The original Romance Rumble was precisely that: 32 romantic movies handed over for you to sic on each other.
In compiling this new list, we found ourselves rejecting movies that are about devotion. These are about clawing somebody’s back - or they make you want to. They aren’t necessarily sweet, happy, witty, or chaste movies. Definitely not chaste. They’re just, well, hot.
We kind of liked those better, even though some of them aren’t nearly as good. So, again, Meredith has picked 16 movies, and Wesley has done the same. We put them into an easy-to-use, NCAA-style bracket that creates the illusion of competition. Starting today you can go to www.boston.com/romancerumble and spend the week whittling down the list to one film that will screen Feb. 10 at the Somerville Theatre.
In movies, sexiness is romance in tighter pants. There’s some risk in trying to figure out what that is when it happens, whether it looks good. It’s not in the eye of the beholder but in somewhere less printable. When Lena Olin crawls on a mirror in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,’’ Christian Slater leans into a radio microphone in “Pump Up the Volume,’’ or Pam Grier does anything in “Coffy,’’ the unsayable says something.
Because sexiness is both vaster and more subjective than romance, we found we had to clearly distinguish between a sexy movie and an erotic one. We decided that the difference was in some way political, moral, or both. Either type of film could stir some kind of arousal. But an erotic movie is about sex. A purely sexy movie might involve sex but is always about something else. Having said that, Meredith did choose “Last Tango in Paris.’’
This distinction between sexy and erotic basically ruled out an entire class of European and Asian masterpieces and almost everything directed by Adrian Lyne. Alas, this also means no Mickey Rourke. We tried to avoid anything that gave off more than a whiff of misogyny. Although, in focusing only on Diane Lane’s post-coital train ride, Meredith managed to block out how gross the rest of Lyne’s “Unfaithful’’ is. We also didn’t want any films whose sexiness walks on the grim or shameful side of sexuality. That eliminated a shockingly high number of movies, a few of which star outrageously sexy actors. So no Paul Newman, no Elizabeth Taylor, no Halle Berry.
Meredith thinks her movies are hotter than Wesley’s. Wesley thinks hers just contain more butter. The outcome is up to you. Let’s get it on.Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @wesley_morris. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com.