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Top 25: Discussion of Nominations for 2013

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Top 25 Films on Marriage.

Please keep nominations and seconds only in the nominations thread. All discussion of nominated films should be posted here.

*Note: Currently, there are no hard-and-fast rules about eligibility based on content - it’s up to YOU to advocate for what you believe fits this category. We believe the community of voters will make a wise decision about it when the times comes. That said, please think carefully about whether the film is really about marriage and whether it’s a film what should rightfully have a place on our “Arts & Faith” list as opposed to a purely generic “top films” list that you could find on a merely popular movie website.

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Here’s why I believe my first five film nominations belong on the next Top 25 list.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) - This film is rightfully on our Top 100 list, and I’d argue it belongs on such a Top 25 list as well. Many films have tried, but few have ever gotten even close to nailing the resistance to temptation, love and forgiveness necessary for even the strongest of marriages.

A Woman Under the Influence (1974) - I remain convinced that the relationship between Nick and Mabel remains one of the most powerful marriage relationships to appear on the cinematic screen. Like most films on marriage, this one involves a marriage with a very serious flaw. But with outstanding directing, acting and screenplay, Cassavetes’ film explores how one spouse may try desperately to please the other and how much failure should really matter.

Breaking the Waves (1996) - The story of Bess and Jan is a story that has forever shaped how I will view marriage. It’s a film that explores what it means for a married couple to be separated, physically, psychologically, and sexually. It involves a marriage that is strong and then is strained to the breaking point. It explores the sort of sheer faith and commitment that, even if not always applied correctly, a married relationship may demand in order to survive. And, it’s a film that I believe should induce any married couple to resolve a few things about their relationship.

Certified Copy (2010) - This entire film is, really, a conversation between a man and a woman about what a committed marriage entails, what is fake and what is real in such a relationship, and how both husband and wife are easily able to utterly fail each other. By the time of that last subtle shot at the end, you decide that there are commitments that desperately need to be made.

Another Year (2010) - This film includes my favorite on screen marriage that I’ve seen in years. This is the sort of marriage that I want someday. It is because of Tom and Gerri’s relationship with each other, and the home & family that their marriage has created, that they are able to be a rock and a refuge to everyone else in their lives.

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When I saw that "marriage" seemed the most likely topic to get nominated, I immediately thought of Fargo. Perhaps not the first film most folks would think of, not a film where marriage would be in the forefront of peoples thoughts when asked what it is about, but a film in which two marriages play central roles to a darker story. The Lundergaard's (Jerry & Jean) marriage plays out as a marriage of convenience or ulterior motives - marrying the bosses daughter to get in good with the boss - hoping for financial gain - some modicum of respect and power -, and how that can tragically backfire when one partner has become trapped in a relationship that hasn't panned out in those directions. This is played against the marriage of the Gunderson's (Margie and Norm), whose relationship of love and mutual respect is on equal footing, each doing for the other in what may seem small ways - Marge picking up Norm some nightcrawlers - Norm fixing Marge eggs - Marge boosting Norm's confidence regarding his painting - all of which add up to deeply loving relationship.

Likewise, my other nomination, The Godfather: Part II, also has two marriages at the root of its story. Vito and Carmela Corleone's is about the struggles of immigrants making their way in a new country, doing what they have to to prosper. Vito's building of his underworld empire has as much to do with providing for his family as it does with building a strong reputation. Michael and Kay's marriage follow along the same lines as Michael's continued efforts to remain in control of his family's empire. Unfortunately, Michael has lost sight and control over as many aspects of his marriage as he has in his business.

Edited by John Drew

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I nominated WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?

There are other films I want (and will) nominate, but WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? is the one I feel most strongly about. If marriage can be a place of healing and resurrection, it can also be hell, dominated not by love and hope but by contempt and despair. The marriage at the center of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? is such a marriage. The film is a true Hollywood classic; if you haven't seen it already you probably should just to have it as a reference point. But it is a film wholly concerned with marriage itself and I can think of no films more essential for this list.

Edited by Ryan H.

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The Family Way (1966) is my third-favorite film of all time, and one of the reasons I have always loved it is because it starts off as a story about two young newlyweds and then, about two-thirds of the way through, the focus shifts to their parents, and to the groom's parents specifically, and we see how certain things about *their* marriage -- some of which have been kept secret from the offspring -- might be affecting their son's marriage. So it's sort of two marriage movies in one.

