Cinematary Canon #7: Movie Crushes
By Zach Dennis, Courtney Anderson, Michael O'Malley, Jessica Carr, Diana Rogers, Jessy Alva Swafford, Lydia Creech, Ben Shull, and Paige Taylor.
Note: These films are not ranked by quality, but rather in chronological order.
Rosalind Russell as Hildegard "Hildy" Johnson in His Girl Friday (1940)
Look, it’s all myth, I know, but the image of fast-talking journalists in suits hammering out sensational stories on clattering typewriters as they chainsmoke is a weird fixation of mine, and in that respect, His Girl Friday is practically pornography.
These are the fastest talkers, the loudest typewriters, and the chainest smokers, and Rosalind Russell’s Hildy is just as into it as I am. Ostensibly, it’s a movie about how Hildy, a woman on her way to new-found domesticity with her fiancé, learns that she actually misses her live wire ex-husband and would like to reconcile, but that’s not really what she’s after. It’s not Carey Grant’s Walter Burns she wants, as dashing as the man is in his rakishly perched hat; it’s the newsroom she can’t quit, the thrill of writing that perfectly turned phrase on a deadline, picking just the right words to slide the story right into the public’s brain like a knife. The flush of publication.
It’s a movie about the power Hildy wields at the home keys. I suppose Burns manipulates her into returning to the newspaper business, but only in the sense that a lightning rod can manipulate lightning--i.e. not much.
I’m sure I’m not as good a writer as Hildy is (Are any of us? We only hear snippets of her work, leaving the rest of her craft up to whatever infinite excellence our imagination can conjure), but there’s something about watching someone who clearly has at least as much attraction to the sensuality of the contours of the English language as Hildy does that makes my heart swoon. Every elaborate sentence that comes from her mouth is a mini-masterpiece, and she does it all in that amazing hat and suit. It’s of course all myth, especially now--newspapers are dying, as are chain smokers. But as the 90 minutes of His Girl Friday roll, Hildy and I believe it all together. — Michael O'Malley
Grace Kelly as Lisa Carol Fremont in Rear Window (1954)
James Stewart’s L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries sits in a chair, snoozing, when someone enters the room unannounced. He opens his eyes to see a face — looking angelically on him — and he smiles. The faces moves closer to his — Hitchcock keeping a static shot — before cutting to the two faces meeting for a kiss. And then banter.
How’s your leg?
Mmm — hurts a little.
And your stomach?
Empty as a football.
And your love life?
Not too active.
Anything else bothering you?
Uh, huh. Who are you?
An easy question: it’s Grace Kelly.
Kelly returns the question with an answer in Rear Window, giving her name “from top to bottom”: Lisa Carol Fremont. But the impact has already been made. Who is this angelic creature that has descended into the dusty apartment of the curmudgeonly, ungrateful LB Jeffries?
It is hard to look away from Kelly, who draws you in not only with her beauty, but the easiness that she delivers her lines — almost like saying them through honey — and the sly smile she has on her face as she takes in the flirtatious repartee with Stewart’s Jeffries.
But to fall in love with Kelly is even easier as you move through Rear Window, and if you’re like me, you begin to wonder what she sees in Jeffries at all because she is so much more interesting than he could ever be — something Jeffries himself discovers by the end of the film. She’s driven and a little hard-headed, but that doesn’t allow her to have no emotion — a quality you notice in how hurt she is when she is consistently belittled by Jeffries, who sees her as a Fifth Avenue model looking to play murder mystery.
What’s most lovable is how she takes this abuse from Jeffries, less as a searing indictment on her own character but more of an emotional pitfall of his own. To love a person is to appreciate and admire who they are, not what you think they should become — a key to the relationship at the center of Rear Window.
And it isn’t too difficult to just sit and admire Kelly in all her holiness. — Zach Dennis
Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music (1965)
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.
Julie Andrews is an earth angel and there has never been any part cut out for her quite like Maria. High in a convent in the mountains of Austria, Maria struggles to fit in with the other sisters. Her spirit overflows against the backdrop of diamond skies and emerald pastures, which brings her trouble within the silence of the convent. It is this holy foolishness that brings her into the Von Trapp home as the children’s new caretaker. Her gentle determination and steadfastness prevent her from taking the path of those before her, ultimately revealing herself to be the mother they were all waiting for.
