This week is heavy on movies about couples. They include rom-coms and complicated relationship stories, and the characters range from criminals to musicians to politicians, from kings to bakers. The genres include classic dramas, and film noir, and brilliant satire. And there’s a good dollop of sex, for good measure.
They’re mostly from the 80s and 90s, though one is from the 60s. And something they all (except one) have in common is that they were nominated for a lot of Oscars, and won quite a few.
64. Moonstruck 1987
Moonstruck is a one of the best rom-coms ever and one of Cher’s best roles, too. She stars as Loretta Castorini, a widowed Italian-American woman who falls in love with her fiancé’s estranged younger brother Ronny, played by Nicolas Cage, in one of his best roles. His big brother Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello) is in Sicily tending to their dying mother and Johnny has asked Loretta to invite Ronny to the wedding. Well, things don’t go as planned and they end up sleeping together.
The next day Loretta says she can never see him again and he agrees with just one stipulation: she has to go to the opera with him. There they see her father (Vincent Gardenia) with his mistress and Loretta confronts him, though he throws that she’s cheating on the fiancé in her face. At the same time her mother (Olympia Dukakis) is out eating alone and meets a man, though it goes nowhere because despite knowing about her cheating hubby, she cares about her marriage.
But then Johnny comes back, his mother having miraculously gotten well, and things get a bit sticky. But love conquers all. It’s a brilliantly funny and heartwarming script from Tony award winning playwright John Patrick Shanley. A must see flick!
It received 6 Oscar nominations and won 3: Best Actress (for Cher), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress (for Dukakis).
In this drama from filmmaker Héctor Babenco, Luis Molina (William Hurt) and Valentin Arregui (Raul Julia) are cell mates in a South American prison. Luis, a flamboyant gay man, has been found guilty of immoral behavior. Valentin is a political prisoner. They could not be more different. To escape reality Luis recounts the plots of his favorite movies, embellishing and inventing plots that are designed to comfort Valentin. Sonia Braga is the femme fatale in all of them. They range from a Nazi melodrama to a thriller about a spider woman to a romance.
Valentin has no respect for Luis, his lifestyle, his politics, and is slow to give him the time of day. But as time passes the two of them grow closer, ultimately culminating in a physical act. Beyond what’s happening in the cell, the politics of the secret police are hanging over the men. Luis is spying on Valentin with the promise of parole if he gets info they can use to take down the group he’s a part of. It’s a sad and beautiful film, with two amazing performances.
It received 4 Oscar Nominations. Willam Hurt took home his statue for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Other nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adaptation
66. Body Heat 1981
Inspired by Double Indemnity (1944) this neo-noir thriller was Lawrence Kasdan’s (The Big Chill, Silverado) directorial debut. It takes place in Florida in the middle of a heat wave, and stars William Hurt as Ned. He’s a mediocre small town lawyer. Kathleen Turner in her most sultry role ever plays Matty, a married woman who seduces him and then talks him into killing her wealthy husband so they can be together.
But once that happens, and Matty inherits the fortune, Ned becomes suspect #1 in the husband’s death, and slowly Ned realizes how he was used while the noose tightens around his neck.
It’s a very sexy movie, very well done, great performances from young Hurt and Turner, and the script has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.
This film also has one of my favorite lines from any movie. Matty: [to Ned] You aren’t too smart, are you? I like that in a man.
67. Nashville 1975
This is a brilliant film from one of the late 20th century’s greatest directors, Robert Altman. Like so many of his best it boasts an amazing ensemble of actors, following more than 20 of them in the days leading up to political event in the country music capital of Nashville, Tennessee.
It’s hard to synopsize this one because there are so many threads and characters. There is the political story, but also the personal. The characters are mostly a broken cross section of America. The songs, mostly written by the actors who perform them, are fabulous, too. But despite its length and the number of things happening, it all comes together for one of the best films of the 70s.
It won an Oscar for Best Original song Keith Carradines’s “I’m Easy” and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Ronee Blakely), Best Supporting Actress (Lily Tomlin) and Best Director.
68. Out of Sight 1998
Adapted from an Elmore Leonard ‘s 1996 novel of the same name, this one is a delightfully funny crime rom-com from Steven Soderbergh starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. He’s Jack Foley, a bank robber who’s broken out of prison, and she’s Karen Sisco, a U.S Marshal who he meets cute when they’re forced to share the getaway car’s trunk during his escape where she’s kidnapped for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Later, once she’s let go, she pursues him and pals Buddy (Ving Rhames) and Glenn (Steve Zahn) who are planning a big heist.
Jack and Karen have a brief and steamy tryst in a hotel before the robbery. But he’s able to slip away to join his buddies. The robbery gets very messy and there’s a gun fight, and it ends with Karen capturing Jack. But fear not, the ending gives you hope that he’ll get away and join her.
This is a movie you need to see because A) The script is so tight, B) Clooney and Lopez have amazing chemistry, and C) It’s a totally fun ride!
The film received 2 Oscar nominations: Best Adaptation and Best Editing.
69. Four Weddings and a Funeral 1994
This entirely fun British rom-com directed by Mike Newell, was the first of many films by screenwriter Richard Curtis to feature Hugh Grant (Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually, being a few of their others.) The film centers on Charles (Grant) and his circle of friends as they attend various social events, and find love. Andie MacDowell stars as Charles’s love interest Carrie who he meets at a wedding, and sleeps with, but then she’s off home to America. When they meet again months later, she’s engaged but that doesn’t stop them from spending another night together.
And they keep meeting and missing until they finally and inevitably get together. What’s wonderful about the film is the camaraderie of Charles’s circle of friends. All of them are looking for love, and they care about one another. The funeral will have you crying for sure, and you’ll laugh and nod at so many scenes. The cast is fabulous including slew of British actors you know but may not know their names. John Hannah, James Fleet, Simon Callow, David Bower, Charlotte Coleman, and even Kristin Scott Thomas. It’s a classic rom-com!
This film received 2 Oscar nominations. Best Picture and Best Screenplay.
70. The Lion in Winter 1968
This historical drama stars Peter O’Toole as King Henry II. It’s Christmas in 1183 and he’s considering who will be his heir. He wants his son John to take the throne, but his estranged and imprisoned wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn) favors their son Richard. There’s a lot of political wrangling about it between Eleanor and Henry, but also with the King of France and the sons. But the film is less a history lesson than a family drama, particularly about a power couple who once loved each other.
To say that these two acting legends are good is an understatement. They both play complex characters in complex situations and they are amazing. The film is an adaptation of a stage play and is literate and imaginative. And the Anthony Hopkins made a splash in his film debut as Richard the Lionhearted.
The film was nominated for 7 Oscars, and won 3: Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), Best Adaptation, and Best Score.
ENJOY AND CHECK BACK NEXT WEEK FOR PART 11!
All of these are streaming and some of the older ones you can find at your library.
This list started as a pandemic exercise wherein I posted a film a day on my Facebook feed. The only criteria was that it was something I remember liking back when I saw it last. I am not sure they all hold up to repeat viewing given hindsight and more recent social mores. But hey, they were all considered good films at one and so many of them were multiple award winners. I’m just hoping to give my stuck-at-home-without-a-clue friends some alternatives to the new films coming out these days.