Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bad Shakespeare's Guide to the Best Valentine's Day Movies

The Only Captain we need... for Love

               L’amour, amirite?

            Yes, it’s that time of year again in between the vast wasteland that is Christmas and the Ides of March the greeting card industry has made a holiday that forces us all to “love” each other, much like a skunk the second he sees a black cat that accidentally rubbed up against a freshly painted white fence. It compels us give out paper hearts and other assorted goodies that usually are candy. So, I can’t fault them for that part. I do enjoy candy. But what if you find yourself alone on this most sacred of invented holidays? Why, the best possible way is to settle down with a few movies.

            It’s important to note at this point that this is pretty much my solution to everything. Bad day at work? Movies. Best friend stabbed you in the back at the behest of your other best friend so he could take off with your girl? Movies. Went to go see a bad movie? Movies. It’s really the only solution.

            But which ones? It seems like the only real romance that America is producing lately is in the form of Nicolas Sparks latest fill in the blank masterpieces. Who’s going to die? Who’s going to end up in the hospital? Will you cry? It’s easy to make fun of Mr. Sparks because he’s gotten away with writing the same book over and over again, but he presumably has a Scrooge McDuck Style Moneybin in his backyard and whichever servant isn’t currently flossing his teeth will read him this blog as his Google Alerts. (Plus, I always kind of liked A Walk To Remember. That one was pretty sweet.) However, what Nicolas Sparks-free movies are good for you to watch on this Valentine’s Day?

Fortunately, Bad Shakespeare is here to help with my list of the best Valentine’s Day movies for any mood.

Best Bromance: The Emperor’s New Groove

This right here. This is Guy Love.
            Let’s start with a movie that doesn’t get a lot of love the rest of the year, and doesn’t feature a bunch of kissing with the exception of a little bit of John Goodman on Llama action at the midway point. The Emperor’s New Groove, about a spoiled Emperor who is turned in to a llama for hilarious reasons, is perhaps the goofiest Disney movie since A Goofy Movie, which legally is the only Disney movie that’s allowed to be called “Goofy.” I’m sure their lawyers would be on the phone with me in minutes if more than seven people read this blog. (Hi, mom! There may be swearing later.)

            Regardless, this underrated Disney Masterpiece on the surface is about a rich brat learning his lesson, but underneath is actually about the power of friendship, both in the characters of Kuzco and Pacha, the John Goodman-esque llama farmer who seeks to return his enemy to the throne, but also in the loyalty of Kronk and Izma, the people who ineptly turned Kuzco into a llama in the first place. At the end of the day, neither can really achieve their goals without the help of that friend in the first place, even if they manage to drive them crazy with their wacky antics. Don’t want love but want the unending power of friendship to guide you through the heart-shaped Twixts? Throw in the Emperor’s Groove.

(Which is an abomination. Everyone knows that Twixts should be candy bar shaped, and the left one tastes better which is why you save it for last.)

Best Tragic Romance: Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog

It's more romantic if you know he's planning on blowing up the world for her.

            Not really a movie as it first aired on something called “the internet” this is a tragic/fun romance that ends in death and much too soon, like every thing Joss Whedon does. The story of an evil scientist that just wants to get noticed by the Evil League of Evil and the cute girl he so longs to flirt with that he sees doing laundry from time to time. Wouldn’t you know it, though, as one of his evil schemes goes awry and he ends up introducing her to Captain Hammer, sparking up their romance.

            Yes, this entry was largely an excuse to get a Nathan Fillion movie on the list, and his work on Slither just wasn’t going to make it.

            No, this movie has all the makings of a wonderful Joss Whedon production, including catchy songs that are fun and lighthearted until they hit you with a twinge of longing and romance (“With my freeze ray I will stop… the pain.”) and a good story where you hope the bad guy is going to win long enough to get the girl, but in the end, he loses her to his own ambition. There’s a powerful lesson here about focusing on what’s important, and probably not being a character in a Joss Whedon anything.

            Also, where’s Doctor Horrible 2, Joss? And an Angel movie? (I like to pretend more than seven people read this. Hello, again, mom! No, no swearing yet.)

Best Romance, Tom Hanks Style: Joe Versus the Volcano.

            Some of you in the audience are too young to remember but there was a time when Tom Hanks was just a funny guy, unless you paid attention to the darkness he could portray in The ‘Burbs and Punchline. You’ve seen the former movie. I feel like I'm the only one who's seen the latter, but when you’re not binging on the list I’m giving you for Valentine’s Day, you should check it out. Anyway, he used to do a lot of comedies, especially romantic comedies, and while I could have thrown a dart at his IMDB page before 2001 and hit one, I chose one of his best, as a young man named Joe Banks who’s diagnosed with a terminal disease and is given only a few months to live. An insane billionaire gives him anything he wants, so long as he jumps into a volcano to appease the inhabitants of a tiny island, and so the billionaire can keep mining a precious resource he uses to make his special brand of Orange Soda.