Maria has a voice that shimmers like dinner crystal with the looks to match. She dances with such grace and eloquence that one cannot help but be entranced. Compassion and love seem to permeate her being, both when wrangling the children and in the arms of the Captain. And oh how I longed to be the Captain. — Ben Shull
Shelley Duvall as Pam in Annie Hall (1977)
Pam is a target of ridicule in Annie Hall, the hapless Rolling Stone reporter who is Alvy Singer’s brief rebound from his separation from Annie Hall. We’re not supposed to like her — she’s into Rock Music, after all, a perennial Woody Allen punching bag, and amazingly, this is one of the few times in the guy’s filmography that I actually understand his antipathy toward the genre; as Pam breathlessly quotes the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” Singer rolls his eyes, and I’m right there with him. “Just Like a Woman” is a terrible song, and I’d definitely look askance at anyone who says that it gave her “chills.”
But even though my head is with Alvy, my heart is totally with Pam. Part of it is Duvall’s performance, which plays Pam’s general wide-eyed-ness with such an endearing sincerity (“The only word for this is transplendent! It’s transplendent!”) that it’s hard not to take her side when Allen’s character is a complete dick to her. Honestly, there’s an extent to which I crush on pretty much any Shelley Duvall character, because I am basically in love with Shelley Duvall. But more than that, there’s the fact that as Dylan fans (as is yours truly), we’ve all been Pam quoting the lyrics to “Just Like a Woman” at one time or another, subjecting those around us to the transcendent genius of rock music’s only Nobel Prize winner. In fact, if you’re a music nerd at all, you’ve been that person, if not about Dylan then about Miles Davis or David Bowie or They Might Be Giants or whatever floats your musical boat. I see the unencumbered purity of enthusiasm in Pam as she gushes over the rock luminaries of the day, and my heart grows three sizes.
A kindred spirit. I suspect Pam and I could get over our differences about “Just Like a Woman” and live forever in mutual music nerd rapture over Dylan’s other great songs, and it would basically be heaven. Oh, and she’s also into Christian mysticism, which, like, I mean, nobody’s perfect or whatever, but we may have gotten as close to it as possible in the two minutes of Annie Hall in which Pam appears. — Michael O'Malley
Diana Court as Ione Skye in Say Anything... (1989)
Diane Court is “a brain trapped in the body of a gameshow host.” She’s the kind of girl you make a Talking Heads mix tape for because she grew up listening exclusively to Barry Manilow and Perry Como. She’ll grin through a Pabst Blue Ribbon even though she wanted a Heineken just because you bought it for her. You can throw a Hunter S. Thompson quote at her and she’ll respond with Jane Austen. She’s the country club yin to the New Wave yang. — Ben Shull
Christian Slater as Mark Hunter // Happy Harry Hard-On in Pump Up the Volume (1990)
Mark Hunter is a bit of a superhero. He's bright, but painfully shy. He's recently relocated from the east coast to Arizona, and he doesn't know anyone. High school's tough enough if you have friends to pal around with, but Mark's entirely isolated.
His idealistic, well meaning parents are completely out of touch with their son. They want him to be happy, and, even though they sense that he isn't, they can't seem to communicate with him in a constructive way.
But Mark has a secret. At night he broadcasts a pirate radio program from his garage. He disguises his voice and goes by the moniker "Happy Harry Hard-on." His musical selections are excellent (this movie was my introduction to Leonard Cohen, whose "Everybody Knows" serves as the bumper music for Mark's show), and his banter is the sort of clever, prurient stuff that his peers adore, because it's both hilarious and forbidden. And there's an added layer of thoughtfulness and empathy behind what Mark is doing.
His new school, considered one of the finest in the country, is undermining the educational opportunities of many of their students to ensure that their immaculate record remains intact. Mark sniffs this out and uses his radio persona to expose the corruption buried underneath the school's pristine facade. He's reaching out across the airwaves because he's lonely, but he is also giving voice to many of his downtrodden and disenfranchised peers.
Mark becomes a sort of folk hero for his classmates, who have no idea who he is until the movie's finale, when he speaks to them in his own voice, and reassures them that they are not alone. He's awkward, edgy, radically compassionate . . . and utterly irresistible to me. — Diana Rogers
Helena Bonham Carter as Helen Schlegel in Howards End (1992)
My introduction to Helena Bonham Carter as an actress was in Franco Zeffereli's Hamlet (1990), and I can say with absolute certainty that her performance was the most memorable thing about that movie for me. Was anyone ever more suited, in terms of physical appearance or talent, to play Shakespeare's shattered heroine, Ophelia? An actress who literally looks like she emerged, fully formed, in the present day from some long-ago era, Bonham Carter is always captivating to watch, but I find her to be at her most luminous and unforgettable in Merchant and Ivory's 1992 adaptation of E.M. Forster's Howards End.
