As Valentine’s Day approaches, you may want to go to the nearest theater to see the new romantic comedy released non-coincidentally in the middle of February. However, I urge you to save your eight dollar ticket and stay inside with a collection of movies that will leave you wondering how you ever understood true love before Nora Ephron—a screenwriter, producer, director, novelist, and wonderfully wise human being—showed you what it was.
In When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and You’ve Got Mail (1998), Ephron gives us dynamic, interesting characters, beautiful storylines, and sincerely comical moments. She treats the audience not as mere simpletons who will sit through just about anything—which is how we sometimes feel when watching some of the more recent romantic comedies—but rather as fellow romantics capable of falling into these love stories ourselves.
(Coincidentally, you can experience all of this by attending the Nora Ephron-a-thon, brought to us by Cinearts, on Saturday, Feb. 14 in Gund Gallery! Scroll down for the schedule)
With Ephron, nothing feels artificial or commercialized. Maybe it’s the vintage feel of watching movies about love from the eighties and nineties, but there is a sincerity in the words of her characters that I have a hard time finding today. Characters like bookshop owner Kathleen Kelly, played by Meg Ryan, in You’ve Got Mail, or hopeless romantic widow Sam Baldwin, played by Tom Hanks, in Sleepless in Seattle, feel like people you could be friends with, and the locations (Seattle in the rain, New York City in the fall) are places you may lust after. And, last but not least, there is a timelessness to the movies’ music that will fill your heads with Sinatra and Durante long after the credits roll, creating the perfect soundtrack for our own stories of falling—or staying—in love.
Here are a few of my personal favorite songs from Ephron’s trifecta of cinematic magic:
“Stardust” by Nat King Cole (from Sleepless in Seattle)
The only thing that may rival Cole’s beautiful voice is the sound of the dreamy violins that accompany him. This song plays as the two main characters (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, a.k.a. perfection) both look longingly out into the night, miles away from one another, wondering if there is someone out there whom they’ve never met who is just for them.
“Dreams” by The Cranberries (from You’ve Got Mail)
While Dolores O’Riordan’s voice is not everyone’s favorite, the first few seconds of “Dreams” leaves you with a spring in your step and has you smiling at strangers on Middle Path. In the film, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) does the same as she walks through New York City on a beautiful spring morning on her way to open up her very own bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner.
“It Had To Be You” by Frank Sinatra (from When Harry Met Sally)
The lyrics and Sinatra’s crooning voice are so rich and wonderful, yet I’m ultimately choosing this one for its perfect placement in the film. There’s no way I can explain it without ruining the story, so you’ll have to figure it out for yourselves.
“Bye Bye Blackbird” by Joe Cocker (from Sleepless in Seattle)
Cocker’s rough voice accompanied by an electric guitar and a choir is a cool take on a classic song that’s been sung by iconic artists such as Etta James and Sammy Davis Jr. It’s another great song to accompany yet another moment of loneliness and longing from Hanks and Ryans’ characters, and it’s a wonderful song to listen to on a rainy day.
NORA EPHRON-A-THON (Brought to you by Cinearts)
Saturday, Feb. 14 in The Community Foundation Theater, Gund Gallery
2 p.m. — When Harry Met Sally
4 p.m. — Sleepless in Seattle
(Break for dinner/snacks)
7 p.m. — You’ve Got Mail
**Throughout the triple feature, there will be readings of excerpts from Nora’s vast collection of works, as well as candy, desserts, and hors d’oeuvres inspired by Nora!!*