            No. Really.

            Along the way he falls in love with Meg Ryan, three times.

            No, really… there are three women in this movie. All of them are Meg Ryan.

            This movie gets on the list for it’s uplifting message that you should live every day like you’re going to jump into a volcano. That is, Joe leaves his miserable life of hypochondria and eventually learns to love himself, which opens him up to the possibility of love with the most fleshed out, least depressing Meg Ryan that is available at the end of the film. This movie actually warrants a lot of analysis, but that’s another post where I’m not trying to cheer you up.

Best Romance, Disney Style: Hercules

How most people feel about Valentine's Day, summed up in one image.
            I have a confession to make.  Hercules is my favorite movie because it’s the one where the characters come the furthest from the beginning. Let’s face it: Hercules is a jerk who becomes a hero not to save all of the people he can save because he’s literally got the strength of a god, but because he wants to go home and live with the gods. Phil is a gluttonous, lustful, goat-man who wants to be known for training a hero. Hades… actually he’s pretty cool, I like him. And Meg just thinks everyone deserves misery, because she is. She spends a lot of time denying her feelings for Hercules. And even Hercules, who is in “love” with her to start, is just trying to reap the hero’s reward.

            But, this is actually one of my favorite Disney movies, because it’s actually about finding yourself to find love. Meg isn’t a redheaded mermaid who was secretly trying to overthrow the king. Hercules doesn’t have the aid of a magic carpet or wise-cracking monkey. And this story isn’t a highly romanticized tale taking from Victor Hugo or the darkest parts of American History. No, this is tale about real love. Hercules gets everything he wants in the end: not just learning that self-sacrifice makes you a hero, but he became an actual god. And he gives it up. Why? To be with the one he truly loves. Meg. Because she needed him, and the best part is, he needed her to remind him of what it meant to be an actual hero, not just a glory-hound because he can do more than the mortals.

            It’s a sweet story.

 Most Romantic Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing

Denzel and Keanu! Together at last!

Joss Whedon. Kenneth Branagh. Either one is pretty great. Shakespeare’s classic tale about the battle of the sexes is pretty awesome. If you want laugh out loud funny, I’d recommend Joss Whedon’s black and white version that manages to firmly place itself in present times, but manages to remain timeless. If you want to watch Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves be brothers, I’d recommend Kenneth Branagh. That has the bonus of having the funnier version of Dogberry, the tragic hero of the entire play. Both are excellent, and worth your time.

Most Romantic Nicolas Cage: City of Angels

This happened.

            A movie list that doesn’t mention Nicolas Cage? The man has literally done every genre. Superhero? Indiana Jones ripoff? Die Hard in a…? Comedy? Academy Award Winning? (Hi, Leo! One of you seven, forward this to Leonardo DiCaprio.)  Of course he can do drama. In this case we return to the time when Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts were competing weekly in underground fight clubs to determine who would be America’s Sweetheart, and Meg Ryan got the chance to be the romantic lead in this tale of an angel who falls in love with a human. That angel is Nicolas Cage. Yes, the ending is tragic (Spoiler for an 18 year old movie) in that she dies, but the point is you get to see Nicolas Cage at his most romantic. And really, isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is about?

         Fun fact, I once took a date to this movie. It was our first. There was not a second. 

Most Romantic Movie: The Princess Bride

Don't hassle him. He's been mostly dead all day
             Seriously, this movie has literally everything… sword fighting, revenge, true love, rodents of unusual size, Carey Elwes, Andre the Giant, fire swamps… If you really know nothing about this movie, then go watch it now. Not even for Valentine’s Day. Just… go check it out. I can’t even be funny about it.

Best Valentine’s Day Movie: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

pictured: True love
            I deliberated for a long time about what I felt the best movie for this, the holiday with the most love except for my Birthday. And I really had to settle on one: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

            It’s a tale as old as time itself: a young man falls in love with a woman, and together they grow up while dealing with each other’s baggage. In this case, the baggage happens to be Scott’s inability to grow up and take responsibility for himself, and in Romana’s case, her seven evil ex’s who are going to try to kill Scott in hilarious, video-game style combat. It’s heavier than it sounds.

            What makes this movie so spectacular is its ability to mix a dramatic subject like real love – the type of love that requires real work, not just a few “I love yous” or “you complete mes” or [insert Nicolas Sparks plot here] – And present it in a comedy format, one that is frantic and features a lot of people exploding into coins. Plus, Captain America fighting Michael Cera. I’m not really sure where else you’re going to find that.

            I could go on with others, but really, remember at the end of the day that Valentine’s Day… like any other holiday… was invented for some reason or another. Finding love isn’t the end-all/be-all of existence, and it’s definitely not worth Roses with a mildly severe markup for a day because the red heart on the calendar tells you so.  The best thing you can do with this day is what you do with every day… sit back, relax, and put on a good movie.