Valentine’s Day has been marked by lovers to celebrate their love, a time for singles to date friends and mock the utter needless and blatant commercialism that is usually associated with the event.
So how would you celebrate February 14? The usual route would be dates, dinners, flowers, reservations to bug-infested motels.
Or, why not binge-watch with a partner, cuddle with them over a cup of hot cocoa, chips, or strawberries drizzled with chocolate. Or, of you are single, enjoy the movies on your own, and prepare a box of tissues.
Here are the DNX Lifestyle Editor-in-Chief’s choices of five movies to binge watch on Valentine’s Day.
1. Casablanca (1942)
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Film, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid, has been topping best romantic movies lists and with good reason.
Set against the backdrop of the World War 2 (which at that time of the release was still raging), story is about the love triangle of café owner Rick (Bogart), Ilsa (Bergman), and revolutionary Victor Laszlo as they struggle with their feelings and the current political ferment in Germany-occupied Casablanca, and the letters of transit that may or may not change their lives.
Casablanca is chockfull of memorable lines (“Here’s looking at you, kid”, “We will always have Paris,” Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” “Play it, Sam.”), and tropes that are now heavily borrowed by other films. Plus the undeniable chemistry between the two leads, and the ethereal beauty of Ingrid Bergman.
Film has equal parts comedy and drama, with the comedy gained from the sharp sometimes downright acerbic wit, and the gut-wrenching drama from the romantic tanglings of the main characters, as well the sob stories of the secondary characters who were all stranded in the titular city while waiting for a shot at going to the United States.
Film remains to be the EIC’s favorite film of all time. Highly recommended.
Five out of Five Stars
2. Atonement (2007)
Film is directed by Joe Wright, who two years earlier (2005) gave audiences the film adaptation to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with perennial muse Keira Knightley.
Film is also a romantic war drama like Casablanca but with a much more somber, much more tragic tone.
Film stars Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, and Saiorse Ronan about a grave misunderstanding, a flurry of accusations that led one character land in jail on charges of rape.
But the tragedy does not end there. Without revealing much, the main character accused of rape was finally released, served in the war in the hopes of reuniting with his lady love, her memories all that sustained him throughout the war.
Atonement has one of those twist endings that would make you slap your forehead back not out of some wild realization ala Memento, but of sheer shock and despair.
Strong performances from all main cast, but especially from prepubescent Ronan as the younger Briony Tallis, the unwitting spanner in the works.
4 out of 5 Stars
3. Groundhog Day
What would happen if can relive one day, and one day only?
That was the main premise of the film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell in a film directed by Murray Ghostbusters costar Harold Ramis.
Murray stars as Phil Connors, television anchorman and a-hole par excellence who resented the fact that his less talented colleagues get to report on hard news and commentaries while he is stuck reporting about a groundhog in a small own in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, soon after reporting about Groundhog Day in the small town, Phil and his crew were caught in a blizzard, forcing them to stay the night, in a town full of “hicks” that Phil had so desperately wanted to leave.
Phil soon woke up to the exact same events that he experienced the day before, and it soon dawned on him that he was not just experiencing déjà vu but is in fact living the day before, with people around him acting in the exact same way, with only himself having a recollection of any of it.
Murray is the star of the show and only a man of considerable talent would be able to carry much of the film the way he did. Groundhog Day also boasts one of the strongest scripts pulled by Ramis and co-writer Danny Rubin, and there is a strange almost bittersweet tone to the film and some genuinely sad moments especially when Murray’s character underwent a heel-face-turn.
A feel good movie, and I did NOT expect to tear up the way I did.
4.5 Stars out of Five
4. The Shape of Water (2017)
Most of the films by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) has been analyzed and decrypted by the critics and audiences for its socio-political allegories.
And The Shape of Water is no different.
Set in 1962 at the height of the Cold War, film stars Starring Sally Hawkins and del Toro regular and favorite mocap actor Doug Jones, film tells the story of an Amphibian Man (Jones) who was caught by the US government and soon became a MacGuffin of sorts, torn between the two sides of the War, each country set on studying him to further the Space Race.
Enter Sally Hawkins character, a mute clearer who lives such a regimented life that she even schedules her masturbation with an egg timer. The mute cleaner soon forms a bond with the Amphibian Man, and resolves to rescue him when she discovers the nefarious plans that the government has for the creature.
An inter-species love affair, a creature chained in the laboratory, a mute cleaner finding her strength. The Shape of Water has been interpreted as a social metaphor for disenfranchised groups, including African-Americans in racist America.
Sally Hawkins displays just enough onscreen power to own the film, while Richard Jenkins as the closeted gay neighbor steals all the scenes he is in.
A powerful and emotionally-rivetting tale, with one of the most engaging visuals in recent cinematic history.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
5. Midnight in Paris (2011)
It is smart, delightful, well-written. And it presents the EIC’s idea of paradise: to be stuck in the world filled with your literary idols.
That is the premise of Woody Allen’s ode to nostalgia, of man’s propensity to cling on to the past, framing his narrative from the POV of Gil Pender (a cast against type Owen Wilson), a hopeless romantic yearning for a simpler time in Paris when poetry means something, but is stuck with a completely unsympathetic girlfriend and her snooty parents.
Gil finds himself wandering the streets of Paris one night and was caught out at midnight (thus the title) and pretty soon – and her Allen pulls the unexplained magic of Paris at night – was whisked of 1920’s Paris in a party where he met the Fitzgeralds (Alison Pill as Zelda, and Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott). Soon, he was a fixture in Gertrude Stein (!)’s literary salon, rubbing elbows with the likes of Matisse and Picasso, Ernest FRICKIN Hemmingway.
Our hero is naturally poleaxed, and adding to the confusion is the allure of the alluring Picasso groupie Adriana (Marion Cotillard) and finds it more and more difficult to live in the present.
Film can be viewed simply as a romantic film but can also be treated as a thought piece afterwards. Strong performances bolster the film’s cred, including Wilson, his aw-shucks persona muted and imbuing a sweet innocence usually devoid of his characterizations. Special mention of course goes to Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, Corey Stahl as Hemingway, and a scene-stealing Adrian Brody as “DALI!”