Les Plaisirs Simples de la vie

Amélie is all about the little things. Like peeling off dry glue from your fingers or knocking over a set of dominos. Something that’s currently known as “oddly satisfying.” I’m personally partial to cracking my knuckles. Although they can be a bit tricky to watch at times, I still make an effort to watch foreign films every now and then. Amélie is a French film that reached a universal audience and received 5 Oscar nominations. Becoming so popular in the U.S. that I knew I had to check it out eventually. Amélie Poulain is a bright-eyed young waitress who enjoys life’s simple pleasures. Her pleasures include sticking her hand into bags of grain and cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon. When she discovers a 40 year old box full of childhood treasures, Amélie makes it her life’s mission to find whoever it belongs to. Which leads her down an even greater path towards improving the lives of everyone around her. From co-workers and neighbors to strangers on the street. What makes her so unique is that she’s not in it for the recognition. She leaves the people she’s helped without ever taking any recognition for it. Unfortunately that comes at a cost to her own happiness. Something she thankfully learns to fix. French actress Audrey Tautou perfectly captures Amélie’s imaginative spirit. Making Amélie a surreal romance that’s just as oddly satisfying as I hoped it would be.

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Amélie enjoys cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon

Hold Out Your Leg

It Happened One Night is the original romantic comedy. Well it was actually one of the last rom-coms released in the pre-Code era of Hollywood. That’s how they were able to get away with such risque content. It Happened One Night is an essential Academy Award winning movie to watch. Since it was the first of only three films in history to win the Big Five. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. All of which were much deserved. It Happened One Night follows a runaway bride who’s a wealthy heiress. Something most film’s didn’t tackle back then. Let alone have unmarried men and women sleep in the same room. That’s exactly what Ellen Andrews does when she meets former newspaper writer Peter Warne on a night bus. He doesn’t like how spoiled she is and she doesn’t like him in return. Their tune changes over the course of several nights. I’m not sure which night the title is referring to, but they get into all kinds of crazy situations. The most iconic by far is when the two are hitchhiking. While chomping on a carrot that would inspire Bugs Bunny, Peter attempts to flag down a car using his thumb. Until Ellie decides to use her leg… it works immediately and it was such a scandalous thing to do at the time. After more than a few misunderstandings, the ending is left to the imagination. This is one of Clark Gable’s two most memorable characters. He deserved the Oscar just as much as Claudette Colbert did. It’s so rare for a movie to give equal screen time to both its male and female co-stars. It Happened One Night is funny and sweet in all the right places.

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Ellie hitchhikes

The Birth of Viagra

Love & Other Drugs traces the origin of popular sex drug Viagra. Told through the lense of a love story. After sharing a steamy scene together in Brokeback Mountain, Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal bring the same chemistry to Love & Other Drugs. Only with a lot more steamy scenes. In fact, this is easily the most sexual role of Anne Hathaway’s career. Her Disney image has definitely been shed by this point. As both she and Gyllenhaal have several nude scenes together. Although Hathaway was in the movie a lot less than I thought she would be. Most of the focus is actually on Jamie. A smooth talking pharmaceutical salesman who’s seduced many women. Until he meets the woman who might be the one. Maggie is a young woman with early onset Parkinson’s. She doesn’t want to get close because of her condition, but being a romantic comedy, you know things will have to work out. One thing I wasn’t expecting was just how strong of a performance Anne Hathaway would give. The Viagra part of the movie is actually not the driving factor. Although it does lead to many funny scenes. Josh Gad being the funniest character. Love & Other Drugs takes advantage of its adult themes, but it doesn’t always know what to focus on.

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Jamie and Maggie get intimate

Here Comes the Bribe…

The Proposal is one awkward office romance. Although I didn’t see too many romantic comedies at the time, The Proposal was difficult to ignore. Since everyone was talking about Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds on-screen chemistry. They’re hilarious exchanges and believable romance definitely sells the premise. My mom had also seen the movie several times on TV and suggested I watch it. Sandra Bullock plays no-nonsense editor in chief Margret. The boss of assistant Andrew (played by Ryan Reynolds). When she faces deportation back to Canada, the only solution is for them to get married. Leading to plenty of awkwardly romantic gestures. Despite the threat of jail time, they stick to their fake engagement, and head to his hometown of Alaska where his family awaits. Including his nearly 90 year old grandmother. Played by the always on her game Betty White. While less than pleased about their arrangement at first, the two eventually loosen up, and have a genuinely heartfelt connection. Their funniest scene would have to be when they run into each other while naked. While their most romantic would have to be their MTV Movie Award nominated kiss at the end. The Proposal is a rom-com I will gladly say yes to.

