A to Z of Films Meme (W)

A ‘W’ is formed when two Valentine Vs bond together to say ‘We’. Hence my ‘W’ selections are both enjoyable romances. When this ‘W’ becomes the ‘M’ for Marriage, things sometimes get topsy-turvy.

W

When Harry Met Sally

One of my all time favorite films, endlessly re-watchable, to the point where it becomes difficult for me to switch channels when it (re)plays on television. This is probably the one film in my series that I haven’t watched or studied with a critical eye on film appreciation. Its surprising success revived the failed romantic comedy genre resulting in a spate of such films in the 90s. Each of Rob Reiner’s films is unlike any of his others, and I love his Stand By Me as well.

Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) drive together to New York after graduating and stay separately. Their paths cross several times on and off throughout subsequent years, until they finally realize and accept to themselves that they love each other. Nothing revolutionary here, just a simple romantic comedy, but one which sparkles because of a few outstanding elements.WhenHarryMetSally

The polarized characterization of the leads and the unwavering focus on their relationship works well. Harry is the dark, pessimistic guy with his wisecracks concealing a warm heart. Sally is the cherubic exuberant blond, who is smart but vulnerable. The chemistry between Crystal and Ryan is so good, that it sustains us through a decade or so of their loving friendship, waiting for the inevitable outcome. As some reviewers observe, the characters could be straight out of a Woody Allen movie (indeed, there are striking resemblances to Annie Hall and Manhattan).

The script is remarkably sharp and witty. A single line of dialogue (“Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way”) has spawned numerous talk shows, editorials, columns, and a favorite topic for discussion in society.

This isn’t a romantic comedy about people who fall in love instantly, have misunderstandings, jealousy about flirting, come together against odds of some kind or other. No such clichés. Harry and Sally’s romance is not born of passion, but out of growing up and maturing together. For many couples, life’s like that. Not surprisingly, the movie is built around shared autobiographical experiences of Reiner and the cast.

The jazz score by Harry Connick, Jr. is brilliant. The performances, including those of the supporting pair, are good. Ryan has to ostensibly appear convincing Harry and herself that there is no love between them, while betraying the truth to us – not an easy assignment. The legendary fake orgasm scene is unbelievable but enjoyable. Deft touches of humor like the raising of arms in sync with the crowd’s wave while conversing and not watching the football game are littered all over the film. Six other elderly couples share their story in brief snapshots – they look so much like real couples, it’s hard to believe they are actors.

Finally, the unique thing about this film and why I like it: Unlike most movies, When Harry Met Sally shows people who do not easily fall in love. Love doesn’t sweep them off their feet, and they do not fight external forces to reach romantic bliss, but internal ones. To turn this profound psychological struggle into such a light-hearted entertaining comedy is an achievement!

Runner Up

Wall-EWall-E

There was a time when it was difficult to animate humans, and now we’ve reached an era when animation makes robots more human than real people. That’s what I felt after watching this gem from Pixar. In Wall-E, incredible as it may sound, robots are the real characters, while people act as animated robots whose life hardly has any meaning at all.

Charming story-telling from Andrew Stanton (director, co-writer) who also wrote and directed Finding Nemo. There are no gimmicks – this is a solid story, moving and poignant, while also being entertaining and comedic. The movie is largely without dialogue and you hardly notice that because of the amazing visuals and the incredibly deep study of body language by the animators. It makes you think about the environment, and simple things humans today take for granted. Not many animated films make you think while entertaining you at the same time. Wall-E does both, and more.

Noteworthy Mentions

‘W’ films I’ve seen are like the Mumbai skyline. Plenty of tall buildings, but no single one of them towers imperiously over others, and none of them rival others in the world of alphabets. Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man, the incredible wildlife movie When The North Wind Blows, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, the venerable Where Eagles Dare, the psychiatry comedy What About Bob, and Zemeckis’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit are some good films I’ve seen. But here are my picks:

  • Wait Until Dark, a well-done thriller, with Audrey Hepburn as a blind woman, must-see for Hepburn fans.
  • Witness for the Prosecution, Agatha Christie + Billy Wilder. What do you expect?
  • Woodstock, the most celebrated rock concert of all time is captured breathtakingly in this remarkable film, probably one of the best semi-documentary films of all time.
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15 thoughts on “A to Z of Films Meme (W)

  1. I have seen HMS and WE. The first one I saw on TV after I had a lot about it and I was a little disappointed. It is a good film but I think it’s been hyped. I liked Wall E too although I didn’t like the story. I liked the way the animation was done and the slickness of the movie.

  2. Haven’t met many people who don’t like WHMS! I usually am immune to the hype surrounding a movie as I am quite idiosyncratic as you know – sometimes that helps! 🙂

    I just checked your meme post and saw that W had no entry. Wonder which movie you will pick when you have to pick one.

  3. WHMS was funny but I didn’t find it that special. Certainly had its share of good humor – I like Billy Crystal (loved him in City Slickers)

    Arun

  4. Like I said, there’s no film I’ve seen in ‘W’ that is really special and outclasses the rest. Do you have any recommendations? 🙂

  5. I may have have placed Wall Street at the top. There is also a Harrison Ford movie “Witness” – powerful but not sure if it is that special again 🙂

    Arun

  6. Ah, Witness! Thanks, I completely missed that one! Good film, would’ve probably made my noteworthy mentions list. It is a multi-layered thoughtful thriller. Thanks a lot for mentioning it.

    I liked Wall Street, hence mentioned it. It’s moralizing tone put it down in my list. But as I’ve repeatedly said in this meme, the movie experience is very subjective, so each viewer’s list is unique. That’s one of the best parts of this meme.

  7. Liked reading your description of WHMS. I think it was a very profound movie sweet coated in the romantic comedy genre. I liked Wall-E too, even though Iam not yet a big fan of animated movies.
    Have seen only couple from your other mentioned movies.

  8. hey, great choice. both are on my fav. list.
    wall e is adorable 🙂 and i can watch Harry & sally from any point in the film 🙂

    there are a few others that are really good – witness that arun mentioned earlier
    then there is the brilliant, and totally underrated “wag the dog” – dustin hoffman & robert de niro having a blast 🙂
    there is the billy wilder film “witness for the prosecution”
    and “whatever happened to baby jane” – a film that totally creeped me out !

  9. Dev, thank you. I’m glad someone other than me thinks there’s an underlying profundity beneath the romantic comedy layer!

  10. RE Harry & Sally – same here! 🙂

    Witness for the prosecution is already in my noteworthy mentions!

    Adding ‘Wag the Dog’ and ‘Whatever happened to Baby Jane’ to the list. Had not heard of the latter – very interesting, thanks a lot!

  11. Nice. WHMS is cozy. Being a Hepburn fan, Wait Until Dark is special.

    Where Eagles Dare has been one of my favorite action movies since I was 12. Saw it multiple times after that. Funny enough, although it is a Hollywood movie starring Clint Eastwood, none of my American friends had heard about it. So I organized a movie night at my place for them

    Have you seen Walk the Line? The reason I didn’t like it was because I had seen 2 other movies in recent past with exact same story line – ‘Ray’ and ‘Beyond the Sea’. However, by itself it’s an amazing movie. Joaquin Phoenix has done a really good job. He even sang all the Johnny Cash songs himself!!!

    Anand

  12. Re Where Eagles Dare: It’s like the Niagara Falls. For all Indians visiting the US, it’s like a pilgrimage, but hardly any Americans go there. 🙂

    No, haven’t seen Walk the Line or even Ray either. Phoenix sang himself?! Wow.

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