Thursday, February 13, 2014

10 Great Romantic Movie Moments for Valentine's Day

Coming up with a list of 10 romantic anything in movies was a tougher task than I thought it would be. Although I consider myself to be a diehard romantic in everyday life, I prefer my onscreen experiences to be darker, midnight blue over Valentine red (unless the latter is the color of a bleeding, broken heart). So with the exception of Pillow Talk, my all-time favorite films -- Trois couleurs: Bleu, Interiors, Dangerous Liaisons, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Central Station, The Heiress, Room at the Top... -- tend to take a bleaker, blacker approach to life and love than your average rom com.

I guess Oscar and I have that in common. Of this year's nine Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, only one, Her, would qualify as being anything resembling romantic, and its central love story is between a lonely guy and a computerized voice. Thankfully, Hollywood has had a long enough tradition of being in love with love that I did eventually manage to pull out 10 favorite movie moments where red-hot romance reigns supreme, even if they're often painted black.

Richard Gere carries Debra Winger away in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) At age 13, I was as susceptible to the power of love and a classic Hollywood ending as the next future existential angst-ridden adult.

Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" in Top Gun (1985) The perfect marriage of love, movies and '80s pop.

Sean Penn + James Franco in the subway entrance in Milk (2008) Boy meets boy has never seemed so sweet, so erotically charged, so the way it would actually happen when boy meets boy in real life.

The fight club in Women in Love (1969) "Love is a battlefield," Pat Benatar once sang, but if you think about it, sex is the part that looks most like war. Rupert Birkin (Alan Bates) and Gerald Crich (Oliver Reed) may not be engaging in coitus in Women in Love's most famous nude scene (imagine Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy in a modern remake!), but it looks an awful lot like foreplay, and the aftermath is unmistakably afterglowing. Mmm, yes. True bromance indeed. And the way Reed pinky-fondles Bates shoulder sends a chill down my... (Watch it here.)

Edward declares his love to Elinor in Sense and Sensibility (1995) Someone recently told me the story about how he proposed to his girlfriend while they were climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town. As they neared the top, her fear of heights kicked in, and she couldn't go any higher. No problem. He pulled out the ring and popped the question right there, just a few scary ladders from the summit. High as his new fiancee was (literally) and must have been (figuratively), as stunned, violently happy new brides-to-be go, I imagine that Emma Thompson's Elinor still had her beat.

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy dance in Pride and Prejudice (2005) I can't say I was so quick to buy into the attraction of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in the Oscar-nominated remake of the Jane Austen classic (Matthew Macfadyen's wiggy-looking hair and the 11-year age difference between him and Best Actress Oscar nominee Keira Knightley, then 20, was too distracting), but we've all been there, so into loving the one we're with that everything and everyone else in the room just disappears. Poof!

Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas wash each other clean in The English Patient (1996) I didn't care much their epic romance the first and only time I saw Oscar's 1996 Best Picture (it was all about Best Supporting Actress Juliette Binoche), but the one love scene that still stands out in my mind is Fiennes and Scott Thomas in the bathtub. There's something so subtlely sexy in the way they switched expected positions -- woman in back, man in front -- that made the idea of being straddled by your lover while soaking in both of your own watery grime almost appealing for this die-hard shower person.

Meg Ryan's final words to Nicolas Cage in City of Angels (1998) Sometimes in fiction, the best way to achieve romantic immortality is to die before the end of the final act. Look what death did for Romeo and Juliet! If it weren't for what Maggie says to Seth as she lies dying on the side of the road -- "When they ask me what I liked the best, I'll tell them it was you" -- I'm not even sure I'd remember the movie today. (Watch that scene here.)

Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche achieve romantic nirvana in The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) Speaking of death becoming lovers in the final act, the exchange between Tomas and Tereza in the last frames never fails to kill me. Tereza: "Tomas, what are you thinking?" Tomas: "I'm thinking how happy I am." That's love, the kind that can move mountains, if not quite cheat death. (Watch it here.)

Venice in Summertime (1955) Not to be mistaken for Venice in summertime, which, as I witnessed firsthand for the first time last year, has very little to do with romance.
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