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Uh-oh. Jeremy already nominated Another Year? I just did that. I'll go in and delete.

As for Shame, like Anders, I expect other Bergman films to get the nod. Shame is about war, but I remember it as about a relationship between a husband and wife, with war as the subtext.

Edited by Christian

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I've nominated The Thin Man. It strikes me as a pretty much perfect marriage movie: you've got two central characters, very much in love, who engage each other on an equal level. They're not just incidentally married; they're partners. Nick and Nora spar off each other beautifully, of course, but they also complement each other--the socialite and the retired cop who manage to make their relationship not only work but flourish--and not in spite of, but because of the vast differences in their backgrounds. They have tremendous toleration for each other in a relationship that is not only unjealous but which positively precludes jealousy (see, for example, Nora's reaction to discovering Nick in what might be a compromising position w/Dorothy Wynant).

This theme is even more clear when the Charleses are contrasted with all the other couples in the film: The Wynants, the Jorgensons, Nunheim and his wife, Dorothy and her fiance.... This is very clearly a movie preoccupied with the idea of marriage, with broken marriages and dysfunctional marriages of all stripes, with Nick and Nora constituting the only happy couple in the bunch. And what makes them so successful? Perhaps that's the question the movie asks (I would propose--no pun intended--that it's precisely the quality of play that they bring to their union, as well as the implicit trust and love). So the film (in addition to be a cracker of a mystery and the best Christmas movie ever) isn't just a movie with a married couple--it's a movie whose central concern is the institution of marriage itself.

And, really, is there a more delightful on-screen married couple than Nick and Nora Charles? Are any as much fun to watch?

Edited by NBooth

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I suspect the two films I nominated are already well-known to most of you, since they're both on the Top 100, but here's a defense of why I think they belong on this list:

Tender Mercies: You might ask why I think this is a movie about marriage--it obviously features one, and discusses at least 4 others--Mac's 2 previous two, Rosa Lee's previous one, and Mac's daughter's one, but is that what it's about? Not solely, but yes essentially. It's been a while since I've seen it so I'm struggling to come up with all the specifics, but Rosa Lee is the rock of Mac's life, she's "holding the ladder" so he can get back up. This is (I think) many, many men's experience of marriage: A good wife's love helps them to believe that love is possible in other contexts too (especially parent/child and God/man).

Fiddler on the Roof: Not just about "marriage", but about arranged marriage, and in a movingly even-handed way! What more need I say.

Also, I would be interested in discussing what value we see in FACE/OFF-- not just for this list, but for any list that is meant to provoke discussion. FACE/OFF is a very stylish action movie, but is also shallow, in my opinion. When I recommend it to people (and I do! usually in the form of, "If you liked The Matrix, check this out"), I don't talk about its themes or meaning.

I expect I'll probably give it the lowest possible vote, unless somebody can convince me that I'm missing something important here.

Edited by David Smedberg

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As for Shame, like Anders, I expect other Bergman films to get the nod. Shame is about war, but I remember it as about a relationship between a husband and wife, with war as the subtext.

I'm going to have to check Shame out. Sounds as if it could have allusions to reasons why I chose my first two films. My first two nominations (Fargo, The Godfather: Part II) are films that are really about events other than the marriages in them, the marriages themselves are more integral to the characters than they are to the overall story, but seem to resonate more when I think back on these films. For me, I wanted to stay away from films like... well one that hasn't been nominated but probably will be at some point is Kramer vs. Kramer. Not that I'm down on those films, I just wanted to stay away from what seemed like obvious choices.

It's for many of these same reasons that I seconded Breaking Away. The main content of the film really has nothing to do with marriage, but the relationship between Paul Dooley and Barbara Barrie as Ray and Evelyn are some of the most memorable and delightful moments of this film.

Edited by John Drew

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Also, I would be interested in discussing what value we see in FACE/OFF-- not just for this list, but for any list that is meant to provoke discussion.

I can't tell you why Nick nominated it, but I can tell you why I seconded it.

