Friday, February 12, 2010

Top Ten Best Valentine's Day Movies

Snuggle up with your favorite honey and your rescue animals on the couch and spend the evening entrenched with these tales of enduring and true love.

Here's my personal top ten best romantic movies. By the way, I only picked movies where the leads end up together; where neither one of them is a prostitute; where Tom Cruise isn't in it (because he's just too GAY to take seriously); and the overall theme of the film is the love story, not, you know, like running from the Nazi's in the Austrian Alps.

10. The African Queen
Hard to imagine a romantic love story being effective between a crotchety old Humphrey Bogart, and a haggard Kate Hepburn playing a splinster, but this film will draw you in.

Is there a better backdrop than fighting Germans for two souls to find true love? As they battle each other, WWI German boats and mosquitoes, the two form an unlikely attraction that grows into something deeper.

Set in 1914, Hepburn plays a British missionary who gets stuck in a German occupied African jungle when her brother is killed by soldiers. To her reluctant rescue, comes a crusty boat Captain left to helm his own ship, The African Queen, when his crew deserts after hearing WWI was started.

The two hate each other, of course, but have to bond together to make the perilous journey up the river. So this doubles as a road trip movie!

Great chemistry that will have you routing for them.

9. The Way We Were
The Communist Jew and the goyish blue-eyed frat-boy - she's got a lot to say, him...not so much, but holy Jesus, the sparks fly when they get together. I didn't want to include a movie where the two leads don't end up together, but this is too much of a classic not to mention just for the sheer melodrama/romance of it all.

"But you must'nt be too serious." Redford seduces Streisand

Set against the backdrop of the Hollywood Blacklist, Sydney Pollack took this otherwise pedestrian, swirly-letter romance and managed to elevate it - no offense to gay author Arthur Laurents, who said he based it on a girl he knew in college (he also penned West Side Story, another classic love story). Pollock admits he had to coerce Redford into playing the rather shallow lead because he knew he could give more to the character.

If you've ever loved someone so much, yet it just will never make sense, you'll get this movie and cry along with great lines like, "You expect so much, Katie," "Yes, but look at what I've got."

Cue Marvin Hamlish score.....See ya, Hubbell.

8. An Officer and a Gentleman

A classic romance, with a gritty undertones, that manages to show the darker, vulnerable side of the characters, while still retaining a silver screen romance standard (Love indeed lifts them up where they belong!).

A Navy cadet (Richard Gere) with "nowhere else to go" gets wooed by a local factory girl (original crazy-bad-girl, precursor to Lindsay Lohan, Debra Winger) looking to snag an officer, and in the middle of struggles, tragedy and a bucket of white trash atmosphere, find real, true love.

Great secondary love story - Gere and drill Sergeant Louis Gossett Jr.

7. Bound

Before helming The Matrix films, the Wachowski brothers pulled-off this fantastic noir homage with a lesbian twist.

The chemistry between bad girl butch Gina Gershon and mobster honey Jennifer Tilly (aptly named Violet) is top notch, and the film takes place in the confines of one apartment building in a few days.

Do yourself a big favor, if you haven't done this already - watch it with the director's track ON. It is like a whole other form of entertainment as the directors describe technical things whilst Suzy Bright explains all the sexual parts with blunt detail ("Ya see, a woman's hands are her dick") and Joe Pantoliano keeps offering to drop his pants. HYSTERICAL!

6. Random Harvest
This was one of my favorite movies as a kid (I was a big Ronald Coleman fan - I know, go figure. The other kids liked Shaun Cassidy and Robby Benson) and this is a BIG TIME MELODRAMATIC LOVE STORY (hence the all caps).

Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson

Even just looking at some of the stills from this film now made me practically break out weeping. I don't know whether it's the impossible journey these two have to undertake to be together, or the incredible vulnerability, charm and all around hotness of Greer Garson.

Set against the backdrop of war-torn Britain post WWI, Coleman plays a soldier who has suffered complete amnesia and wanders into the loving and accepting arms of Garson in the country side. The two fall in love, get married and proceed to be sickeningly perfect and fabulous together. UNTIL... cue hokey drama music... one day in town, Coleman regains his memory, only to forget all of his recent history!

He returns to his previous life in the big city, being a successful businessman from a rich family but he can't seem to get out of his mind that he's forgetting something important. After her husband goes missing, Garson's character finally finds him then - get this - takes a job as his secretary in hopes that they'll either fall in love again or he'll finally remember.

Then this goes on FOR YEARS. Ending is brilliant and touching.

It's from the same author that brought us Lost Horizons, Goodbye, Mr. Chips and the screen adaptation of Mrs. Miniver. MUST RENT, although a warning (I know, NOW a warning?)... no straight man in history has ever been able to sit through this one!

