Woo hoo! My new friend Ashley at Radio Allegro has posted a new Valentine's Day podcast, "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thingamagig," in which Ashley, Gabriel from Modern Fabulousity, Nathaniel from The Film Experience and I dish about love, romance and pop culture. We cover the gamut from Bogey and Bacall to Flav and New York, stopping briefly at Brangelina, romantic dinners, celebrity crushes and "Trapped in the Closet." The podcast is also full of great music; we each got to select our favorite romantic song, and Ashley added lots of snippets to underscore our words. Give it a listen!
While the chat lasted about an hour and a half, it was, wisely, cut down to about half that length (minus the music), so a few topics that we discussed didn't make it to the final podcast. So I'll blather about them here. Oh, come on, there's a link to a fantastic cake recipe if you stick it out!
When going through my collections of movies and music in preparation for the podcast, I was forced to confront the fact that I am one un-romantic sumbitch. The romantic genre as a whole gives me hives because, as I noted on the podcast, "romance" as it is presented in pop culture bears almost no resemblance to actual love. (Kinda like how porn has only the basics in common with actual sex.) Nonetheless, even I have a few favorite movies about love.
Shakespeare In Love: This is probably the most "Romantic" movie I like, but it's just so damn clever. Most of it plays like an incredibly well-made farce, but there are quite a few moments of surprisingly deep, genuine feeling: Viola and Will's first embrace, their despair of ever being together, his vision of her as his muse rising from the sea. It's also a love letter to the theater, honoring and gently teasing those who have made it their lives' work to create a facsimile of life. Plus, the cast is great; in addition to the stellar British players, Gwyneth Paltrow is at her most likeable here, and Ben Affleck is quite funny too.
The New World: To my mind, this movie is truly about love. For the first half, the daughter of Powhatan (the name 'Pocahontas' is never used, but that's who she is) and John Smith are totally infatuated with each other. Their scenes together are awash in pure hormonal desire; they barely speak to each other but constantly touch. Then he goes away and she becomes a different person (through both her own maturing and her assumption of English life that is ripe for sociopolitical interpretation). She marries a man who is quiet and kind, less given to trembling with desire than doing his best to make her comfortable and happy. Ultimately, she realizes the value of grown-up love over teenage grab-ass. And that's just one level on which this movie can be appreciated. It's a little slow and dreamlike, but it's also cinematically gorgeous and incredibly well-acted.
The Painted Veil: This was one of the best cinematic surprises of 2006 for me. It's not a romantic movie in the traditional sense (a husband takes his cheating wife to the interior of China hoping one or both of them will die of cholera, for God's sake). But I think it does a great job showing why we love the people we love, and by the end of the film, I was really moved by not only their journey toward each other but by the way that they each became better people. I think that love can help you be the best, truest version of yourself, and this film kinda reinforced that to me. Again, gorgeous to look at, fabulous cast, etc.
Shaun of the Dead: No, I'm serious here. One of the many, many things I love about this movie is that it touches on all kinds of love: Shaun's love for Liz, his love for his mum and his love for his best friend Ed. While Shaun begins the film taking all three for granted, a zombie apocalypse forces him to sort his life out and realize how much he values the people closest to him. I also love that Liz is such a great character unto herself, not a one-dimensional plot device as is so often the case with get-the-girl-back movies. And even when she's technically broken up with Shaun, the two of them work incredibly well as a zombie-fighting team with an irrepressible warmth and camaraderie. There's so much to love about this movie; if your significant other is as unromantic as I am, you might want to suggest this film.
Okay, you've stuck it out thus far. Now here's the recipe for the super bad-ass chocolate-peanut-butter cake I made for J and myself on Sunday. I had never made a cake from scratch before, but it turned out just fine. Plus, it's from Cooking Light, so how bad can it be?
I'd like to thank Gabriel, Nathaniel and Ashley for including me in the podcast; it was the most fun I'd ever had on the phone. And I'd also like to thank Jason for including me in his life. He's the most amazing guy I've ever had the privilege of knowing: sweet, smart, funny, attractive, kind, loving, thoughtful, and a far better parent to the cats than I. I don't know how he puts up with me. Happy Valentine's Day, honey. You are the joy of my life.