This Thursday is Valentine's Day, when men and women across the country make a half-assed attempt to show enthusiasm for their significant others. Scoff all you like, there's still a good chance you'll be scrambling for dinner reservations and standing in a 20 minute line for overpriced roses that match the lovely shade of crimson your face is turning as you mutter darkly about "manufactured Hallmark holidays."
Or maybe you've decided to check out a movie. Hollywood traditionally lines up some formulaic romances to siphon away your hard-earned dollars on V-Day, and this year's no exception. For the younger set, there's Beautiful Creatures, a "supernatural romance" not involving vampires or werewolves, and Safe Haven, described as the "best Nicholas Sparks movie yet."
Somebody probably called Dresden "the best firebombing to date," but that doesn't mean it was something you'd want to sit through. In case you forgot, Sparks is also responsible for The Notebook, Dear John, and several other movies where people try to crush each other's skulls. If you're not going to do anything else, at least try to Netflix/Amazon/Redbox one of the following romantic alternatives. You'll be spared the pain and expense of actually seeing Safe Haven in the theater, and - when your partner becomes overcome with passion following the awesome movie you just watched - you'll be conveniently on your own couch/futon/floor mattress.
Before Sunrise (1995)/Before Sunset (2004) Nothing wrong with a double-feature to get started, though I'm personally waiting to schedule mine for the third film, Before Midnight, which premiered at Sundance and opens in May.
Casablanca (1942) Fine, it's not exactly a bold choice, but the great script ("Your winnings, sir") and top shelf performances still hold up, and will actually make you believe Ingrid Bergman would fall in love with a creepy looking dude like Humphrey Bogart.
Just kidding, Bogey. Respect.
My Bloody Valentine (1981) What? It's topical, and speaks to the growing epidemic of psychotic coal miners that threatens to overwhelm this great nation.
Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) I continue to get a lot of flak for my love of this movie, but I find it to be much less nauseating than any of the other Hanks/Ryan flicks, and it's probably Hanks' second best role, right after the one he won the Oscar for (Bachelor Party).
Roxanne (1987) Fred Schepisi's inoffensive yet still humorous take on Cyrano de Bergerac is also one of the last Steve Martin movies that was actually funny. Helpful hint: if this isn't available, don't just say 'the hell with it' and go with Schepisi's next film, A Cry in the Dark. Trust me.
Harold and Maude (1971) Another one to put down on the list of "movies that couldn't get made today," not for the May - late December romance (As Good As It Gets, with Nicholson slobbering over Helen Hunt, was nominated for Best Picture after all), but the suicide thing. They ought to remake it though, just so Bud Cort can get some work.
Let The Right One In (2008) I know; you're sick of vampires. But kid vampires? Showing their love by brutally murdering some bullies? Plus, it's in Swedish, so you get that foreign movie cred.
Some Like It Hot (1959) The St. Valentine's Day Massacre kicks off the action in one of my favorite comedies. And there's romance! Tony Curtis and Marilyn! Jack Lemmon and Joe E. "Osgood" Brown! Two dudes! That's goddamn progressive, that is.
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2046 (2004) I'm reluctant to recommend this if you're not a Wong Kar-wai fan, as it relies somewhat on two of his earlier films (Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love), but like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it deals with issues of memory and the vagaries of time. And if that doesn't get your motor running, Zhang Ziyi is hotness.
Run Lola Run (1999) Yes, I'm cheating. It's late and none of you are going to listen to me anyway. Franka Potente is awesome, and I'm sorry she hooked up with Jason Bourne and got killed because of it.