5. White Palace

What a surprise this sleeper little romance ditty was back in 1990.

Mexican Director Luis Mandoki took this low budget romance novel and cooked it up into a surprisingly touching and sexy film, with help from mutlilayered performances by heavyweight thesps James Spader and Susan Sarandon, and a screen adaptation from Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People, Spiderman 3, Julia).

Spader plays a 27 year old persnickety yuppy who has a one-night-stand with 43 year-old, burger joint counter girl, Susan Surandon. Two different tax brackets, two different age groups, yet somehow they find themselves wanting to make a go of it.

You start to learn they do have something in common, though. Both have suffered immeasurable and crippling losses which have seriously affected their ability to connect through love, or even to allow themselves to feel happiness.

It is a little dated in the time period (I can't forgive the 1980's for that hair, the shoulderpads and that insipid soundtrack!), but this film will also just suck you in. Supporting actors include the always fantastic Eileen Brennen and Kathy Bates.

4. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

The chemistry quotient between the crusty old sea captain and the sweet, young widow is just outstanding. This meets all my standards of a good romance because you just know these two have to be together and it's a joy to watch the bond grow as two opposites form a mutual respect and deeper love for each other. And technically, if you've seen this film, they do end up together!

Cranky, old sea captain Daniel Craigg (Rex Harrison) continues to haunt his old house from the afterlife and tries his best to get rid of the new tenants - a sweet yet unusually independent widow (Gene Tierney) and her daughter (Natalie Wood).

After he's unsuccessful (because she's awfully plucky) he ends up helping her keep the house when financial crisis strikes by dictating to her his stories from sea, which she publishes as fiction. What follows is sacrifice, sadness and eventually... well, you'll just have to see it. To boot, the film is very witty with some clever and sometimes naughty one liners.

3. The Goodbye Girl
From the moment Richard Dreyfus states, "You don't keep the panties hanging on the shower", I fell in love with this classic 1970's style rom com about a down-and-out actor who rents a room from an unemployed single mom.

Written by Neil Simon (and starring his then wife Marsha Mason), the film depicts love in NYC between a broke and broken romantic and a struggling actor.

It also introduced the world to the too-clever-for-her-age little girl character which no one ever got just as right as Quinn Cummings (sorry Jodie Foster). And that catchy emo '70's theme song, "All your life you've waited, for love to come and stay...."

2. The Notebook

Okay, I'm only human!

You can not avoid the allure of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdam's sizzling and simmering chemistry in Nick Cassavetes' deeply romantic film that somehow rides the line between schmaltzy and engaging.

The tale is a love story that could not be more cliched - poor boy falls for rich girl, rich girl's parents forbid it and whisk her away.

Set against the backdrop of the 1940's, the story is narrated in present day by Jim Rockford himself - James Garner - to his nursing home buddy (played the director's mother, Gena Rowlands). Great use of the split time storytelling outside of LOST.

The by-the-book romance gets some slight indie street cred with supporting actor turns by Sam Shepard and Joan Allen.

A modern day classic!

1. Say Anything
Not since Romeo appeared below Juliet's window has there been such an iconic declaration of boyhood love as when John Cusack held up his boom box outside Ione Sky's window and "In Your Eyes" played.

Lloyd is a dork, and the object of his high school affection is the seemingly unattainable good girl, Diane Court. The film is riddled with common cliches from other films of the period (mainly John Hughes originated) including the sassy best girlfriends who coach Lloyd, and the caring father (played by John Mahoney).

Then this film takes a few surprising turns to hit an indelible mark with bits like the dinner table scene, "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed...." and the infamous, "He gave me a pen" line/metaphor.

Lloyd doesn't know what he wants to do post high school, and that isn't going to work for the overprotected Diane, whose father keeps a strict fence around her with high expectations. But true love is definitely the thing that wins out in this film, directed by Cameron Crowe (Jerry McGuire and Almost Famous).


Okay, let's face facts. Hollywood romances are the reason we have such ridiculous expectations of love and marriage in this country, and in real life, none of this shit really happens.

So in honor of reality, tune in tomorrow to TheSmokingCocktail and I'll give you my Top Ten Romance Films for Totally Fucked Up People List.

And for those of you looking for the unhappy ending, there's always the brilliant Casablanca (unless you were routing for Louie), Dr. Zhivago and The English Patient.

The best romances where they don't end up together: 500 Days of Summer and Truly Madly Deeply.

1 comment:

Shoot the Critic said...

Great list. I especially want to stress the romantic strengths of "The African Queen" and "The Notebook." I love the scene in "Say Anything" when she visits him while he's practicing boxing. He gets knocked out but then a rewarding kiss. It's just very sweet. I posted my own list of movies I find perfect for Valentine's Day. You can view it here:
There are just so many great romantic movies-- one could make endless lists. - Shoot the Critic