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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

An Absence of Expected Emotion

Yet another lengthy title. I was contemplating whether to title it Was I supposed to cry?, but decided against it because I don't feel comfortable with using punctuation in the title. Today, I will discuss several films that are famously known for their ability to summon tears from the general public. And I am referring to actual tears of sadness, not tears of how funny or awful a film is. This urge to write such a post came to me after watching Terms of Endearment, known as one of the most heart-breaking films of all-time. Even those who haven't seen the film know, without a doubt, people who have seen it have cried. I was one of those very people who made this assumption, as well, and wished to see exactly what was so sad about it. Not to mention that the film won Best Picture in 1983, in addition to an Oscar win by Jack Nicholson for Best Supporting Actor. And you know how I wish to be fully absorbed with all knowledge on Jack Nicholson's talent. (Absorbed?) Along with Terms of Endearment, I will discuss another film that is well-known for its tear-jerking factor, though it has that element in terms of romance. The film in question is The English Patient, which also won Best Picture in 1996. Besides their emotional element, what do these movies share, in terms of my opinion? They did not make me shed a single tear.

Terms of Endearment - You're probably still shocked by that last statement I made. Well, it's true. And, believe me, I wanted to cry sometime during the movie, really I did. But I didn't. In fact, the entire film itself was nothing too impressive, as most would have you assume. Perhaps it is because of the length of time that has passed since its debut, nearly thirty years ago actually. That's quite some time for a film to lose its...good quality. (Please note that not all films suffer this unfortunate decay. Just the truly inadequate ones.) I was actually surprised not to find this film on IMDb's Top 250. That was only slightly necessary to mention. Anyway, onto the film itself. Terms of Endearment follows the lives of a mother and daughter, who supposedly "beat to different drums". Aurora, the mother, (played by Shirley MacLaine) is an uptight, traditionally-nosy mom, who occasionally calls her daughter to check in. What they would have you believe in the movie is that she constantly calls to invade the lives of her daughter and family. Being an uptight woman who hasn't had much fun in the past fifty years the movie takes place throughout, she is rejuvenated when she meets her new neighbor, Garrett (played by Jack Nicholson), who is a vile yet irresistibly charming ex-astronaut. He allows Aurora to release her stern standards and just be blissful in life. With sex, obviously. As always, Jack Nicholson delivers a marvelous performance, using his natural irresistible charm and easy-going nature. I find myself calling him irresistible and charming quite often, most likely because of its unquestionable accuracy. Shirley MacLaine gives a fine performance, as well, though, once again, I don't see what's so great about it that she would receive an Oscar. Yes, she won for Best Actress. She is talented, of course, only I would rather have seen her winning for, say, The Apartment, for she was truly glowing there. As for Aurora's daughter, her name is Emma (played by Debra Winger, who strikingly resembles Ray Liotta's wife from Goodfellas and, according to my dad, Zooey Deschanel) and she is, apparently, her mother's opposite. Instead of leading a barren life of nurturing her mother, she decides to get married to Flap (played by Jeff Daniels), a goofy teacher who is just plain goofy. They venture to Iowa where they have three children and lead a different sort of barren life: one where the husband works all day, possibly cheating, and the wife is stuck home and miserable. As her oldest son grows up, he becomes quite nasty, giving the impression that he despises his mother for supposedly driving daddy away. Quite the delinquent. I'm telling the entire movie, aren't I? As a result of her unhappiness at home, Emma chooses to stir up an affair with a friendly banker (played by John Lithgow) who is so enormously sweet, one would think that he is the source of the alleged tears. However, he wasn't that sweet. Emma's whole storyline was what made the film a bit of a drag, to be honest, therefore uninteresting, and therefore I'm done talking about it. I'd like to mention that Debra Winger was, also, nominated for Best Actress, not only at the Academy Awards but in every other awards category. Now that is some unfortunate luck. Overall, the movie was fine, just fine, though it was absolutely nothing extraordinary or upsetting. Evidently, the peak of tears was to emerge during Emma's deathbed scene. Her cancerous passing was a sure shame, but it wasn't anything worth crying over. I mean, really, ladies and gentlemen, there have been sadder situations in cinema.

