Monday, April 20, 2015

The Top 100: Sleepless in Seattle

I'm settling in to rewatch Sleepless in Seattle right now. This was a favorite of my mother's growing up, and one of the rom-coms my dad liked as well, and given my mom's tendency to watch her favorite movies over and over and over again, I saw this one a lot. I watched it only once or twice as an adult and remember liking it, but today we get to see whether my love for it is real or brought on by some sort of movie Stockholm syndrome.

For anyone who isn't familiar with this movie, it's a 1993 romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks as a man whose wife died about a year and a half ago. His eight-year-old son calls into a radio advice show saying his dad is sad and needs a new wife, even getting his father to talk about it on-air for a while. Meanwhile, Meg Ryan, who lives on the other side of the country, hears this on the radio and finds herself strangely drawn toward this man, despite the fact that she's never met him and is engaged to someone else. And like all rom coms, it's about the two of them getting together.

I'll be live-blogging any thoughts on the movie here, and then at the end I'll address it as a whole.

  • I forgot how dark this opening is. It's so sad for a cheery movie
  • This soundtrack is awesome. Do I own it? If not, I should.
  • Oh, hey, Marc Shaiman did music for this!
  • Tom Hanks is way better than Meg Ryan so far. His performance in this is really lovely.
  • Seriously, this soundtrack is the best.
  • I always kinda feel bad for Walter in this movie.
  • The New Year's scene where he talks to his wife is beautiful and sad.
  • What? I forgot she checks him out with a private investigator. That's super stalkery. I like her much less than I remembered.
  • I feel bad for Tom Hanks too. His kid is trying to write his life for him.
  • It makes a difference to me that Hanks sees Ryan and is drawn to her without knowing who she is. Makes the destiny aspect actually work instead of just being stalkers everywhere.
  • "Is this crazy?" "No. That's the weirdest part about it." Rosie O'Donnell is incorrect.
  • Oh, that's the fun that the music there is the theme from "An Affair to Remember." That's a nice touch. I tell ya, this soundtrack is great.
  • Jonah's expression as his aunt or whoever is talking about An Affair to Remember is hilarious.
  • Were people really into An Affair to Remember in the 90s? Before this movie, I mean? EVERY girl has seen it.
  • Hanks finding his son is great. That torrent of panicked release is really gorgeous. Again, he's the best part of this movie.
  • I suppose she could have just waited by the down elevator, but then they wouldn't get their romantic moment on top.
  • As the two of them leave and keep staring at each other as if they can't quite believe it... that's a really nice moment.

Overall, I do think this is a bit high on my chart. It's a nice rom com, but it's no Love Actually in terms of warm fuzzies. I think a lot of my issues have to do with Meg Ryan, who I just don't find as charming as I'm supposed to. Annie seems flighty more than anything, and I don't sense that this relationship means something to her the way it does to Sam. Now granted, the stakes are higher for him -- he's learning to love again or whatever -- but he also brings a level of sincerity to the role that she just doesn't manage to grab onto.

There's still a lot to like about it. The dialogue is funny and snappy. There are a lot of great side characters. As I gushed in my live blog, the soundtrack is wonderful. One of my very favorites. And Hanks himself is really amazing in this movie. It's a light, fluffy movie, and he could have just phoned it in, but he does a great job creating this character who's just trying to figure out his life after losing the person he loves most.

As I noted above, the movie also does a good job of establishing that fate, rather than stalking, really is driving these characters. The two run into each other a couple times about halfway through the movie (Annie knows who Sam is, but he doesn't know who she is) and there are two great moments where Sam finds himself really drawn to her for no reason. That sounds like a small thing, but that helps to cement the story firmly as a story of destiny, and it makes Annie's actions much more sympathetic than they would be in a story that was more realistic.

So while it's good, it's not as good as I remembered it being. It is almost certainly not #83-level quality. Let's rerank it on my Flickchart and see where it ends up.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Two for the Money (2005) - An easy win for Sleepless here. It's charming and delightful and memorable, while Two for the Money faded quickly from my memory.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Eat Pray Love (2010) - This is a closer comparison, but Sleepless still gets the win here. While Eat Pray Love connected with me in a way I didn't expect, it's not as delightful throughout, and it doesn't have nearly as likable a male lead.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. American Splendor (2003) - I do need to rewatch American Splendor some day, because I remember liking it but can't recall anything that will clue me in as to how much I liked it. For now, we'll give Sleepless the benefit of the doubt and let it win.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) - My second favorite Indy movie is pretty delightful, and its two leads combined are more likable than Sleepless' two leads combined. I think this is the first one Sleepless is going to lose.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Jurassic Park (1993) - This is a really difficult ranking for me, because they're such different movies and I love such different things about them. Jurassic has some long slow scenes at the beginning, though, so I'm going to give this one to Sleepless for being pretty consistently entertaining.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - My favorite Studio Ghibli is a wonderful blend of fantasy and realism, and it gets to me on an emotional level Sleepless doesn't quite reach. Totoro takes the win here and knocks Sleepless down a peg or two.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. The Rocketeer (1991) - Oh, man. Another tough choice, as these are two movies I loved in childhood. I remember The Rocketeer being pretty scattered, though, so we'll let Sleepless take this round.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Shaun of the Dead (2004) - Shaun of the Dead is too high on my Flickchart. I like it, but Sleepless easily wins. Now if it was World's End, this could be another story.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Shadowlands (1993) - Shadowlands is also slightly too high, and it's one of those movies that I think I like better after having seen it than while watching it. Sleepless is fun throughout, so it's going to win this round.

Sleepless in Seattle vs. Spirited Away (2001) - Spirited Away is right below Totoro on my list, but it leaves me colder and must draw more on the creativity of the world to connect with me. It does a pretty good job, but Sleepless in Seattle still wins.

Sleepless in Seattle's new, definitive ranking is at #184, which is much closer to where it probably belongs.

My random number generator has determined that the next top 100 movie I'm going to rewatch is... my #1, Casablanca. I'll be watching and writing about that no earlier than May 4, so if you want to watch that along with me, you have at least until then!

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