"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where Have All the Weepies Gone?

With the Academy Awards being handed out tonight, I've been involved in a number of conversations about film. One of the more interesting revolved around the idea that films now have more car chases and explosions because those don't need to be translated and the foreign market now drives Hollywood; this means that there are fewer films aimed at a female audience, especially the overtly melodramatic tearjerker.

When asked what was the last film that made one cry, "Toy Story 3" and "Up" got more than one vote. Weepies have been relegated to animated films, where they've been common since "Bambi" and "Dumbo."

I had to admit that, while I've seen more than my share of chick flicks, I don't enjoy many of them. I know I sat through "Terms of Endearment" three times, but mentally zoned out and started writing a better movie in my head while it was showing and I still have no idea what happens in it. I've never made it through "Ghost" or "Beaches" or "Moonstruck," three of the titles the rest of the group (I was the only male present) had named as favorites.

Trying to think of a similar film aimed at men, everyone instantly thought of "Brian's Song" and no one could name another. It didn't work for me. For one thing, sport is not a microcosm of life, nor a metaphor for it. The acting, writing and directing all screamed TV movie (which it was). The friendship didn't seem authentic or deep. Caan made for the healthiest looking person dying of cancer I've ever seen.

There have only been three films that have made me cry, none made after 1952. The first one, you've seen: "Casablanca," "The Best Years of Their Lives" and "Forbidden Games."

In Casablanca, it's the scene where the German soldiers are in the cafe and the French ex-pats sing the "Marseillaise." It's the turning point of the film. When the girl, Yvonne, shouts "Vive le France!" with a tear in her eye, it gets me every time.

In The Best Years of Our Lives, the soldier who's lost his hands comes home. He hasn't told his wife what happened and he's worried that she'll be horrified and leave him. He steps out of the cab, she runs to him, he puts out his hook hands, she pauses... and throws her arms around him. I bawled like a baby.

In Forbidden Games, very early in the film, the little girl, her family and their dog are evacuating the town with evreryone else as the city is being bombed. It's been 20 years since I've seen it, but as I recall it, a bomb falls and the girl's parents are simply gone. The girl looks for them in the crowd, but no one has time for her and then she sees her dog floating in the river. She goes down and picks him out of the water. The scene of the orphaned girl wandering aimlessly through the streets carrying her dead dog is the saddest thing I've ever seen in my life. The film goes off on an odd tangent after that, but it's interesting nonetheless.
Added: Found the scene on YouTube. It's not as I recalled it, but it's still powerful stuff:

So what is the common thread? There's a major tragedy; in all the above, it's World War II. The enormous scale of the tragedy is boiled down to a personal level. Innocents, who have lost much already, risk losing what little they have left. The risk pays off; there's hope.

If you want to make a weepie, you can keep the mayhem. Just add a little girl with a dead dog.


Keith said...

I go for the larger question. Not "where have all the weepies gone?", but rather, "where have the GOOD movies gone?" Hollywood used to turn out good movies. Now it seems that all the know how to do is turn out remakes, or 3D comic books. And when I tell that I firmly believe the movie is never as good as the book, that tells you what I think of the current comic trend.

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." The movie moguls have been applying that maxim with a vengeance for decades now. I shudder to think of where the end will be. Every time I think they have reached the limit, they surpass themselves.

Movies have the potential to be a great art form, and in fact some movies are Art with a capital A. Casablanca was just another movie when it was produced, and has become Art. No movie studio in the world now would make My Fair Lady as it was done; no explosions, car chases, murders, nudity, ect. It's not like Hollywood would do such a movie badly now, I don't believe they could make it at all. The people involved simply wouldn't understand.

Movies are fundamentally about telling a story and drawing us in. Without a story it doesn't matter what the effects are, or how big the actress's boobs are and how much of them are on display, or anything else, it's still a stupid movie. Case in point - Avatar.

I like going into a movie and not knowing where it's going to go. Hollywood movies are so predictable it's boring. I like watching foreign films because I don't always understand the conventions they are working under. There are things I might not understand, or that I might be puzzled by, but at least I'm not bored. And I see no reason to spend lots of money, to sit in an uncomfortable chair surrounded by boors (and bores), having my hearing assaulted by the LOUD soundtrack, to have my intelligence insulted.

Jennythenipper said...

I wouldn't put Moonstruck on a list with Beaches or Terms of Endearment. Yes it was made in the 80s, and women do tend to love it, but it is a romantic comedy. There are some parts that make me tea up in it though: the scene where Ronnie asks Loretta, "You waited for the right guy the first time. Why not this time?" And she shouts back "You're late." And really I think I'm just crying cause she's crying and it's the moment when she realizes she loves him. The second of course the scene at the end when Rose and Cosmo tell each other in front of their entire family that they still love one another.

Here's a guest post I wrote about weepies about one of my favorite contemporary weepies:


Jennythenipper said...

I should also add that I've probably seen three movies this week that made me cry (Up was one of them, by the way. Goood call on that one.)

I always cry at the Marseilles scene as well. Viva la France!!!

For WWII inspired crying, check out the first ten minutes of A Matter of Life and Death (you can find it on Youtube.) Seriously, you are made of stone if that doesn't make you cry.

PiccolaPineCone said...

that scene always gets me too in Casablanca. sometimes tears, sometimes goose bumps.

RBR said...

The movie that gets me to cry, true body heaving, snot cascade style cry EVERY time is Steel Magnolias. Specifically, Sally Field's monologue in the cemetery after Julia Robert's character dies.

Oh, and Philadelphia with Tom Hanks, but that movie was too painful to watch more than once, so I do not even remember anything other than the basic premise and that I thought it was a great movie that I would never watch again.

More recently, I bawled like a heel stuck newborn at Juno, but that was more about my emotional state than the movie, I think.

I know that you did not ask for any of this information, nor does it really fit with the main point of your post, but I needed to show your smart, movie literate friends that you occasionally swim in the shallow end of the IQ pool to find your friends.

Come on in, Stevie, the water's fine!

RBR said...

And I am adding "Forbidden Games" to my "Do Not See Unless in Trapped at the Bottom of an Extremely Self-Flagellating Depression" list.

Your synopsis alone is haunting me.

Matthew Patten said...

My rule of thumb is, if it has been nominated for best picture, I probably won't like it much.

Crash - Most overrated movie ever. Hollywood has become more concerned about messages than stories.

Hurt Locker - Could have been really good... but they decided the screenplay was not important.

Avatar - Liked it the first 2 times a lot better {1st time it was called "Splash" - 2nd time it was Dances With Wolves}. It is the same story.

Non oscar movies - recently rented
Salt - It SUCKED!
The American = lame
The Green Zone - Oh please!
Valentine's day - 1/2 hour too long. Bad story line

Sorcerer's Apprentice -EXCELLENT
(I had no expectations. Kids loved it)

Up was great.

I will see King's Speech when it comes out on DVD. The rest don't interest me.... but might trip over one and watch it.

SteveQ said...

@RBR: Bonus - "Forbidden Games" is subtitled.

@Jenny: you're the expert and the THN guest post was GOOOOD.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Up made me cry.

Movies about dogs and kids always get me. I'm taking out Marley and me (I have it on hold right now) and I know it'll get me even though people say it's crap and manipulative. I told Ian I was getting it out for him. He asked Teh 'Bride, "Is dad gonna cry at that?" She said, "Probably." He said, "I don't want to see it."

Shakespeare's good Romances make me tear up. (Tempest, Winter's Tale, Pericles.)

Could NOT get through Moonstruck. I thought it was just horrible.