with her admitting he was cheating with one of her friends. The bookstore that provides her primary source of income announces it is closing. And then she meets Max, a young businessman who happens to stop by the bar/club where she performs stand up. After a night of drunken fun, she parts ways with Max and begins to move on with her life. The bombshell that hits Donna is that she is pregnant. Right away she knows she has to have an abortion, her life is in no way prepared for a child. However, Max keeps walking into her life, and Donna feels like she has to break this news to him.
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