I seconded it because it's an interesting nomination. A more interesting nomination than, say, ANOTHER YEAR or even WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, largely because the film in question isn't an obvious choice or a particularly "respectable" one. Nominating FACE/OFF for this list forces us to reconsider the film, to challenge our preconceptions about "blockbuster" cinema. When you look at it, FACE/OFF does have some interesting aspects regarding marriage. Embedded in its narrative are fears about marriage and the identity of a spouse. Whether that illustration is compelling enough to consider it worthy of the list is for you and others to decide, but I at least found the prospect of mulling over its merits in this area interesting enough to put FACE/OFF into the pool of films we're picking from.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Also, I would be interested in discussing what value we see in FACE/OFF-- not just for this list, but for any list that is meant to provoke discussion.

I can't tell you why Nick nominated it, but I can tell you why I seconded it.

I seconded it because it's an interesting nomination. A more interesting nomination than, say, ANOTHER YEAR or even WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, largely because the film in question isn't nearly as "respectable." But the very fact of nominating FACE/OFF for this list forces us to reconsider the film, to challenge our preconceptions about "blockbuster" cinema. When you look at it, FACE/OFF does have some interesting aspects re: marriage; embedded in its narrative are essential fears about marriage and the identity of a spouse. Whether that illustration l is compelling enough for our group is for you and others to decide, but I at least found the prospect of mulling over its merits in this area interesting enough to put FACE/OFF into the pool of films we're picking from.

I love the fact that FACE/OFF got a nomination. I saw it not too long ago, and was surprised at just how much I had forgotten about the whole Travolta/Allen vs. Cage as Travolta/Allen vs. Travolta as Cage/Allen dynamics really gave this film a bit more depth than one might suspect.

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edit: Jeremy, can a rule be added about "seconding". Just wondering if we could keep "seconded" posts separated from nominations, rather than seconding a film and adding nominations in the same post. It might make it easier for you to tabulate seconded films, without having to sift too much through posts.

I wouldn't mind such a rule, but as it's usually a struggle to get the current rules followed, I don't know how I'd enforce that one. After a couple days, I'll add a running list of nominated & seconded films. I'll be able to keep track.

Title: Face/Off

Director: John Woo

How is this a film about marriage?

My first two nominations (Fargo, The Godfather: Part II) are films that are really about events other than the marriages in them, the marriages themselves are more integral to the characters than they are to the overall story ...

Right. I love both films, but I think there is a distinction between making a Top 25 list of films on or about marriage and a Top 25 list of films merely with our favorite on screen marriages in them.

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Title: Face/Off

Director: John Woo

How is this a film about marriage?

See above. :)

FWIW, FACE/OFF inspired me to nominate RAISING CAIN, which explores similar territory but is more "marriage-focused" than FACE/OFF (and is a better movie than FACE/OFF, to boot).

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Title: Face/Off

Director: John Woo

How is this a film about marriage?

See above.

Yeah, I did. I agree with you that it's an interesting nomination, that it's not a "respectable" nomination, that one man taking on the face of another man does have fearful implications for a marriage, but I'm afraid I'm still clueless as to how it's a film about marriage. I don't dislike the film. I'm not even against including action movies on the list. (Although the most obvious choice that comes to mind of an action movie about a marriage is True Romance, which I'm not convinced has enough depth to make a Top 25 here.) But while films like Die Hard and Die Hard 2 have some nice marital things embedded in the narrative, so to speak, I'd feel disingenuous trying to argue that they were about marriage.

If we allow for films with merely marriages in them that are really about something else, then almost any good film could be nominated and we'd be going against the intent of the theme. Every theme has to have some limits.

Note: In all the discussions here, this is just my personal opinion (which does not have any more weight merely because I've been organizing the process).

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I felt my membership was too new and fragile to vote in the first round, but I would have chosen 'Recovery'.

I nominated Tender Mercies because I was delinquent about reading the entire thread (and convinced no one else would pick the same films I did).

I nominated Talk to Her, because I love that movie, find its reprieve from peversion so remarkable, and because it's so eloquent about the psychology of love and violation, consummation and aloneness - the things that marriage itself is about. I don't expect it to pass muster though!

I chose Rear Window because when I began to think of it as expressly about marriage it unfurled, thematically and dramatically, in ways it hadn't before: the bridegroom with cold feet looking into the mystery of a failed marriage, the shot in which Grace Kelly's character slips the wedding ring on her finger, the domestic architecture of courtyard and apartment blocks - things just got richer.

