Ah, Valentine’s Day.
It’s a fake holiday designed by big corporations to trick you into spending money on fancy meals and ridiculously expensive flowers that’ll be dead in two days (not to mention you can buy them for a fraction of the price the next day). But you don’t have to fall victim to the Valentine’s Day nonsense. Who’s to say a quiet night at home with take-out and movies isn’t the best way to spend time with your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, puppy, cat, gallon of ice cream, or Ryan Gosling-shaped pillow – we’re not judging, friend. In fact, we’re encouraging. Sling TV is there for you and whoever you’re spending Valentine’s Day with this year.
With the help of our most romantic Sling staffers – Alex Castle, Sarah Moffatt, Michele Drohan, Oliver Ward, and Nathan McGee – we bring you the only list you need of movies to watch this Valentine’s Day.
Starship Troopers – What do you mean this isn’t a Valentine’s movie? Let me tell you a little story: I loved this movie when it came out. I saw it in the theater and thought it was absolutely brilliant, a hilarious pitch-black satire of a piece with director Paul Verhoeven’s other masterwork RoboCop. Where that film explored the notion of privatizing public services like the police, Starship Troopers went after rah-rah jingoism and militarized xenophobia, blending brutal violence and startlingly regressive politics with a 90210-pretty cast and I loved it. But, no one I talked to and no review I read saw the movie the same way I did. Everyone seemed to think it was just a woodenly acted, thinly plotted, unironically militaristic B sci-fi action flick with Doogie Howser of all people in a supporting role. A couple of months later I met a very cute young lady, we started to hit it off and someone mentioned Starship Troopers. Just as I was opening my mouth to explain how misunderstood the movie was, she said, “I love that movie! It’s hilarious! Best satire I’ve seen in years!” That young lady is now my wife of 15 years. (AC)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Where most relationship movies start at the beginning with the cute meeting that leads to the first date before moving on to the bump in the road, the insurmountable obstacle, and the happy ending, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman instead starts with the insurmountable obstacle – the couple has broken up and isn’t getting back together – and focuses on something much more interesting: the value of memories, even bad ones, in the wake of a failed relationship. Jim Carrey gives easily his best dramatic performance as the subdued, heartbroken Joel, who enlists the services of a memory-wiping company to help him get over his lost love, and Kate Winslet is her typically excellent self as the bipolar Clementine, the woman Joel is trying to forget. (AC)
Titanic I have been an unapologetic lover of this movie since the day I saw it in the theater in 1997. Is the dialogue a little cheesy in parts? Sure. Is the fact that Kate Winslet’s character, Rose, didn’t share that door with Jack in the freezing cold water a major flaw in the plot? Maybe. But, who cares? James Cameron takes one of the most recognized tragedies of the 20th century and turns it into a love story so strong I forgot the boat was going to sink. The special effects hold up remarkably well, and the chemistry between Leo and Kate prevents the film from delving into pure melodrama. One of my favorite scenes is when Jack asks Rose if she wants to go to a real party and they proceed to drink beer and dance with the motley crew down in steerage. Say what you will, but if you don’t get a few goosebumps when you hear Celine Dion’s soaring theme song “My Heart Will Go On,” then you’re probably dead inside. (MD)
Annie Hall – Out of the roughly 7,200 movies Woody Allen has made in his 182-year career, his 1977 meditation on a failed relationship still stands as the high-water mark. Full of novel directorial touches like presenting a single scene in animation, or another with subtitles revealing the characters’ true thoughts while they’re speaking, or another with both Allen’s and Diane Keaton’s characters talking to their psychiatrists in split screen, not to mention the fractured chronology, this is a much more innovative film than Allen is typically given credit for. It’s also very sweet: Allen’s affection for both Annie, the woman he falls for and loses, and Keaton, the woman who both inspired and played the character, is both evident and perfectly played by both actors. It’s easy to see why Allen falls for her, and even easier to see why it can’t work. Funny, touching, insightful, and heartfelt, I never seem to get tired of this one. (AC)
Secretary – On the surface, this is the slightly perverted story of a woman whose boss gradually brings her into a sadomasochistic relationship. And on that level it is a very amusing, very titillating piece of work. But to me this movie is all about acceptance: acceptance of your own personal quirks and flaws, acceptance of the same in others, and learning to make your flaws fit with someone else’s. If you can overlook the binding and the leather cuffs, it’s really very sweet. As my grandma used to say, there’s a lid for every pot. (AC)
