Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Very Christmas Lightning Swap: Love Actually for...AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

You know those awkward Christmas gift exchanges where you get something small for a friend, not realizing they’re going to go all out and commission a painting of your favorite pet or find the finest silk robe just to make that cheap hot cocoa set you got on the clearance rack of Marshalls look that much worse? One could kind of consider that an analogy for this month’s swap with my pal T.L. Bugg of the The Lightning Bug’s Lair. My favorite South Carolinean assigned me the oh-so-hard job of discussing one of my favorite Christmas movies, the sugary love-dipped Alan Rickman-talking-in Love Actually.
I made him watch The Nutcracker In 3D.

Man am I on the naughty list! Head over yonder for his thoughts on what might actually be the worst Christmas movie ever made, at least in the last ten years. I hope he survived.
And now onto my secondary intro:
“I hate horror movies!” says the snob who will argue that it’s okay to like Silence of the Lambs because it’s a ‘thriller.’

“I hate musicals!” moans the horror fan who will argue The Wicker Man is in no way of that classification, despite featuring original songs sung by characters in the movie to further the plot.

“I hate romantic comedies!” screams...me...once or twice with knowing hypocrisy.
Blanket statements are a common flaw when it comes to cinema talk. People love to hate, say, ‘everything Tom Cruise has ever done!’ only to mumble disclaimers on Magnolia and Tropic Thunder. No matter how dire a record someone or thing bats onscreen, it’s hard--nay, impossible--to stay at zero.
I bring this up because like many of you, I’m guilty of distancing myself from a subgenre out of snobbery and pride. The majority of romantic comedies makes me want to find the nearest physically attractive, well-dressed couple and smash their pretty heads together, maybe ending the night with a See No Evil eyeball pluck.

Now the important thig to know here is that I don’t feel this way out of romantic bitterness. I’m currently in a wonderful relationship (you know you’ve found a keeper when he treats you to a fresh copy of Santa With Muscles) but even at past times of heartbroken hurt, the contrivances of the genre made me more annoyed than upset. It’s the forced cuteness, the lazy wish fulfilment, the thinly veiled chauvenism so prevalent in romcoms that make me want to scream. 
Love Actually isn’t necessarily innocent on any of these counts. A cynic could easily tear apart virtually any of its dozen love stories to find flaws (all females being too pretty, TWO slightly backwards Cinderella stories, a prime minister with extremely confused priorities) and yet, like almost everyone I know, I actually love Love Actually.
Some reasons why:
1. Emma Thompson

Few actresses can deliver dry humor so well, but mostly, it’s the fact that woman deserves an Oscar just for the way she makes a bed
2. Airport Olympics

Way back in 2003, my friend and I were going to see a movie and had 20 minutes or so to kill. Like any responsible cineastes, we decided to sneak into another theater until ours opened. That theater turned out to be one hosting Love Actually, and the moment we entered, little Sam surged through the airport to say goodbye to the fellow 5th grader he loved. We knew nothing about this movie (remember it turned into quite the sleeper hit) but dangit, we were so sold on that one scene that we came back to see it the very next night.
3. Alan Rickman Speaking

That in itself is always a high point
4. The Poetry of Airport Arrivals
As much as security measures have tamed their emotional ease, I still agree with Hugh Grant’s opening narration that airports are a mecca of love and affection. The ‘real’ footage used of families and lovers finding one another with baggage never fails to wet my eyes.
5. Rated R

It’s not that we need raunchiness for a Christmas love story to work, but darn does it enhance the film’s humor! I’ve seen TV cuts overseas where the entire porn stand-in romance is simply edited out, and while it doesn’t kill the rest of the flow, the story is there for a reason, just as Natalie's penchant for using fowl language earns genuine laughs.
6. Bill Nighy’s Dance Moves

And also, everything that comes out of his mouth. Come to think about it, between Nighy, Rickman, and that old goat Liam Neeson, Love Actually is oozing with handsome middle-aged man candy
7. There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus

Inevitable Scroogish Low Points
I love Hugh Grant’s distracted world leader’s courtship of a tea girl as much s I love Colin Firth’s pursuit of a Portuguese maid. I just also wish--and here’s where the cynic pops up--that the film found some way to balance out the rich man/poor but pretty girl trope with a tad more feminine prowess

Between Aurelia’s sister and Natalie’s thighs, there is a strange and slightly mean level of chubby girl humor

Lessons Learned
January Jones is capable of showing some form of emotion. Who knew?

Britney Spears is rubbish in bed
One can learn how to play the drums in the same short amount of time it takes to learn rough conversational Portuguese 

Never ask for anything in England gift...wrapped

Stray Observation
I understand and accept that Love Actually is a British film and that we beat them in the Revolutionary War, but how much do they hate our country that they have to present the epitome of American beauty as Shannon Elizabeth sporting the worst southern accent since Jessica Simpson in Dukes of Hazard and even worse, her sister DENISE I HATE YOU RICHARDS as her...totally non-Southern sister. 

