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Culture in Context

Top five romantic comedies to watch this Valentine's Day



With Valentine’s Day upon us, even the most culturally astute or cynically detached among our student body are probably a little more receptive to art which takes “lovey-dovey” as its central thematic matter. Pop songs ring a bit more true, and when girlfriends ask boyfriends to watch “The Notebook” with them, the boyfriends are secretly a little bit more willing to enjoy it. Secretly. With that said, there’s no reason the hazards of love shouldn’t be treated with a bit of levity and humor. So here are this humble and perhaps too-low-on-the-testosterone arts editor’s top five romantic comedies.

Annie Hall

Nothing so well defines the modern romance as Woody Allen’s now-classic take of neurotic love. Alvy Singer, played by Allen, is a Jewish comedian whose way of wooing women is an open acceptance of Freudian categories for explaining human attraction and buying them books like Ernest Becker’s “The Denial of Death.” The fact that he’s utterly hilarious probably helps too. He and nightclub singer Annie Hall, played by the stylish, bohemian Diane Keaton, forge a bond full of ups and downs. There are flashbacks, multiple breakings of the fourth wall and even one animated segment. Its absurdity is its best and truest trait.

(500) Days of Summer

There may be a few holdouts who refuse to like this movie but their refusal is to take a stand against instinctual human nature. Taking cues from the above Allen opus, “(500) Days of Summer” blatantly proclaims to not be a love story and manages to be fiercely creative without becoming gimmicky. The dance sequence complete with animated bluebird and Hall & Oates song is an outgrowth of the story and characters, both necessary and wonderful. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel had the chemistry of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, circa “Charade,” and it’s something any viewer can lose themselves in and identify with. There are some movies that just have “that feel,” and this is certainly one of them.

Pretty in Pink

We weren’t going to be able to get through this list ignoring John Hughes, teenage-angst scribe par excellence. He captured the ‘80s teen experience in such a way as to make modern day adolescents and 20-somethings who have seen his movies feel nostalgic for a time they may not have even experienced firsthand. Andie, played by the iconic Molly Ringwald, is placed at the center of a teenage class struggle and love triangle. Her best friend, Duckie, has been in love with her for years while she’s begun to fall for Blane, a rich but kindhearted prepster. Hughes made high school drama legitimately dramatic. Emotions are raw here and the writer-director makes his viewers question if high schoolers’ response to problems are immature or perhaps more authentic. If you don’t have a strong opinion about the climax, you weren’t watching the same movie everyone else was.

When Harry Met Sally

Among the deepest levels of philosophical inquiry resides the perennial question: Can men and women ever really be friends? Nora Ephron’s probing of the subject matter makes for one of the most endearing films of all time. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, Harry and Sally respectively, meet in college, bump into each other a couple years later and eventually befriend each other totally near 30 years old. Their male-female relationship is novelly platonic to both of them but it’s only a matter of time before matters of the heart get in the way. It’s complicated, indeed.

Silver Linings Playbook

Time will tell whether David O. Russell’s foray into the world of rom-coms will prove to be a bonafide classic. But it certainly was the best one to come out last year. Bradley Cooper plays a man just out of the wacky shack for assaulting his wife’s lover. As he tries to put his life back together and win his wife back, he meets Jennifer Lawrence. The two agree to be partners in a dance competition but their choreography quickly becomes more emotional and complex than which feet go where on the dance floor. All the acting is phenomenal and the screenplay is something to remember.

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