Valentine's Day picks
Who doesn’t love Valentine’s Day? Most right-thinking people, as far as I can tell. It’s a weird, made-up quasi-holiday (I still have to go to work? What kind of ‘holiday’ is that?) that makes single people feel like crap and puts insanely unrealistic expectations on those of us who are in relationships. Unless you’re celebrating V-Day at that nebulous early point in a relationship where everything is still new and exciting and fresh and awesome, the only really winners on Valentine’s Day are greeting card companies, florists and candy manufacturers.
So Valentine’s Day sort of sucks. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it more enjoyable with a great movie. And contrary to popular opinion, I do, in fact, have a heart, and below I’ve picked six movies to help you make it through Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re kicking back with your beloved for a romantic evening in front of the DVD player (hey, not judging), or you’re looking for a movie to curl up with as you stew in your own bitterness and isolation, I’ve got something for everyone.
One of my favorite movies ever made, and, like screenwriter Quentin Tarantino, I don’t really get it when people think of this movie’s title as ironic. Sure, it’s packed with extreme violence and language so foul it would make a sailor blush, but the core of the movie is still the love between the geeky Clarence (Christian Slater) and his former call girl wife Alabama (Patricia Arquette), and as offbeat as it seem on the surface, what with the gangsters and pimps sleazy Hollywood producers who surround them, it’s their relationship that drives the movie and keeps me coming back. I’ve seen this movie so many times I can’t even begin to calculate it, but I still get goosebumps every damn time I watch the scene where Alabama confesses her feelings to Clarence. And ever since I first saw this movie I’ve been holding out the dim hope of one day meeting the woman of my dreams at a triple-bill screening of classic kung fu movies. (Still no luck.)
Away We Go This is a rare film in that it’s a movie about two people in love (Mya Rudolph and The Office’s John Krasinski, playing a couple expecting their first child) that isn’t about (a) them falling in love or (b) fighting against the forces of fate to get/stay together and (c) features actual grown-ups as the main characters. So already you know you’re dealing with a pretty weird little movie. Away We Go is a perfect movie for couples specifically because it’s never clichéd (romantic movies being No. 2 perhaps only to martial arts movies as a genre that relies so heavily on paint-by-numbers plots), and because it shows a fairly healthy relationship between two intelligent adults who love each other. While neither character is perfect, they also don’t seem like two-dimensional sitcom creations (the movie isn’t about them making goo-goo eyes at each other, it’s about them trying to build a life together), and the entire film just feels organic and real in a way that other romantic movies almost never do.
House of Flying Daggers
When I agreed to compile this list, a fellow editor half-jokingly dared me to include a kung fu movie. Never one to back down to a kung fu movie-related challenge, I have dutifully included Zhang Yimou’s gorgeous 2004 film about tragic star-crossed lovers: she’s a beautiful young revolutionary, he’s a dashing government agent sent undercover to gain her trust and stop her rebellion. House of Flying Daggers may feature some really impressive action sequences, but Yimou’s film really a romantic tragedy of almost Shakespearean proportions with a few fight scenes thrown in. Throw in an achingly beautiful cast (Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau) and you’ve got a date-night movie that will appeal to both guy’s-guys and girly-girls alike.
I’ll get this out of the way right off the bat: this movie made me cry a little bit. I feel like I’m one of the only people in the world who really enjoyed Darren Aronofsky’s ambitious science-fiction romance about a brilliant scientist (Hugh Jackman) whose pursuit of a cancer cure to save his dying wife (Rachel Weisz) stretches across centuries, flashing from a Spanish conquistador on a quest to save his beloved queen to the present-day scientist couple to a distant future where a bald Jackman floats through space with a giant tree. It’s pretty heady stuff, obviously, and it’s definitely not to everyone’s taste, but The Fountain is the rare movie love story that actually broke my heart.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
At the risk of showing myself to be an even bigger geek than I usually do in this space, I’ve actually watched all three extended versions of The Lord of the Rings as a giant marathon (which runs about 12 hours in total) on more than one occasion (it requires a level of planning and determination one doesn’t typically associate with an activity that basically amounts to spending 12 hours sitting on the couch) and I can tell you that spending 12 hours in Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth is about as good a way as any I can think of to avoid Valentine’s Day. Throw on Disc 1 of The Fellowship of the Ring any time between 10am and 11am on Valentine’s Day (it’s on a Sunday this year), and I guarantee that by the time Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin leave the Shire, you won’t care what day it is.
Punisher: War Zone
Maybe 12 hours in Middle Earth isn’t a feasible solution to Valentine’s Day for you. In that case, may I recommend this criminally under-appreciated 2007 adaptation of Marvel’s cult vigilante. The Punisher, in case you don’t know, is basically a post-Death Wish take on Batman; after his family is murdered by the mob, Frank Castle takes to wearing a skull on his chest and killing criminals with guns, knives and just about anything else he can get his hands on. Punisher: War Zone is one of the most wonderfully, graphically violent and fun movies I’ve seen in recent memory (and it’s directed by a woman!), and I can’t think of a better way to rebel against Valentine’s Day than with a movie that features a guy with a skull on his chest punching through dudes’ heads, shotgunning people at close range and blowing up parkour practitioners with rockets. Hate Valentine’s Day? Celebrate it with the Punisher.
A blog about movies, by a guy who probably watches too many.