Chic-Flick Trailers

Sunday, April 5, 2009

THE DRAMEDY: A better alternative in contemporary trends

So, while the The Romantic Drama is seen as the best of the best it does have some some chic-flick related problems. So in response, I thought I would give you a taste of what I think is a perfect medium, a better alternative. Of course most of these fall under the comedy genre because, sadly, there are major underachievers in the writing, acting, directing, etc. when it comes to comedy. Strangely enough, when I was making a list of quirky, funny, heartfelt films I realized they all were pretty current in the box office scene and like The Contemporary Romance seem to be a new trend of something a little more substantial in the teen and romantic comedy genres. So for all of those who look back on the good ol' days with heavy hearts and nostalgia, take a look a the age of the aughties for undeniably great chic-flicks.

Also called the comedy-drama or serio-comedy, it comes from the tragicomedy genre in theatre originally created in Shakespeare's time. Maybe you just can't take all the dead lovers and cruel betrayals of The Romantic Dramas but you thrive for the same quality. And wha-la the dramedy appears. It's the perfect balance of depth, sorrow, hope, all wrapped up in a funny romantic package that usually has good writing.

Sub-genre mania: The Dramedy, like drama or comedy, has its own sub-genres that include The Contemporary Romance, The Teen Dramedy while also seemingly popular in independent film and with contemporary writers.

Must-sees: Amelie (2001), Oscar nominated French, independent film, Garden State (2004), directed and written by the multi-talented Zach Braff with an incredible performance by Natalie Portman, Stranger Than Fiction (2006) including the legendary Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) which features a dramedy favourite and new Oscar winner, Kate Winslet.

Comedians realm: One of the best features of this hybrid genre is the dramatic debut of some amazing comedians including Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Zach Braff and I might even include Adam Sandler in 50 First Dates who follow other great comedian turned actors like the great Robin Williams.

The Teen Dramedy
For a look back at all the problems read here. But people, I have fabulous news: there is hope and it just keeps on coming. Some of the best teen movies are the most recent including Juno (2007), Superbad (2007), Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist (2008), and Adventureland (2009). Again, I'm all for this new hybrid of comedy and drama with a cast of great actors and writers with guts, honesty and a fresh look at the life of a teen. If you don't believe me, check out reliable Ebert for some great insight.

The best of the best: In other posts I have mentioned Ellen Page (Oscar nominated for Juno) and Michael Cera who I think are the most normal, quirky and interesting young actors out there who also have this amazing talent for comedy and drama. And Jonah Hill is so hysterically funny that I will now see anything with him in it. I think their performances along with the premises of these movies, are the most relatable of any teen films out there and that is why they are better than anything else.

I'm talking REAL teenagers: They actually look like teenagers and you rarely see the jock, cheerleader, science or math geek stereotypes. The girls aren't overly sexualized and the guys aren't always sex-crazed beasts (I mean, Superbad's Evan is the sweetest kid ever). They don't demean or degrade teenagers and thank god for it!

The Bro-mantic Comedy
I mean, in the sense that it is guy-friendly. These are for those of you who actually want to keep their boyfriends around on movie night I'm sure you've turned to some of these: The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), Role Models (2008), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and I Love You, Man (2009). And just from talking to friends and family about these movies they are popular with many age groups including both genders. And yes, I classify them as chick flicks ( I even dub them, chic-flicks), because they stick to the romantic comedy form in some way, shape or form. I Love You, Man and Superbad literally trade the heterosexual romance plot for a bromance plot while Role Models take bits of both and even crosses generations of male bonding, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall tells a break-up story from the point-of-view of a guy, which I don't think has ever been done before in a romantic comedy.

The root of it all: Turns out the new generation of comedians, featured in April 2009 Vanity Fair, are not only funny performers but pretty substantial writers; Paul Rudd is the co-writer of Role Models, Seth Rogen co-wrote Superbad, and Jason Segel wrote Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Is this whats turning comedy around? I say, keep the comedians doing it all, writing, directing and holding the boom if that's what keeps their creative juices flowing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

THE ROMANTIC DRAMA: We're talking some serious chic-flick action...

