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 Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy

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DonnaKat
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PostSubject: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeSun Aug 08, 2010 10:17 am

http://www.ifc.com/news/2010/08/maureen-dowd.php

Some familiar complaints (if no solutions) about how the rom-com genre has so stagnated.

In her column at the New York Times today, Maureen Dowd tag teams with film writer Sam Wasson to bemoan the state of the romantic comedy. It's a not-uncommon complaint (and a variation on the larger "there are no good movies anymore" one trotted out by Joe Queenan last week) that usually goes something like this: "Romantic comedies used to be awesome, but they totally suck now, don't they?" "Totally!"

While Dowd runs through the usual questions -- "How did we get from 'Two for the Road' to 'The Bounty' and 'He's Just Not That Into You'?" -- Wasson, the author of recent making-of-"Breakfast at Tiffany's"-tome "Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.," makes an important point:

Even the studios that are run by women aren't run by women. They're run by corporations, which are run by franchises. Unfortunately for us, Jennifer Aniston is a franchise. So is Katherine Heigl and Gerard Whatever-His-Name-Is, and even when their movies bomb, their franchise potential isn't compromised because overseas markets, DVD sales and cable earn all the studio's money back... The worst part of it is, from Hollywood's point of view, it ain't broke.

Butler, sir. That would be Gerard Butler. And what is the incentive for studios to do a better job with potted rom-com movie product when enough people seem perfectly content to watch the ghastly things they churn out? Other than pride in artistry, something presumably beaten out of most movie execs by years of fear, bottom-line thinking and market testing.

What I personally find disturbing about the current state of the rom-com -- more so than the general dismal quality, the frequent lack of chemistry between the leads and the absence of anything resembling sparkling repartee -- is the underlying hostility many of these films seem to have for their female characters. Back in the Times, Manohla Dargis, reviewing a recent Whatever-His-Name-Is vehicle, noted:

One of the lessons of "The Ugly Truth" -- beyond the obvious one that a desirable, desiring woman can never, ever, be happily single and sexual in modern Hollywood -- is that holding to your hard-won ideals is of no consequence, at least when there's a guy to be hooked.

And that's been true of a fair amount of recent mainstream romantic comedies, from "The Proposal" to "Leap Year" to "He's Just Not That Into You." The battle of the sexes, the I-can't-stand-you-let's-make-out that's been a standard of screwball romance for ages, has gotten awfully one-sided, becoming more a question of a woman getting humiliated and punished until she gets over herself and learns to appreciate the man in front of her. If that's what's become of escapism, no wonder "Twilight," in which a girl's mere existence is enough to make (supernaturally powered) guys throw themselves at her feet, has become so successful.
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DonnaKat
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeSun Aug 08, 2010 10:26 am

I wish Hollywood would get a clue from the past.... Cary Grant, William Powell, Katherine Hepburn, to name just a few.... they knew how to carry a romcom. The dialogue was witty and classy, and the directors didn't need to rely on bathroom humor, vulgarity, and shock value to get their point across. Both sexes were shown for their own quirky ways without having to degrade one another.

THOSE were romcoms, and I do enjoy watching those. Not so much the stuff Hollywood is churning out now. The stuff today seems so cheap and shallow in comparison.
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeSun Aug 08, 2010 2:38 pm

The stuff today IS cheap and shallow.

The writers (if there are any--I sometimes wonder) don't bother to give the characters a personality other than the female lead is a greedy, self-centered bitch and the male lead is a poor, misunderstood, horny, self-centered (and whiny) bastard. Each of them could be doing the scene with a blowup doll and you get the impression that they wouldn't notice the difference.
Ah---true love, just like in the movies, ain't it great?

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DonnaKat
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeSun Aug 08, 2010 2:44 pm

I saw Benny and Joon for the first time yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. It was made in 1993, so I guess it's sort of "newish". I also really enjoy Romancing the Stone.
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pamelajane
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeSun Aug 08, 2010 8:11 pm

DonnaKat wrote:
I wish Hollywood would get a clue from the past.... Cary Grant, William Powell, Katherine Hepburn, to name just a few.... they knew how to carry a romcom. The dialogue was witty and classy, and the directors didn't need to rely on bathroom humor, vulgarity, and shock value to get their point across. Both sexes were shown for their own quirky ways without having to degrade one another.

