Blog Prompt #3 (February 13, 2018)

Harold and Maude is one of those films that people seem to love or hate. Upon its release, it received lukewarm and even bad reviews. Over time, though, it has become something of a cult movie, and more recent reviews have been effusive in their praise. (It’s currently at an 86 on Rotten Tomatoes.)

For this post, read the following reviews of Harold and Maude–two negative reviews immediately after the film’s release and two more recent reviews as hte movie gained in popularity:

Develop your response in three short paragraphs:

Paragraph #1:

Why do you think people/critics have such different perspectives about the movie? Share a scene that you think is excellent from one perspective and awful from another.

Paragraph #2

Harold and Maude is often described as a “cult movie.” What elements of the movie make it a “cult movie.” Similarly, Harold and Maude is often defined as a “black” romantic comedy. Based upon what you know about romantic comedies, what makes Harold and Maude a “black” romantic comedy?

Paragraph #3

Make a case for either leaving Harold and Maude on the syllabus or removing it.

Reminder: I strongly suggest that you copy your posts into MSWord or another word processing program so you can edit them before submitting the hard copies. (Be sure to retain the timestamp.) For example, you probably will not be able to indent paragraphs in your post online. You will only be able to do that when it’s in a word processing program.

12 comments for “Blog Prompt #3 (February 13, 2018)

  1. Joshua Whitley
    February 12, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    People have mixed views about this movie due to the plot being confusing and all over the place. The movie is very strange as the main character is always faking his death to obtain the attention of his mother. Then, he befriends a 79 year old woman and they have a relationship of sorts. One scene I personally think was excellent or interesting was when Harold pretended to set himself on fire in front of one his dates from outside and then appeared in the room as if nothing happened. An awful scene for me was Harold and Maude laying in the bed naked together as it imposes that they may have slept together.

    Some elements in the movie that make Harold and Maude a “cult movie” is the endearing love story that emerges mid-movie between two misfits. Harold a wealthy young adult is into hearses and faux deaths comes acquainted with a 79 year old woman who enjoyed the company of people and exploring. Harold and Maude can be considered a “black” romantic comedy, because of the darkness surrounding the two in the film. Both characters enjoy going to funerals and having fun in their downtime. Harold faked his death numerous times throughout the movie to get the attention of his mother who never had enough time for him.

    Harold and Maude should stay on the syllabus. We’ve already watched it and to acquire more insight we can discuss with each other analyzing certain scenes. There is also the internet to spark different questions and answers as to why some things occurred in the film. Harold and Maude is a strange classic that entails romance and comedy in a dark and twisted view. It is definitely an acquired taste film.

  2. Lilly Lightsey
    February 12, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    I think Harold and Maude gets so many mixed reviews because it touches on such taboo subjects. In our society suicide is such a hush thing no one talks about and yet, the main character of this movie is so into it. Also in our society relationships with huge age gaps, like the difference between Harold and Maude are frowned upon. A lot of people see it as the older of the two taking advantage of the younger one. Not to mention, both characters obviously are dealing with some personal and mental problems that just makes the movie that much darker. While some people see this movie pushing societal norms as a good thing others see it as bad leading to such mixed reviews. A scene I think is so good and bad at the same time is the scene with Harold’s first date. It is shot so nicely from the point of view of his date. Harold’s mother is completely oblivious to what is happening over her shoulder as she continues to talk on and on. It’s funny that she never turns around and when Harold’s date runs screaming out of the room she is just that more confused. Made more funny by Harold smiling at the camera. However, this scene is just so weird and messed up. Harold freaks out a seemingly nice girl by setting, what she thinks, is himself on fire. It is one thing to fake kill himself in front of his mother, but in front of a stranger is a whole different story. It makes it hard to like Harold since just because he is mad at his mom, he would hurt another person.
    Harold and Maude can be seen as a cult movie because it is so taboo, is a black romantic comedy, and has dark humor. The movie is just so taboo and deals with suicide seen in both Harold and Maude, yet you cannot help but laugh. Some parts of Harold trying to figure out what he feels for Maude are so awkward they are funny. Maude reactions to a lot of things and her weird out there nature make you laugh. It got so much criticism when it first came out, this is a movie you are not supposed to like, so people like it. People also like the black romantic comedy part. Harold and Maude have one of the darkest meet cutes, when they meet because they both like attending funerals. Also everyone in Harold’s life is actively trying to make him not stay with Maude, unlike in traditional romantic comedies. And, of course, there is their age gap of sixty years that just makes the romance element feel much creepier.
    Honestly, I would leave Harold and Maude on the syllabus. While it is nowhere near the level of Life is Beautiful, The Godfather, or Fargo, it is an interesting movie. It makes you feel uncomfortable and does not have a clear “good guy” to root for. It has funny parts and weird parts and it is a good movie to discuss. You can discuss why is makes you so uncomfortable in places. Especially if you examine it in being so taboo and why this taboo leads to it being so hated. Sometimes you have to throw in one weird movie into the bunch of good movies just to give us something new to explore.