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FWIW, I'm going with M. Leary's directive regarding the nominations here: "Nominated films would have to feature a marriage as a significant plot point and/or a thematic or formal space in which action unfolds."

If we're going by that, FACE/OFF more than counts.

But, as I said, I think RAISING CAIN is a better nomination. RAISING CAIN explores similar territory to FACE/OFF regarding marriage, is more decidedly focused on marriage than FACE/OFF is, and is altogether a more accomplished bit of cinema, so I'm not going to push FACE/OFF too much more.

Edited by Ryan H.

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I don't feel nearly as strongly about any of these as I do about The Thin Man, but I thought it would be interesting to throw them out there anyway:

Title: The Mirror Crack'd

Campy, campy, campy. And heartbreaking. At the same time. Truthfully, it's much less "about" marriage than it is about the price of fame, loss, etc--but the marriage at its core is wonderfully realized and proves to be central in the resolution of the plot. Rock Hudson's performance is, I think, very good as a husband who tries to protect his wife from her own fragility--and fails utterly.

Title: Ten Days Wonder

Again, this one might be tangential--it's much less about marriage than fidelity, etc etc etc. But the central ambiguity is this: what sort of marriage can the Welles character possibly have with the Jobert character...especially since he essentially raised and then married her? It's an uncomfortable dynamic that sends the whole plot into motion.

Title: Baby Doll

Now, this one is about marriage--and sex---and the ways in which the two of them might or might not go together. Archie (Karl Malden) has been married to Baby-doll (Carroll Baker) for a year without consummating their relationship (for reasons too obscure to me right now to detail). So he's frustrated; she's frustrated, too. And when Eli Wallach's character shows up, he gets frustrated as well. [Honestly, it's been a while since I've seen this one, but I'm throwing it out there anyway].

Title: The Addams Family

Gomez and Morticia. That's all I've got here, really; the movie is as much about brotherhood as it is about marriage, but (as with Nick and Nora Charles) Gomez and Morticia are a pretty great couple, and their relationship (again) serves as a foil to all the frustrated couples/individuals around them.

Title: The Man who Knew Too Much

Not the original, which was much more in the vein of the then-popular Bulldog Drummond series, but the remake--which, underwhelming as some viewers find it, does put marriage front-and-center (the Mckennas are not a very happy couple--more like a placidly content couple--but the events of the film force them closer together. In the end--like Roger Thornhill in North by Northwest--they find that they're more alive than ever).

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Alright, now I've nominated a few more beside WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? and RAISING CAIN.

THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH and UNFAITHFULLY YOURS are both terrific, classic comedies that have a great sense for the masculine mindset in marriage as we understand it today. In the former, a man is tempted to infidelity when his wife's away and makes an ass out of himself, in the latter, a man suspects his wife to be guilty of adultery and makes an ass out of himself. They're hilarious, full of heart, and I'd love to see one of them make the list.

EYES WIDE SHUT got some chatter in our "best of the 1990's" thread. There should be no question of its appropriateness; it's as expressly about marriage as any film I can think of. Whether we end up voting in its favor will largely depend on our feelings about its artistic merits, which are hotly debated even now.

Edited by Ryan H.

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I have to admit I wasn't a fan of the idea of this list, but the films already listed here are incredible. This might be our strongest list ever.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) - This film is rightfully on our Top 100 list, and I’d argue it belongs on such a Top 25 list as well. Many films have tried, but few have ever gotten even close to nailing the resistance to temptation, love and forgiveness necessary for even the strongest of marriages.

I am willing to put my DVD and BFI book on tour (if I can find the book), in order to ensure a top spot on this list. If you haven't seen Sunrise, please let me know and I will send it to you ASAP. The only thing I ask from there is that if anyone else hasn't seen it, you view it quickly and get it to the next person on the list ASAP, and when everyone voting has finally seen it, please return it to me here in Grand Rapids. Please see Sunrise for this list. You now have no excuse, and this is easily a film for the Top 5, if not Top position.

Other than that, I am going to need a few days to read and think and look over the possibilities. I'm already kinda blown away by the list. For the record, too, Certified Copy is available on Netflix Instant Viewing.

