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Oh God, It’s Here! Four Movies To Watch On Valentine’s Day

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Dear Readers,

As Valentine’s Day is upon us like a consumer driven fluffy pink monster, I wanted to jump in on the holiday cheer by giving you my ultimate Valentine’s Day film playlist for those of you who are cinematically minded this year. The one that if I was going to be celebrating the day in a way besides eating all the gluten free candy I can find, I would play for a variety of special someone’s as the best dates are always movie dates in my opinion. Since this is The Monolith and we are all too cool for standard fare like The Notebook, Titanic, and 10 Things I Hate About You (Editors Note – Speak for yourself, I love that movie! ~ Q), I’m going to give you some (hopefully) less boring selections for some different scenarios with some handy theoretical justifications for each.

Scenario 1: The Date With Mom

Alien Ripley
Movie: Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)

Sigmond Freud, the inspiration for the name of this column, has told us that the first important relationship with have is with our mothers. In fact, it’s a special relationship that is so strong that it basically has the ability to colour all others we have after this point. Given this, sometimes it makes perfect sense to carve out a Valentine’s Day to spend with the woman who brought us into this world. However, anyone who has had half an ear open to any type of pop psychology or just society in general knows that what Freud gives, Freud can take away. In other words, mothers sometimes can do damage just by doing their normal mum things, like packing your lunch in a way you don’t like enough times, which in turn could make you hate all women or all lunches (just kidding). Obviously this is a gross simplification of what I like to think are some of the most brilliant moments in psychology, but the point of this is; all of us have mixed feelings about our parents on some level, and that’s okay because everyone does. If you want to know more about what Uncle Siggy has to say, check out my favourite work of his, 3 Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, which details all the ways one starts as a perverted little monster (baby) and somehow comes out alive as someone who magically turns into someone that someone else is willing to have sex with (you now, hopefully). To me, Alien serves as the perfect film to share on a Valentine’s date with Mum. There is maternal imagery everywhere (eggs, an alien that ends up bursting into the scene through someone’s abdomen, etc.) and a powerful female protagonist who is tough and complex, yet identifiable, much like many of our own mothers are to us (strong, brilliant, and unstoppable). Not to mention that it’s a little less awkward to watch a horror (in my opinion, this isn’t science fiction) film with Mum instead of something romantic, an image which Freud would love, yet we try to avoid on the daily. One of my favourite film scholars, Barbara Creed, devoted an entire chapter of her vastly influential and brilliant work, The Monstrous Feminine, to why alien has everything to do with motherhood and gender. I won’t go deeply into that here, but Creed’s central argument is that Alien is full of births, mothers, but no fathers, which is highly significant. So this Valentine’s Day, celebrate your mother with the ultimate troubled mother/daughter (ish) relationship (Ripley and the Alien) that also happens to be one of the best films of the last 40 years. It’s scary, will make you jump, and show your mum you’re an awesome kid by spending time with her, which of course, she deserves.

Scenario 2: Date With Your Mates

Movie: Showgirls (Paul Verhoeven, 1995)

Are you single? Or just not into the day, but not bitter enough to retreat into complete solitude? In that case, grab your mates, a bottle of your favourite liquor (take a shot anytime there is any type of nudity and you’ll be set in the first 20 minutes), and enjoy this campy classic where Jessie from Saved By the Bell becomes a Vegas showgirl and has some of the best catfights in the history of cinema. The film shows us the depths of irony and how cult classic status can change everything about a film’s audience and perception. Sure the film killed Elizabeth Berkley’s career for a while, but sometimes that’s the price you need to pay for true art. Think of Van Gogh.

Scenario 3: Date With Your (or A) Girl (or Boy)

Bonnie & Clyde
Movie: Bonnie & Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967)

When one is seeking out Valentine’s Day films, they usually don’t like to think of ultra violence and criminals as being romantic or appropriate, however, I think Bonnie and Clyde is one of the best films for the occasion. Not only do we get a beautiful Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in one of their best and most passionate performances, we get one of the first American films that intertwines sexuality seamlessly with violence in a way that is both provocative and erotic. I would argue that there still has not been a film that does this as well or as subtly (we barely see this as it happens, but the affect is everywhere). Like Titantic, most of us know the mythology of Bonnie and Clyde, and the film cracks this wide open to explore the romantic, sexual, and criminal possibilities of such a duo when both money and reputation are at stake. Beatty was still in his late twenties when he produced the film, and his youthful optimism shines throughout the narrative as well as his performance as the sexually frustrated, sexy, and criminal Clyde Barrow. Dunaway is flawless in her undeniable 60s make-up (despite the film being set in the 30s) as the suppressed and eager Bonnie, who wants nothing more than to escape her boring Texas hometown where she is a mere diner waitress. Legendary film critic Pauline Kael called the film “excitingly American” in her now groundbreaking review for the “New Yorker” and I completely agree. There is something quintessentially simple, yet seductive about the film’s treatment of the American obsession with glory, fame, and money, three things that are not only romantic, but are emblematic of the mid century culture that still continues today in the carnivalesque exercise of reality television, an all encompassing and knowing media, etc. The cinematography and colour are beautiful to look at and despite the film being a little on the longer side, the time flies by. So this Valentine’s Day instead of watching yet another horrible Hollywood romance that recycles the same old cliches, impress your girl (or guy) with a classic. Not only will you look smart, you’ll feel better about yourself and your media consumption. Plus, all those adrenaline pumping guns scenes are the perfect aphrodisiac.

Scenario 4: Date With The Best Person Ever (aka Yourself)

The Social Network
Movie: The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)

Single and a little cranky about it to a point where you’re not feeling the Showgirls screening? Watch the Social Network. Not only is this film one of the best films of the past 10 years due in part to the perfect script, great casting, and inherently interesting and timely subject matter, it asks us some of the most relevant and deep questions we can ask ourselves about self surveillance, performance of our identities, and how we create friendship. I saw this movie in the theatre and was blown away at how raw Fincher went in his exploration of Mark Zuckerberg and his empire of narcissism, decadence, and American culture. The reason I say to watch this film alone is because it will really get you thinking about the various relationships of your life and how you maintain them, form them, and perform them for the world. In other words, you begin to ask the question, “Why do I make the status updates I do?” Why do we feel the need to give our friends the teeny details of our private lives, post pictures of our food, and think our relationships aren’t real unless they are “Facebook official?” The Social Network asks us to entertain these with a critical eye and does not back down when we become uncomfortable with the answers. Trent Reznor and Atticus  Ross won an Oscar for their haunting and minimalistic soundtrack, which only adds to the iciness of the film’s subject matter. In my opinion it was one of the most deserved awards to any artist ever. And on a less serious note, think of the film this way: Zuckerberg created Facebook because he was angry and drunk after a breakup and now he is one of the richest people in the entire world. Sometimes being single on Valentine’s Day can only lead to world domination, rather than forever loneliness. That should brighten up your day.

There you have it, Amici, my top Valentine’s Day picks. Do any of you have your own Valentines Day movies? Will any of you be watching these films today and which ones?  If anyone watches any of these, let me know. I want to high five you from afar.