  3. Patrick Copeland
    February 12, 2018 at 11:02 pm

    People have different opinions about this movie because the main character, Harold, is always faking his death. He does this mainly to gain attention from his mother. Harold, being the unique teen that he is, becomes friends with a 79 year old woman , Maude, at a funeral of a person he doesn’t even know. A scene that is funny from one perspective and awful from another is the opening scene when Harold “hangs” himself, this is awful because the movie starts off very dark. It is humorous because after this happens his mother walks in and ask him if he finds it funny.
    Harold and Maude is a “cult movie” because when it was first released it was not popular at all but as time went on it gained popularity among the masses and critics. This movie is described as a “black” romantic comedy because, unlike regular romantic comedies, this movie is very dark. Harold is a young, wealthy teen who can get anything he wants. In his free time he enjoys faking his own death, riding around in his hurst, and attending random funerals. At one of the funerals he attends he meets Maude. Maude is a 79 year old woman who likes to steal cars and other objects that she feels are appropriate to take. These two are perfect for each other, tying into the romantic comedy genre, because Harold finds interest in death and being that Maude is 79, almost 80, she is very close to the time of natural death. Maude, on the other hand, finds value in life and she does things like taking trees from public property in the city and replanting them in the forest. Seeing that Harold is young and full of life, Maude finds him unique.
    I believe that leaving Harold and Maude on the syllabus is a good idea because it’s not a long movie and it surprises the audience, especially me, after coming off of a serious movie like The Godfather. Being that it didn’t take long to finish gave time for the class to have a great discussion and different ideas were added that others didn’t even think of during the movie.

  4. Kyri Simmons
    February 13, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Why do you think people/ critics have such different perspectives about the movie? That’s a question with many answers. People see and digest films and different ways. The subject matter may be new to them or uninteresting, or maybe they have come to see something in particular but this film doesn’t have what they want. Critics have a more technical perspective first and then wrap around to the underlying theme in the movie. Regular common people I think would know the technical points of a film. Though a really good film can turn the audience’s attention from the bad scenery to the really great acting. I think the firework scene especially when it cuts to Harold and Maude in bed is priceless and an excellent and sick scene. Though really the scene is very much shot terribly.
    I guess its a “cult movie” because at first it did a lackluster performance, and people didn’t really get most of the subject matter and things it was saying. Then sooner or later over time more people begin to understand all the parts it explores and are attracted to it. Harold and Maudes a “black romantic comedy” because they fall in love and that’s pretty taboo. I believe “black romantic comedies” really touch on romance with taboo subject matter.
    I thought the film was actually interesting. I would call myself an artist. I try to see what the artist, in this particular medium the director is trying to say with the film. I could truly see what the director wanted to say with his art. Rather through Harolds eccentric suicides, and his mothers strict guidance over his life, and then to meet Maude who was in the Holocaust. It becomes a film of identity which I digged. Also with all the quotes, imagery, and things that are said. Maude kind of is in a place where Harold wants to be and helps him sort of. She tells him all these little things about life, so I feel that sort of works out for the film. You know Maude talks about the environment, dying and becoming something else and maybe even better. I wouldn’t mind watching the movie again for that reason, and it was pretty funny. Its not at the top of my list of favorite movies though, and I would like to see more movies with the artist formerly known as Prince in them.