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Margret announces her engagement to Andrew

Shallow

A Star is Born (2018) is the third remake to the 1937 original. Following the 1954 and 1976 remakes. It wasn’t until the trailer dropped that I decided to do my research. This excessively R rated version managed to take on a life all its own. Since it’s the first one released during the digital age of memes. Little do they know the “Hey, I just wanted to take another look” moment is present in every single version of A Star is Born. As the moment is very important to the relationship of the main characters. Bradley Cooper directors, produces, writes, and stars as Jackson Maine. The alcoholic, drug addicted, hearing impaired country singer who gives the leading lady her big break. While she has acted beforehand, this is Lady Gaga’s big break as well. As Ally, Gaga appears with no makeup or crazy clothing. I didn’t even recognize her before she started singing in the trailer. Jack and Ally also meet in a bar while she’s performing as a drag queen. Since no one will give her a chance because of how she looks. It’s not until after he let’s her sing with him on stage that her rise to fame begins. Where she becomes a 2010’s pop star. Meanwhile Jack’s career starts to spiral. Only it’s a lot more heartbreaking than the other versions. He passes out at the Grammys, goes to rehab, and his final moments are far less accidental. Every performance helps to make it all the more tragic. Sam Elliot was nominated along with the leads. Their natural chemistry is just as good as the music. In keeping with tradition, the signature song “Shallow” won Best Original Song. Officially making Lady Gaga an Oscar winner. A Star is Born (2018) proves some stories will never get old no matter how many times they’re retold.

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Ally performs with Jack

Remake of: A Star is Born (1976)

Evergreen

A Star is Born (1976) is the second remake to the 1937 original. Following the 1954 remake. In order to avoid repeating themselves, the story was changed a lot more drastically. While still keeping the basic rising fame story in tact. Now rock stars are the focus instead of movie stars. Since traditional musicals weren’t as big anymore, but they still wanted to have original music in the movie. Plus Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson were really big at the time. So they just remade A Star is Born as an excuse to use them both. Because of that, this version is the weakest of the 4 movies. Streisand is of course a wonderful singer and her appearance fits the character perfectly. She plays the newly renamed Esther Hoffman. A small time bar singer who confronts drunk rock n’ roll singer John Norman Howard while performing. Since the 70’s were all about female empowerment, Esther has several moments of this. She’s never a pushover, she refuses a stage name, and keeps her maiden name after marrying John. Although he doesn’t say “Hey, I just wanted to take another look” until after the wedding. Kristofferson’s John Norman has plenty of passionate moments with Esther, but he’s a bit of a jerk. Being R rated, he’s now a drug addict on top of being an alcoholic. He also berates an audience when Esther wins what is now a Grammy Award. And to top it all off, he cheats on her. Their relationship is given far too much focus. Making the music the remakes only saving grace. Still managing to get Oscar attention with a Best Original Song win for “Evergreen.” Recognized by the lyric “Love, soft as an easy chair.” Aside from the songs, A Star is Born (1976) does nothing groundbreaking.

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Esther and John get intimate

Remake of: A Star is Born (1954)

The Man that Got Away

A Star is Born (1954) is the first remake to the 1937 original. Being released in the 50’s, the type of star was changed from Hollywood actress to musical starlet. Since musical productions were the biggest thing at the time. So it only made sense that they cast Judy Garland as the lead. Her role was something of a comeback considering she hadn’t acted since 1950. It’s easily one of the best performances of her career (after The Wizard of Oz). Which is why her Best actress loss is perhaps the biggest upset in Oscar history. Unfortunately some of the movie’s footage was lost too. So it had to be replaced with black & white images. This version of A Star is Born is the closest to the original. Esther Blodgett (Vicki Lester) and Norman Maine have the same names and motivations. Only the story picks up when Esther has a modest career as a stage singer. She meets a drunk Norman Maine while she’s performing. He wastes no time trying to convince her to quit her band and become an even bigger star. Her only concern is believing she doesn’t look good enough. That’s when he tells her “Hey, I just wanted to take another look.” English actor James Mason plays this Norman as both assertive and sympathetic. Especially during the Oscar sequence when he begs for a job. Big musical numbers are given a bit more focus than their relationship, but it’s still a strong part of the 3 hour movie. Their best moment has to be when she performs exclusively for him. Thanks to the strong performances Norman’s alcoholic spiral is a lot more tragic. With the addition of songs like “The Man that got Away,” A Star is Born (1954) set the standard for this simple tale of rising fame.