THOSE were romcoms, and I do enjoy watching those. Not so much the stuff Hollywood is churning out now. The stuff today seems so cheap and shallow in comparison.

Very true. I'd watch Hepburn and Tracy, Powell and Loy, Jimmy Stewart and Irene Dunn and anything Cary Grant over and over, without givng a thought to the "stuff" that's coming out now.

It's nice to see you youngin's enjoying it too.
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greyeyegoddess
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeSun Aug 08, 2010 8:30 pm

Amen, ya'll. I'm right there with you, saying WT heck?

I don't get it. What ever happened to smart comedy?
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LegoJulie
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeMon Aug 09, 2010 1:32 am

Smart entertainment left Hollyweird about 20 years ago. That's when movies and TV shows started gettting dumbed down. About the time The Simpsons started. Coincidence?

BTW I love The Simpsons. (sons of a simp?)
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ktaylor48239
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeMon Aug 09, 2010 9:44 am

So much of it boils down to good chemistry. It's almost like they just throw two big names together these days and hope for the $$$$ draw just from the names alone. I don't think GB had any chemistry with Katherine, Jennifer or Hillary for that matter. Maybe it's the type of movie, maybe it's the woman they are putting him with, heck, maybe it's him! But I can't remember any smoke from him since Phantom, Dracula and Frankie. They need to go back and look at films like "Romancing the Stone" and "Chocolat" to see what chemistry looks like.
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeMon Aug 09, 2010 4:30 pm

ktaylor48239 wrote:
So much of it boils down to good chemistry. It's almost like they just throw two big names together these days and hope for the $$$$ draw just from the names alone.
That's exactly what I suspect Hollywood producers do, KT. Availability of big names must also figure into the equation.
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeTue Aug 10, 2010 2:12 pm

Interesting article with some insightful points.


http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2010/08/10/129105471/no-the-romantic-comedy-is-not-dead-it-s-just-not-as-easy-as-it-looks




Don't Worry: The Romantic Comedy Is Not Dead At The Hands Of Gerard Butler

by Linda Holmes

Periodically, someone formulates a theory that romantic comedies (or date movies, or chick movies, or whatever you want to call them) are dead. We've had a little outbreak of it in the last few years.

The A.V. Club wrote in 2006 about 9 Recent Attempts To Save The Romantic Comedy. The Guardian announced the death of the genre at the time The Ugly Truth was released. The London Times lamented the lack of smart romantic comedies in January 2008. The New York Times said the state of romantic comedy was dying back in 2008 as well, and has now (through Maureen Dowd) re-announced that it's dead indeed, deader than dead, depressingly dead, and why isn't He's Just Not That Into You as good as It Happened One Night, anyway?

The problem with this "it used to be good and now it's bad" theory of this particular genre is that it's always been very, very hard to make one that isn't fundamentally kind of dumb at some level.

Why? Because there is a core of dopey, charming, unrealistic, entirely unmerited optimism in the very idea of happy endings. It's not that real life always has sad endings; it's that in real life, there are no endings at all. In real life, even "and then they lived together happily for the next 50 years" will include disease, loss, fear, fighting, uncertainty, anxiety, hardship, and the eternal knowledge that it can all be taken from you at any time. Romantic comedies with happy endings taking place in the middles of people's lives rely on the idea that a relationship has a resolution, and relationships do not have resolutions.

This, of course, presents a challenge.


This is not to say movies with happy romantic endings can't be wonderful, but they are not wonderful on the basis that they are particularly lifelike, and that goes for the great and the not-so-great. It's very popular in these "death of the romantic comedy" pieces to long for movies of the late '80s and early '90s, like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless In Seattle, to which I say: come now. Were you buying the run through the streets to the New Year's Eve party? Does the utter preposterousness of the ending of Sleepless In Seattle not bother you? (Note: It does not bother me.)

Similarly, the much-maligned "meet cute" is in the genre's DNA, because meeting cute is part of the fantasy that being in love is the result of being struck by lightning rather than the result of making an effort to forge relationships with other human beings, which is boring and time-consuming and not so snappy in a trailer.

