It’s the climactic kiss at the end of the movie, the character arc that plucks at your heartstrings, the song that always gets you right in the gut – pop culture is, in many ways, built upon a smorgasbord of schmaltz. After all, cheese pleases. There’s comfort in that corniness and overt sentimentality – the sort of uplifting distraction from the harsh realities of life that we crave. Sounds pretty
schmaltzy, right? That’s the point! Like its fatty namesake, it imbues art with a distinct flavour, one that can elicit both joy and tears. So whether you’re throwing a festive dinner party or organizing a cosy movie night, consider pop culture accoutrements that scream, to paraphrase Jerry Maguire, “Show me the schmaltz!”
Five Songs Of Schmaltz
Like a waltz through schmaltz, consider this your soundtrack to a senti-
mentality-tinged soirée. “As Time Goes By,” Dooley Wilson “You must remember this/A kiss is just a kiss…” This delightful tune from Casablanca will have your guests floating on air as they circle the hors d’oeuvre table. It could be the beginning of a beautiful party. “People,” Barbra Streisand Babs’ Funny Girl standard about lucky lovers and “people who need people” invokes the spirit of humanity – great for calming unruly guests who have one too many drinks and start climbing the furniture. “I’d Do Anything for Love,” Meat Loaf All hail the King of Schmaltz – a long-haired man named after a hunk of ground meat
belting out an epic ballad so confident in its campiness that it topped the charts and won a Grammy. “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Bonnie Tyler “Turn around/Every now and then I get a little bit” schmaltzy … A decade before lyricist/ producer Jim Steinman penned Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love,” he wrote and produced this hit, in which Bonnie Tyler sang her lungs out about unrequited love in one of the 1980s’ great power ballads. “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Journey You can’t help but sing along to this optimistic classic that implores you to “hold on to that feeling.” Not to mention it belongs in the Hall of Schmaltz as, reportedly, the most downloaded 20th-century tune.
These five film classics raise schmaltz to a fine art. The Sound of Music As a general rule, singing while spinning around on the side of a mountain is enough to trigger the schmaltz meter, but add a little “Edelweiss” and a big happy crooning family, and you’d have to be a real grouch – or Christopher Plummer – not to appreciate this flick. Beaches This tale of friendship both true and fraught spans decades and fared far better among audiences than critics, who generally derided it. But fans keep coming back, aching for that tearful climactic sunset that plays out to “Wing Beneath My Wings.” Peak 1980s schmaltz. Field of Dreams With the October Classic in full swing, revisit this feel-good gem about redemption, baseball and the bond between a father and a son. The schmaltz transcends generations, so sit the grandkids down to screen it, too. If you play it, they will watch. A Charlie Brown Christmas Some retro 1960s schmaltz that sees Charlie Brown finally crack a smile when his friends help him decorate his sad little tree – a scene that continues to warm hearts on cold winter nights. Titanic If scenes like Jack shouting, “I’m the king of the world!” on the bow of the boat and Rose declaring “I’ll never let go” before her beloved fades into the frigid Atlantic aren’t enough, using Céline Dion’s epic chest-pounding hit “My Heart Will Go On” as the soundtrack to the whole ordeal both made this film a modern classic and ensured that the schmaltz will go on and on. —Mike Crisolago