As part of my mission to champion the cause of romantic love in the world, albeit only for today and in a curmudgeonly way, I am going to recommend three movies that love-struck couples can enjoy together on this, the most cloyingly wonderful day of the year. I am not, of course, going to offend my readers by selecting the sort of loathsome cinematic fare that passes for romance among people who require conventional and Hollywood-like depictions of love. Rather, I have chosen films that require someone with an almost poetic sensibility to discern their subtle charms, which lie hidden beneath admittedly gritty, if not gruesome, surfaces.
Hellboy. To the discerning heart, this film is practically a modern re-make of Romeo and Juliet, except that, in this case, the families of the boy and girl are not feuding, Romeo is the son of the Evil One, and although Juliet does die, she comes back to life. But these are quibbling differences, and the movie is otherwise perfectly faithful to the play in every way, except for a few other modest descrepancies in matters of plot, character, setting, and theme. In any case, Hellboy has everything necessary for romantic greatness: love lost and won, great monsters, even greater weapons, Nazis, a character who lives in an aquarium, and an organization with its headquarters in New Jersey that is – implausibly, I concede – legitimate. Finally, Hellboy and his girlfriend Liz are the hottest couple in cinema history, since one of them is impervious to flame and the other can burst into it almost at will.
Shoot ‘Em Up. I admit that I am something of a sucker for films that feature a sensitive but misunderstood hero who kills lots of deserving people, since I myself am sensitive and misunderstood, though not as yet given to homicidal reprisals in response to perceived provocations. This movie manages the impressive feat of being, at once, a romance and a vehicle for family values. Consider the facts: the man and woman (an entertainer – sort of) who eventually fall in love first meet in a (sort of) church, and, after overcoming a few minor problems that attend their being hunted by roving death squads actively seeking their demise, they get (sort of) married. Further, there is a baby in the movie, which the man and woman eventually adopt, and you can’t get more family-oriented than that! Even the film’s villain is a family man who constantly and considerately interrupts his murderous escapades to call his wife, and he even takes time out from his business of attempting to exterminate the man, woman, and baby to consult with one of his henchmen about what sort of birthday card to send his young son. I mean, he’s a candidate for “Dad of the Year,” and in a time when movies are so lacking in positive role models, I applaud the director of Shoot ‘Em Up for presenting his audience with so many. Finally, the movie contains a sternly moral anti-gun message, even as it revels in the unbridled use of firearms, and while some people might call that a contradiction, I call it the American Way of Life, and, as the mindlessly patriotic adage puts it, if someone doesn’t love that Way of Life, he can leave it. Actually, “love it or leave it” is, at least in my jaundiced view, a perfectly appropriate motto for Valentine’s Day. By the way, I hope that my male readers winced a bit at my use of “unbridled,” since “bridle” and “bridal,” though deriving from different word roots, can have frighteningly similar meanings. That’s just a friendly Valentine’s Day warning from a guy who’s got your back.
Friday the 13th. I know that many people will have trouble seeing Jason’s brutal ministrations as a form of “tough love,” but that’s not my problem. Labeling this confused young man a “homicidal maniac” solves nothing, but interpreting his admittedly antisocial behaviors as examples of “butchery issues” would allow people to see that Jason’s murderous rampages are merely disguised calls for affection, and that he is, finally, a romantic, albeit a blood-soaked one, and I submit that Jason X is so rife with with richly-textured relationships, that it comes perilously close to being a chick flick. In fact, if Jason were to replace his hockey mask with a smiley-face button, he would likely become a far more caring person, and I think that someone in Hollywood should give serious consideration to making a Friday the 13th movie in which Jason Voorhies meets Dr. Phil, as long as our wayward Don Juan is carrying an axe and our National Therapist is tied to a chair.
I hope that couples find my movie suggestions helpful, and I equally hope that viewing one of these films furthers the progress of their romance. I could, of course, have mentioned a few more of my favorite romantic movies, such as Alien vs. Predator and Blade II, but to have done so might have made me appear sentimental, and that is something that I cannot risk, especially on Valentine’s Day.
Note: For the sake of the sissies among my readers, and by “sissies” I mean “men who are afraid to cross their women by failing to rent a sappy movie,” I will suggest a few films that, while offering more traditional expressions of romance, contain at least a modicum of wit and emotional complexity.
Love Actually. I deplore the fact that the pompous British have so much cause for their pomposity, at least where films are concerned, since their romantic movies are generally so much better than their American counterparts, and I hate them for it. But I love this movie.
A Room with a View. More insufferable British superiority; this has to be among the loveliest, wittiest movies ever made, and the glorious Tuscan landscape is a major part of its appeal.
Clerks II. Beneath its surface vulgarities, this is a very traditional love story, as well as one of the few movies that is able to affirm the value of friendship in an unsentimental way.
Mediterraneo. Another astonishingly beautiful movie, which manages to treat romantic love in a sophisticated and decidedly adult way.
Mamma Mia!. Okay, perhaps this film does not, like the others on this list, “contain a modicum of wit and emotional complexity,” but I like its off-beat charm and up-beat spirit, and I actually enjoy listening to ABBA, and so, after all, I, too, in my own saccharine way, am something of a sissy.