One of Forster's most celebrated and beautiful works, Howards End is the story of three families, one upper class, one middle class, one lower class, whose lives intersect and overlap in unexpected, and, sometimes tragic, ways. The primary focus of the story is the Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, and their decisions and actions drive the better part of the action in the story. They are idealistic and intellectual women, kind, generous, and socially progressive, but younger sister Helen is definitely the more tempestuous of the two. In a story where so much of the action is understated, where so many of the characters guard their thoughts and feelings, Helen is shockingly emotional and outspoken.
Bonham Carter is well suited to a role like this because there is a marvelous, unpredictable quality she brings to so much of her work. She looks the part of the proper English lady but there's something simmering just below the surface, a restlessness, a rebellious impulse, that makes her completely captivating to watch; she's the defiant, passionate rebel, who leads with her heart in all matters at all times. — Diana Rogers
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Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
When I considered contributing to this list of movie crushes, I didn’t have to think back far to remember my first and strongest love, Mr. Frodo Baggins of the Shire. Talking with friends about our first crushes, I’m always struck when they’ll say they remember having their first crush around middle school. This is strange to me — I’ve had crushes for about as long as I’ve been making memories, and I honestly think it all stems from Middle Earth’s greatest hero.
Elijah Wood is an attractive man, but I do not have a crush on Elijah; my crush is completely for Frodo. Frodo is no Legolas (though you certainly don’t have to convince me that Legolas is a cutie, too). He isn’t a skilled archer and doesn’t have keen elf eyes that can see great distances. He can’t annihilate Orcs with one blow of his axe like Gimli (who, if I’m being completely honest, is probably the most relatable character in the whole series for me). He isn’t distant and shadowy--yet also agelessly charming and controlled--like Aragorn, King of Gondor. He isn’t breathtakingly beautiful and celestially powerful like Arwen (who arguably contributed to a separate and equally important sexual awakening for me).
Frodo is a common Hobbit: the hero you least expect, but can certainly resonate with the most. His journey is perilous, and his friendships, especially with Sam, are incomparable. He struggles with inner demons and makes mistakes frequently--we’ve all been there. But Frodo rarely lacks energy and positivity. He is tasked with an outrageous mission, but never once believes this is too great for a mere Hobbit. He volunteers to take the ring to Mordor before anyone agrees to help because he believes in a better world and never considers that he isn’t capable of making it happen.
But most importantly, readers, HE IS SO CUTE. Those brilliant blue eyes, gorgeous curly locks, irresistibly contagious smile. When I knew I was going to write about my dearest Frodo, I had to re-watch the entire series…extended cuts, of course. AND I REGRET NOTHING. These movies are so beautifully made with such care and precision and have aged flawlessly. I got lost in the stunning world of Middle Earth (a.k.a. New Zealand) and felt so emotionally connected through that exquisite soundtrack. Frodo’s story, set in such a brilliant fantastical land, is one that I’ll forever love and cherish. — Jessy Alva Swafford
Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker // Spider-Man in Spider-Man (2002)
I think I am in love. He’s smart, cute, nice and has very pretty blue eyes. (Also he is hot!!) I want him to be my boyfriend (don’t tell Mom!!) but there is a small problem. He isn’t real. The truth is…. I’m in love with Spider-Man.
Yeah, I’m cringing too. Is this a safe space? Are you scrolling past this? Okay, good. The truth is, Spider-Man was my first love. Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, to be exact. I was in Las Vegas in a hotel room and I was 12 years old. My parents told me I could watch whatever I wanted on pay-per-view as long as it wasn’t rated-R while they went to gamble. I scrolled through a list of choices and eventually settled, or rather, gave into fate, and bought Spider-Man (2002).
This movie was easily the biggest fixation of my childhood. I wanted every bit of merchandise I could get my hands on and I played that DVD over and over to the point where I can tell you to this day, the exact moment that the DVD would always skip. Boys would come up to me as I wore my Spider-Man shirts and ask, “Do you read the comics?” And the answer was no. I never read a single one. It wasn’t about Spider-Man. It was about Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man.
I saw this nerdy guy with his camera, who adored science, who was charming and funny without knowing it, and who secretly loved a girl he was too afraid to talk to and I knew that that was the kind of fella I wanted when I grew up. Of course, having super powers was also definitely a bonus, but though I loved him as he flipped around and threw bad guys into windows, I loved him more when the mask was off. He wasn’t a hunky, chiseled heartthrob. He was a skinny dork who could never quite shake off his awkwardness, could never hide what he was feeling. He felt real to little me. He felt human.
