Category Archives: Movies

Rewatching Dirty Dancing Havana Nights

Dirty Dancing Havana Nights

Today, I would like to take this time to revel in one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasures: Dirty Dancing Havana Nights. Do you remember this movie? I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. This 2004 flick flew under the radar—it was in theaters during the same time as The Notebook, so you were likely preoccupied with the profound realization that Ryan Gosling is hot, hot, hot. No worries. I completely understand.

But if you DO remember this movie, then you and I have a lot to reminisce about. Although its existence is entirely unnecessary, (A sequel to one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time? No thank you.) I love this movie. Not only did it give me something to watch during college on my used DVD player when I was procrastinating on a project, this campy reimagining of the 1987 classic was just plain dancing fun.

Recently, I was flipping through my cable channels on a boring Friday night when I discovered that this movie was just about to start. So much for going to bed early! I texted my roommate from college and we proceeded to watch it together way into the wee hours of the morning. (Thank god for unlimited texting.) So go ahead. Rewatch this gem with us. You won’t regret it.

First things first, the soundtrack to this film is so much fun.

Who knew that the Black Eyed Peas were alive during the 50s! Listen to it whenever you’re in the mood to move your hips.


Meet Katey

Instead of taking place at an upstate New York resort in the 50s, this movie takes place in Havana on the cusp of the Cuban Revolution. Eighteen-year-old bookworm Katey moves to Cuba with her family. It’s a strange new world to her, and she’s not so sure about it.


Until…she meets Javier.

And of course they have a movie-style meet cute. He drops her drinks when waiting on her and her classmates. Her new rich snobby friends call him a racial slur. Then he gets yelled at by his boss, even though it was a minor accident. Weren’t the 50s fun?!


Also, Mad Men was so very Mad Men before Mad Men.

Why hello there, Betty (January Jones)! Greetings, Pete (Vincent Kartheiser). Is that you, Roger (John Slattery)?


Then we see Javier dance.

Just…yum. I can’t tell you how many “Salsa Nights” I went to at various clubs during college just in the hopes of meeting my own Javier. The man can move those hips.

Even more gyrating. Cuba!

I don’t know why this song is so catchy, but damnit, it is.


Well, that escalated quickly.

Remember how Katey met James, a decently nice boy who appreciated her book smarts? Remember how gentlemanly he was? Well, turns out it was all a rouse. (That, or the writers decided that, if she’s to end up with the boy from “the wrong side of the tracks,” it’s probably better if they turn James into a racist and—just for safe measure—a rapist.)

Siiiiiiiiigh. As you can tell, I find this storyline a little out of left field. Oh well. She stands her ground and runs off into the arms of the beautiful Cuban boy who has stolen her heart (and ours).


Dance montage! (“That’s a box.”)

So, Katey decides that James is a class-A jerk (which he is) and decides to help the super-cute Javier earn some cash to make up for the pay he lost when she accidentally cost him his job. (The 50s strike again!) And even though she may not yet realize it, she just wants to spend some one-on-one time with the boy because, let’s face it girl—You’re a smitten kitten.

Dance Movie Clichés

So naturally, they decide to enter a dance contest to earn some extra money! Better start practicing to loosen those hips, little lady. Javier’s got some teaching to do.

And guys…Guys! If they mix what he knows—how to feel the music—with what she knows—structured ballroom moves—they could win! Don’t you just love cliché dance movie moments? I do. I really, really do.


But Javier’s not her only teacher. Cue cameo!

If Katey’s going to pull this off, she needs help from the one man who’s wise beyond his years. Aging Patrick Swayze! (RIP) But here’s my one question: Is he supposed to be Johnny Castle from the original movie, which takes place five years later? After the Cuban Revolution, did he move to the Catskills and age backwards? Or is he supposed to be some distant relative of Johnny’s? OK, that’s more than one question, but I need to know all the things about Johnny Castle.


Who knew that projectors could be so hot?

But back to the One True Pairing: Javier and Katey are watching old tapes of Katey’s parents back in their ballroom days on a projector screen in a musty garage. They decide to practice dancing in front of the screen, and Things. Get. Hot. It suddenly transitions from pretty, flowing ballroom moves to straight up grinding. Get it girl.


The Best Scene in the Entire Movie

Finally it’s the day of the dance competition! The choreography to this is a lot of fun, and during the routine the couple shares their first kiss. I watched this movie with my college roommates a lot back in the day, and what I remember most are the squeals that emitted from one of my roommates mouth every time Javier and Katey share their first kiss.




We usually rewound the scene and rewatched it a couple of times in a row.

Wow, we were nerds.

Fun Fact

In the original cut of the film (as shown in a deleted scene on my DVD), the couple kisses earlier than the dance competition, but the studio cut that scene, making THIS their first kiss. And I have to say, I like this SO much better. It’s like the dance brought it out of them, and they just couldn’t keep their lips off each other for one more second.

