Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ten Thoughts on When Harry Met Sally...

The one benefit of having a busy work weekend is that I had no desire whatsoever to even attempt a social life in the hours in between getting home at 1am and having to be at work by 10.30am the next morning. What I did do, however, was watch some movies. Granted, I'd seen two of them before, but when the itch strikes sometimes you just have to scratch, and because I can't be bothered constructing any form of actual competently written piece, here is a list. Everyone loves a list, right? So, it's not a ranked list, but a list none the less. Give me a break!

Ten Thoughts on When Harry Met Sally...
1. This movie is 95 minutes long. 95 minutes! I can't stress how amazing that is. Of the three Nora Ephron romcoms that I rewatched over the last couple of days, When Harry Met Sally has always been the one I go to the least often so I had completely forgotten what a brisk and breezy ("you can't just say you're breezy. it negates the breezy!" thanks Friends) viewing experience it is. It's over in a flash and yet feels entirely enriching and like a full, proper, main meal.

2. I posted a hastily written piece about Nora Ephron on the day of her passing last week, but I'd like to direct you to another piece I wrote, this time for my regular review haunt of Trespass Magazine. I'm not one to frequently say I like what I've written, but I like this one even if nothing makes me feel quite as inarticulate as discussing one of a generation’s finest writers.

Woody Allen was a bit out of my grasp at that stage, but her impassioned pleas for love, the big city, and everything the two can achieve together made a grand impact on me. If I ever move to the Big Apple like I have dreamed of for so long, then I owe a little bit of that to Ms Ephron.

3. I think the reason I don't go back to this movie as often as Sleepless in Seattle or You've Got Mail is simply because I've never owned it on DVD until now. So, I guess my brain should get used to it.

4. Can I reiterate that When Harry Met Sally is only 95 minutes long? And those old couple inserts that could have been hopelessly twee and unnecessary actually really do work. It's also refreshing that these anecdotes aren't part of a character's frustratingly whimsical career in the arts like they would be today. Speaking of which, can we call a ceasefire on romantic comedies about people who've somehow managed wildly successful careers as freelance writers, photographers, painters, or other mythical careers? It was fun once in Sex and the City, but now they all do it and it's kinda depressing.

5. I know "how did the Academy not nominate..." is the award watcher's version of a dog chasing its own tail around and around in a circle, but seriously... How did the Academy not nominate When Harry Met Sally for more than a single Best Original Screenplay award? The 1990 Oscars aren't exactly a high point for prestige and class - Driving Miss Daisy, anybody? - but it seems utterly absurd that it didn't receive nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress and perhaps even Best Actor for their beloved Billy Crystal to go with Ephron's second nomination (after her first for Silkwood). Come on! Four Weddings and a Funeral manages a Best Picture nomination in arguably the best year of the 1990s (1994, obviously), and When Harry Met Sally could only mustre up a single nomination for 1989?

Were the Academy just a bit iffy on the names involved? None of Rob Reiner's films had done particularly well with them, but despite the film's very simple style it is the sort of film that would have easily netted Woody Allen a nomination. Meg Ryan is an even more curious omission given her status as a popular upcoming actress who'd struck it rich with a tantalising breakthrough role in a super smart romantic comedy that felt refreshingly old school, whilst actually being very modern. But, then again, maybe the Academy just don't like Meg Ryan ala Mia Farrow. Remember they also didn't nominate her Oscar bait performance in When a Man Loves a Woman either.

Tellingly, as is so often the case, the Best Original Screenplay category for 1990 was the best category of them all! Nora Ephron's witty, hilarious, and romantic screenplay was nominated alongside Do the Right Thing, sex, lies, and videotape, plus Crimes and Misdemeanors. The winner? Dead Poet's Society. :/

The film didn't win any of the five Golden Globes it was nominated for (Meg Ryan lost to Jessica Tandy... could you ever?), so here's video of the only actress that yet that I have seen who could have (er, should have, I guess is the correct term) beaten Ryan to an Oscar statue...

6. Not that it was ever going to happen, I suppose, but at least Ephron's passing will mean nobody will feel the need to go back and make a sequel. This Funny or Die sketch is more than enough, yes?

7. Billy Crystal is actually rather impressive here, isn't he? It's easy to find him nauseating with the amount of LOUDNESS he puts into most of his performances, but he's just right here. And it's incredibly how youthful he looks in those opening scenes. Also, would you look at the clothes?!? Surely that white knitted sweater is one for the ages!

8. That's not to stop Hollywood making a "reboot" of it with a revisionist twist, perhaps.

9. The diner sequence is still a corker of a scene. Certainly one more of performance than writing, especially when we realise that the famous line - "I'll have what she's having", a quote for the all time list - was actually improvised. The two actors, plus the number of extras that fill out the location, do such a fine job with the material that could have gone awfully wrong awfully fast.

10. This is quite a poster, is it not? I believe it's Spanish and, basically, features Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in a clothed sex position on a bar stool by the bed... I don't even wanna know, okay?

If you're after more takes on Ephron you surely can't go past Tom Hanks' lovely memorial in which he waxes lyrical on her geographically accurate representations of New York, as well as this brief bit by good mate Jess Lomas on the perils of role models.


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