BY MATT JUSTUS
Valentine’s Day. For those ranked amongst the single, it can be a torturous reminder that there is seemingly no other human being on the planet that does not prefer the company of others to their exclusive company. For those in a relationship, it provides a way of looking down on everyone covered by the previous sentence (or a reason to appreciate one’s beloved in chocolate form). For just about everyone, it seems to be another one of those commercialized holidays that forces us to shell out hard-earned dough on the customary presents – chocolate, flowers, jewelry. With that in mind, here are a few movies to watch over this long, cold weekend.
The Princess BrideStarring: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn, Andre the GiantDirector: Rob Reiner
This is probably the love story with the widest appeal possible. It features giants, evil geniuses, duels both to the death and the pain, Rodents of Unusual Size, and a love so powerful that it can’t even be stopped by death (well, mostly). The story, framed as a bedtime story read by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to a sick kid (Fred Savage), follows the never-ending love between Westley (aka The Dread Pirate Roberts – Elwes) and Buttercup (Penn). When Buttercup is kidnapped by the disgusting Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), who plans to marry her against her will, Westley goes on a quest to rescue her and live happily ever after. Along the way, he picks up the support of lovable giant Fezzik (played by Andre the Giant in a performance leagues beyond Hulk Hogan’s turn in Rocky III) and Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), a swordsman with a quest of his own. As I said above, this love story can please just about anyone – it’s got action, comedy, and romance better than most pictures coming out today, and is eminently quotable; everyone knows, for example, about the second most classic blunder (after never getting involved in a land war in Asia) one can possibly commit.
Gone With the WindStarring: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de HavillandDirector: Victor Fleming
Probably the most definitive film love story of all time – adjusted for inflation, it is actually the highest-grossing film in box office history. Even the score is iconic. Set in the South around the time of the Civil War, the film tracks the life of Scarlett O’Hara (Leigh), a strong, beautiful and willful, yet stubborn and arrogant woman. The film is nearly four hours long, so I’ll give you the incredibly quick version of it: Scarlett loves Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), but he marries her friend and his own cousin Melanie Hamilton (de Havilland). Rhett Butler (Gable) loves Scarlett, but she marries two other men (in succession) who are conveniently killed. Scarlett continues to wrestle with the fact that Ashley does not love her and her own feelings toward Rhett, complicated by a series of tragic deaths which leave both of their families wounded.The scope of the love story between Scarlett and Rhett is epic, matched only by the scope of the film. I recommend watching it, but beware – as a film set in the South around the time of the Civil War, it leans frighteningly toward romanticizing slavery (the character of Prissy is particularly offensive). On the other hand, this film also marks the first time an African-American won an Academy Award – Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress for playing Mammy.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindStarring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah WoodDirector: Michel Gondry
A movie good enough to make you want to listen to E.L.O.’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” Withdrawn Joel Barish (Carrey) discovers that his ex-girlfriend, wild Clementine Kruczynski (Winslet) has undergone a procedure to remove all traces of their rocky relationship from her memory. Being emotionally shattered himself, both by the end of their relationship and this revelation, Joel decides to undergo the same procedure, on the night before Valentine’s Day. However, as he relives the relationship during the process, he realizes that the good outweighs the bad and attempts to hold on to his memories of Clementine.With a pitch-perfect Charlie Kaufman script and the dreamlike control director Gondry keeps over the audience, this is easily one of my top films of the past ten years. Scenes like the one in the Chinese restaurant, with Joel’s sadness at being “that couple” – the one that fights in public – are heartbreakingly true to life (at least mine). Yet when we see that Joel loves Clementine so much that he attempts to hide his memory of her deeper within his subconscious mind to protect her/it, we can be reaffirmed to some extent and can hope for better between the two of them in the end.
Bonus Feature: Top Nerd Romance Moment of All Time
As the devoted readers of my columns, both my mom and my girlfriend, will note, I grew up quite the nerd. Nerds, traditionally, have not had the opportunity to get the girl in the world of movies. There was Revenge of the Nerds, sure, but come on. Booger was not exactly representative of my pain. Usually the nerd is relegated to unrequited love, or at best a second choice (see Anthony Michael Hall or Jon Cryer in just about any John Hughes movie of the ’80’s).That’s what makes the scene in Back to the Future in which George McFly finally knocks Biff out, helps Lorraine up off of the ground, and then finally kisses her on the dance floor, so fulfilling. The moment is so powerful that it actually turns George’s entire life around, allowing him the confidence to later publish his novel, A Match Made in Space. An historic movie moment for nerds across the country, and hopefully heartwarming even for those of you who actually did start dating in high school.
Matt Justus, 3L, lied. His mom is not actually all that interested in what he writes.