  5. Samantha Fox
    February 13, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    People have different perspectives about the movie because they each focus on different aspects of the movie. In Roger Ebert’s review, he sees the movie more about the relationship between Harold and his mother and believes that everything he is doing from faking suicides to telling her he is going to marry Maude (a seventy-nine year old) is a way to “annoy” his mother. While in the “Mountain Express” review Ken Hanke saw the movie as the bond between Harold and Maude and how Maude “taught” Harold how to live. All four of the movie reviews talk about how Harold fakes his suicides and his mother’s reaction. In Roger Ebert’s review, he claims that he does this to get a rise out of his mother; also Hanke’s review coincides with Ebert’s review. But In the review in The New York Times by Vincent Canby, he claims that Harold is just “suicidal” and doesn’t mention that he is pulling these acts to upset or get a rise out of his mother.
    The movie, “Harold and Maude” is considered a cult film, which Urban Dictionary defines as “a film depicting controversial or distasteful persons, activities, or philosophies.” One of the topics that make this movie considered a “cult film” is the constant scenes of Harold committing suicide and no one, except two girls, even batted an eye at his attempts. In the opening credits of the movie, the director shows Harold slowly getting ready to hang himself and Harold’s mother walks in right when he commits and she just continues making her phone call, unbothered by Harold. Multiple times throughout the movie he fakes suicide in many different ways and his mother just acts like it is normal most of the time. Another topic that makes this film a “cult film” is the normalization of the relationship between a twenty year old man and a seventy-nine year old woman. Also The fact that these two “love birds” met at a funeral, which they both attend multiple funerals for fun.
    I am torn between wanting you to get rid of this film and keeping it on the syllabus. This was probably the most uncomfortable movie I have ever seen. The relationship between Harold and Maude was just too weird for me to be able to get over, and the constant scenes of Harold committing suicide made me feel uneasy. But if you can get over the odd relationship between Harold and Maude and the constant fake suicides you might be able to see some good in this movie. One good thing in this movie is seeing the character development of Harold, where in the beginning he was sad and had no friends at all, but as the movie progressed he started to call Maude his “friend” and seemed to actually be happy. Also his only hobby before he met Maude was to fake his suicide, but once he started to hang out with her he started learning how to play the banjo and he would sing. Throughout the movie it seems like Maude is trying to pass on her intelligence and way of life to Harold and it seems like she did, because his mind seems to become more open as the film goes on. If the decision was all on me I would probably keep a “cult movie” in the syllabus but just maybe not this exact one.