Love It Actually?
Look, I love this film, actually. It’s manipulative and gooey but you know...Hugh Grant dances while controlling a country. Emma Thompson makes a paper mache lobster costume for a nativity play. It’s a ridiculous and indulgent piece of sugar, but once a year, it makes me smile, cry, laugh, and realize I don’t hate romantic comedies: I just wish they were all as good as this one.

And now gear up the reindeer and hop on your sleigh! T.L. Bugg survived (I hope) Elle Fanning fighting Nazi rats with the help of Albert Einstein (seriously) and you should go make sure he's okay.


  1. Great review :)

    I LOOOOVE this film. People laugh at me when I watch it because of the dumb grin on my face the whole way through. It helps me realise that I'm not as jaded as I first thought :)

    And the Rickman/Nighy/Neeson trifecta is a big plus!

  2. Yeah, and the only annoying, unlikeable couple in the film are the two Americans! haha!

    This great flick is probably the only romance film that I can stomach, but other than this, I hate 'em all! *cough*bullshitIdon'tlikeSuddenly30that'sridiculous!*cough*

    "Kids, don't buy drugs. Become a pop star and they give them to you for free!"

  3. I feel like America tried to recreate Love Actually with Valentine's Day and now again with New Years Eve with a star ensemble, but something is missing? I too love Love Actually and especially Bill Nighy.

  4. Rach: That's one triangle I will GLADLY square! (and yes, that's as dirty as I intended).

    Chris: I guess you're in the Anti-Linney camp eh? Of all the stories, that's the one that I go back and forth on. The first time I saw the film, I was just so angry with her but the next, I found the relationship with her brother incredibly moving. I just can't decide! And hey, at least she's not Denise Richards!

    And I can't believe I forgot Billy Mack's most important lesson of all! Good GOSH do I love that man.

    Aimee: Every time I see a trailer for Valentine's Day or New Years Eve I want to hurt something cute. Granted I haven't seen either (I'm just not strong enough) but the blatant "Hey, let's do what that Love Actually film did in the States!" laziness just makes me really angry. I don't really think Love Actually could be duplicated. It was fresh and special because it seemed to come out of nowhere and there's this general relaxedness about it. Heck, I think if the studio knew it was going to be such a hit, they'd have pushed harder for a PG13 rating and the fact that nobody even tried makes me think they weren't anticipating the hit it would be.

  5. It's not so much the storyline that I didn't like about the Linney parts of the film, it was moreso the acting (except of course for Alan Rickman).

    Also, I have found out the existence of a new christmas horror movie! Two Front Teeth-a horror-comedy about zombie elves,ninja nuns called 'The Silent Knights', a Tony Todd-lookalike baddass, and evil vampire Santa, known as Clausferatu!

  6. I know not of it! Movie elves, deployed!

    And I think I see your issues with Linney. For me, it just totally depends on my mood whether I find her forced and cutesy it sad and genuine.

  7. I do like Love Actually as well, and think that it is one of the better mass market Rom Coms out there... I find that the indie world tends to do a better job in that area and I find;
    Tattoo: A Love Story
    Love and Other Catastrophes
    the Whit Stilman films - Metropolitan/ Barcelona/ he Last Days of Disco
    Mr. Jealousy (a more high brow take on the Chasing Amy story)
    Brad Anderson's Next Stop Wonderland
    and even The Pompatus of Love
    all to be Rom Coms well worth checking out.

    Also seeing that you are a fan of Bill Nighy in Love Actually , I highly recommend checking out his role as an rocker in the 1998 film Still Crazy.

  8. Funny, I actually got Still Crazy for my brother as an xmas gift a few years back but I've never watched it myself. Nighy can do no wrong (he even makes the Underworld films entertaining!) so I'll put it on my radar.

    And I had no idea Brad Anderson made a rom com. That's intriguing to me, even if I now hold a grudge against him due to the incredibly misguided Vanishing on 7th Street. Thanks for the recommends!

  9. Wow, you've convinced me to finally see Love Actually. I'd meant to for a long time, but somehow never got around to it, partially out of a fear of blandness. I agree that it's never good to completely disregard a genre of anything. Musically, for example, one of my biggest pet peeves in when someone makes the statement "I listen to everything but country and rap." Why this is such a common statement to make I don't know.

    Also, I second the Next Stop Wonderland recommendation and add that Brad Anderson also made a lovely sci-fi romance called Happy Accidents starring Vincent D'Onofrio and Marisa Tomei.

  10. It's definitely not bland. A little contrived and cute, but for a romcom, Love Actually is extremely entertaining and (I think) genuinely funny. And I totally agree on the annoyance of people saying "I hate all______." I'm always defending musicals to the people who whine "I hate musicals," only to then hear them argue that movies like The Wicker Man or The Muppet Movie aren't, you know, MUSICALS! Funny about the anti-rap/country movement too. I guess people say that because both of those music genres have with such preconceptions not just on the music, but on the type of people that listen? But I agree: to completely write off ANYTHING shows such a lack of maturity.

    Happy Accidents, check!