Does this mean a romantic comedy has to be dumb, or have a stupid script, or have ear-injuring dialogue, as they often do? Of course not. But laziness is always easier and therefore statistically in greater supply than anything else, and laziness combined with the unreality and predictability of the basic romantic plot results in the kind of dreck where people fall in love for no reason, things happen to keep them apart for no reason, and then at the end, they make out for no reason. In other words, when they're dumb, they're real dumb.

But it's wildly unfair to look back at the greatest successes in a genre's entire history and ask why films to equal them are unusual. Yes, it's very rare to get a movie as good as The Front Page or It Happened One Night in this day and age. But it was rare in that day and age, too. A movie like that is rare because it is good, and being good is hard, and successfully doing something hard is rare — always, in any era.

The junk degrades. The junk is forgotten. The junk romantic comedies of the '60s and '70s and '80s and '90s barely exist in memory anymore, and nostalgia artificially inflates our sense of the average quality of everything. You know what was dumb? The Bachelor, with Chris O'Donnell. Nine Months, with Hugh Grant. Fools Rush In, with Matthew Perry. Are they important now? No, they're gone. And that's what's going to happen to the bad romantic comedies that come out today. Yes, in terms of big-ticket romantic comedies, there's a lull — partly because the audience keeps going to the stupid ones.

But the entire idea, it is certainly not dead.

It's a quaint and silly (and spectacularly narrow) idea that Gerard Butler could kill the woozy fantasies about wit and love that have kept the genre alive for not only as long as there have been movies, but as long as there has been literature. You think romantic comedy has been alive since before Shakespeare but our ability to create or appreciate it died between How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days and now? That's ridiculous.

Quite honestly, if we just didn't have the double bill of Butler as a swaggering jerk in The Bounty Hunter and The Ugly Truth, we'd probably be seeing about half the indignation about this that we're seeing now. Those movies are both absolutely horrible, make no mistake: they're hostile to women and hostile to men, they're not sexy, they're vulgar, they're stupid, they're lazy, they're poorly made, and they're about as romantic as cleaning the hair out of your shower drain.

But that's two movies. Cinematic love stories, for good or for ill, are a lot more mighty than two Gerard Butler movies. Or even two Gerard Butler movies plus the entire Matthew McConaughey oeuvre. When you hear the same two or three or five movies mentioned in every "what ever happened to the romantic comedy?" think piece, it's time to be suspicious that too few clunkers are driving the anxiety.

Romantic comedy is not dead because of Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past any more than action movies are dead because of the avalanche of boring explosion movies you can identify in any given year. Have no fear: you're going to see more witty love stories, because it's in our bones to write them. Will there still be dumb clutter in this field? Of course. For every movie that sings — or even hums — several will reek. It's the way of the jungle.

But most of them throughout the rest of human history, rest assured, will at least not have Gerard Butler in them.
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeTue Aug 10, 2010 4:07 pm

Dear Linda Holmes,

Bravo!
But you do realise that such a reasoned writer/social commentator has NO place in Hollywood, don't you? I personally would prefer to blame Matthew McConabadactor for all of this. Laughing

PS. Thanks, Dallas.
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeTue Aug 10, 2010 8:14 pm

She didn't mention any actresses. Rom com bombs aren't all the lead actors' faults.

I saw TUT, haven't seen BH. As much as GB looked like a talking hamster with full cheek pouches, he was better than Katherine Heigl. I saw KH in 27 Dresses. KH had the same 2 expressions in both movies, with the same attitude and same persona in both movies. I guess men think she's hot. I don't think much of her acting.

I've never seen anything with Jennifer Aniston in it. I don't know if that means anything or not.
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PostSubject: Re: Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy   Maureen Dowd Mourns the Romantic Comedy Icon_minitimeWed Aug 11, 2010 1:49 am

I definitely don't blame Gman for the fall of rom-coms. He surely didn't start it.

To me, I think, either a rom-com is a bridge to Hollywood mainstream, or it's a comfortable genre for actors who can't seem to make it elsewhere.
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