I’m not immune to types like Chris Hemsworth or Jason Mamoa or Hugh Jackman by any means. I find them very attractive too! But if you look at a timeline of all the crushes I’ve ever had, you won’t find a whole lot of model-esque men who put on the charm or bad boys with fast cars or heroes on the football field. Instead you’d find a bunch of nerds. Guys who were in the library, meticulously studying for a test that wouldn’t happen for a month. Guys waiting in line at midnight for a video game to release. Guys who were too shy tell me they had feelings for me, so I had to reach out first. And at the very, very start of that timeline- is Spider-Man. — Paige Taylor
Christian Bale as the voice of Howl in Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
No crush list is complete without a cartoon character, right?
My movie crush is Howl, who is basically every teenage girl’s dream. He has very relatable problems (bad dye jobs! Shirking responsibility to the king!), not to mention he’s voiced by Christian Bale, which is why this is one of the only anime movies I prefer in English (I’m a snob most times).He does magic and gives super elaborate gifts (You like flowers? Here’s a whole field.). He’s a cutie, if real dramatic in a kinda emo way, which as a teen girl I ATE up; as an adult, it makes me laugh and a bit nostalgic.
More than all that, Howl is the standard “mysterious man” who takes an interest in the shy, plain protagonist for some reason. Teenage girls love that. I’d like to think it’s not that problematic of a portrayal of this particular fantasy, as Sophie, like all Studio Ghibli protagonists, is actually very competent and ultimately doesn’t need Howl to break the curse on her (in fact she breaks a curse on him while she’s at it). Sometimes this trope lends itself to romanticizing what in reality turn out to be abusive relationships, but Howl mostly functions as pretty anime boy support for her character growth, which is alright by me. — Lydia Creech
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers // Captain America in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
I’m going to be completely honest here: when I first saw the character of Steve Rogers, I didn’t care about him. At all.
My introduction to Steve Rogers was through the first “Captain America” movie, Captain America: The First Avenger. While I appreciated the movie’s role in Marvel’s canon, as well as Steve’s role as the first real “Avenger,” I found the actual movie to be a little bit . . . well, boring.
Moreover, I found Steve to be a preachy, overly-optimistic “Chosen One” type. While there were some promising moments in Steve’s character development through the original Captain America movie, I mostly found myself thinking that he needed to get out more.
The first Avengers movie reinforced that opinion of him. Joss Whedon wrote Steve to be an old-fashioned fish-out-of-water who wore his shirts tucked in, had a part in his gelled hair and said lines like “There’s only one God, ma’am, and he doesn’t dress like that.”
I mean, Chris Evans had a nice face and body, but Steve Rogers just wasn’t my type.
But then Russo brothers got a hold him. And Captain America: Winter Soldier came out.
The Russo brothers' rendition of Steve Rogers has more of an edge to him. First of all, the tucked-in shirts and ridiculous hair are gone. He no longer looks like a lost choir boy who accidentally found his way into the red light district.
The look isn’t the only thing about Steve that changes. In the first two movies, I found him to be a bit overly-earnest; he reminded me of an Eagle Scout. But Winter Soldier shows us a sarcastic Steve who will look Nick Fury directly in the face and tell him that what S.H.I.E.L.D is the exact opposite of what Americans need. His patriotism shifts from eye-roll-inducing to one full of integrity and a strong desire to do the right thing.
Steve Rogers felt like a more real person, one that’s goes through an extremely dangerous and difficult journey to do what he believes is right.
And that makes he seems much cuter. Much, much cuter. — Courtney Anderson
Domhnall Gleeson as Jon Burroughs in Frank (2014)
I’ve ALWAYS had a thing for tall lanky dudes. Bonus points were usually given if the guy was in a band, played some sort of instrument, or had a beard. That’s why when I saw Domhnall Gleeson in the film Frank I found myself crushing hard. Which certainly doesn’t seem like intention of the movie which really focuses on the mental health of its central character played by Michael Fassbender. But, the character Jon, played by Gleeson, hit all my usual criteria for those I’d consider crush-worthy (especially when he grows a beard about half-way through the film). Not to mention the fact that I’ve had a thing for Domhnall Gleeson for a really really long time.
