Formulaic. Certain things just are. Elton John songs. He plugs in a formula and knows what makes a hit. It’s no longer about inspiration and is much more reliant on form. Just as Barry & Ira in City Slickers knew "the right" ice cream flavor that went with any meal, certain things just are formulaic. For me, rainy days go hand in hand with certain foods and movies. Right now, for instance, I’m eating a steamy bowl of New England clam chowder in my white bed, submerged beneath covers, the air-conditioning full-throttle. I’ve plunged islands of crostini into the bowl, submerging them until they soften, then eating them in broken swampy pieces. Cubes of potato and the tang of the clam. And, it’s raining. This is the way it’s done. All that’s needed, besides more soup for when I’m done, is the proper movie. The Parent Trap or The Goonies would most certainly work. Or I could mix things up with a DVD-fest of Ally McBeal episodes. See, really what makes this work is the Vhonda Shepard songs.
I was flipping through the TV Guide lineup (trying to ignore Joan & Melissa Rivers–talk about formulaic jokes… ugh) when I came across Casablanca. I’d seen it years ago, but mostly, when I think of it, I think of When Harry Met Sally. I love stories where the couple begin as enemies and each soften in their own ways, toward each other. Something’s Gotta Give, Bridget Jones Diary (aka Pride & Prejudice), Clueless (aka Emma), You’ve Got Mail, The Philadelphia Story (one of my favorites), One Fine Day, even Groundhog Day, though really, that hate was a one-way street. On some level I suppose that’s why make-up sex can get so hot, especially when it starts before you’ve actually made up. Or more importantly, why so many of us stick around in the wrong relationships. We’re hoping our partner might soften to us, might hopefully change. We know better, certainly, but we ignore our heads and follow our hearts… into heartbreak. Most of the really good love stories I’m drawn to begin with people who cannot stand each other. And then there’s drama and chemistry and tension. Even when I was still living at home with my parents, I was drawn to The Cutting Edge, an ice skating movie where a stuck up figure-skater learns a thing or two from a hockey player. Love that crap. I just wish I knew more of the classics shaped this way. It’s a classic formula. There’s also the guy gets girl, loses girl, then tries to win girl back. That works, too, but it’s usually a sub-category within the whole "hate-first" formula, though not always. Underdog stories do the same thing. Rudy, Hoosiers, Seabiscut, The Greatest Game Ever Played. Losing, taste of small success, then more struggle and big finish.
I wish I knew more about film. Not the technicals. Not necessarily the history either. Sometimes I light up knowing someone I love hasn’t yet seen one of my favorite movies. I cannot wait to share it with them, eager to watch them experience it for the first time. I already cannot wait to introduce our children to Anne of Green Gables or my Disney favorites. I remember when my father introduced me to The March of The Wooden Soldiers. I knew it was important to him, even though I was still wearing feety pajamas. "Good, huh?" he asked. I wish there were (and I believe there have to be) movies I haven’t discovered yet, favorites of someone else. Recently, The Suitor begged me to watch Being There. Not a chick flick, but I definitely enjoyed it. No formula there. I’ve already seen every single movie with Cary Grant, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Barbara Streisand, Diane Keaton, Katherine or Audrey Hepburn (oh how I loved Love in The Afternoon), so please don’t go recommending them. But other than that, I’m taking recos…. please.
My Netflix queue is nearly barren!