Thursday, March 8, 2018

24 Hours of Movies: First Love

by Patrick Bromley
You never forget your first.

For the last few years, I've been writing these 24 Hours of Movies every week during the month of March. This is because my birthday is in March and the way I like to celebrate is by programming movie marathons. Well, it's March now, so here's our first marathon for the month! And it's about first love! It was an easy one to write because my first love is THE CINEMA and also Nancy McKeon from Facts of Life. This theme was suggested by our own Stephanie Crawford, who always has cool taste. Thank you, Stephanie!

10 am Lucas (1986, dir. David Seltzer)
Let's kick it off with one of my very favorite movies about first love ever made. It's the story of a smart, nerdy boy named Lucas (Corey Haim in my favorite of his performances) who falls in love with new girl in town Kerri Green over a summer -- because who could blame him -- but then finds everything changes once school starts and she gets eyes for handsome, popular Charlie Sheen. What's so amazing about Lucas is that it is sensitive to everyone's feelings and presents no villains. Yes, people hurt each other, but they don't do it on purpose. Yes, Lucas is the hero of the film but he can behave terribly and immaturely and lash out because he's young and in pain. Bonus points for a young Winona Ryder as the real cool band geek that Lucas would be in love with if he knew better.

Noon - Summer With Monika (1953, dir. Ingmar Bergman)
I've never described myself as much of a "Bergman guy," mostly because I'm not a giant douche (not for liking Bergman, but for using that term for myself). But I'm also pretty sure that's because I've seen it filtered down through pretentious parody and Woody Allen than because I've been exposed to a lot of his work, and lately I've been on a real Bergman kick. I can only assume this means I'll be hanging myself in the basement any day now. In the meantime, I would love to check out this early Bergman romance that I know almost nothing about, except that it's out on Blu-ray from Criterion.

1:45 pm - Seven Minutes in Heaven (1985, dir. Linda Feferman)
Let's lighten the mood a little (because Bergman) with this lighter-than-light teen romance from the mid-'80s starring Jennifer Connelly, Maddie Corman (Zuzu Petals!) and Byron Thames as teenagers who play house together while Connelly's dad is away on business. Alan Boyce (of Permanent Record) plays Connelly's love interest and Billy Wirth (The Lost Boys) plays a baseball player on whom Corman develops a major crush. This is pretty disposable even as teen comedies go, but it's sweet and innocent and will have us humming Josie Aiello's "Dear You" for the rest of the afternoon.

3:15 pm - Her First Romance (1940, dir. Edward Dmytryk)
A musical comedy obscurity from Hollywood's Golden Age stars Edith Fellows as a teenage ugly duckling who has a triumphant night when an opera singer (Wilbur Evans) accompanies her to a school dance and performs a song with her. Romances get messy after that. I've never seen this one, but within the limited "first love" genre I want to try to mix things up and sometimes that means just changing up the period. Unfortunately, it appears to only be available on VHS, so tracking down a copy for this marathon is going to be a challenge.

4:30 pm - First Girl I Loved (2016, dir. Kerem Sanga)
Let's swing things back to a drama on the indie tip: Dylan Gelula plays a high school yearbook editor who falls in love with her school's star softball player (Brianna Hildebrand, most recently of Tragedy Girls), who may or may not love her back. There are story developments that move the plot away from being just about a same sex romance, which dulls the impact of the central relationship while opening up the story even more to be about the messiness and confusion of young love. Not everything in the movie works, but it's well-acted and well-intentioned and the contemporary indie trappings mean it represents a certain kind of "first love" story not included anywhere else in the marathon.

6 pm - Grosse Point Blank (1997, dir. George Armitage)
Time to get a little more commercial. I have loved this John Cusack hitman comedy since I saw it multiple times in theaters back in 1997 and I still love it today. I know there are some who might accuse the movie of creeping Tarantinoism, but I would argue it owes much more to the '80s work of Jonathan Demme (which shouldn't be a total surprise, as director George Armitage was a contemporary of Demme's back in their Corman days and Demme produced Armitage's great Miami Blues). Like our next movie, Grosse Point Blank is a movie about people (Cusack and Minnie Driver) still trapped in their first loves, unable to really move on and dealing with the fallout even in adulthood. This is the kind of film that comes by being cool honestly: the soundtrack is amazing, the characters are all smart, the tone expertly balances the comedy and the genuinely dangerous violence without tipping too far one way or the other. It's a crowd pleaser, assuming you're hanging with the right crowd.

8 pm - There's Something About Mary (1998, dir. Peter & Bobby Farrelly)
Still my favorite movie of 1998 (suck it, Private Ryan) and one of the best comedies to ever deal with the way that your first love can stick with you for your whole life. It's also one of the most important movies in my relationship with Erika, as it pretty much told our future. Ben Stiller was still in a likable phase, Cameron Diaz has never been more appealing, and the Farrellys are at peak form with a movie that's almost experimental in the way it's put together and the jokes it tells. This is a comedy that takes chances and manages to get away with some of the raunchiest stuff ever put into a mainstream studio movie because it's sweet and full of heart. It's a movie I needed back in 1998, when I wanted to believe that true love was possible and that things could work out if you were patient. Turns out I was right.