The film follows Jon, an aspiring musician, as he gets recruited to be in a pop band led by Frank who wears a giant fake head. Jon is a pretty down-to-earth guy. He is your typical band-tee wearing dork that is both naive and clearly doubts his own abilities. The film is told from Jon’s perspective as he gets seduced by the band’s enigmatic leader. Gleeson is good at playing characters that are easily manipulated, but somehow still someone you can empathize with. If you’ve seen some of his other films, including Ex Machina, you’ll notice Gleeson is often cast as a character that is easily infatuated with someone much more interesting. In Frank, his character enjoys soaking up the confidence that Fassbender’s character radiates. It isn’t until the end that his character realizes there are some unsettling truths lying underneath the giant head that Frank is wearing.
This is all to say, there is something charming about someone that doesn’t have it all figured out. Yes, confidence is attractive, but so is someone that is honest. Jon isn’t the star of the show, and he doesn’t even know what kind of musician he wants to be. But he feels like a real person that you’d meet one day at a concert when you least expected it and you fell madly in love. Making it much more possible that I’ll meet the tall lanky bearded musician of my dreams. If I do, you all are totally invited to the wedding. — Jessica Carr
Jason Momoa as Miami Man in The Bad Batch (2016)
Currently sitting in a highly air-conditioned room as I write this small blurb for Cinematary’s Crush Canon because when you look at pictures of Jason Momoa’s character from The Bad Batch, it’s REALLY hard not to get light headed from *swooning*. At least it’s really hard for me. I have to admit I’m not usually attracted to super beefy tattooed dudes, and certainly not ones that are cannibals in an apocalyptic wasteland, but Miami Man captivated me from the moment he appeared on screen.
As a whole, I enjoyed watching The Bad Batch especially since Ana Lily Amirpour is one of my favorite directors working today. In my review for Cinematary I said, “Although I wasn’t as in love with The Bad Batch as her first film, I was still impressed with the emotions she made me feel from a film about a cannibal falling in love with his food in a desert wasteland (Read full review here).” The cannibal I’m referring to is Miami Man played by Jason Momoa. He first appears on screen during a montage of muscly men (and one muscly woman) lifting weights and working out to “Fish Paste” by Die Antwoord (see below).
The camera starts at Miami Man’s waist and starts slowly panning up showing his tattooed physique. He carelessly sips on a can of “Jizzy Fizz” wearing stylish sunglasses looking extremely stoic. Momoa’s performance in The Bad Batch is subtle and admittedly his “Cuban” accent isn’t great….but his screen presence is undeniable. When characters come across the machete wielding Miami Man in the desert you can see pure fear appear on their faces, and yet when he is with his daughter his demeanor goes from threatening to nurturing. It’s pretty hard not to crush on a man who would travel across the desert to save his daughter from a creepy cult.
It’s safe to say, Miami Man is both the scariest and sexiest man one could ever encounter in a cannibal apocalyptic wasteland. It might not be ideal to have a crush on a cannibal, but in this case it’s hard not to fall for Momoa’s character...just don’t get too comfortable. — Jessica Carr
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Fun fact about me: I love a girl with an attitude problem.
I think it has something to do with the way I view societal expectations of women: the whole thing about women needing to be perpetually pleasant, approachable, all that stuff. I have a strong aversion towards those ideas. So, when I see a woman who purposefully is the exact opposite of all of that, I get a warm, fluttery feeling in my stomach.
Valkyrie, played expertly by Tessa Thompson, goes out of her way to let you know that she’s not here to make you feel all nice or whatever. She’s got other things to do.
From the moment I learned that Tessa Thompson would be playing Valkyrie, I was excited. I’ve always liked her work, and I’ve always thought she was gorgeous. I figured she could infuse Valkyrie with a healthy amount of ruggedness and spunk.
And Tessa does not disappoint. Taika Waititi describes her as the “Han Solo” of Ragnarok. Valkyrie is an irreverent rascal, who likes a good drink and her money. She could care less about what you expect, want or need from her. Valkyrie’s kind, but if you don’t already know that, you’ve gotta put in some work to figure that out. Otherwise, she’s quick to remind you to not get familiar.
I also love that, when Valkyrie does decide to help Thor, she’s doing it because it’s what’s right for her. She realizes that she can’t outdrink her past; she needs to confront it head on. And she needs to confront it while strutting down a rainbow like the world’s toughest supermodel.
Valkyrie’s the Bad Boy™ your parents tell you to stay away from when you’re in high school. But you hang out with her anyway because she’s fun and hot. That’s how you discover that the Bad Boy™ actually has a heart of gold.
She also kicks ass. Valkyrie kicks all of the ass. The valkyrie is a warrior, and I’m into it. — Courtney Anderson