Isn’t It Romantic? Discussing Rom-Coms at #MTOS

sabrinakissFrom Girl Shy to Some Like It Hot to When Harry Met Sally, many of the most beloved and bankable films of all time fall under the fluid label of “romantic comedy.”

But does this genre get the respect it deserves? Or is it even a genre at all? I guess we’ll just have to tweet this one through…

In case you’ve never taken part in #MTOS, which stands for Movie Talk on Sunday, this weekly discussion brings together film lovers from around the world to chat on Twitter. The wide range of perspectives always makes this social media phenomenon a treat, so follow the hashtag and share your thoughts. I invite you to join in what promises to be a very cuddly, quirky, serendipitous discussion on Twitter this coming weekend, on August 17 at 8:00 p.m. GMT (or 4:00 p.m. EDT), and laugh about love again.

Allow me to pop the question(s)…

1. How do you feel about rom-coms in general? How often do you watch them?

2. The rom-com has a reputation as a “girly” or “feminine” genre. Discuss.

3. How do you define the conventions or characteristics of a rom-com? In other words, what do you expect to see in one?

4. Now, name a rom-com that intentionally *subverts* our expectations and does it well.

5. Okay, the big question—what, in your opinion, is the best romantic comedy of all time? Why?

6. What’s the worst rom-com you’ve ever seen? What was so awful about it?

7a. Who is the ultimate rom-com actor? Why?

7b. Name your favorite rom-com couple. What’s so special about them?

8. What, in your opinion, is the best “meet-cute” scene you’ve ever watched? What worked well about it?

9. Rom-com elements are often combined with other genres. What’s a successful example of this?

10. Some critics have predicted the end of the rom-com. Will it bounce back? Has it even declined? Or are we in for romcompocalypse?

Costume Ball: I’m Hosting #MTOS This Sunday!

moroccoThis Sunday, May 5, I will have the honor of hosting Movie Talk on Sunday for the second time! In case you’ve never heard of #MTOS, it’s an engaging Twitter discussion for all cinephiles that happens once a week.

People from around the world turn out, so the mix of viewpoints promises a variety of insights and lots of fun. (It was so much fun last time I hosted that I ended up in Twitter jail! Attica! Attica!) I hope that you, dear reader, will join in and add your responses to the conversation.

I chose film costumes as my topic, because, let’s face it, they’re fun to talk about! And, unlike many elements of cinematic language, clothes are something we all know something about, don’t we? We wear our identity in our clothes, our daily version of costumes. We’re also in the habit of decoding other people’s clothing to figure out who they are. (Unless you live naked on a private island, in which case, that too is a distinct fashion statement.)

scarlettToo often overlooked in film analyses, costumes shape our perceptions of characters and their relationships. As in the case of the infamous “shopping montage” cliché, whole scenes may revolve around costumes. Iconic articles of clothing help us recognize genres: can you imagine classic film noir without the trenchcoat and the Fedora? Or a Western without jeans and the cowboy hat? Whether we’re aware of it or not, costume colors, textures, sometimes even the sounds they make also enrich the aesthetics of any given movie and deserve greater scrutiny.

So, to slip into something more comfortable, here are the questions: 

1. To get started, which film costume impressed you and stayed with you most vividly?

2. Costumes can be used to transform a character or signify how they’ve changed. Which film has done this well?

3. Which director, in your opinion, has made the best use of costumes to enhance the look and style of his/her films?

4. Costumes sometimes serve to contrast characters through their different clothing styles. What’s a movie that has done this well?

5. The power of costuming can work for comic effect. What’s a movie outfit that added to the humor of a scene or made you laugh?

6. What’s a good example of a costume (or accessory) that serves as a key plot point in a film?

7a. Which male movie character has the best/coolest wardrobe?

7b. Which female character?

8. Which movie star’s image is most associated with their costumes they wear (or wore)?

9. Has a film’s costuming ever really disappointed you? Which movie and why?

10. Have you ever copied a movie character’s style? How did that work out for you?

Put on your Sunday best and join the costume ball on May 5! 

charade

Pre-Code BINGO!

Kongo“Damn. I’m just one square away from Pre-Code BINGO!”

I love the Pre-Code era. I love the style, the wisecracks, the suggestiveness, and, above all, how much credit the movies gave their audiences. Films like Night Nurse and Call Her Savage bare a lot more than souls. Yet, filled with ellipses and double entendres, these movies also draw you in with the sophisticated pleasure of filling in their gaps and imagining what’s not shown or said.

Pre-Codies, from the fluffy to the gritty, pull me into the game of deciphering their webs of connotations, of discovering variations on the motifs of a disillusioned epoch. So, as I thought one night while tweeting a movie with the #TCMParty gang, why not turn the Pre-Code era into a game?

I’d also like to thank everyone who pitched in with suggestions for these bingo cards. I’m touched to know that there are so many cheeky geeks out there. You warm the cockles of my heart.

Without further ado, I give you my Pre-Code Bingo cards.

Card One:

Pre-Code Bingo Card

Card Two:

Pre-Code Bingo Card

Click on the images to go to their attachment pages and get the full-sized versions. To play, simply watch a Pre-Codie, and see how many squares you can cross off! If you do get Bingo, leave a comment and tell me what movie got it!

If you, dear reader, can think of something that should be a bingo square but isn’t, please tweet it to me @NitrateDiva, and I might make a third bingo card!

As our 1930s friends would say, Abyssinia!

The Suspense Is Killing Me

“The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.”

—Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

I’m very honored to announce that I will be hosting #MTOS (Movie Talk on Sundays) for the first time this Sunday, December 2nd.

For my topic, I’ve chosen suspense. I made this selection because good suspenseful situations force the cinematic medium to fire on all cylinders. Compelling characters, dramatic stakes, careful unfolding and witholding of plot information, atmospheric mise-en-scène, rhythmically on-target editing—suspense demands a harmony of all these elements. The challenges of gripping and holding the audience in suspense have often spurred filmmakers to new heights of creativity.

I also think that the anxiety, tension, and perplexity rooted in suspense represent some of the most powerful responses audiences can have while watching a movie. There’s a definite and palpable “payoff” when suspense is well-executed. However, I’d argue that many innovative suspense films get comparatively little critical respect in their own times.

In any case, I won’t leave you hanging—let the puns begin!—so, here are my questions:

1. How do you define suspense in the cinema? As a viewer, do you consider suspense a desirable trait in a film?

2A. What is the greatest “suspense film” you’ve ever seen? Why?

2B. What’s the best, most suspenseful movie scene or sequence you can think of?

3. Who are some of the most adept suspense directors? What would you say is their approach to or method of suspense?

4. Which actors convey and cultivate suspense best? Which performances in particular?

5. What do you think of movies that end on cliffhangers with no resolution? Which movies have done this well? Which have done it badly?

6. Suspenseful films—especially, though not exclusively, low budget films—often take advantage of constrained locations to create a claustrophobic atmosphere. Which movie has done this most successfully?

7. Which horror film creates suspense most effectively?

8. Suspense isn’t limited only to serious or scary movies. What’s your favorite comedy film (or comedy scene) that builds suspense for a humorous payoff?

9. How does suspense function differently in television? What television show (past or present) handles suspense best?

10. Danny Boyle has said in the U.K. Guardian that, “suspense [and] twists are almost impossible these days. People are blogging your endings from their cinema seats.” Do you agree? Have we reached the end of suspense? Discuss.

I hope to see you all on Sunday on the #MTOS hashtag at 20:00 GMT. In the meantime, I’ll be biting my nails, on the edge of my seat, white-knuckling it.

Until we tweet again, dear friends!