Tag Archives: Natalie Portman

Top Ten: Movie Couples

It’s that time of year. Well, that day of the year. Cupid is abroad in the land, drawing back his bow and forcing men everywhere to do the things they really should be doing all year round, without his chubby help.

No doubt, part of the Valentine’s rituals across the world will be the sitting down to watch a romantic movie together. With that in mind, here is a list of my ten favourite movie couples. Be warned, though, I like movie couples who are a little bit different so you won’t find the likes of Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman or Casablanca here. So, if you’re getting tired of yearly re-runs of Love, Actually, why not give one of these a go instead.

And, please, let me know who your favourite movie couples are.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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10. WALL-E and EVE

WALL-E – 2008

Who would have thought a relationship between two robots who barely have any lines could be so moving? Pixar did, and they were right. Alone on a desolate Earth, waste disposal robot WALL-E falls head over wheels for shiny, sleek and sophisticated EVE when she arrives on a scouting mission. She’s not sure at first. WALL-E is a bit low-brow, and conversation is not his strong suit, but she is soon won over by his complete devotion to her. Not a dry eye in the house.

EVE: Name?
WALL-E: WALL-E.
EVE: WALL-E? EVE.
WALL-E: Eeeee… aah.
EVE: “EVE”! “EVE”!

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9. Mr. Stevens and Miss Kenton

The Remains of the Day – 1993

James Ivory’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel revolves around the lives of the backroom staff at the home of Darlington Hall, England, during the build-up to World War II. Head butler Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) is absolutely dedicated to his work and his master, Lord Darlington, to the exclusion of all else. The arrival of a bright and headstrong new housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) stirs feelings in Mr. Stevens which are at complete odds with his rigid and professional demeanour. The unexpressed and unrealised relationship between them is utterly heartbreaking, propelled by career-best performances from both Hopkins and Thompson.

Mr. Stevens: Do you know what I am doing, Miss Kenton? I am placing my mind elsewhere while you chatter away.

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8. Alvy Singer and Annie Hall

Annie Hall – 1977

Woody Allen’s semi-autobiographical Annie Hall is almost a love letter to ex-girlfriend Diane Keaton (she was born Diane Hall and her nickname was Annie) which tries to explore just why relationships don’t always work out. Comedian Alvy and Singer Annie make an adorable couple, even if the cracks are there from the very beginning. Both are neurotic, both exist on the fringes of ‘normality’. They seem ideally suited to each other, but the things that make them ideal are the things that make the relationship doomed from the outset.

Annie Hall: So you wanna go into the movie or what?
Alvy Singer: No, I can’t go into a movie that’s already started, because I’m anal.
Annie Hall: That’s a polite word for what you are.

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7. Charlotte and Bob

Lost in Translation – 2003

Aging movie star Bob (Bill Murray) is stuck in Tokyo to film an advert for whiskey, but grateful to be away from his marriage and life. Young graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is stuck there with her new husband, a photographer who is more interested in his work than his wife. When they meet at a hotel bar Bob and Charlotte connect through their combined alienation and detachment from their own lives. Sofia Coppola’s movie, filmed on the fly in Tokyo, creates a touching, heartbreaking relationship between the two most unlikely partners. Murray and Johansson have a palpable chemistry, despite the age difference, leaving you wishing for the impossible, just as they are.

Bob: I don’t want to leave.
Charlotte: So don’t. Stay here with me. We’ll start a jazz band.

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6. Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – 2004

Withdrawn and insecure Joel (Jim Carrey) strikes up an unlikely relationship with the emotionally unpredictable Clementine (Kate Winslet), both of them little realising that they are in fact former lovers who both went to Lacuna Inc. to have their memories of each other erased. Their relationship is revisited in Joel’s mind during the erasure, as he and Clementine struggle to hold on to each other. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a touching reminder that even the most volatile and self-destructive relationships can have something worth saving.

Clementine: This is it, Joel. It’s going to be gone soon.
Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.

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5. Guy and Girl

Once – 2006

These two didn’t even get names but still manage to pull your heart-strings as effectively as the struggling Dublin musician twangs those on his guitar. When he meets a Czech woman, and fellow musician, they begin to collaborate on some songs together, while a romantic attraction begins to flourish. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, both real-life musicians, wrote all the songs for the movie together and subsequently became a couple during the promotional tour for the movie. Awww.

Girl: How come you don’t play during daytime? I see you here everyday.
Guy: During the daytime people would want to hear songs that they know. I play these songs at night or people wouldn’t listen.
Girl: I listen.

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4. John Book and Rachel Lapp

Witness – 1985

Philadelphia cop John Book (Harrison Ford) meets Amish woman Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis) after her son witnesses a brutal murder. Although they are virtually from different worlds the spark between them is there from the beginning, and when Book is forced to hide among the Amish community the attraction is given ample time to smoulder. If you saw these two characters individually you wouldn’t think for a minute that they would work so well together, but they are one of cinema’s most electric pairings, enhanced in no small part by the great chemistry between Ford and McGillis.