  6. Anthony Hanks
    February 13, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    The movie Harold and Maude can be perceived in so many different ways. I think this allows for people and or critics to really have mixed views and opinions of this film. This shows when reading the different reviews that are posted, for example in the first review listed Roger Ebert makes it very clear that Harold and Maude is not a love story even though throughout the film it seems that Harold is slowly becoming more and more attracted to Maude. In the next review listed Vincent Canby in the first part of his review talks about how the two characters fall in love, so right there, two completely different depictions of the same film. I wanted to talk about these two articles because it shows two different opinions very close to the release date of the film, so right out of the gate the story of Harold and Maude was a controversial topic nonetheless. The scene where Harold and Maude are in bed together and Harold is blowing bubbles would have to be the scene that could go either way. That scene could very well show that the two characters took their “love” to the next level cementing the idea that the film is in fact a love story, or that same scene could be perceived simply as two people lying in bed.
    I think Harold and Maude is often described as a cult movie for several simple reasons. For one, in the eyes of some viewers it goes against the cultural realm of “normal.” A presumed to be 20-year-old man according to the cultural norm does not belong with a 79-year-old woman. Another reason that I can see this movie being described as a cult movie is because of the gore and numerous suicide depictions that cult movies tend to have. I don’t really see how this film is a romantic comedy but even still If I thought this was a romantic comedy I would say that it is a “black” romantic comedy because the film Harold and Maude doesn’t have your typical meet-cute that involves a young couple or even a couple of the same age but older, meeting and falling in love in a cute fashion. Harold and Maude meet because they attend funerals and have that in common.
    Harold and Maude is definitely an interesting movie. I would have to say that I have no argument for leaving it on or off the syllabus. Personally I could see reasons for either case because I enjoyed the discussion and hearing different insight into the meaning of the movie, but I can also see how maybe it could be very uncomfortable for some people. You just never know about the background of some people and the topic of suicide could really hit home for some. I’m more in favor of leaving it on the syllabus though because it does allow for a vast array of arguments and insight.

  7. Carolynn Fisher
    February 13, 2018 at 10:32 pm

    I believe people have such different perspectives about Harold and Maude because it has very particular qualities that are hard to find in films and appeal to certain people while not at all to others. Harold and Maude is a film without a clear purpose, so viewers are more or less “along for the ride” to see where it goes, but have no idea where it’s supposed to end up or why. To some people, it is probably whimsical and fun (in an incredibly strange way). To others, it is probably an endless tale of adventures that are so silly they are boring. For instance, in one scene, Maude steals a tree and then transports it to the forest in a stolen vehicle. After being chased by a police officer, she eventually steals his motorcycle. To some people, the scene where the officer has them exit the vehicle, allowing her the opportunity to steal his bike, and then ineptly fires a gun at them is probably so silly it’s painful. From another perspective, it could be viewed as an excellent display of how delightfully absurd the movie is.

    Harold and Maude probably made “cult movie” status by creating such a divided viewer base. I don’t think this is a movie that anyone is lukewarm about. It’s not a film that people generally are going to watch a second time just because it’s on and there’s nothing else. In my opinion, this is a movie that people will probably watch once and never again or watch a dozen times. Its status as a “black” comedy might be what helped create the cult following, along with the crazy mismatch and absurd suicide stunts. The pairing of two people that the majority of viewers are not going to want to see paired, along with the dark end of the romance are what make Harold and Maude a “black” romantic comedy. Most romantic comedies pair two “normal,” attractive people and end with a happily ever after story. Harold and Maude defies both of those.

    While I think showing a cult classic, “black” comedy or romantic black comedy can add value to the course, I don’t think Harold and Maude is the right one. My personal opinion is to keep the genre, but remove this particular movie from the syllabus because it is uncomfortably strange and doesn’t present enough value to the class (especially when compared to the previous 3 films).

