February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day Movies

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I think that, before beginning this column, a small disclosure is in order: I’m not what one might call a romantic. Last year was the first Valentines Day I actually celebrated, and that description is somewhat inaccurate, considering that the celebrations in question consisted of watching cartoons and eating pizza. I did get a particularly awesome bagel toaster that also cooks eggs and sausages!

That being said, I think I’m in a unique position to offer some choice options for a Valentine’s Day movie. So, if you have a sneaking suspicion that you’re going to be taking in a movie today, and you don’t want to spend two hours with your girlfriend (or boyfriend) crying next to you, consider some of the following as legitimate choices:
Before anything else, I should deal with the exclusion of The Notebook from this list. This is for two reasons: for one, I haven’t seen it and have no interest in doing so. Second, any movie that has had a profound effect on Jessica Simpson is one I feel comfortable neglecting. And, apparently it causes polio (or so I’ve read). With that out of the way, here are my choices for the best movies for Valentine’s Day:

As someone who is hopelessly unromantic, my top choice for a Valentine’s Day movie is High Fidelity. Based on the book by Nick Hornby, it follows Rob, a self-absorbed guy who would rather reorganize his record collection than deal with his girlfriend. After a nasty break-up, he sets out to track down all of his ex-girlfriends and find out what went wrong in their relationship. It’s this realistic depiction of relationships that makes the film endearing and a worthwhile Valentine’s Day selection. At the very least it ought to get rid of the saccharine taste left by mushy fare like The Holiday.

Coming in a close second on the list is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I realize this is a predictable choice but I challenge anyone to remain unmoved. It is impossible for your heart to remain cold during the beach house scene, as Joel realizes that all his memories of Clementine will soon be erased from his mind. As he says farewell to her with the house crumbling behind him , Joel realizes that his relationship with Clementine was the best he would ever have. When I saw the film in theatres the beauty of this moment was tempered for me by the shouts of audience members, inadvertently giving the ending away (which I refuse to do. You’re welcome).

Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I recently rented Harold and Maude, and it was nothing like I expected it to be. From its description, I did not expect that it would turn out to be one of the greatest love stories I had ever seen. Forget Casablanca, the love between a morbid 20-year old rich boy and a quirky 79-year old woman really has no competition. The young man, Harold finds unlikely succor in an odd older woman who’s likes to pose nude and attends funerals for fun. Their dates range from the cute to the ridiculously adorable: a picnic among the wreckage at a junkyard,
transplanting a stolen tree in a stolen car with a stolen shovel and hanging out at the local cemetery. Maude teaches Harold exactly what he needed to learn about life. On her deathbed (Maude dies. So there) Harold articulates his love for her. She replies, “Oh, Harold… that’s wonderful. Go and love some more!” It’s a touching moment, and it puts “I’ll never let go, Jack,” to shame.

No list of this nature can complete without the inclusion of Annie Hall. When it comes to romantic movies, comedies, romantic comedies and movies in general, Annie Hall is the best. Predictable though it may be, Alvy and Annie’s relationship wins the award for Best [Failed] Couple Ever. Full of hilarious one-liners, slapstick, a cameo by Marshall McLuhan and Christopher Walken’s psychotic portrayal of Annie’s brother Duane, Annie Hall is the ultimate authority on disastrous relationships. The film presents a beautifully — and hilariously — dysfunctional relationship. Annie Hall is that rare film that somehow manages to offer a heartbreakingly funny take on a relationship growing and then falling apart.