Brock University professors name Top 5 romantic movies and songs

What better way to spend Valentine’s Day weekend than binge-watching love stories and listening to love songs? Just in time for the most romantic day of the year, a pair of professors from the Department of Communication, Pop Culture and Film at Brock University have come up with lists of their top love-themed songs and movies.

Top 5 Movies – as selected by Scott Henderson, Associate Professor

“This was tough. It could be argued for film that almost all movies are ‘romantic’ in some way as most end with the formation of a couple. Even something like Die Hard could be considered as a romance film as John McClane is doing his best to reconnect with his wife and family,” says Henderson. “I decided to go for films that represent pinnacles, or key shifts in the romance genre, so that each works as great romance, but also as significant moments in film history. I shied away from the mainstream, especially the romcom heyday of the late 1990s and early 2000s.”

    1. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000): “The film took the staples of the romcom and turned them on their head by focusing on the overly self-absorbed, elitist Rob, played by John Cusack. It’s a great examination of two great loves for many boomer-aged men: their record collection and their romantic partnerships. High Fidelity explores break-ups and male anxieties and doubts where the romcom had tended to focus on couplings and women.”
  1. Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940): “Before the romcom boom of the 1990s, it was the screwball comedies of remarriage in the 1930s that heralded the first romantic comedy explosion in cinema. I like Bringing Up Baby better for its sharp wit and frenetic action, but Philadelphia Story is more often the favourite of romantics everywhere. Both films star Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, and both rely on screwball antics and miscommunication before true love prevails.”
  1. Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945): “Can a film about adultery, real or imagined, still be considered ‘romantic’? This British film certainly can. As the end of WW2 arrived, the social and sexual freedoms enjoyed by many women were erased as they returned to suburban lives. Noel Coward’s screenplay sees Celia Johnson’s Laura act on passion as she meets a handsome stranger in a railway station. Focused on love nearly realized and passion that might have been, the film raises key questions surrounding romance, domesticity, happiness and pleasure. It reminds viewers of what love is, and what love can be.”
  1. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960): “A film that heralded changes in Hollywood as it began to meet the challenges of independent cinema and began to turn to edgier subject matter, The Apartment turns from comedy to tragedy and into romance as Jack Lemmon’s insurance agent character rescues Shirley Maclaine’s Fran from a terrible affair, and an attempted suicide (hardly the stuff of romantic comedies).”
  1. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995): “The first in a trilogy, this story of youthful love and desire finds Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy spending a wistful and philosophical night walking around Vienna. While we now know the outcome via the trilogy, which has captured the relationship at various stages of their lives, the uncertainty we are left with at the end of Before Sunrise made the film a real romance for the ages.”

Top 5 Songs – as selected by Nicolas Baxter-Moore, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences

“If we’re talking about popular hits, the Top 5 Valentine’s Day songs, or love songs in general, would probably include some staples such as Endless Love, We Found Love, I Will Always Love You, Hero, Truly Madly Deeply, Lovesong, The Power of Love, or one of the many versions of My Funny Valentine,” says Baxter-Moore.

“All of these belong on any long list of greatest love songs, but I wanted to go beyond the obvious for this list. These are all grown-up love songs that take us beyond the first blush of youthful romance to the labour of nurturing and sustaining a relationship amid the routines and trials of everyday life. In some cases, they express the surprise and the delight of searching for love and finally finding someone that’s right for you.”

      1. Valentine’s Day (Steve Earle, 1996): “Steve Earle is a great, if often overlooked, American songwriter. His compositions include numerous great love songs, but none carries the power of this song from his sixth album, I Feel Alright. This track may be overproduced by Earle’s usually sparse standards, but his world-weary voice, subtly backed by gospel artists and his own stylized flatpicked guitar captures the desperation of a serial messup to prove his devotion and his worth to the woman he loves. Although once again, he has screwed up.”
      1. At Last (Etta James, 1960): “The song dates back to 1941 and has been widely covered by everyone from Beyonce to Celine Dion. But the Etta James version of this song about finally finding the love you’ve been seeking, is the definitive one.”
      1. Thank You (Led Zeppelin, 1969): “The first Led Zeppelin song for which Robert Plant wrote all the lyrics, the interplay between organ, played by John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar give the song an almost religious fervour as Plant’s distinctive vocals sing the praises of his then wife Maureen. It was a love that would prevail against all the odds. Okay, they divorced three kids and 14 years later, but it’s still a great song.”
      1. If I Should Fall Behind (Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, 2000): “Springsteen wrote the song in 1989 for new wife Patti Scialfa and released it on his album, Lucky Town, 1992. In this live version of a song about love, uncertainty and recommitment, five E Street mainstays (Springsteen, Scialfa, guitarists Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren and the late Clarence Clemons) take turns sharing vocals, culminating in as good an example of (mostly) white gospel as you will likely find anywhere.”
      1. Why do love songs have to be slow ballads? Can’t they be fun? No. 5 on the list is a three-way tie:

5a. (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You (UB40, 1993): “This version of a song about the helplessness of falling in love, that was originally recorded in 1961 under a slightly different title (Can’t Help Falling in Love) by Elvis Presley, is a great example of what was once known as the “Two Tone” aesthetic in Britain—black and white musicians coming together to play music that reflected black and white origins.”

5b. River Deep, Mountain High (Ike and Tina Turner, 1966): “Actually, only Tina features on this recording. The abusive Ike was paid by producer Phil Spector to stay away from the studio. It’s a classic example of the Phil Spector “wall of sound,” everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, production aesthetic supporting Turner’s powerful vocals. The lyrics speak to a near-obsessive level of romance, but in this case, it’s the music that counts.”

5c. Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney, 1970): “A hymn of praise to his wife Linda for her role in seeing him through the break-up of the Beatles, this song is all McCartney. Like the rest of the album it appeared on, he wrote the song, played all the instruments and sang all the vocals. The album, many songs seemingly unfinished, is a mess, but this is one man’s unassisted declaration of the sheer astonishment that he has found his life partner and that ‘she loves you.’”

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