Romance

  • Annie Hall
    Given how many weak movies make a lot of money and garner a pile of laurels, it is particularly satisfying when justice is done and a magnificent film is a hit both with audiences and critics. So it was with 1977’s Best Picture Oscar winner Annie Hall. The plot is straightforward. A neurotic Jewish […]
  • Brief Encounter
    Nothing lasts really. Neither happiness nor despair. Not even life lasts very long. Elsewhere I recommended In Which We Serve, the first collaboration between Noël Coward and David Lean. As their partnership evolved, Coward ceded full directorial control to Lean and the two men made a series of films (now available as a boxed […]
  • Canyon Passage
    Between making bettered remembered films, Dana Andrews starred in an underappreciated 1946 frontier yarn made in glorious Technicolor by an extraordinarily unlikely director: Black and white film noir master Jacques Tourneur! The result is an entertaining, highly original (if blandly titled) Western: Canyon Passage. The plot, set in mid-19th century Oregon, is not easy […]
  • Captain Blood
    An intelligent, dashing, apolitical doctor tends to a wounded rebel during the English Civil War and finds himself branded a criminal and sold into slavery. But his courage, leadership ability, and swordsmanship enable him to reverse his fortunes by becoming the greatest outlaw pirate of the high seas!: Captain Blood. This 1935 movie was […]
  • Carnal Knowledge
    The period between the war and the sexual revolution was disorienting for many American men and women, as prior standards of sexual behavior lost their hold without a clear sense emerging of what would become the norms of the future. In this terrain, Jules Feiffer scripted an unproduced play about the sexual development and […]
  • Excalibur
    As a filmmaker, John Boorman really goes for it. He has an idiosyncratic perspective on the diverse material he films, and carries it to the limit. Sometimes this has led to abject disaster (e.g., the incomprehensible, pretentious and unintentionally risible Zardoz). But more often than not Boorman’s courage as a filmmaker has resulted in […]
  • Flirting
    Adolescence includes aches (loneliness, alienation from adults, sexual longing) and joys (first love, treasured friendship and music). Few films have portrayed both classes of teenage experience as warmly and intelligently as the 1991’s Flirting. Due to an execrable U.S. advertising campaign, which misrepresented the film as a sniggering teen sex comedy from “those crazy […]
  • It Always Rains on Sunday
    There’s a special joy that comes when you watch an old movie with no preconceptions because you’ve never heard of it and come away loving it. That’s the lucky experience I had some years ago with It Always Rains on Sunday. A big hit for Ealing Studios in 1947, it was forgotten in the […]
  • L.A. Story
    Ever wonder what the result would be if Steve Martin tried to make a Woody Allen movie? You will wonder no longer after watching 1991’s L.A. Story. The plot concerns wacky L.A. weatherman Harris Telemacher, who is in a mid-life rut. His extremely high-maintenance girlfriend (Marilu Henner, just perfect) is emotionally distant, his TV […]
  • Notorious
    Nazis in hiding! Smuggled uranium! Espionage! All minor distractions from the central tantalizing mystery that keeps the audience in delicious suspense: Does Cary Grant’s character really love Ingrid Bergman’s or not? It’s all there in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 classic Notorious. The plot: Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman, in one of her career-defining roles) is the […]
  • Pygmalion
    It’s a fun bit of trivia that George Bernard Shaw is the only person to have won a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award. He secured the latter for a truly brilliant adaptation of his own stage play: 1938’s Pygmalion. The plot: Eliza Doolittle is a poor Covent Garden flower girl (Wendy […]
  • Room at the Top
    Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy was adapted into a 1951 hit movie called A Place in the Sun directed by George Stevens and starring Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. The tale of a young man trying to rise from the working class to wealth in both his career and his romantic aspirations was […]
  • Superman
    The undeniable wonder of Richard Donner’s 1978 film Superman can be summed up in one word: Reverence. For decades, comic book fans were dismayed by movie and TV adaptations of the heroic stories with which they grew up. Producers and writers seemed to feel that the material couldn’t stand up on its own. Rather, […]
  • The 39 Steps
    Alfred Hitchcock had a successful directing career in Britain that preceded his American super-stardom. Hitchcock fans rightfully consider the 1935 comedy-romance-thriller The 39 Steps among the very best works of the Master’s “British period”. Robert Donat cuts a dash as Mr. Hannay, the hero of the film, who tries to save England from the […]
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
    If your life is giving you some family time, you and your kids can together enjoy a rollicking tale of derring do set in Merry Olde England: 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. Famous as the film that made swashbuckling Errol Flynn a household name, it’s also historically important as Warner Brothers’ first foray […]
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
    In the 1930s, film studios made a run of lavish historical costume dramas based on best-selling books (Some of them literary classics, others meretricious tripe). The majority were set in Europe and a few were even made there, including my film recommendation The Scarlet Pimpernel. But most were produced on Hollywood back lots, such […]
  • The Court Jester
    Sometimes comedy in the movies gets a bit ahead of current cultural tastes. But the joy of TV re-runs, DVDs, streaming, and the like is that as audience sensibilities catch up, a film whose wit eluded people at the time of its release can be recognized as a comedy classic. This has been the […]
  • The Lady Vanishes
    As the British phase of his magnificent career was winding down, Alfred Hitchcock turned in a film as entertaining as anything he would make in America: 1938’s The Lady Vanishes. For the first 25 minutes, the movie is a light-hearted romantic comedy featuring an utterly charming Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave as, respectively, a […]
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
    Have you ever seen a movie that stuck in your head for reasons you couldn’t fully explain? A film that you eventually realized had a much bigger impact on you than it seemed to when you were sitting in the theater? That was my experience of 1943’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. […]
  • The Mating Season
    If I told you I was going to recommend a funny 1951 movie about class differences, you would naturally expect something British. But The Mating Season shows that post-war Americans too could also mine the comic possibilities of people from different economic strata rubbing shoulders. The plot of this mistitled little gem: Ellen McNulty […]
  • To Have and Have Not
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a good example of how recycling characters and plot from a wildly popular movie can led to tedious viewing. An infinitely more successful effort to rip-off a prior cinema classic is Howard Hawk’s To Have and Have Not. Perhaps the greatest film ever produced via the old Hollywood […]
  • When Harry Met Sally
    I recommended Steve Martin’s effort to make a Woody Allen movie (L.A. Story); let me now recommend Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s attempt to do the same: When Harry Met Sally. In one of the signature romantic comedies of the 1980s, college students Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) meet not-so-cute […]