Harshing Your Mellow

I don’t know how you feel about Billy Wilder, but I love him. He made Avanti, one of my all time favorite romcoms. He also made The Apartment which is brilliant but dark. I haven’t seen this movie for quite awhile, and I was a little taken aback when it ended up on our romcom list (as I said, it’s dark), so it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like in the context of PopD, which is turning out to be a lot different than I thought it would. I knew Lucy (Lani) and I were ruthless about critiquing, but I didn’t realize how adamant we’d be that the romance had to work for real, even in the context of a romantic farce. If the groundwork isn’t laid so that we believe in that relationship for the long term, we get savage. So far only three of the nine movies have gotten perfect scores from us–It Happened One Night, His Girl Friday, and Desk Set–but I have really high hopes for the last three in this era–The Apartment, Father Goose, and How to Steal a Million.

That means we’ve trashed some movies that are fun to watch. We try to be careful to say, “This movie doesn’t work as a romcom,” not just “This movie doesn’t work,” but as we saw last week with Pillow Talk, if the romance doesn’t work, the rest of the movie can be brilliant and we’re still throwing things at the TV at the end (and very carefully missing since we can’t afford to replace the sucker). For our purposes–analyzing romcom movies to find out how to write them better–we need to be incisive, but I’m afraid it’s ruining a lot of movies for people. So here’s a question: If you’ve played along with PopD any time in the past nine weeks, did we ruin a movie for you? It’s a good time to ask because I think we’re going to be running a lot of comparisons with Pillow Talk–as I remember The Apartment is the dark side of that sunny-side-up film–and I’m thinking maybe I should pull my punches.

(Note: This post is going up on Argh Friday to catch anybody I missed here. So there’ll be some deja vu.)

11 thoughts on “Harshing Your Mellow

  1. I don’t think it’s as valuable if you guys start pulling your punches. If I really like a movie nothing people have to say in analysis of it will make me dislike it. And vice versa. And this is about learning, right?

    Of course, I didn’t like The Apartment anyway, so I really don’t care if you don’t pull your punches there…

  2. He also did other movies like Midnight (wrote, but not directed) and Some Like it Hot.

    [Oh lord. I had a sudden picture in my mind of the latter movie being re-done with Paris Hilton. Not a pretty picture in my mind.]

  3. Don’t pull your punches, please. You haven’t ruined any movies for me, and it’s been really valuable to analyze how romance works and doesn’t work in a story, and how to build a romance. And also really satisfying to be able to put my finger on “that’s why I love Move A, but Movie B, while fun, isn’t one I re-watch when I need a hit of romance.”

    The only good critique is a strong, honest critique. Keep it coming!

  4. Absolutely what everyone else has said. This has been brilliantly enlightening. I’ve learned so much. Remember too, many of us voted to watch these with the “I’ve always liked this” or “I remember this being fun” or “I think this fits the bill better than that” votes — which isn’t to say we argued for all of these to be considered perfect RomComs. They’re just what we thought we should watch to compile this list.
    Nothing has been lost. Even when I said to myself “Huh. Not really very romatic was it?” when I watched “Bringing Up Baby” I stil remembered thinking it was funny. And many of these have been first time movies for me — “Pillow Talk” is one example. I’d always thought I should probably watch it, but never really had the desire to. If I’d rented it I think I might not have minded spending the money, but I probably never would have. But now, at least, I think I’ve seen it in a larger context and I really appreciate having it to compare for the times, the tropes and the flaws as well as what did work.
    Question: I see a poll for “Down with Love.” What’s that about?

  5. The poll for Down With Love is because we did a movie intervention last night (see show notes post that is now up) and even though we both hated it the first time we saw it, we loved it last night. So we did a half hour podcast on it.

    Oh, and I agree. It Happened One Night really is the benchmark.

  6. No, more often than not, I watched the movie before I read/listened to your stuff and it expained why I was not completly happy with the movie. It has the same effect for me as the Buffy v. Edward video concerning the Meyer novels. I LOVE teenage romance and paranormal but these books made me very uncomfortable. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why until I watched the video.

  7. OMGoodness, you guys have been busy! I need to hit the video store tomorrow for Down with Love (I was disappointed the first time, although there was good stuff there), and of course, The Apartment.

    Topic: No, you haven’t ruined anything for me. I love listening to your opinions, I have my own, and if they differ . . . well, there are many roads to Oz, right? I realize you are looking at these movies from a very, very narrow set of criteria, and most of the time, I see your points.

    Keep up the good work! Y’all are doing great!

  8. I played along the first several weeks, and had never seen any of the movies before. Watching them with twitter and listening to the podcast enhanced the experience for me; absolutely nothing was lost. I’m a little sad that my shift got rotated back to seconds and I can’t play along anymore, but still enjoying the process.
    Continue on just as you’ve started, please 🙂

  9. I’ve been playing along when I can (have seen all the movies, only been able to twitter along once — too hard to start a movie with you at 4:00 p.m. Friday on the west coast). No, please continue to push your punches, as long as you keep up the analysis as well (i.e., not simply not-liking things and thus using that as an excuse to diss a movie, Dowd-style). (Which of course you won’t stop.)

    I haven’t always agreed with you both (frex, I do see smatterings of romance in Bringing Up Baby — more than you, if not the full set — and not so much romance in His Girl Friday), but the fun discovery often comes from analyzing the gap between where you are and where I am (or between both of your opinions — just think, you’re the Siskel and Ebert of Romantic Comedies!).

  10. Another good thing PopD has done: I never would have finished Desk Set but for the rave review here. I’d tried watching it a few months ago and gave up ten minutes in, and then when you guys loved it I decided to give it another go, and now I love it too!

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