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The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Grandview appeals to the broken-hearted this Valentine’s season

Grandview appeals to the broken-hearted this Valentine’s season

 (Spoiler Alerts) 

February, notorious for being the worst month of winter with its gray days and grayer snow piles, does have one redeeming quality: Valentine’s Day. For some, the holiday of love is just like any other day; for others it’s a chance to share a nice meal with the ones you love. For the Mann Grandview Theater, the month of February is an opportunity to make us cry. 

This February, the Grandview posted their monthly lineup of movies in their Rewind series, entitled “Cinema and Sugar,” comprised of four films selected in the spirit of Valentine’s Day; “Her” (2013), “Phantom Thread” (2017), “Harold and Maude” (1971) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). A strange selection for celebrating a holiday about love, but who doesn’t love an anti- Valentines celebration? So, as avid Letterboxd users, authors Abby and Olivia obviously saw all of them. 

Abby kicked off the Rewind series with Spike Jonze’s film “Her,” which stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly and Scarlett Johansson as the voice of his AI virtual assistant, Samantha. Set in the unspecified near future, the movie follows Theodore as he navigates the world of relationships post-divorce, ultimately falling in love with Samantha. Visually, the film is incredibly aesthetically pleasing, with a cohesive color scheme throughout. Skillful wide shots of Twombly in a crowd of people or cityscapes emphasized the feeling of loneliness amidst modernity that causes us to turn to our devices for comfort more often than our human counterparts. 

This sentiment has only become more poignant in the years since “Her” hit the box office. What was the near future for a film released in 2013 no longer feels so distant, now that people can pay a yearly subscription to have a romantic relationship with an AI chatbot. People paying to date a voice on their phones is dystopian at best, but “Her” is not as pessimistic as one might think. Theodore finds himself AI-less at the end of the film, but instead of wallowing in his loss, he turns to seek out meaningful human connection. The film ends with a shot that juxtaposes earlier shots, showing Theodore and Amy, a love interest, sharing a moment overlooking a city full of people, alone, yet together. Abby would be remiss if she did not mention the film’s incredible original soundtrack by Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett, with “Song on the Beach” and “Photograph” being her personal favorites. 

The next film in the Grandview’s Valentine’s picks was Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” and Olivia’s first of two Rewind viewings. Nominated for six Oscars, it stars Daniel Day Lewis, Vickey Krieps, and Lesley Manville. It chronicles the love story of famed London couture designer Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and Alma Elson (Krieps), who becomes his sole inspiration. Alma becomes Reynolds’ dress model and lover, and she moves in with the designer and his stoic sister, Cyril (Manville). The film’s title stems from Reynolds’ compulsion to stitch hidden messages into the inner workings of his dress designs, a superstitious quirk that sets the film’s mysterious tone and trajectory. Though Olivia was not familiar with Anderson’s other films, she found this film an impressive triumph and worthy of its many accolades. 

The costumes, lighting and sets are dazzling and beautiful, though what stunned Olivia the most in this film was its sweeping classical soundtrack. The music, composed by Jonny Greenwood, creates a gorgeous, romantic atmosphere, with piano notes softly permeating the background at all times. It also expertly hints at the darkness lurking behind the principal love affair. Reynolds and Alma’s love for one another is based on their shared love of perfection, however, Reynolds’ egotistical and obsessive nature starts to wear on Alma. Naturally, this sets him up for a nasty round of food poisoning. In order for him to step back from his meticulous work and fully appreciate Alma’s brilliance, she feels she must render him helpless and dependent upon her. She poisons Reynolds with toxic mushrooms, once in his tea and another time in his dinner (Olivia found this equally gothic and petty). Upon the second poisoning, she tells Reynolds she’s intended to make him sick and vulnerable, and through this revelation she earns his utmost respect. 

At no point during the film can the audience ever truly understand their relationship, which adds to the story’s mystery and allure. This movie is an ode to beauty and precision, and its romantic aesthetics are wrapped up in a love story where perfection is an important authority that must be equally shared. Reynolds and Alma’s love story was compelling in all its idiosyncrasies and poisoned mushroom dishes.

