The art of the do-it-yourself rom-com film festival

Bollocks! More than two weeks have passed since my Hugh Grant film marathon on June 24 and 25. After that 21-hour exercise (in which I watched, in a row, 10 romantic comedies starring Hugh Grant), I needed time away from movies and writing to reflect on some critical ideas and questions: Are romantic comedies art? What essential needs do they fulfill in a violence-infused society? Is Hugh Grant the quintessential Everyman rom-com hero? Is the name Sandra Bollocks as funny as I think it is?

Now I have returned to my blog with a renewed spirit, but the effects of my Hugh Grant film festival still linger. When I flash back to my marathon — and I do, often, in the middle of the night or in high-stress situations  —  I am haunted by the horrors: Diet Coke overdose, sleep deprivation syndrome, warm cheese, and Bridget Jones on the ski slopes sputtering at me through those puffy made-for-Hollywood cheeks. But I am also blessed with pleasant memories: Julia and Hugh’s complicated yet sweet courtship in Notting Hill; Hugh’s handlebars dance move from Music & Lyrics; the neat story construction and eclectic cast of characters in Four Weddings and a Funeral. There is a special bond now between Hugh and I that I truly do cherish. He is my brother. I would beat you up for him. I feel so familiar with Hugh that my inner voice  now sounds like the voice of Hugh Grant — that soothing narrative voice of his at the beginning of Notting Hill. He will suddenly, without warning, narrate a part of my day in my head. I can actually hear his voice this very moment, reading this as I type, and I can make him say whatever I want. Paula, you saucy minx, I love you. He just said that! Can you believe this guy?

But I digress. What’s done is done, and now I am left to pick up the pieces. But don’t let me frighten you. Do-it-yourself film festivals can be fun — they really can (Hugh Grant is saying this in my head as I type). In order for your film festival to be more pleasure than pain, I recommend a scaled-down version as 21 hours is a little much for the working man.  I recommend an evening of three films. Two is a cop-out, and four will probably just put you in a foul mood. Remember, many romantic comedies are only an hour and 40 minutes so watching three great picks in a row is easy.  Another idea might be to watch one film per evening over the course of a week or a weekend.

Some very important rules to follow:

1. Start early in the evening. Six o’clock is a good time. Invite your friends over for supper and start the show.

2. Film festival equals food festival. You cannot expect to get through this without some lovely munchies. Prepare supper and snacks prior to the start of the first movie so you don’t waste precious viewing time in between films. Take-out is a great idea too.

3. If you are doing an all-day marathon like I did, start at 6 a.m. if possible (I started too late in the morning and paid for it on the other end). Go full throttle during the day, and take a break at suppertime for an hour or so to mentally break up the day.

4.  Be prepared for the toll an all-day marathon will have on you. Don’t do it on a work night.  Also, be aware that it’s an emotional rollercoaster. Hugh Grant may seem all sunshine and roses at 9 a.m. but by 10 p.m., you may start to experience irrational feelings of suspicion and anger, or start to take some of his behaviour personally. It is a dangerous game we play here, kids. Indulge at your own risk.

5. If you want to do a film festival of five films or more, it helps to invite other people to share in the joy (and the pain?) — even if it’s just for one film. I would not have gotten through Did you Hear about the Morgans? if I hadn’t had friends and family here to lift my crumbling spirits and get me back on track again.

6. Organize your film festival in a way that works best for the situation: save the one you want to see most for the last. That is the carrot on the stick, driving you ever onward like a self-sacrificing hobbit to Mordor.

7. Set goals for yourself and celebrate as you achieve them. For example, I worked to reach the halfway point of Hughsday before my husband came home from work. I did this, and celebrated with a leisurely bathroom break where I peed and gave myself a peptalk in the mirror:  “You can do this! Man up, you sodding dimwit! Man up!”

8. The films you choose should have something in common: the same actor/actress, the same director, or even the same location or overall idea. Here are some suggested romantic comedy film festival themes you and your friends could try, with movie recommendations for each.

Hugh Grant: Notting Hill, Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Music & Lyrics.

Steve Martin: Roxanne, LA Story, Housesitter, It’s Complicated.

Tom Hanks: Splash, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve got Mail.

Meg Ryan: Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve got Mail, When Harry Met Sally…, Kate & Leopold.

Drew Barrymore: Music & Lyrics, 50 First Dates, The Wedding Singer.

Julia Roberts: Notting Hill, My Best Friend’s Wedding, America’s Sweethearts.

Writer/director Nancy Meyers: It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give, What Women Want.

New York: When Harry Met Sally…, Enchanted, Kate & Leopold.

Wedding theme: Four Weddings and a Funeral, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Made of Honor.

Let me know if you try one of your own, or if you have film festival ideas to add to the list above. I’d love to hear from you!

Paula Jane



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