There’s nothing quite like a manufactured holiday to give you the fuzzies. I hate fuzzies. Love is equal parts foul and embarrassing, like a tonsillolith stone.
Your humble alt-monthly scribbler exceeds not in cultivating relationships but in destroying them. Getting hung up on someone at the drop of a hat? Breaking off engagements? Poisoning friendships by acting on long-standing sexual tensions? I’m guaranteed to have done at least two of those things before I’ve had my tea and toast. So Valentine’s Day is not for me. It’s for people who are loveable. And I’m about as loveable as Robert Mugabe.
Yet there are films that still move me, so imagine what nice people like you might feel watching them! Here are my Valentine’s recommendations.
Film Studies 101
Annie Hall (1977)
Love is something Woody Allen understands very well. At least in his movies. Here, Alvy Singer (Allen) meets the title character (Diane Keaton) and we watch their relationship get heated and eventually peter out. Unlike later Allen films, however, Hall isn’t cynical. In the final monologue Alvy notes how good it is to see Annie again once time has passed. They can never rekindle their passion, but it’s not something they’d ever erase. For all the misery they went through, their relationship was a mad grasp at straws that is somehow still rewarding. Plus, how can you turn down a movie with cameos by Christopher Walken, Marshall McLuhan and Truman Capote?
Token Vampire Entry
Let the Right One In (2008)
So affecting it inspired an inferior US remake, this Swedish film is a tale of two outsiders. One, a vampire stuck in adolescence (Lina Leandersson) and the other, an emotionally stunted schoolboy (Kare Hedebrant) whose future career path seems stuck in sociopath mode. While not mushy, the performances and writing can be described as sweet. Unlike the idealized love found in supernatural romances, these two characters fit not because they complete each other’s fantasies, but because their humanity shines through only when they’re together.
A Ben Stiller Vehicle You Won’t Hate
Flirting With Disaster (1996)
In addition to Stiller, the cast includes Lily Tomlin, Josh Brolin, Six Feet Under’s Richard Jenkins, Mary Tyler Moore and Alan Alda. Combined with a script by director David O. Russell, who wrote Three Kings and The Fighter, this farcical comedy is so sharp it even wrings laughs out of infidelity. Mel (Stiller) is bored with Nancy (Patricia Arquette) and is increasingly attracted to Tina (Téa Leoni), the astoundingly incompetent adoption agent. Jealous of her husband, Nancy accepts some unexpected attention from Jenkins’ lover (Brolin), and the end result is awkwardness all around. Yet, Mel and Nancy ultimately acknowledge and get over their marital doldrums.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
I saw Brokeback under somewhat Savage Love-like circumstances that I’ve been advised not to write here, except that I had a lovely time. Anyhoo, this film is a tragedy. Though its ending will reduce viewers to incoherent weeping, the love affair between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal lingers. The raw, uncontrollable passion is breathtaking, even to a heartless walking stock exchange-collapse like myself.
Hot, Canadian Passion
Last Night (1998)
As Torontonians prepare for an unexplained apocalypse set to wipe out all of humanity, and things have disintegrated into street violence and casual sex. But Patrick (writer-director-star Don McKellar) and Sandra (Sandra Oh), both end up separated from loved ones as their final minutes tick by. Their desperate chemistry has a spur-of-the-moment honesty which gives Last Night a sweetness to balance its weirdness.
While not likely to give you a case of the fuzzies, these are interesting, must-see films that’ll better prepare you for the tribulations of Valentine’s and, Zardoz willing, beyond.