The American Film Institute has made many top 100 lists of movies in their series called AFI's 100 Years and even included a list for all of us chick-flickers; AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions that includes the top 100 love stories in American film. Now as I go through this list I recognize most of these films as Romantic Dramas. These are the chick flicks (most of the chic but not always) that get nominated for Oscars and are given the respect they so rightly deserve in the film industry. A lot of this has to do with the themes of historical events and the realism in style that this genre focuses on. It's true, usually these movies are better written, directed and acted by all parties, but I wonder if this is inherent in the genre or maybe something else? This even falls under The Academy Rules, a drama is respectable no matter what the content while a comedy is mindless fluff that is only made worse by a romantic storyline. But I digress; these movies are some of the top features of all time and I'm really excited that girly movies can fall into this category. So here's my breakdown:

The Epic
I, myself, didn't even think to include The Epic as a part of romantic drama until I came across Box Office Mojo which told me that the top box office romantic dramas include a lot of current romantic epics (Titanic, Cold Mountain, Out of Africa, Pearl Harbour, The English Patient, etc).
Now I have to say I am a little biased on this topic because these are some of my favourite movies of all time and I really think they have something in them for everyone. Out of all romantic dramas you are most likely to drag your friends, family and even your boyfriend to an epic.

The problem is: The men seem to die a lot. Count them out: Denys Finch Hatton (Out of Africa, 1985), Jack Dawson (Titanic 1997), Danny Walker (Pearl Harbour, 2001), Inman (Cold Mountain, 2003) and The Drover was originally supposed to be killed at the end of the most recent epic, Australia (2008). I have a bit of a feminist problem with this: do they kill the men off because to kill a woman off is less forgivable? This, of course, is different in The English Patient, based on Michael Ondaatje's 1992 novel. I'm finding disappointing trends in this genre that I would like to be stretched and interrogated a little because the last thing we need is for another chick flick sub-genre to be generic.

But keep 'em coming: No matter what I say, I still love these films. The exciting thing is that most of them are top notch; in fact the only epics I can think of that fell under par were Pearl Harbour and Troy (2004), probably because they are such a large undertaking and have such large budgets, but that's achievement for the genre itself.

The Tragedy of the Genre
Critics, reviewers and any old movie snob will tell you that
Dramas have more substance than the generic comedy or action film, which I mostly think is true but because of the content that is usually paired with this film genre (war, historical events or people, etc.) not because it necessarily has better people behind or in front of the camera. I'm sure many people don't even consider these movies chick flicks but Wikipedia says they are as well as an actor named Daniel Stern, in a video on AFI, even calls Titanic (the top grossing romantic drama of all time) an "epic chick flick". I felt so validated, I can't even tell you.

The problem is: I just can't handle all the sadness, depression and lack of hope. Now this is not in every film in this genre but if you make a list of all of these movies, I promise you it will be very difficult to make a substantial list of those with happy endings. And yes, to a chick-flicker, that is a problem, but as always, stay tuned for what I call "a better alternative".

The saddest of the sad: Just think about watching these movies one after another and you might see what I mean:
Legends of the Fall (1994), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Atonement (2007), Evening (2007) and then throw in some of the classic love stories and any epic that I listed and you might just have an emotional breakdown. The reason for this goes back to why Aristotle thought tragedy was better than comedy in Grecian times. Serious issues with serious consequences makes us think and feel about what is really important, which is actually pretty fantastic. Call it a reaffirmation of life, but look for my picks with a little more hope.

Let's call it bittersweet: Now, I have no problem with a little sadness, a little tragedy but sometimes you've had a bad day and the last thing you need is to emerge yourself in someone else's extreme problems. That is why women turn to the fluffier of chick flicks, because they need a little distraction and, most importantly, hope. So my picks for romantic drama might fall towards the ones with bittersweet endings and less tragic circumstances than one person can handle in a sitting.

The Classic Love Story
The romantic storylines in this genre usually stem from some of the most popular plays, novels and other written work of all time. The tragic circumstances of
star-crossed lovers and impossible circumstances has its roots in the classic stories of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the Arthurian legend of Guinevere and Lancelot, and the legend and popular opera by Richard Wagner, Tristan and Isolde. Writers, directors and producers are smart in the sense that they stick to what has worked for centuries by adapting these love stories or just making new versions of them in cases like Baz Lurhman's Romeo and Juliet, Kevin Reynold's Tristan and Isolde, the musical version of Camelot (1967) and Jerry Zucker's First Knight (1995).

The written word: I'm sure people have noticed that adaptation is popular, so much so that they give awards based on it that are separated from original work. Some of the best of the best in romantic drama comes from adaptation of the old stuff (like I mentioned) and even the new stuff that was mentioned in the saddest of the sad. But if you love adapted film like I do, you really can't ignore the Austen adaptations (Sense and Sensibility (1995), Emma (1996), Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Becoming Jane (2007), Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (1992), Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1979), and the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillpa Gregory (2008).

The best of the bunch: Well, in my opinion anyway. Almost all of these have bittersweet endings with lots of hope that do exactly what Aristotle wanted but don't emotionally damage you in the process: Shakespeare in Love (1998), Possession (2002), The Notebook (2004), Walk the Line (2005), and Jane Eyre (2006).