The English Patient - Another "tragic" film, only this one is about love. Not only did it not conjure up tears within me, but I didn't really sense the so-called overpowering romance between the main characters. I have to be honest by saying that it's been a while since I've watched this, and will remain a while considering how much I didn't enjoy it. The reason I decided to include it here is because I just watched the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine hates The English Patient. (I feel as rebellious as Elaine for not liking the film. Oh, how I love that naughty feeling.) So, as I said, my judgement of the film cannot be as relied on as for Terms of Endearment. From what I do remember, I was disappointed from how dull and uninteresting the film was. And so long! After watching romantic classics like Titanic and Gone with the Wind, I expected much more from "another romantic classic 'of the same caliber as those films'". Instead, I wasted one-hundred sixty-two minutes of my time with this completely overrated "classic". I'll be blunt in my criticism, considering my scarce memory of the film's detail. The "undying love" between Laszlo and Katharine is more like a hot, passionate craving fueled by lust. In other words, it appeared to me that they were more focused on the sexual factor of their "relationship". The other thing I recall about the film is that a French nurse named Hana (played by Juliette Binoche) cared for Laszlo after a scarring burn, and she watched over him while she sparked a romance of her own with an Indian officer. In this muddled mix is Caravaggio (played by Willem Dafoe) who seeks to kill Laszlo for whatever reason. (Just to be clear, I don't care for Willem Dafoe. I thought his name was William. It upsets me that it isn't.) There's much more to this "remarkable" film, as I gather from the plot synopsis of which I am getting the information that I did not remember, but it's all tedious to remember. It's an excruciatingly long film. Back to my visit with Seinfeld, Elaine was mocking the people who watched The English Patient and were crying afterwards. I felt like her in that scenario, as there was nothing to waste tears over. Again, in my opinion. There are films much more worthy of emotion than this one.

That last sentence being said, I have chosen two other films more worthy of tears than Terms of Endearment and The English Patient. Of course, there are many films that would summon tears from viewers, and they are all tears of a different nature, such as romantic-tragedy tears or sweet-ending tears. With that in mind, I have chosen a film that is symmetrical with each of the films I have just described. They will be in order of their respective, symmetrical film.

Changeling - While this is different from Terms of Endearment when considering plot and mood, I wanted to include this particular film, directed masterfully by Clint Eastwood. The reason of my including this film is that this is the movie where I cried the most. Ever. Not only did I cry, but I was deeply affected by this film and its content, so much so that in moments that I cried, I literally shook, as in my body shivered rigorously. This is a magnificent film, and I really would not want to spoil it for those who haven't had the pleasure of seeing it. All I will say is the basic plot. It follows Christine Collins, a woman whose son is missing throughout the film, and her determination of finding him. There is a chance that you have heard of such a case because it is based on a true story. She's involved in the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders of 1928. That's all I will say, in respect of your possible ignorance of this film. For that reason, and the genuine fact that I am shutting my eyes in horror recalling the events that took place both in the film and in reality. Having watched this film twice already (and that's quite a compliment to Clint Eastwood, as a movie like this is watched, at most, one time only), it is an absolute shame that the Academy did not recognize it more than it did. Of course, Angelina Jolie's performance deserved the esteem it received, as she played the grief-stricken mother very well. Her performance here is what brought me to admire her so much. (More than the former Mrs. Brad Pitt, just saying.) More than that, Changeling was an astounding achievement in film-making, and Clint Eastwood most certainly should have been recognized for Best Director, just as the film itself should have been recognized for Best Picture. This is definitely deeper and more provoking than Terms of Endearment ever hoped of being, therefore an unfair comparison. I just wanted to mention this extraordinary film, and encourage you all to share my understandable presence of overwhelming emotion.

Titanic - You must have seen this one coming. I did mention it in the description of its parallel, after all. I hope I won't have to say much for this film, as I have flattered it many times before and it's an absolutely glorious film. Yes, I say it is absolutely glorious. For that reason, many think it is clever to mock and criticize this film harshly because they will feel rebellious for demeaning such a beloved film. (Differently from the way I feel rebellious when finding the evident flaws in The English Patient.) The romance between Rose and Jack is simply too present to reject as cliche. Their love symbolizes what filmmakers today strive for: ideal chemistry, heart-warming passion, and romance. Here, the love between Kate Winslet's upper-class prisoner Rose DeWitt Bukater and Leonardo DiCaprio's adventurous, passionate artist Jack Dawson is so sensational that it actually shines. The two immediately spark a genuine romance on the ill-fated ship. There are no spoilers there, as you all know the plot of the film. Even those who haven't seen it--I'm repeating a line from the Terms of Endearment description. Regardless, everyone knows this movie. What they may not realize is that glorious love between Rose and Jack. Just saying their names, Rose and Jack, brings heart-filled sighs and hopeless-romantic tears to my eyes. (Sighs from my lips, tears from my eyes.) While that may sound feminine and something that would affect only hopeless romantics as myself, well, that's incorrect. The film summons overwhelming emotion from any viewer that is affected in the presence of unquestionable love. To compare this to a film as vapid and colorless as The English Patient is just ridiculous. Titanic is the modern romantic-classic, and one of the greatest films of all time. I like to make my bold statements from time to time.

Well, there you have it. Four film reviews in one succinct post. I've saved you the trouble of deciding which to pick on movie night, haven't I? Now, these are not the sole movies that conjure tears from moviegoers, certainly not. More like a slice of what cinema has to offer in matters of intense emotion. Plus, not all films are expected to make everyone cry. One person can be moved by romance and scoff at realistic tragedies, just as a person can cry at the climax of an action and be unaffected by family dramas. There are countless films out there just waiting to be cried at for the first time. People are different almost in the same way movies are. I hope you enjoyed this post, as well as the deep, meaningful closing to it.

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