5 Romantic Films That Are Not Casablanca

I do love Casablanca. I’ve seen it multiple times and the film certainly holds up. What I hate is that this is the default movie for most people. When asked, “What’s the most romantic movie?”, most folks blurt out Casablanca. No hesitation, total commitment. I’m sure they think that is hast to be the most romantic film because so many other people also agree. (I searched the internet and every list I came across put this film at the top.)

Yes, Casablanca is great, but not that great. (I know I’ll get flack for this). First, most of the knee-jerk reactions come from people who probably haven’t even seen the film. Second, I don’t think it’s the best film of the period. Rope of Sand was producer Hal Wallis’s attempt to recapture the Casablanca magic. I think he did it better. Check it out.

So what I present here are five films that I found romantic. These aren’t the world’s best. They even might upset you, but they’re all films I’m drawn to. As a genre writer, I tend toward the same in films.

The Hunger (1983)

No, not the Hunger Games. This film has Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon, and David Bowie in a three way love affair. If you loved the film “Let the Right One In,” then you ought to see the film they stole the plot from: The Hunger. Catherine Deneuve is a centuries old vampire with her lover, David Bowie. Yet he suddenly begins to age, rapidly. While seeking a cure, Deneuve falls for Susan Sarandon. This has everything Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyers attempted to fill their pages with. One of the best vampire films on top of being incredibly sorrowful.

Ladyhawke (1985)

Rutger Hauer transforms to a wolf every night. His love, Michelle Pfeiffer, must live as a hawk each day. They were cursed by an evil bishop to ensure that they could never be together. There is even a heart wrenching scene where they see each other briefly in the morning twilight before Pfeiffer transforms into a hawk.

Add to that Matthew Broderick as a comical thief and you have a film that zig zags between laughs and romance. Since the two can never talk to each other, Broderick must relate their words of love. Check out these lines:

“For she is my life, my last and best reason for living. One day, we will know such happiness as two people dream of, but never do.”

Moulin Rouge (2001)

Baz Luhrmann delivers a heart-stopping romance that is woefully overlooked in most romantic movie lists. Ewan McGregor is a struggling writer who falls for courtesan Nicole Kidman. He must love her in secret because a rich patron also seeks her affections. Set this against extravagant Paris at the turn of the century and the most amazing music and you’ll be swept up into the magic.

Somewhere in Time (1980)

I was flabbergasted that this movie made none of the lists I found on the internet. This is the epitome of a love tragedy. Here we have a modern day (albeit 1980) Christopher Reeves visited by an old lady, Jane Seymour. She begs him to “Come back to me.” He researches and finds that she was a famous stage actress from the 1900s. Reeves travels back in time in what I find the most plausible method I’ve yet seen. He goes to a room in a hotel Seymour had visited. He wears period clothing and brings money from that time. He tunes out the modern world and simply wakes up in her time.

Of course, the two fall in love, though you might sense the problem here. If Seymour showed up as an aged lady in 1980, something must have gone wrong. Honestly, this will tear your heart out. Be warned.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

The concept of this film is off the map. A company advertises that they can completely erase someone from your memory, like say, and ex-lover. So we have Jim Carrey who discovers that his former girlfriend, Kate Winslet, had him erased. He undergoes the procedure, only to discover that he still desperately loves her. He tries everything he can to cling to his memories of her.

What’s great about this film is it feels real. It’s no fairy tale flick where everything is perfect at the end. These are real people who really have major relationship issues. Only in the end, that doesn’t matter.

Okay, here are the lines that get the tears out of me every time.

Carrey: I can’t see anything that I don’t like about you.
Winslet: But you will! But you will. You know, you will think of things. And I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped because that’s what happens with me.
Carrey: Okay.
Winslet: [pauses] Okay.

That’s it. My list of tear jerkers and romantic flicks. True, I’m a guy and into all aspects of horror and comics, but that doesn’t mean that these films don’t deserve merit. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Tim Kane

20% Complete

After what seems like a torturous start, I’m now nearly 20% finished with my novel. I am certainly not making NaNo progress with it, but I like where it’s going and I’m excited to get to work. The danger is that I really don’t have more than a chapter or two ahead planned (not my normal style). Plus, the whole beginning may need to be trashed and rewritten. (Which I guess puts me at about 10%).

How Teachers Have Killed Generations of Writers

First off let me admit that I am a teacher. I teach every subject: from math to reading. Yet, I’m also a writer. These shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, yet somehow they are.

Let me explain. I hated creative writing in school. From my third grade book project, where I got a C because of my atrocious spelling, up through high school and some off the wall assignments, my writing accomplishments were few and far between.

What repulsed me so about creative writing was The Prompt—that teacher generated idea that completely sucks the life out of any creativity students have.

Need some examples? Takes some of these:

  • Imagine you’re a snowflake.
  • What would a day as a squirrel be like?
  • Write about your most memorable day.
  • Write about one of your challenges.

And the list goes on. I mean, really? That’s the best the teacher could think up? Though the truth is somewhat sadder. Most of these ideas have been generated years ago and simply persist, like viruses, ready to infect the creative writing spirit in new hosts.

Let’s explore these narrative nuggets, shall we?

Imagine you’re a snowflake.
Sure. I fall. It’s cold. I land. I melt. Story over. Maybe, if I’m really creative, I’ll land on some kid’s sticky tongue and melt.

What would a day as a squirrel be like?
I don’t know. Boring? I collect some nuts. Climb a tree. Twitch my nose. A whole lot of nothing.