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I have to admit I wasn't a fan of the idea of this list, but the films already listed here are incredible. This might be our strongest list ever.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) - This film is rightfully on our Top 100 list, and I’d argue it belongs on such a Top 25 list as well. Many films have tried, but few have ever gotten even close to nailing the resistance to temptation, love and forgiveness necessary for even the strongest of marriages.

I am willing to put my DVD and BFI book on tour (if I can find the book), in order to ensure a top spot on this list. If you haven't seen Sunrise, please let me know and I will send it to you ASAP. The only thing I ask from there is that if anyone else hasn't seen it, you view it quickly and get it to the next person on the list ASAP, and when everyone voting has finally seen it, please return it to me here in Grand Rapids. Please see Sunrise for this list. You now have no excuse, and this is easily a film for the Top 5, if not Top position.

Other than that, I am going to need a few days to read and think and look over the possibilities. I'm already kinda blown away by the list. For the record, too, Certified Copy is available on Netflix Instant Viewing.

It's available in pretty good quality on YouTube

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I seconded the Time Indefinite nomination because, even though I can't remember the details of that movie, I want/need to rewatch it. McElwee was at the Va. Film Festival a couple of weeks ago to present Sherman's March. Victor Morton attended. I don't know if McElwee had anything to say about Time Indefinite during the Q&A.

Edited by Christian

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Here's some points behind my reasoning for nominating the Brood. Those of you who have seen it will know that it's much more than the film that the trailer suggests.

- Deals with a wife and mother in therapy, while the father is attempting to protect the child from her abuse.

- Deals with the wife's parents and their affect on the wife and therefore the husband and child.

-Thus we have a husband and father interacting with an adultress divorced and alchoholic mother in law.

-This abusive mother in Law and a father in Law that doesn't stop the abuse leads to a damaged mother/wife who has to deal with her issues, related to the father wanting to protect the child from her.

-Father having to care for the child while the mother is in therapy and possibly involved with a dangerous cult.

-The film deals with the effects of all of the above on the child and father.

And that's all in the first 15 minutes.

Taken from Denofgeeks.com

The Brood is commonly described as Cronenberg’s most autobiographical movie to date, since it’s partly about a father attempting to take custody of his child – something Cronenberg himself was going through while he was writing the script.

Cronenberg has joked in the past that The Brood is his version of Kramer Vs Kramer – a 1979 divorce drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, which proved to be a hit both at the box office and with the Academy. Cronenberg dismissed the film as “False, fake, candy” in the book Cronenberg On Cronenberg.

“There are unbelievable, ridiculous moments in it that to me are emotionally completely false,” Cronenberg said, arguing that The Brood, with its streak of typically Cronenbergian horror, was a superior depiction of divorce. “I was really trying to get to the reality, with a capital R, which is why I have disdain for Kramer.”

Edited by Attica

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I seconded the Time Indefinite nomination because, even though I can't remember the details of that movie, I want/need to rewatch it. McElwee was at the Va. Film Festival a couple of weeks ago to present Sherman's March. Victor Morton attended. I don't know if McElwee had anything to say about Time Indefinite during the Q&A.

I need to rewatch Sherman's March. It's been over 20 years since one of my best friends sat me down and showed it to me, and unfortunately I disappointed him by not connecting with it nearly as much as he had. Time Indefinite, on the other hand, was a film that immediately drew me in. This is the one where McElwee gets married, but his new family life is hit hard by three tragedies all within a very short period of time. I think it resonated so strongly with me because I was still processing my mom's death at the time. I don't have Netflix streaming at the moment, but when I Googled the title, it says it is available for streaming.

Edited by John Drew

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Your explanation of why The Brood is interesting, Attica. I wish I'd seen the film so I could maybe second it.

I'm excited about the inclusion of Lantana. I once spent a long time studying it, hoping I could work it into a larger project . All the reasons I couldn't make it perfect for this list. It's elusive and deeply, deeply rewarding.

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The Brood isn't what one would expect to be in this list. Yet it's directly about marriage and inspired by the filmmakers divorce and battle over custody of his child. It's a very intellectual film filled with metaphors symbolizing the wifes rage because of her parents abuse, which led to the marriage problems and her seeking counseling. Her dysfunction came in part from her parents problematic marriage. The husband has to deal with all of these problems and try to free the child from her danger.

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