I really wasn’t lying when I said I love dance movie clichés.


Superimposed Patrick Swayze

Was Patrick Swayze super busy or something? They clearly filmed his scene at the dance competition on a different day than they filmed any of the other dance competition scenes. Nice try, editing room. Nice try.


El Beso De Final

No lie: I learned all of the lyrics to this Spanish song, sung beautifully by Christina Aguilera. The song takes place after Katey and Javier perform at their final dance competition. They didn’t win, but the Cuban Revolution has started and Javier is excited about the potential for his country. (Hate to break it to you Javier, but you probably should have followed Katey to America.) Regardless, I love this song. It’s about sharing that final kiss with the person you will always love; it’s absolutely heartbreaking. (Also: Foreshadowing!)


Ending Rewrite

My college roommate likes to “rewrite” endings to movies if she finds the ending unsatisfactory. For this film: “They go to America, become dance pros at a resort in the Catskills, die in bed together, old and happy a la The Notebook.” Seems legit.

What’s your go-to guilty pleasure movie?


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Rewatching William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet

Old Lady Movie Night is one of my new favorite blog series. From Hello Giggles, a website for all things girly-girl, this series highlights observations from “old lady movies” such as Center Stage, Now & Then and 10 Things I Hate About You. Well, I just had my own “old lady movie” moment. Recently, my 16-year-old niece read William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet in her English class. We had the following conversation.

My niece: Ugh. We just read Romeo & Juliet, and then we had to watch this really old Romeo & Juliet movie.

Me: Oh, you mean the one from the 60s?

My niece: No. It was this other old movie. It was really weird because it tried to take place during modern times.

Me: Are you referring to the 1996 classic starring Claire Danes and Leonardo Di Caprio, the love of my life?

My niece: Um … I guess so.

I am officially old.

So, to revel in my old-ness, I decided to rewatch this (in my opinion, classic!) film and write about it in the way my favorite Hello Giggles blogger, Anne Donahue, has about other “old lady movies” in the past. Here it goes.

1. Don’t you wish people actually talked like this?

It’s just such a romantic and eloquent method of speech, rather than today’s overuse of “um” and “like.”

2. Unbutton Hawaiian shirts are not fashionable.

And neither are leather corsets donning Catholic saints. Who did the costuming for this movie? It’s just god awful. I bite my thumb at their clothing.

3. Leonardo Di Caprio is beyond gorgeous in this film.

The opening scene where he’s smoking, acting all mopey and writing in his journal while the sun rises, and his hair beautifully falls in his face, is stunning. It almost makes me wish all men smoked. You know … if it wasn’t for the bad breath or the lung cancer that comes with it.

4. Paul Rudd!!!

Oh yes. My favorite funny man and KU alum is in this movie, as is Jesse Bradford. (Remember him from Bring It On? He has about two lines in this film. My friend and I adored him when we were in high school. We even saw Swimfan in theaters because he was in it. Remember Swimfan? No, you probably don’t, because it was a horrible movie. But I remember it. Silly high school crushes.) But Paul Rudd, I’d marry you. My father wouldn’t even have to force my hand. And I don’t care that you look super dorky in your astronaut costume. It’s endearing.

5. I think I found next year’s Halloween costume!

Although the masquerade ball is a drug-induced mess, Juliet’s white-angel costume and Romeo’s knight-in-shining-armor costume is absolute perfection. I told my husband and, although he hasn’t objected yet, I’m feeling like he’s not too excited about it. But I was Super Mario last year. This year I want to be pretty. 🙂

6a. ”Kissing You” is one of the best romantic songs ever.

I don’t think that this song gets as much attention as it should. I would have requested it as my first dance as a married couple song on my wedding day if it wasn’t for the fact that its presence is a constant reminder to us all that Romeo and Juliet inevitably kill themselves. (Sorry. Spoiler Alert!) But gosh, it’s a beautiful song. Des’ree’s voice. The violins. The revolving camera work during their first kiss in the elevator. (Also, did anyone else lurk around aquariums after this movie came out, just waiting for a cute boy to start falling in love with you? No one else? Just me? Okay. I can live with that.)

6b. This whole soundtrack is actually pretty amazing. I recommend you give it a listen.

7. Romeo really needs a new set of friends.

They’re like that group of friends that people just outgrow . You move on and find a girlfriend, but they continue to embarrass you. Mercutio is crazy and outspoken, one of them keeps grabbing their crotch, and the other one has pink hair, for crying out loud.

8. Juliet must suffer from hearing problems, right?

How can she not hear Romeo as he lurks around her on the balcony? Juliet? Can you even hear yourself as you question what’s in a name? Because Romeo’s right behind you. And then he sneaks up on you and accidentally pushes you into a pool and you don’t even get mad about it. You think it’s romantic. Silly kids.

