Hey everyone, it's Valentine's Day! Quick, now that I've reminded you run to your local supermarket buy the biggest card that most closely approximates the feelings you're not sure you have, grab whichever box of chocolates meets the price/presentation ratio you most sincerely feel represents your desire and conjure up some other token gesture cribbed from your loved one's favourite film/book/song/MMOG. An air of cynicism perhaps? Yes, probably. No more cynical though than the programming of tosh like The Vow to be brazenly thrust into the goggle-slots of hapless cinemagoers who would much rather be watching, er, Star Wars in 3D or Drew Barrymore save a whale. Plenty of cinemas are doing special Valentine's screenings of dross like Dirty Dancing which for some reason is considered romantic. Well, it's not. FACT. Here are a handful of films I think cinemas should be programming as they are indeed very romantic, but probably a little closer to the truth... the horrible, tragic, bitter, lonely, miserable truth...
5. True Romance
Tony Scott directed this Quentin Tarantino script with a superb ensemble including Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer, James Gandolfini and Michael Rapaport. However the cast is headed up by Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette who make for one of the sweetest couples in cinema history, well, the sweetest couple that gets caught up in all manner of bloodshed and drug dealings, but, still, they're pretty darn sweet. Clearly a homage to the likes of Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde, Tarantino's script is nevertheless full of memorable scenes and Scott goes easy on his hyper-kinetic style, putting the quirky charms of the film at the fore, though it is often particularly brutal when Clarence and Alabama's love affair crosses into the realms of Hollywood gangsters. Sure, a lot of it is geeky wish fulfillment, and realistically the relationship probably won't last, but nothing lasts, so shut up.
4. I Love You Philip Morris
Whilst 'cool' couples across the land will be pretending they bare some resemblence to Joel and Clementine in Michel Gondry's wonderful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, they'll be over-looking the other great Jim Carrey romantic comedy, one even more dazzling because it's pretty much entirely true! Carrey plays Steven Russell, a happily married Christian policeman who after a car accident comes out as homo-sexual and moves to the coast, unfortunately in order to fund his new 'carpe diem' lifestyle he needs a bit more 'per diem' than his bank balance allows. Thus a life of crime leads Steven to prison where he meets and falls for Philip Morris (Ewan McGregor), what follows it one of the sweetest flirtations in cinema as Steven arranges for the prison squealer that keeps Philip awake at night to be beaten up, hides chocolates in his toilet roll and ultimately gets them both released from jail. However, Steven's love knows no bounds, which is a shame as his wallet continues to and he can't give up on his fraudulent ways because he just wants the best for himself and Philip. Sadly this proves to be emotionally turbulent for the couple, and it's heartening and heartbreaking to see to what lengths Steven will go to be with the love of his life. Watch this film and realise you wouldn't do it, you don't care about that person slumped next to you, not like Steven Russell does and he's spending the rest of his life in prison. That's love.
3. The Crow
However, one-upping Steven's commitment is Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) in The Crow, he can't even let things lie once he's dead. Instead, he comes back on the anniversary of his and his fiance's murder to avenge her death and deliver justice to those responsible. Lee's performance in this film is utterly heartbreaking, Draven's musings such as; "Little things used to mean so much to Shelly - I used to think they were kind of trivial. Believe me, nothing is trivial." puts the simple beauty of the world and of love into greater perspective than a whole marathon of Katherine Heigl films. But there's more than just romantic love in this film, there's love between a mother and her daughter, there's love between a policeman and his city and there's love between a crow and pecking out the eyes of evil gun-toting baddies.
2. Leaving Las Vegas
Nicolas Cage loves to drink in Mike Figgis' haunting and depressing doomed romance, well, he doesn't love to drink, but he has decided to drink himself to death, and he tells Elisabeth Shue's prostitue Sera as much when he meets her. It's utterly gut-wrenching watching the two fall in love knowing full well that Cage's Ben will not renege on his intention. One scene inparticular in which Sera gives Ben a gift of a hip flask is so soul destroyingly sad that I might just curl up into a foetal position at my computer for a few hours. Figgis' film tumbles down a rabbit hole of misery towards its utterly bleak conclusion so much so that it's almost counter-productive and my first reaction when the film ends is usually: "Christ! I need a drink."
1. The Fly
David Cronenberg's breath-takingly good remake of the 50's B-Movie is confused for a horror film when in fact it is, to my mind, one of the saddest romances ever commited to celluloid. Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a brilliant scientist who could revolutionize the world with his latest invention, he manages to convince journalist Veronica (Geena Davis) to witness his teleportation machine, and in the process the two fall in love. What I like about their relationship is the casual and open sexuality of it, Cronenberg has them lazing about in Brundle's creaky warehouse apartment, lying under thin sheets, enjoying one another's body with a refreshingly realistic honesty. Of course, like all relationships (ALL RELATIONSHIPS) it can't last, and, like all men, Seth begins to mutate into a hideous monstrosity when he accidentally teleports himself and a fly at the same time. (You idiot Seth, why couldn't it have been something a bit sexier, like a giraffe?!) At first Seth feels fantastic, and his sexual prowess is greatly increased, but soon bits of him start to fall off, which is always a mood killer. Ultimately, in the best dumping scene in history, the hideous hybrid of Seth/Fly/Telepod puts a shotgun to his own head and urges Veronica to pull the trigger and... well... of course she does... that's what all women do. Well, I hope you've enjoyed this selection box of other Valentine's filmic treats, if I find myself in a relationship by this time next year expect my list to feature more Channing Tatum movies.