  8. February 13, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    After analyzing the film Harold and Maude, the ideology behind it is approached both positively and negatively by viewers. The older reviews give a rather realistic interpretation of it. Since Harold basically glorifies suicide and death, many of the old viewers see this as dehumanizing and demoralizing. In the contrast, more recent reviews state the complete opposite. Despite the gruesome wholeness of the movie, there is a positive light received: that being the perfect match between Harold and Maude based on their unusual sense of personality and behavior. Though the love is unlikely, it can be perceived as romantic. They simply balance each other out: Maude being Life, and Harold being death. During the scene where Maude is about to die, Harold undoubtedly has a traumatic reaction. He cares about her so much that it breaks his heart to see her pass. The irony behind it is how Harold is obsessed with the idea of death, yet he does not want his “lover” to die. This scene is perfect to those who reviewed this movie years ago, for the fact that he is finally showing normalized behavior to a death. However, this would not stand out too much to those who viewed it more recently because it takes away from Harold’s character of being abnormal. The film itself is supposed to display the unusual characteristics of Harold, yet this scene shows differently.  
    This film can also be defined as not only strange, but a cult movie. An aspect that fits into this description is how only few people would enjoy this movie and pay money to see it. Based on the elements of how it perceives death, interprets love between two unlikely friends, and glorifies suicide, many people would agree that it is not very appealing. This film is also a black romantic comedy because it weaves in the reality of dark horror, and releases comic relief to accompany it. Again, this forms a balance and some people may like this.  
    In regard to leaving this film on the syllabus, I would have to go against it, all for different reasons. Personally, I found this movie so demoralizing. Anybody who has ever known someone, or dealt with suicide personally, would not be fond of seeing someone almost “poking fun” of it. Suicide is a serious issue in today’s society and it should not be glorified in any manner. Another thing that did not sit well with me is the uncanny relationship between Maude and Harold. They started off as good friends who seemed to understand each other, but it just got insanely uncomfortable when that relationship approached the next level. Many people in today’s generation are okay with being in love with whomever. I am very traditional and do not agree with how love is perceived here based on the huge age difference. It’s unlikely and engaging in such abstract behavior could cause serious psychological problems, as we recognized between the two characters in this film.  

  9. Michael Anzalone
    February 13, 2018 at 11:47 pm

    All films are subjective, though some can be more polarizing than others for distinct reasons. In the case of Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude, it is relatively unsurprising to understand why there are such drastically differing opinions on it. It makes light of suicidal intentions, and people could construe that as making humor out of a tough situation or disrespecting a serious issue. The film focuses primarily on the quirky thoughts and actions of Harold and Maude, who could be viewed as off-putting and pretentious by some critics and viewers or lively and relatable by others. The relationship itself is likely one of the huge driving factors for the polarization as it is a romantic comedy featuring one of the most unlikely romantic partners in popular film. A romantic relationship with a sixty-year age gap is bound to be questioned by many. I feel as if the parts of scenes that depict Harold making seducing looks toward Maude and insinuating sexual tendencies could be avoided, it possibly could have gone over better with many. The main scene that truly breaks the ice to questioning their sexual desires is where the two are lying in Maude’s bed, with both of their clothes off and her hair in Harold’s hand while he is blowing bubbles (likely an allusion smoking a cigarette after sex and also satirizing his youth). While some may view this as an amusing scene which was not afraid to insinuate a sexual relationship that most directors would be tentative to actually make a film out of, others would groan and be disgusted by the idea of what had transpired that night. I personally believe the film could have shown more impact if these scenes were removed and left Harold and Maude as having a solely platonic relationship.
    Cult movies are typically films that are not widely recognized for acclaimed when they are first released, but slowly reach and gain fans and praise through the future years and decades for unique reasons. They are typically lower budget films. Harold and Maude is a lower-budget film that was somewhat panned by critics at the time of release before becoming critically acclaimed in many areas. The film likely resonated with a younger, new generation later in the years due to its depiction of people going against the grain of “normal,” using the concept of nonconformity to shape the two main characters of the film, something people who felt they are different could likely latch onto and remember the film as one that mattered to them. Some of the aforementioned messages in this film are not dissimilar to one of the biggest cult classics of all time, The Breakfast Club. In terms of the film being a black romantic comedy, it is an unconventional romantic comedy in the sense that it does not exactly follow the typical plot path of romantic comedies, but is primarily driven by comedy and a romantic relationship. It can be considered “black” from satirizing serious situations including death and suicide, and by also containing an unlikely and taboo relationship due to the enormous age gap.
    While Harold and Maude is a unique film and brings a lot to the table in cinematography and humor, I can’t help but think this is the wrong film to show by Ashby. Being There is masterpiece and would have been a great film to show in light of the recent presidency. I personally believe that there is a big missed opportunity showing Harold and Maude over it. That aside, I think finding a more conventional romantic comedy or one that is more relatable to college students would be a better option.

