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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  • 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.

  • 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

  • I liked your intro­duc­tion “A ‘W’ is formed when…” Cheesy and poet­ic but it was nice…! 🙂

  • Have seen both Wall E and WHMT! Liked them. Have to pick up the rest of them.

  • 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

  • Dev

    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.

  • 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 !

  • Anand

    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