What “Romance” Means to Me
When I think of romance, I think of the year 1999. Not just because it’s the title of a song by Prince, who might have been the human embodiment of sex, but also because it was a year that produced an inordinate amount of romantic classics. As a 17-year-old in high school at the time, I wasn’t ‘seeking out’ romantic films. Quite the contrary. I was diving heavy into auteurs and discovering classic cinema. Films like Notting Hill, Message in a Bottle, Runaway Bride, and The End of the Affair wouldn’t have meant much to me back then. But now, in hindsight, I can look back on 1999 and appreciate the films that didn’t mean much at the time, but are definitive classics now. So what were the types of romantic films that connected with me?
TEEN COMEDIES. Romantic comedies to be precise. At least – most of them. To say 1999 was the year for teen films would be an understatement. Almost every single film that we associate as a teen film from the 90s was released in 1999. Don’t believe me? Well: Varsity Blues, She’s All That, Jawbreaker, 200 Cigarettes, Cruel Intentions, 10 Things I Hate About You, Go, Never Been Kissed, Election, Idle Hands, American Pie, Drop Dead Gorgeous, and Dick. And most of them had a little something to do with romance, or – at least – the 90s idea of romance, which meant it usually served as the backdrop for raunchy, over the top shenanigans, or plot devices so complicated and Shakespearean that they were…well…actually adapted from Shakespeare comedies…seriously…She’s All That and 10 Things…anyways.
It’s amazing how your tastes change as you get older, particularly when it comes to films that are designed to appeal to the romantic side of audiences. Very few teenagers in 1999 or 2019 would sit down on a Friday night to watch Casablanca. Yet, I can throw it on a screen at any of our venues and the place will pack out with die-hard cinephiles and snuggling lovebirds who probably – for the most part – didn’t discover the film until their late-20s or older. When I take a tally of who is seeing it for the first time, the hands shoot up proudly. Proud because they’re finally engaging with a classic that is very much a classic for a reason.
So – what are the new classics? We can look at the 1980s and pinpoint films like Dirty Dancing, Sixteen Candles, and Say Anything. We can look to the 90’s for Pretty Woman, Love Jones, Titanic, and The English Patient. But what now? Romances and romantic comedies have been a dying breed for a long time now, with a few limited exceptions. Recently, films like Crazy Rich Asians and the Fifty Shades franchises (forgiving how trashy they are) have been reinvigorating the box office for that particular genre, but we’re still not seeing anything close to what we experienced barely 20 years ago during the romantic ‘boom’ at the multiplex. Audiences change. Less romance. More explosions and superheroes – but we’ll throw in a kiss or two for extra measure.
Think back to when you were a kid. Or maybe a little older. Think about when you started discovering those sweeping romances that became part of your general rotation. Where were you when you first saw Leo spread open his arms and shout, “I’m the king of the world!” Where were you when you first saw Rhett pull Scarlett in close and say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Maybe you were at home watching it on your TV. Maybe you were at the local theatre watching it on a big screen. I am making an educated guess that you were not on a rooftop.
We’re celebrating all of it at RCC. Every type of romance imaginable. Conventional ones. Unconventional ones. Classics. Cult classics. As much Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Ryan Gosling, and Audrey Hepburn as we can put on the screen. We want to introduce a whole new generation of movie-goers to the films they might have missed when they were in high school, the films they’ll look back on in 20-years and remember fondly. I want some 22-year-old college kid to stumble onto the Rooftop and see Say Anything for the first time and immediately go to his girlfriend’s house and blast his boombox outside her window. That is success. (That said, if a noise complaint is filed, we at Rooftop Cinema Club only condone love…not boomboxes.)
Happy Rooftopping, love birds!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Programmer