The problem with these two prompts is that most kids will write pretty much what I have. Then the teacher will glance at it and ask for more. Then the kid will sit in his or her desk and look busy for the next twenty minutes, frustrated that no more ideas come. Hey, at least these prompts give you a few sentences to jot down. Let’s look at the next two.

Write about your most memorable day.
Write about one of your challenges.
Even one of these is enough to cripple even the brightest student. I’ve seen it before. The kid sits there, for twenty or thirty minutes, wondering what to write about. Even starting is hard because first you must pick your “memorable” event. Or decide what has “challenged” you. These are the sorts of prompts colleges dream up as submission guidelines. That’s fine. Colleges are meant to challenge you. But a sixth grader could use more help.

Eleven years of this sort of torture might have obliterated my writing spirits, had it not been for one teacher. In my senior year at high school, I lucked into a new course by Susan Vreeland called “Writer’s Workshop”. Her writing prompts were entirely different.

She’d show us a photo of a barn and then ask us to describe it in 100 words or less. However, we couldn’t use the words: barn, red, paint, or hay.

Although there was some head scratching at first, these seemingly strict limitations actually freed me. I had the picture to start with, so I wasn’t stuck dreaming up what to write about. Yet with the word limitations, I couldn’t phone it in by describing the red barn with peeling paint and stacks of hay.

I recall that students came up with all sorts of stories. One guy had a murder in the bard. Another talked about the animals inside. I can’t even recall what I wrote. All I knew was the words flowed.

So is there a solution? Yes, as a teacher, I want to give my students some guidance—a direction—to write. Then I want to step back and let them create. I don’t want a prompt so arbitrary and restrictive that it makes it impossible for anyone to write.

Yes, there are certainly those kids who can and will write about their memorable day as a squirrel. I’ll let those kids go for it. For the rest of us, let’s try something that will kindle our imaginations rather than douse the fire.

Tim Kane

The days swim like little fishes

The days swim like little fishes. Yesterday was Halloween. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I need to catch my breath. Yesterday I baked brownies with my daughter while the rain dappled the windows. Flurries of brisk air sneaked in each time I opened the sliding glass door. It was a perfect weekend.

How Calculus, Latin, and Chemistry Led to a Writing Career

I didn’t start out life wanting to be a writer. In high school, I set my sights on engineering. I was on track until two events caused me to alter course. I’ll tackle them in reverse order.

My first semester at UCSD was horrific. Not the classes, per se, but the finals. You see, I had written down when I thought they would fall. I had my honors chemistry final on Monday, the calculus final on Thursday, and the Latin final on Saturday (the very fact that this was on a weekend should have tipped me off). Well I got some super strain of nasty flu the Friday before and was sick the whole weekend. I’d called the chemistry professor to see if I could take the test a few days later, but she told me it was a new exam and she couldn’t write a new one in such short time.

So Monday morning, I slogged in and stared at the pages. I was over the flu, but only barely. My body was wrecked. I managed a passing grade, but I think the professor might have rounded up a bit.

I decided to take the next few days off. Sleep in. Let my body rest up. I mean, I had till Thursday for calculus, and I was pretty good at math. I was rocking an A so far in class.

Wednesday morning rolled around and I decided, just for fun, that I would recheck the times of my finals. Okay, so my chemistry was on Monday. Did that. And Latin was on Tuesday. Holy Peanuts. I missed it. I actually missed my final.

My heart was racing. You have to understand. I was the sort of kid that lived for tests. I always did the bonus problem or the extra credit. The one time in life that I ever cheated (and this event sticks with me like a cancer) was solely to keep my top position, not to pass a test. In my seventh grade science class, I had the top score. How did I know? The teacher posted all the student scores. Then, a girl surpassed me. Don’t ask me why, but I had to recapture the top spot. Later, the teacher let us grade our own tests, and yes, I gifted myself a few points. Sad, but true. But I did reclaim the top spot.

So there I was, one final missed. I looked further to double check on my calculus final. The good news: I hadn’t missed the day. The bad news: The test was that day, Wednesday. And it was already finishing. There was no way I could race to the university and take the test. Impossible.

My mind crashed. You could literally see that little mac bomb on my forehead. I considered my options. I could withdrawal (meaning I’d have to take the whole class again.) Or I could contact the teacher. Which I tried to do for about an hour. Finally, I decided to drive down there and see if I could catch the man in the hallways. If I couldn’t, then withdrawal it was.

Luck was on my side. I located my calculus teacher carrying the pile of finals. He wondered why I hadn’t shown that morning. His offer was this: take the final right now. What could I say? I did it. I locked myself in a little room and sweated through integrals and derivatives. I butchered it. My grade dropped from a high A to a low B.

Then there was Latin. That teacher had been awesome all year. When I finally contacted him, he said he’d be in town Friday night. All I needed to do was translate a certain passage and drop it off to him. Done.

Thus ended my first semester at UCSD. That January, I changed my major from engineering to creative writing. Latin had been the only course I had enjoyed (even the final). I simply could not take more courses along the lines of calculus or chemistry (at least I got out before the dreaded organic chemistry).

Now, I’d said there was one other factor. This happened in my senior year in high school. I was lucky enough to run across Susan Vreeland. That very year, she started a writer’s workshop class designed to teach creative writing. If you recognize the name that’s because she went on to write some chart topping books.

That’s it. Fate intervened and switched my train from the engineering and science track to the writing rails. I then spent far too much time slumming around poetry for anyone’s good, but that’s another story.

Tim Kane