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Esther performs for Norman

Remake of: A Star is Born (1937)

First Born Star

A Star is Born (1937) is the timeless tale of rising fame. So timeless in fact that it was remade 3 separate times over the course of 9 decades. I’m probably the only person my age who’s seen every version. It all started in 1937. The original A Star is Born set the template, but it still has its own decade appropriate feel to it. The only constant is that a woman who hasn’t gotten her big break yet is given the opportunity by an alcoholic fading star. The two have a quickie marriage and as her star rises, his fades away. After embarrassing her at an award show, his alcohol abuse takes its toll on their marriage. Until he dies in a possible accident. Leaving her to carry on his legacy. In this version the woman is Esther Blodgett and the man is Norman Maine. Being the 30’s, Esther has dreams of becoming a famous Hollywood actress. So we follow her journey from humble beginnings to when she eventually meets major star Norman Maine at a party. Another constant is when he says “Hey, I just wanted to take another look.” As per the times, Esther is given the stage name Vicki Lester. She’s so successful that she even wins an Oscar. The movies themselves always gain the same attention. She may not be the most recognizable of the four actresses, but Janet Gaynor is perfectly charming as the lead. While Fredric Marsh can be both likable and a little aggressive. It’s their chemistry that sells the whole premise. I definitely wasn’t expecting a movie this old to tackle drinking the way it did. Let alone be in Technicolor. A Star is Born (1937) may not be the flashiest, but it’s an honest picture that deserves just as much admiration.

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Esther and Norman cuddle

A Very Gassy Family

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is just an excuse to show off Eddie Murphy’s ability to play several characters at once. As well as the still impressive makeup used to bring the Klumps to life. Which is why the large and in charge family is given way more attention. Even when it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. Since learning to accept his weight, Professor Klump is finally ready to marry Denise. Despite her importance Jada Pinkett was too busy getting Smithed to return. So instead Janet Jackson plays his love interest/fiancé. Among many other plot points, Sherman invents a youth serum, he has Buddy Love extracted from his body, he gets progressively dumber, Buddy takes on the traits of a dog, Papa Klump can’t satisfy his wife so he takes the serum, and Granny comes onto Buddy. While the first movie had its fair share of gross out moments, The Klumps is far too reliant on them. The most disgusting has to be the one involving the Dean and a giant hamster. Not to mention all the recycled jokes like Sherman’s nightmare or farting at dinner. Although Murphy’s inevitable decline started to show, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is nevertheless funny enough as a feature length version of the family dinner scene.

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The Klumps prepare to eat

Preceded by: The Nutty Professor (1996)

She Wants Fabulous

Since the High School Musical craze refused to end, Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure was made. The only spin-off made for the musical franchise. Most people don’t know it exists since it was released direct-to-video. Sharpay Evans is the “antagonist” of the three High School Musical movies. Played by Disney Channel “it girl” Ashley Tisdale. I say antagonist, but really she never did anything outright villainous. Of course Disney couldn’t keep her bad forever either. So she was always redeemed at the end of every movie. Sharpay is definitely the protagonist of Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. Which has just about the most generic/cliché plot imaginable. After graduating from East High, Sharpay now yearns to star on Broadway. So she moves to New York, stays in a crummy apartment, doesn’t get the part, meets a guy that helps her, and eventually becomes a star. Its been done a million times and the only standout is the character. The songs don’t even standout. I also wasn’t happy to see her love interest change. Since she’s supposed to be with Zeke (the baker). The only real connection to the trilogy is a cameo from her brother Ryan. Which can only be seen on TV. Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure is at best a colorful distraction.

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Sharpay and Boi are shocked

Spin-off of: High School Musical