Rachel Lapp: Are you enjoying your reading?
John Book: Oh, yeah. I’m learning a lot about manure. Very interesting.

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3. Andrew and Sam

Garden State – 2004

Zach Braff wrote, directed and starred in this little gem of a movie, garnering much praise in the process. Andrew, a disillusioned actor suffering severe depression returns to his home town for the funeral of his mother. He meets pathological liar Sam (Natalie Portman) and they begin a tentative relationship over the funeral of Sam’s recently deceased hamster. It is impossible not to root for this couple, so cute are they. Portman is at her most kooky and Braff is all that’s likeable in a lost soul.

Sam: Are you really retarded?
Andrew: No.
Sam: Ooh, great job man! I really thought you were retarded. If there was a retarded Oscar you would win, hands down, kick his ass!

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2. Macon Leary and Muriel Pritchett

The Accidental Tourist – 1988

Ever since the murder of his son, travel writer Macon Leary (William Hurt) has emotionally withdrawn from the world around him, including his wife and family. When she leaves him and files for divorce Macon meets the eccentric dog trainer Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis), and so begins Macon’s journey back to himself. Featuring an inspired, Oscar-winning, turn from Davis as the unconventional Muriel, whose big heart eventually breaks through Macon’s tough shell, The Accidental Tourist is not about finding the right person, but finding the person who brings out the right you. We all need our Muriel Pritchett.

Muriel: You ever go to movies?
Macon: I really don’t care for movies. They make everything seem so close-up.

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1. Parry and Lydia

The Fisher King – 1991

Terry Gilliam’s New York fable contains a love story so quirky, between two characters who are so clearly made for each other, that if your heart doesn’t drown in its own mush there is something very wrong with you. Homeless Parry (Robin Williams), his mind fragmented by a terrible tragedy, and clueless Lydia (Amanda Plummer), withdrawn and lost in New York’s noise, are brought together by both fate and the actions of a man seeking redemption. Williams and Plummer are adorable together.

Parry: I’m not coming up to your apartment. That was never my intention.
Lydia: You don’t want to.
Parry: Oh, no, I want to. I have a hard-on for you the size of Florida. But I don’t want just one night.

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Review: Black Swan

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassell, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Nina Sayers is a young ballet dancer with a New York troupe. Nina is totally dedicated to her craft, to the exclusion of all else. Reserved, naive and driven, Nina’s pursuit of perfection is stretched to breaking point when she wins the lead in Swan Lake. Called on to portray both the white swan, for which she is perfectly suited, and the black swan, which requires her to tap into the passions she works so hard to control, Nina begins to descend into paranoia and madness.

Black Swan is the movie that everyone is talking about, it seems. It’s already being mentioned in the same breath as Oscar, and it’s easy to see why. With his previous movie, The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky dealt with the struggles of a man who had made it to the top and fallen. This time around his focus turns to a woman struggling to make it to that top. Each film deals with success, viewed from different ends of the journey. However, Black Swan is the far darker journey of the two.

Those with no interest in ballet may be put off by the movie’s setting, but the truth is Black Swan is no more about ballet than Psycho was about hotels. Nina’s desperate struggle to be the best, and to win the approval of those around her is as universal a theme as any, and although we are given a solid lesson in the ruthlessness and competitiveness of the ballet world, Black Swan is more concerned in following Nina’s descent into hell. This it does, and it doesn’t pull punches along the way. Layered, sometimes disturbing and always engaging, Black Swan is an enthralling portrayal of a disintegrating psyche.

Central to the film’s success, of course, is the performance of Natalie Portman as Nina. For an hour and forty minutes the camera never leaves her side and Portman is absolutely fantastic. Her portrayal of the increasingly fractured Nina is flawless, never hitting an off-note, never anything less than utterly convincing. Just as the story of Nina mirrors the famous ballet she is performing, so the dedication to her craft of Portman mirrors that of her character. It’s the perfect fusion of actor and role and if, by the end, you are not completely invested in Nina’s fate then you should probably check your pulse.

Behind you!

Revolving around Portman are an equally accomplished troupe. Vincent Cassell tones down his usual mania as Nina’s passionate director, Barbara Hershey is subtle and sometimes chilling as her overbearing mother, and Mila Kunis is excellent as the far more unrestrained Lily, yang to Nina’s yin and focus of Nina’s paranoia. And holding it all together is the assured work of Aronofsky, who never allows his direction to become showy, distracting or intrusive, despite the constant scrutiny of Portman’s increasingly tortured face.

One of the best psychological thrillers for a long while, with moments both horrific and moving, Black Swan is well worth your time. The Oscars are now only two months away and if Natalie Portman doesn’t walk away with the Best Actress statuette it will be very hard for the Academy to justify.

Rating - 5 Stars

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