It would be unfair to list off Nora Ephron’s greatest movie moments as merely a collection of scenes from “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless In Seattle”. Two important films, no doubt, but Ephron’s magic is sprinkled across all her work: from the Instant Messages written in “You’ve Got Mail” to Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep’s rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in “Heartburn.” Grab a pen and take note while we run down some of our favorite Ephronisms–you might surprise yourself as you grab “Michael” at your local surviving Blockbuster later today.
“Julie & Julia”
Imagine having to write Meryl Streep AS Julia Child. It’s one thing to capture the greatness of Meryl (which Nora had, in “Silkwood” and “Heartburn” previously), but to do so while Streep impersonates another one of the greatest female personalities of all time? Nearly impossible. And yet Ephron is able to capture Streep doing Child (tallness, silliness et al) without losing her humanity. (And her haircut!)
“You’ve Got Mail”
Choosing my favorite moment from “You’ve Got Mail” is like choosing a favorite flavor of donut–all are at their base, the best, and it’s really irrelevant what happens to be sprinkled on top. The thing’s going to be delicious either way. That being said, after repeated viewings (20+, I’d guess) I must say the best evidence of Ephron’s brilliance is located in an egg mold of caviar. The perfect moment, when small business owner Kathleen Kelly realizes that she was momentarily duped by none other than her main competitor Joe Fox, the banter between them is what you’d wish you’d say in your proudest, most clever dreams.
You might not remember 1996’s Michael because it starred John Travolta as an angel. The Archangel Michael, to be specific, who comes down from heaven “on vacation” and acts not very angel-like. It’s a charming mid-’90s film that features Travolta at his best (in overalls! dancing!) and Ephron at her utmost quirkiest: “It’s cookies, he smells like cookies, and the smell gets stronger when he’s in heat.” [Ed Note: John Travolta in heat, ew.]
“Sleepless in Seattle”
Everyone remembers the famously famous last scene of “Sleepless In Seattle.” That rooftop meeting that almost doesn’t happen? It happens! But even better, that final scene is certainly inspired by “An Affair to Remember,” which is so cleverly foreshadowed at a dinner table when Tom Hanks and Victor Garber watch as Rita Wilson weepily recounts the plotline to the 1957 romance classic. “That’s a chick’s movie,” Hanks scoffs.
“My Blue Heaven”
“When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh”, Ephron once said to The New York Times. That age-old argument of women not being funny? Well, you could use Ephron as a counterargument and move on. Hilarious in ways that mocked even the notion of women having no sense of humor–like in this scene from 1990’s “My Blue Heaven,” a movie that was based on the same true story “Goodfellas” was based on (and we all know which one fared better at the Box Office) but had a Nora-flavored spin.
“When Harry Met Sally”
“When Harry Met Sally” gave hope to millions of BFFs secretly hoping to take it to the ‘next level’. It also featured some of Ephron’s most poignant observations on love and the dating scene–conversations between friends and lovers (and friends that become lovers) that are so quick, and yet, so genuine. Today, this scene (click ahead to 1:10:36) probably would’ve happened over text message and a (four-person!) split-screen might’ve been rendered moot. And the exchange between Carrie Fisher and Steven Ford might just be the most romantic moment in the entire film: “Tell me I’ll never have to be out there again.” “You’ll never have to be out there again.”
In “Heartburn,” Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson’s relationship mirrors Ephron’s own with Carl Bernstein — which was published in a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. If you’ve read the Cliff Notes on Ephron, you know (spoiler!) things don’t quite end well, but Ephron’s depiction of the couple discussing their newfound pregnancy. “Let’s sing all the songs we know about babies,” Nicholson suggests. And while shoving pizza into their faces by candlelight, the two sing inappropriate lullabies: songs that indeed include “baby” but not quite the baby they intend.