One of the genres in question was Romantic Comedy. I mentioned to my wife that I wasn't happy with their top choice. She responded "Of course not, you hate romantic comedies." I want to set the record straight. I love romantic comedies. To explain why I love them, but my wife assumes I don't, involves a bit of history.
The romantic comedy almost always existed, but the most popular version of it was born with Frank Capra's 1934 screwball romantic comedy film It Happened One Night. Back then, romantic comedies were not women's pictures - women's pictures were melodramatic weepies like Now, Voyager or Stella Dallas. No, it was believed that both men and women were interested in watching an attractive couple engage in a game of wits and forge a lasting relationship, usually with some slapstick along the way. Many of my favorite films of all time, directed by masters such as George Cukor, Preston Sturges, and Howard Hawks, come from this 20 year era of romantic comedy bliss.
The second era of romantic comedies I don't have much use for, although my wife loves them. They star people like Rock Hudson and Doris Day, not Cary Grant and Irenne Dunne, and dominated the 50s and the 60s. I don't know much about them - the only one I've seen is Pillow Talk - so I'll see if I can get Mrs. Moviesetal to weigh in.
Like everything else in Hollywood, the old romantic comedy was swept way in the late 60s and 70s in favor of a leaner, meaner version. Thus the Woody Allen (or Jewish) style romantic comedy was born, and we were treated to neurotic New York liberals who couldn't get together, not because of the Production Code, but because they weren't sure what their shrink would say. Again, many of my favorite films of all time, such as Manhattan and The Purple Rose of Cairo, come from this era of romantic comedy; once again, romantic comedies weren't just for women.
If you're under the age of 30 and not a classic film geek, we probably haven't any gotten to anything you'd consider a romantic comedy yet. I call this era the Nora Ephron era; bland leading men like Tom Hanks and Richard Gere team up with Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts to shit all over us with completely predictable exercises where some nonsensical conflict delays the inevitable wedding for 100 minutes before we're treated to matrimony. This is the era of Sleepless in Seattle, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, etc and the British Hugh Grant offshoot of Notting Hill, Bridget Jones' Diary, etc. A.O. Scott has thoroughly destroyed this era of the genre in his review of 27 Dresses.
Like many men, who have long been trained to loathe them, I hate this era,. Thus, my wife believes I hate romantic comedies. But I actually love them; I just hate this fourth era of them. I guess I'm not alone. Let's look, finally, at the AFI List
|3||It Happened One Night||1934|
|5||The Philadelphia Story||1940|
|6||When Harry Met Sally...||1989|
|9||Harold and Maude||1971|
|10||Sleepless in Seattle||1993|
I am Film Ignorant about City Lights and Harold and Maude, but I see the breakdown like this:
1.Screwball Era: 4/10 (Night, Holiday, Story, Rib) The 20 year era produces 40% of the films
2.The Pillow Talk Era: 0/10. The AFI feels the same way I do.
3.The Neurotic Era: 2.5/10. (Annie Hall, Moonstruck, and When Harry)
4.The Ephron Era: 1.5/10 (Sleepless and Met Sally)
5.None of the Above: 2/10 (Lights and Harold and Maude)
Although the AFI always shortchanges recent films, I think there's more to it than that. I think the Ephron era just sucks, and nearly got shut-out of the whole thing. Ditto, of course, for Pillow Talk and its brethren.
I would like to add one final note. I am currently excited about the romantic comedy era. The Ephron era is dead, financially. In 2007, its top moneymakers were #47. PS, I love You and #52. Music and Lyrics. And sitting right there at #14, with almost $150 million, is Knocked Up. That's right, Knocked Up is a romantic comedy - it's just a guy-based one, and not in a Made of Honor kind of way. The three best romantic comedies of the last 5 years, in fact, all come from Judd Apatow: Knocked Up, The 40-Year Old Virgin, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
So maybe, just maybe, we're crawling out of the Ephron era. Sure 27 Dresses made a bit more than Sarah Marshall...but remember, Katherine Heigl made the jump to A-lister in an Apatow film. Also, Forgetting Sarah Marshall didn't suck. If there's any any justice in this world, we'll be able to look back on the last 5 years and next 15 as the Apatow era. And romantic comedies can be, like they were for most of their history, for everybody.