Grey Gardens – Not everyone grows old with a sweetheart. Of course, not everyone wants to but certainly there are worse alternatives to growing old alone, like growing old with your codependent mother in a crumbling mansion on Long Island with 50 feral cats – and raccoons. And, a film crew to capture every cringe-worthy moment of your expulsion from high society. Starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore (and drawing heavily from the 1975 documentary of the same name), Grey Gardens is the cautionary true story of Big Edie and Little Edie, Jackie O’s not-distant-enough relations, whose squalid living conditions became a national headline. Watch and then reconsider whether that guy who lives downstairs is truly undateable – sure, he’s no Kennedy, but it might be better to settle than to become an involuntary apprentice to an amateur cat breeder. (OW) HBO
The Book of Life – Valentine’s Day not only brings an appreciation for those you love who are still living, but also for those who have passed on. This animated tale of a tangled web between a woman and two men stars Diego Luna, Channing Tatum and Zoe Saldana. Manolo (Luna) must face his fears, traveling to death and back to demonstrate his dedication and love to Maria (Saldana), while dealing with expectations that are placed upon him. At the same time, he fights against the social and personal pressure to be more like his long time best frenemy, Joaquin (Tatum), who excels at everything. (NM)
Notting Hill – One of my all-time favorite Julia Roberts movies only behind Pretty Woman, because duh. It’s full of 1999 fashion, now-cliché rom-com bits, and it also convinced me I need to live in London – something I’ve yet to do. Roberts plays an American movie star named Anna Scott, who is in London doing press for a film. She happens to go into a bookshop owned by the goofy and charming William Thacker (Hugh Grant) before he spills orange juice all over her and they fall in love. Of course, it’s not that easy as she’s a world-famous movie star, that’s hard for any regular Joe to deal with, but the ups-and-downs of the film lead to one of my favorite lines from any romantic comedy: “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” Swoon! What can you expect from genius screenwriter Richard Curtis (aka the guy behind Love, Actually)? (SM)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Rent from $2.99) – Chances are you missed this romantic dramedy when it premiered in 2012 or else mistook it for a documentary – it opened the same day as Jiro Dreams of Sushi, so your confusion would be understandable. It’s a curious premise: a wealthy Yemeni sheikh brings together a fisheries expert (Ewan McGregor), a financial advisor (Emily Blunt), and the British Prime Minister’s acerbic press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas), all in an effort to introduce the sport of fly fishing to the Middle East. A bit far-fetched? Absolutely. But this heartwarming story from the director of Chocolat and the writer of Slumdog Millionaire is so endearing that you will find yourself rooting for a fish to thrive in the desert. (OW)
About Time –- also a Richard Curtis film –- is one of the sweetest, most heartwrenching love stories of recent cinema. When it opened in theaters, I didn’t notice it getting a lot of traction at the box office for some reason, despite having the star power of Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy. Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, The Revenant, Harry Potter) stars as a 21-year-old who finds out from his father (Nighy) the men in their family have the ability to time travel, though history cannot be changed. When he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), he uses his magic to perfect winning her heart, but finds he cannot keep ordinary life from taking its course. (SM)
Friday The 13th – My first movie date was to see Friday The 13th. It was then and there I discovered gold: As Jason stalked his prey at the Crystal Lake camp, the suspense and horror of his bloodthirst would lead to my gal pal grabbing onto me for protection. Despite the town’s warning against setting up camp in the dark and dangerous woods, Kevin Bacon and his gaggle of camp counselors essentially create the perfect hot spot for a crazed killer. (NM)
10 Things I Hate About You – This was (is) my favorite movie in the late ‘90s and it still holds up for me today. Julia Stiles and the late Heath Ledger star alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the then-modern-day spin on William Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew. Heath Ledger’s role as rebel Patrick Verona was absolutely the awakening of my “bad boy” phase alongside my infatuation with Ledger in general. If you’re a girl from the 80s or 90s, chances are you’ve already seen this film, but if you haven’t, now is the time. Brought to us by the angels who forged Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You is a classic romantic comedy you can watch spooning bae or a bucket of ice cream. (SM)