The third Valentine’s Rewind film — Olivia’s final viewing of the month — was Hal Ashby’s “Harold and Maude,” starring Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon. Most easily described as a dark comedy/romance, the film’s quirks are just as bizarre as they are charming. Harold (Cort) is a young, death-obsessed man who only derives joy from staging fake suicide attempts and attending the funerals of strangers. He, notably, also purchases a hearse as his car of choice. At one of these funerals, Harold meets Maude (Gordon), a seventy-nine year old woman who shares his funeral-going hobby. Maude’s vibrant personality and joyful attitude towards life contrasts Harold’s bleaker outlook. Her tendency to skillfully steal vehicles and drive them recklessly (most notably a policeman’s motorcycle) and uproot various plant life from public property attracts Harold. The two form an unlikely friendship and romance. 

It would be dishonest to say Olivia was not a little nervous going to see this film. Knowing only that the characters’ relationship is marked by a significant age gap, she was worried it would be an uncomfortable viewing experience. However, any weird or icky feelings she felt initially had completely worn off by the film’s conclusion. Harold and Maude grew to genuinely love each other, and she thought their romance was portrayed tastefully. Harold’s character growth is exponential due to Maude’s sunny influence, and Gordon’s portrayal of her was so charming and delightful that it’s no wonder Harold’s life brightened with her in it. The film’s vivid color palette stood out to Olivia most throughout her viewing experience, Maude’s wardrobe in particular. Her disposition is bright and colorful, and her outfits reflect this, with her yellow and pink head scarves being one of Olivia’s favorite details. 

Olivia found the film’s soundtrack made up solely of Cat Stevens songs encapsulated the film’s unconventional mood and humor well. Despite the film’s sad ending, where Maude takes her own life upon her 80th birthday, things are not all dismal. While he loses the woman he loves, Harold has gained a more mature perspective on life and death due to her influence. It felt quite appropriate to me that the film ends with Harold driving his beloved hearse off a cliff in his first colorful outfit of the entire film, sauntering away from the cliffside playing the banjo to Stevens’ “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.”

Finally, Abby’s viewings and the “Cinema and Sugar” Rewind came to a close with one of the most heartbreaking movies ever made: Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain.” Knowing nothing other than the film’s reputation before entering the theater, suffice it to say she was sweating in her seat before the film even began. In 1963, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet as they are hired to herd sheep on the titular mountain for the summer, leading to a drunken encounter that blossoms into a summer romance in the picturesque mountains of Wyoming. Despite Jack’s insistence that they could run away together and have a good life, Ennis is doubtful and continues to remind Jack that folks wouldn’t take kindly to two men living together. As the fall rolls around, Ennis and Jack reluctantly move on with their lives, both marrying women and having children, but continue to meet up a few times a year to go on “fishing trips” together in Brokeback Mountain, a place that has become their sanctuary away from the real world. The movie chronicles the two cowboys’ relationship with one another and with their wives, children and families over the next 20 years, culminating in Ennis receiving the gut-wrenching news of Jack’s death in 1983. 

“Brokeback Mountain” is more than just a beautifully sad love story. It provides a look into a reality that many queer people have had to endure, and continues to be poignant as LGBTQ+ hate still permeates our society. Ledger and Gyllenhaal deliver incredible performances, skillfully portraying their characters’ internal battles between the hypermasculinity that men such as Ennis and Jack are expected to show and the tender love they feel for one another. As the movie ended, Abby had soaked the front of her sweatshirt through with tears, and once she heard Willie Nelson begin to croon “He Was Friend Of Mine” over the credits, she knew she had to leave for fear of making a scene. 

Though the Grandview might have wanted us to cry this February, Abby and Olivia don’t have the same goal! So they’ve compiled some recommendations for Valentine’s Day themed movies that won’t leave you the shell of who you once were. Abby recommends “Stardust” for one of the most inventive fantasy romances, “Moonstruck” for a hot Nicholas Cage and, obviously, Cher and “Notting Hill” for my favorite rom-com of all time. Olivia recommends “Pride & Prejudice” for Mr. Darcy’s sideburns, “10 Things I Hate About You” for a modern-day Shakespeare fix, and “Pretty in Pink” to see Jon Cryer lip-sync for his life. 


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Feel free to follow the authors on Letterboxd for more unsolicited movie opinions! You can find Abby at @oldsport11 and Olivia at @livimw. 

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About the Contributor
Abby Bulger
Abby Bulger, Arts Editor
Abby Bulger ’24 (she/they) is the arts editor from Lambertville, N.J. She is a media and cultural studies major with minors in French and studio arts. She spends her free time consuming all kinds of media and painting.

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