Texting in Romantic Comedies

Posted on February 15, 2017 at 8:00 am

Kathryn VanArendonk has a terrific essay in New York Magazine’s Vulture about the unexpected asset that texting has brought to the plotlines of romantic comedies.

Cell phones have been a problem for romantic comedies in contemporary settings because they can just about eliminate missed connections and other kinds of obstacles to happily ever after. And it originally seemed that texting, like typing on a computer, was not very cinematic.

One of the trickiest things about telling visual stories — movies and TV alike — is how exactly you dramatize what’s going on in someone else’s head. Oh sure, you can rely on the staid and often incredibly dumb voice-over trope. You can use the language of cinematic storytelling to suggest things about what a character thinks and feels, using ever-popular devices like the close-up, the montage, the musical cue. Usually, TV and movies are usually stuck with exteriority.

Enter the text, which is not a perfect, all-encompassing solution, but does offer some intriguing possibilities for glimpses inside what a character’s thinking at any given time.

Here’s another look at cinematic portrayals of this ubiquitous form of communication.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Are Romantic Comedies About Love or Money?

Posted on November 9, 2014 at 8:00 am

I really enjoyed this essay by Meredith Haggerty at Medium about the way that romantic comedies have dealt with money issues through the years. Of course, all movies reflect the economic environment of their eras — the eras in which they are made as much as the eras they are depicting. The most astute reviews of “Magic Mike” noted that it was as much about the recession economy as it was about male strippers.

I recently watched a few episodes of a late 1980’s romantic comedy and was amused by the many elements of the storyline that were as radically different from today’s world as the awful 80’s clothes and hairstyles. There were plenty of jobs available in journalism, for one thing. Airplane travel was very different. Though they had small, primitive computers, this was long before Google and Wikipedia, so when asked a research question, the characters still looked in books for the answer.

Haggerty compares the heiress and the commoner era of the Depression (“Bringing Up Baby,” “My Man Godfrey”) with the Meg Ryan era (“Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail”) and the “Recession Romances” of films like “Obvious Child” and “Enough Said.” I love this graphic from Mark Nerys.

Copyright 2014 Mark Nerys
Copyright 2014 Mark Nerys
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Summer Movie Catch-Up: Lists for Kids, Couples, and Hipsters

Posted on July 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Summer is a great time to catch up on some classic and even not-so-classic films, the movie version of beach books.  The nice folks at Entertainment Weekly have come up with a terrific list of films all children should see before they get to high school.  This is a good chance for parents to share some of their own childhood favorites with their children, like “The Princess Bride” and “Babe” and perhaps discover some they missed like “The Red Balloon” and “Duck Soup.”  These are the movies that should inspire the scheduling of a monthly family movie night where we re-invent the idea that everyone sits down with a bowl of popcorn and enjoys the same movie at the same time in the same room.

And for couples, Esquire has helpfully put together a list of romantic comedies that men will enjoy.  No Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Aniston, or Adam Sandler in the bunch, and some very well-chosen black and white classics like “Trouble in Paradise” and “Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.”

In case you’ve been waiting for some suggestions from perennial polymath James Franco, Vibe has published his list of some favorites.  I was especially glad to see “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” one of my favorite documentaries, about a group of kids who transformed skateboarding and helped invent the idea of extreme sports.

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Film History For Your Netflix Queue Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families Neglected gem

What Happened to Romantic Comedies?

Posted on July 16, 2013 at 8:00 am

More than halfway through the year, we have not seen a single high-profile romantic comedy.  Once a reliable staple of the cineplex, the “we know they are destined to be together before they do” movie starring America’s sweethearts like Meg Ryan, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, and Katherine Heigl seems to be beyond the capabilities of Hollywood at the moment.  Even the romantic dramas have underperformed this year, though I liked the sci-fi/fantasy films “Upside/Down,” “Warm Bodies,” and “Beautiful Creatures.”

One problem is that these days it becomes increasingly harder to think of reasons to keep a couple apart, which is one element the supernatural can bring to a story.  Coming up later this year, we have two movies that seem drearily familiar.  Paula Patten stars in “Baggage Claim,” about a 35-year-old who devotes 30 days to finding a husband which sounds a lot like the awful “What’s Your Number?” “About Time” has Rachel McAdams falling for a time traveler.  She must have a sense of deja vu — she did the exact same thing in “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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