  10. Justin Boneparte
    February 14, 2018 at 12:00 am

    Harold and Maude was a unique film in many different ways. I think people / critics have different perspectives of the film for many reasons. The movie is about two people that seem to get a high or excitement off of death. If that is not weird enough, they began to date and there is a 60 year age difference. It is easy to see why critics disagreed with both of these instances. Being in a relationship with that big of a gap is a bit out of the norm. Being excited about death is out of the norm as well. Harold for some reason tries to fake his death throughout the entire move and his mom was not at all concerned with it. The scene at the beginning of the movie is awful to me because he is trying to kill himself and his mom doesn’t seem to care. The same scene is also excellent because his mom knows her son so well, that she just ignores his silly behavior.

    I can see Harold and Maude being called a cult movie. I think because it is out of the ordinary it can have that different opinion. Being that this movie is different than most love stories I believe that it will draws interest from a different type of movie goer. I think it takes a unique type of movie watcher to see and appreciate this film. It can also be considered as a black romantic comedy because of the things this couple enjoyed together. The black sheep is usually the random and out of the norm one. This movie was just that. Not many people enjoy going to funerals over and over again. Harold also enjoyed faking his death, this is also out of the norm.

    I think Harold and Maude is either a movie that you will love or hate. Although I was not really found of the movie I think it should be left on the syllabus. I think it will give the classes of the future a different perspective of what a movie could be. This movie goes outside of the box and makes your brain think a little more. I enjoyed the fact that this movie did not follow the ordinary movie tradition.

  11. Shemar Muirhead
    February 14, 2018 at 12:29 am

    I think that people have different views about this movie is because of the fact that it is a black comedy. This means that a generally serious subject matter; in this film “death”, is portrayed and humored. A humorous person may really like the uncommon portrayal of death in this film while a morally dedicated person may find disturbing. I believe that the scene when Mrs. Chasten was filling out the application form for Harold’s computer dating service is pure comic, she got ahead of herself and started answering the questions from her own perspective with no regard whatsoever as to Harold’s opinion. I also think that it is an awful scene because she became so self consoled by the questions that she quickly disregarded the fact that the answers on the application should be Harold’s own opinion and not her own.

    Harold and Maude is a cult movie because upon its initial release in 1971 it was not a film to be considered a great film or even a good film. Over the years Harold and Maude has developed a dedicated, eventually growing audience. It has been approximately 50 years since the film’s release and it is still a black comedy to be mentioned. This film is a black comedy because of Harold whom gleefully stages multiple suicides throughout the course of the film in effort to get his mothers attention. In this film. Hal Ashby transforms the taboo of death into humor and treats it satirically.

    I believe that Harold and Maude should remain on the syllabus because this film builds a perspective in the viewer which opens ”a door to discussion”. Not only is this film a black comedy but also a cult classic making it worth the while to view likewise analyse. In essence, there can be a lot to appreciate as well as learn from this film

  12. Glenn Walters
    February 16, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    People have different perspectives on the movie due to the nature of the film and how peculiar the characters and the premise of the movie is. A scene that draws much controversy is the one where Harold decides to set himself on fire and almost dies. One of his many attempts at suicide is viewed as foolish and shows that Harold has mental issues. One perspective on this is great as Harold embraces the characteristic of death while Muade is life. The other perspective is one of foolishness and childless for Harold trying to kill himself just to alarm his mother.

    The elements that make this a cult movie is the controversy of the plot and the personalities of the main characters. Harold and Maude are a black romantic comedy due to the film being a dark rom com. The underlying theme of the film is love while the main theme is contrast between life and death which takes it out the regular rom com category and make is a black rom com.
      I think Harold and Maude should be kept on the syllabus due to being a outlier when it comes to rom coms. It also shows how you can create a rom com with any premise. Before this I had no idea such a film existed. Although the premise and characters are not my liking I think it worth the viewing.

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