Sunday, February 6, 2011

Valentine's Kick Off

It's February, which means my least favorite holiday is coming up: President's Day. I kid, it's Valentine's Day, but not for the reasons you might be thinking. It's actually my brother-in-law's birthday on Feb. 14, and he gets on my nerves when I talk to him, and this one of the few days of the year I'm actually obligated by family law to speak with him.

For normal people, Valentine's Day is a day to share with that special someone, pledge their deepest love and all that other good and mushy stuff. Me, I've never been a romantic type. If I have to choose between Stephen King and a Harlequin Romance, I'm going with King.

But that doesn't mean I don't know a thing or two about what not to do. Yesterday, my brother and my mother went to see Black Swan. Now, I haven't seen it; I've heard it's either brilliant or dreck. My mother, only knowing beforehand it was an Academy-Award nominated film about ballet, called it awful and revolting. I don't know what my brother thought. Either way, it doesn't strike me as a date movie, much less one to take your mother to, what with the blood, violent imagery, insanity of the protagonist, drug use, lesbianism, strong sexual content, hallucinations, disorienting camera work, and the nasty underside of a highly regard artistic venue (ballet).

It got me thinking: what are the worst movies to watch on date night? Granted, there are probably thousands of titles disqualified for a number of reasons. Not every movie is made to appeal to both sexes, but to clarify, this list consists of movies you might think would.

1) The works of Ingmar Bergman

When thinking of film as art, Ingmar Bergman leaps to mind. His films raise deep philosophical questions and are exceptionally crafted and acted. Saying you watch and study Bergman is a good way to sound intelligent, but it's not exactly romantic to non-film buffs. No one wants to be pounded with questions about life and death, whether God exists, buried family secrets, merging personalities, and insanity on a date. You mention to people of my generation there's a movie where a knight from the Crusades plays chess against Death for his soul, they'll say, "Oh, like in Bill and Ted." Doesn't that sound impressive?

2) Hannibal (2001)

The Silence of the Lambs
struck a chord with female audiences. At the center of a story about cannibals and serial killers you have Clarice Starling who not only saves the day but also overcomes the male bureaucracy that doesn't think she's up to it. A great story on two fronts. One would be tempted to think Hannibal offered something similar, and that'd be wrong. Silence has its share of gross out, but Hannibal makes that its sole calling card. Instead of a complex, intelligent detective, Starling is reduced to a plot device to be solely manipulated by the other characters. And Julianne Moore just doesn't do the role as well as Jodie Foster.

3) Nothing but Trouble (1991)

A comedy starring Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, and Demi Moore sounds pleasant, especially at a time when all four were riding high career wise. But let's get to the plot. Aykroyd plays a crazed, decrepit judge who along with his deformed family enacts dark justice on traffic violators Chase and Moore. It's like a Hollywood spoof of Texas Chainsaw Masscre. Whether it's throwing people through Mr. Bonestripper (a machine that lives up to its namesake), Aykroyd peeling his own nose off, the disgusting giant babies who live in the junkyard, and Candy in drag trying to marry Chase, Nothing but Trouble was darker than people expected. It's also regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, which began the career downfalls of Aykroyd and Chase. I have no shame in admitting I love it, but the odds of finding someone else who does is admittedly rather slim.

4) Any zombie movie outside of Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead or 28 Days Later

Those three titles represent the pinnacle of mainstream zombie cinema. The first two are funny, and the 28 Days Later falls under Danny Boyle's filmography (director of Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, and 127 Hours). What will your date think when Captain Rhodes has his legs ripped off in Day of the Dead and tells the zombies to "choke on 'em?" Or when when the infamous head scene occurs in Re-Animator ? Or the final 20 minutes of Dead Alive?

5) Pearl Harbor (2001)

While the actual attack scenes are staged with technical skill, the movie around them is insipid, insulting, pandering, cliche-ridden, and riddled with one of the worst love triangles I've ever seen on film. It's obvious Pearl Harbor was made because someone thought (and was right) it'd be profitable to combine Titanic and Saving Private Ryan. Instead of a historical drama about how America came together in a time of crisis, we get to see how the Japanese attack on the naval base was a big inconvenience for a soap opera affair. Avoid watching anyway.

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