9. Oh yea. Romeo’s a huge klutz.

Did anyone else ever notice this? I’d even go so far as to say that he’s worse than Edward Cullen’s Bella Swan. He falls into all of the pool equipment, trips on something in the friar’s church, and later falls out of bed. This boy needs to learn how to walk without falling before getting married.

10. But despite that, you loved him.

Admit it. This movie made you yearn for a man that could eloquently put his romantic notions into words. This move made you want a poet. (But alas, all high school had to offer were boys. You were lucky if you got a mixed tape—the 90s version of a poem. I want to be your hero baby … )

11. Didn’t you two just meet?

And already, Juliet wants him to profess his love and propose? I guess I should give her props for demanding he put a ring on it. She knows what she wants, and she’s not willing to take any of his wishy-washy bullshit. She will not be another Rosaline! (Wait, who? Oh yea … he was obsessed with another girl until he laid eyes on Juliet. He tried to make you forget all about that, didn’t he? Romeo fail.)

12. Roh-meh-oh!

I just like how his friend shouts his name at the beach. That is all.

13. The friar is the absolute worst, right?

I mean, first he marries two underage teenagers without ANY parental consent (Is that even legal?) for his own political motives—to unite two of the most wealthy families in the city. Don’t use teenagers as pawns! And then he advises one of these teenagers to take an illegal drug to convince every adult in her life that she’s dead in order to run away with the “love of her life,” whom she’s known for three days. Surely he has a criminal record and shouldn’t be within 100 yards of a child, right? Where the hell did he come from?!

14. Speaking of the wedding … Juliet’s dress was so 90s chic.

I adored that white, button-up, mid-length dress. It looked so pretty on her. And who else styled their hair into a “sprig bun” with an array of butterfly clips?  I rocked that look on a daily basis all throughout middle school.

15. Seattle Grace could have easily treated Mercutio’s wound. It wasn’t THAT bad.

I mean, it was. But it didn’t have to be, right? As soon as it happened he could have pulled out a cell phone, called 911 and gotten himself to the ER. Someone stabbed him with a chard of glass; it’s probably not a good idea to walk around an abandoned stage telling everyone it’s just a scratch, then run off to the beach to die and curse your best friend. Meredith Grey could have fixed him up in no time.

16. Stop being emo, Romeo.

Yes, you’ve been exhiled. Yes, it sucks. But in any normal society you would have been thrown in jail and issued the death penalty. (You shot him on a public street with plenty of eye witnesses!) So take your family’s wealth and travel somewhere warm and inviting. I bet Juliet could run away from her house and meet you wherever you go. Why must you cry on the shoulder of the friar, a.k.a. the worst man in the world?

17. That’s not how you say banished.

Where did this captain go to school? Mizzou?

18. There must have been a lack of suicide awareness in Verona.

Juliet tells her mom that she will kill herself if she is forced to marry Paul Rudd. She just tells her straight out. She’s not keeping this a secret to herself as emotional jottings in a journal. She says, outloud, that she will kill herself if she is forced to do this. And what does her mother do? She ignores her threat and berates her for not wanting to marry the man she and her husband chose for her. Your daughter just admitted to thoughts of suicide! Do something proactive about it!

19. The friar proves his “worth” yet again.

“I really need to get a message sent to Romeo. It’s a matter of life and death. I know! I’ll send him an urgent message via UPS! That’ll do the trick!” This is obviously what went through his mind. There can be no other explanation. Did no other option cross his mind? Like giving Romeo a call, sending him an email, or even driving down to his trailer himself to tell him in person? Don’t entrust a third party for such an important message; and don’t continue to trust said third party when they tell you that after a couple of days they STILL can’t reach him. At this point, track him down yourself. Don’t resend him the same message, hoping that THIS TIME it will make it to him. Ugh!

19. The multiple cringe-worthy scenes near the end of this film absolutely kill me.

First, the mailman is standing right there with an undelivered letter from the friar as Romeo rushes back to Verona to see Juliet’s “deceased” body. They pass right by him as they drive out of dessert hell! Then, when Romeo arrives at the church all crazy like, he drinks his poison RIGHT as Juliet is waking up. She literally wakes up and grabs his arm as he is pouring the last of the poison past his tongue. It’s just too much to bear.

20. That church where Juliet’s body was placed was a fire hazard.

So. Many. Candles. Can’t. Breathe.

21. That’s not how you say punished!

Stupid MU captain.

Hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane. (I know I did.) If you enjoyed it, please let me know. And what do YOU remember most about Romeo + Juliet? Maybe I’ll relive another 90s classic some day soon. Just leave me some film recommendations in the comments section below.


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