10:15 pm - Heavenly Creatures (1994, dir. Peter Jackson)
Let's get darker as the night goes on, beginning with one of Peter Jackson's best movies. Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey star in the based-on-a-true-story adaptation of two New Zealand teens who fall in love and plot to murder their families so they can be together. I love the insanity of Jackson's early work, but Heavenly Creatures is where his career comes into focus in terms of taking on the Lord of the Rings series. It's in the way he blends fantasy and reality, in the way that he incorporates seamless visual effects, in the depth and maturity of the story and the character work, which had previously never been a focus of his more gag-driven (literally) films. This is a great, great movie about how young people feel everything much more intensely and how those feelings can lead them to be confused and misguided and do terrible things.

Midnight - Let the Right One In (2008, dir. Thomas Alfredson)
There's probably no better horror movie about first love than this one, which reframes the traditional vampire tale as a coming of age story about a young sociopath who finds his match in a vampire. Like Heavenly Creatures, Let the Right One In examines how children can use their young love as a way of justifying heinous acts either because they don't know any better or because their youthful solipsism rationalizes that they should have what they want regardless of the consequences.

2 am - Beyond the Darkness (1979, dir. Joe D'Amato)
This was a hard theme in which to squeeze some Italian insanity in its usual time slot, so I'm stretching things a bit to include Joe D'Amato's Beyond the Darkness (Buio Omega). It stars Kieran Canter as a man so consumed with grief after the death of his love (Cinzia Monreale) that he digs her up, stuffs her into human taxidermy and keeps her in his bed even as he brings home new lovers. This is Italian horror at its most gnarly and sleazy. The violence is incredibly disturbing and D'Amato puts things on screen that shouldn't be seen. I should probably schedule in time for a shower after this one.

3:45 am - The Loved Ones (2009, dir. Sean Byrne)
This nasty little Australian horror film explores first love by way of obsession, following a young woman (Robin McLeavy) who kidnaps the boy she likes (Xavier Samuel) on prom night and tortures him. There are several more developments that speak to the marathon theme, but I won't spoil them. Better we see for ourselves at 4 a.m.

5:15 am - First Love (1977, dir. Joan Darling)
Nothing like a splash of cold water as we come back to our senses with the arrival of morning. Though it has all the formalism of a made-for-TV movie (probably exacerbated by its TV star cast, William Katt and Susan Dey), Joan Darling's First Love is clearly the product of Love Story's success but more more willing to be frank about sex and about the ways that young lovers can hurt one another. John Heard and Beverly D'Angelo are very good in supporting roles. It might be a little bit of a downer first thing in the morning, but this is a good movie that doesn't get talked about enough. It's another title that I don't think ever made it to DVD, which is a real shame.

7 am - Badlands (1973, dir. Terrence Malick)
From dark to darker! Terrence Malick's debut feature, another film (like Heavenly Creatures) based on the true story of two young people whose first love turned to murder, is spare and haunting and insanely beautiful (because Terrence Malick) and super ripped off in the making of True Romance, from the story to the score by George Tipton to the voiceover by Sissy Spacek. I don't know that I'd call it Malick's best movie, but I do think it's his most accessible even to people who might not normally dig on his work. I think it's perfect for this spot, when we're sleepy but needing the sort of kick in the ass that brilliant filmmaking provides.

8:45 am - Super 8 (2011, dir. J.J. Abrams)
I know I joked at the top of this piece about my first love being film, but I'm not even sure it was a joke. I certainly remember loving movies before my young boy body ever became aware of girls. That's just one of many things I love about Super 8, a giant monster movie in which the giant monster is probably the least interesting and successful thing about it. I love that the boys (in particular Charles, played by Riley Griffiths) love movies before Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) ever enters the picture and throws their world into upheaval. The love story that develops between Alice and Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is my favorite aspect of Super 8, but the film is also very good at addressing grief  in the recent loss of Joe's mom. After all, who is a boy's first love but his mother? I like all the ways that Super 8 comes at the theme of our marathon, even though programming it last means wrapping up 24 hours sobbing uncontrollably.

If you have a suggestion for a 24-hour marathon theme, please hit me up in the comments below!


  1. Nice line-up.
    Never thought to see "beyond the darkness" in a first love line-up :-). but it makes sick sense. in a love conquers everything as long as you are good preserved sense...

    Never saw any of the afternoon movies. will put them on my watch list.

  2. Always enjoy these columns! As for a suggestion for another one, I was inspired by something you said above so..."24 Hours of Movies: Movies I Saw Exactly When I Needed Them Most."

  3. If you are expecting one of Bergman's dark intellectual journeys, Summer With Monika will be a surprise. It is a very down-to-earth drama about youths trying to escape the responsibilities of life. This is one of Bergman's most accessible films.

    This is his centennial year.

  4. A marathon of 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1993 movies that didn't make the cut for F This Movie Fest?

  5. Patrick - I assume you've seen "Hour of the Wolf"? That's my favorite Bergman film followed closely by "Persona".