Valentine’s Day sucks. That’s not an original sentiment, but it bears repeating.
Like everything else in our super advertised, heavily marketed consumer culture, the day has been taken over by large corporations that want you to spend money unnecessarily on bogus products to prove, loudly, the love that you spend the other 364 days of the year proving quietly.
That reminds me: Gotta check my dinner reservations and make sure I got a table at my wife's favorite restaurant.
And for those of us who need a little help in the eros department, here are five movies that can goose your romance and five movies guaranteed to produce a flaccid penis on February 14.
Least sexy movies
There are people out there who think Basic Instinct is one of the sexiest movies ever. Those people are insane. What’s sexy? Watchin’ hot bonin’ that culminates with a ridiculously violent icepick stabbing? When Michael Douglas’ character rapes Jeanne Tripplehorn’s character? The interrogation/flashing scene? Basic Instinct is so over the top it feels like parody, but it clearly thinks it’s superhot.
Fifty Shades of Grey
This is a guess because the movie just began shooting. When it hits the multiplexes, I'll look at it with the most non-gimlet eye I can. But the novel feels like an unedited tract by a dumb high school sophomore. Here's a piece of text I swear I'm not making up: "I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be the color of The Communist Manifesto." That line was written, presumably, without irony.
Or really, and every Woody Allen movie when he's older and dating a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. Resurfaced rumors of child molestation aside, the Allen-Mariel Hemingway stuff is just creepy. Creepy. Hemingway literally looks like a child (she was 17 during filming) and Allen was about 43. So, gah. GAH. It's just awkward and, for this critic, it becomes impossible to focus on the rest of the story.
Like Basic Instinct, some people find this movie irresistibly sexy, probably because of the rain make out scene. But those same people always overlook one important fact: The two main characters (as youths played by Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, and as olds played James Garner and Gena Rowlands) are complete and total selfish assholes. Rowlands went from A Woman Under the Influence to this. Barf. What would John Cassavetes think of his son Nick's movie?
Maybe it's cheating to throw a second Paul Verhoeven-directed movie on this list (Basic Instinct is also his, and both were written by Joe Eszterhas). Plus, every critic ever has ridiculed Showgirls. But here's the reason it keeps making articles like this one: The moment when Kyle MacLachlan, in the swimming pool, comes toward Elizabeth Berkley, arms outstretched, dumb grin on his face, and then they have crazy water sex where Berkley flails like a wounded animal. (I just had to take a break writing because I was laughing so hard.)
Best sexy movies
Anyone who saw this movie's sequel, Before Midnight, may be surprised at Before Sunset's inclusion here, but it offers the pre-children, pre-domestic life, pre-relationship thrill of rekindling lost romance. Try to keep your pulse from quickening when Julie Delpy's Celine tells Ethan Hawke's Jesse, "Baby, you're gonna miss that plane."
The Big Easy
Sure, there's murder and foul play and police corruption. There's also sex with your clothes on, and Dennis Quaid (before he became terrible) and Ellen Barkin make it work, partly because their affair is sort of illicit, and partly because a lot is left to the imagination. (See also: Barkin in Sea of Love.)
Out of Sight
This early George Clooney-starrer didn't burn up the box office but it may burn up your libido. The tale of an escaped convict (Clooney's Jack Foley) and the federal marshal tracking him (Jennifer Lopez's Karen Sisco), the always gorgeous Clooney has rarely been sexier and Lopez has never given another good performance before or since. Maybe being trapped in that car trunk was the key, or maybe it was pretending they were other people in the bar scene. Whatever the case, their chemistry is palpable, made all the more real by the story's life-or-death stakes.
Here's a BDSM movie for even the non-BDSM practitioner (or reader, or viewer). The dominant boss (James Spader) and sub secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal) have a relationship that's treated with an appropriate amount of seriousness and raised eyebrows by director Steven Shainberg. None of it would work without Erin Cressida Wilson's sharp screenplay.
Shakespeare in Love
Gwyneth Paltrow? Barf. Elizabethan costumes? Be still, my beating heart. Ben Affleck with an English accent? I’m kidding, right? Nope: When Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes (as William Shakespeare) first get together, there’s an intimacy captured that feels real, timeless, and hopelessly romantic.
Enjoy your champagne and strawberries, kids.