Thursday, February 21, 2008

TOP 10: Untraditional Love Films

In a now-weekly Thursday event MediaZEALOT counts down another top 10. This week it's the top untraditional "low-cheese" romantic films.

It's easy to get caught up in the romcom blues. The romantic comedy is part of a throw away genre. You digest the flick and then dispose of it as you leave the cinema. Many attend these so-called love films because of that fact, they are mindless and what is often referred to as popcorn entertainment. The films on this list, however, are the opposite. They deal with love and romance but don't go head over heels or cheapen themselves with sappy clichés. The relationships stay grounded and the films don't feel like reruns of the Teletubbies.

Keep in mind these films are graded by their quality, not by their "corn-factor".

10. Sideways (2004)

Sideways is a tale about two disappointing men, one depressed and one dreading marriage, who find love in places one wouldn't normally suspect. The film is harsh and awkward but manages to stay comedic. Just when you think Sideways will fall into another movie cliché it throws a twist to keep you on your toes. Alexander Payne directs Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, and Virginia Madsen to amazing performances in this beautifully shot story of love.

9. True Romance (1993)

Written by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) and directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun, Man on Fire) True Romance is a gritty love story that doesn't pull its punches. It's about hookers (real hookers, not Julia Roberts), cocaine, and gunshot wounds. The film is ruthless and rugged in typical Tarantino fashion but is able to show a form of love not often seen in motion pictures.

8. Lost in Translation (2003)

Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation showcases a bond between an unlikely couple in Tokyo. Bill Murray plays Bob, a married and empty man who comes to Japan for work. Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte, a girl who's been dragged to Asia by her hard-working husband. Bob and Charlotte meet and establish an honest friendship, something they both lack in their marriages. Charlotte questions her place in life and Bob tries everything he can to mentor her and help show her the way. They two make a visually awkward couple but the film is deeper than that, showing the truth to the pair's relationship.

7. Away from Her (2006)

Away from Her is about enduring love and learning when to let it go. Gordon Pinsent plays Grant, a man who must deal with the institutionalization of his wife, Julie Christie, due to Altzeimer's disease. She slowly loses all memory of her husband but he maintains hope, fighting to keep their bond. It's a sad and frustrating story, a disease tearing apart the relationship between two people very much in love. Away from Her is a very powerful yet romantic drama.

6. Garden State (2004)

Zack Braff's directorial debut is the fun yet emotional Garden State. Braff plays Andrew, a failed actor lacking motivation and emotional attachment who journeys back to New Jersey after the death of his mother only to meet Natalie Portman's character Sam. Sam is a habitual liar and overly self-conscious but is able to emotionally reattach Andrew to her and the world around him. It's an untraditional love story with a comedic punch and is easily one of 2004's best films.

5. The Fountain (2006)

Darren Aranofsky's The Fountain is both a visual and dramatic masterpiece. It's about love withstanding the test of time, obsession, and death and how a relationship can tear one apart. Do you abandon your dying wife in hopes of finding a way to cure her or do you accept her fate and spend time by her side until she passes? Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz lend tremendous performances to a film that continues to hit a nerve with me every time I watch it.

4. High Fidelity (2000)

High Fidelity is about throwing away the instinct to run from a relationship and knowing when to settle for the partner you have in front of you. John Cusack plays Rob Gordon, a man who's breakups haunt him and propel him to keep his feet moving. He's got a woman who loves him by his side but feels required to find something better, unable to fully commit to what he already has. It's well paced, extremely funny, and a very solid film.

3. Amélie (2001)

Amélie is about a girl who's lived in a secluded world her entire life only to one day wake up and want to make a difference and fit in with society. She helps the people around her only to find love in the process. It's a tale about reaching out and working for affection as love rarely finds you without you going out to look for it. Amélie is a treat of a film that gets better with every viewing.

2. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun of the Dead is one of my all-time favourites and an excellent film. It's an action packed zombie flick but a romantic story at heart. Simon Pegg plays Shaun, a man who's girlfriend Liz has given up on his lack of commitment and ambition, not to mention the pub the two frequently visit. She gives up and dumps him, followed shortly by a zombie outbreak. Shaun thinks rescuing her is the way back into her heart but soon discovers what he needs to do for Liz to take him back. Director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Spaced) delivers what is easily one of the best films of the past five years and does so with style. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are great and this film is not to be missed, even if you don't like zombies.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is well deserving of number one on any list, let alone this one. The film is about how pain goes hand in hand with the happiness of love. Would you erase your memories of the past if you had the choice? A couple, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, both go through procedures to remove each other from their memories due to what they believe is a failed relationship. It's not until they've lost one another that they discover the special bond they had together and wish they were able to take it all back. It's a beautiful film that captures the spectrum of emotions, both good and bad, that come together to form love.

Well, that's it for another weekly Top 10 list over here at MediaZEALOT. Check back next Thursday for another countdown.

What did you think of this list? Do you have a suggestion for a future Top 10 list? Post a comment and let me know what's up.


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