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Bolivia.

Sundance: What’s Bolivia?

Butch: Bolivia. That’s a country, stupid! In Central or South America, one or the other.

From a rock cliff high above, an armed lookout signals to Butch.

Butch and Sundance saunter forward on horseback into Hole-In-The-Wall – rugged Wyoming canyons – where turn of the 20th century US robbers and criminals hid away from the law.

The two are the perfect pair: Butch, an independent, unconventional thinker, has the brains and is a quick-witted visionary, disrespectful of both the law and the establishment… Sundance provides the strong, quick-draw, traditional Western hero.

Sundance has heard Butch’s fanciful dreams before, such as his bright idea that Bolivia has better pickings with its silver, tin, and gold mines… and easy-to-rob-banks.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford were the perfect pair that lit up the silver screen in the 1969 bromance Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 

Even more than The Sound of Music, it was a romance that captured my movie heart in a deeply visceral way.

Since then, I’ve sat in the darkness of a theatre hundreds of times, gazing up at the cinematic products of countless directors and actors, consuming truckloads of grease-laden popcorn (in a future life, I may return as a movie maker, or failing that, a movie popcorn critic).

There was no on-screen kiss between Newman and Redford (what mainstream audience in 1969 was ready for the kind of on-screen love that Brokeback Mountain unveiled later) but there was a love connection that even Katharine Ross (Redford’s female romantic interest in the film) couldn’t come between.

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When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” ~ When Harry Met Sally

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Movie romance is as common as cheesy love songs in the 1950’s and ’60’s, but just how often do we succumb to their charms?

Most romantic actor combos are sloppy, cliched furballs made from a mixture of lard and lemonade… anything with Matthew McConaughey, Seth Rogen, Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz is a non-starter (I don’t care how good looking they are… and yeah, leave Seth Rogen off that list too!))

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On the other hand, I’ve been charmed by movie romances of a dozen kinds … deliciously sensual pairings such as :

  • Bonnie and Clyde – Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway
  • Benny & Joon – Johnny Depp & Mary Stuart Masterson
  • When Harry Met Sally – Billy Crystal & Meg Ryan
  • Silver Linings Playbook –  Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence
  • Reds – Warren Beatty & Diane Keaton
  • Brokeback Mountain – Heath Ledger & Jake Gyllenhaal
  • The Notebook – Ryan Gosling & Rachel McAdam
  • Thelma & Louise – Susan Sarandon & Geena Davis
  • Leaving Las Vegas – Nicholas Cage & Elisabeth Shue
  • And most recently, A Star Is Born – Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga

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I’ve come to the conclusion that you could blend Jennifer Lawrence or Bradley Cooper with any actor sporting a modicum of acting chops and come out with beautiful chemical burns.

Those chemical bonds that spark a romance between actors channel some vulnerable and magical territory. If it was easy to do, we’d be flooded with a tsunami of unforgettable love stories. Smouldering romance takes great writing and actors tuned to each others’ frequency.

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I wish I knew how to quit you.” ~ Brokeback Mountain

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Most of these flicks have left an indelible impression on me because of their balance, the humour mixed with an underlying sadness or trial that infiltrates and takes up residence.

Movie romance needs to be coddled along with enough tension between the “potentials” that you want to scream out, “oh for God’s sake, just admit to her/him that you love her/him“… that unbearable tension needs to be real and believable, delivered with the possibility that the two may never be together in the end…

The Ending

The flirtation finish, like the final taste of wine in the back of your throat, is critical.

So many movies make it to the final 15 minutes in great shape and then collapse into themselves.

I would have added An Officer and A Gentleman (Richard Gere & Debra Winger) to my list of winners above had the screenwriter not blasted it apart with a corny, cliched carry-the-girl-off-to-co-workers’-applause-into-eternal-bliss-from-her-hell-hole-of-a-life ending. BLAH!!

Titanic lost its sensual sizzle when Kate Winslet couldn’t find a way to share her floating door with Leo DiCaprio. Come on Kate… show us YOU own the Heart of the Ocean.

Blessed catharsis

A smile or a tear explodes inside us when we’ve plumbed the depths of human experience… when Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton finally come together on the train platform in Reds, when Benny and Joon make grilled cheese sandwiches on an ironing board, when Butch and Sundance, or Thelma and Louise plunge forward to their deaths.

When the screen dims … when the theatre lights go up… there should be a lingering silence … a moment or two for the actors, the crew, the audience to absorb, reflect, internalize and feel.

Off in the distance, we finally hear a faint echo from the director, “CUT!”

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