Strange love

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with these cinematic examples of twisted romances

<i> Sid and Nancy</i>

Sid and Nancy

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and love is in the air, coupled with the acrid stench of most Meg Ryan films.

Rather than steer you in the direction of “everything’s peachy” Hollywood romances like Sleepless in Seattle, I would like to suggest an alternative list of love stories to fuel the passion emanating from your VCR or DVD player this chocolate-drenched holiday.

This collection of films isn’t necessarily of the “excellent” vein. In actuality, a few of them downright stink. The list is here for those of you with slightly twisted sensibilities, those of you who get the dry heaves at the mere suggestion of a When Harry Met Sally screening. Yes, some of these films will cause vomiting and seizures, but if you can get through them, you will find a pervading, important message: Love conquers all, and it doesn’t always involve Meg Ryan.

Sid and Nancy (1986):Sid Vicious was one sick bastard, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t speak the language of love. This exquisite little charmer from director Alex Cox manages to capture his Casanova ways with poetic grace and the eventual bloodletting. Drugs, punk rock and hair dye do not mix. Required viewing for the kids.

<i> Taxi Driver</i>

The Winona Ryder Weirdo Trilogy—Heathers (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Autumn in New York (2000): If you are alone this Valentine’s Day and are feeling down about love, watch these three films in a row. In Heathers, Winona falls in love with a guy who thinks he’s Jack Nicholson (Christian Slater), and many high school snobs die ugly deaths due to the couple’s love pact. Follow that up with Edward Scissorhands, where Winona falls in love with a guy sporting knives for fingers, severely limiting hand-job options. End the trilogy with Autumn in New York, where Winona falls in love with somebody 72 years older than her. After these three romances, being alone on Valentine’s Day won’t feel so bad.

Titanic (1997): What’s more twisted than portraying a fictional love affair on the Titanic, trying to make us get all misty-eyed for blooming love as hundreds perish in freezing waters when the ocean liner goes down? I, of course, am a complete sucker for this film, but I must confess that it is a bit demented. All I cared about was those two getting off the boat alive and having babies. Screw the hordes in third class below, Leo can’t die!

Taxi Driver (1976): A man possesses an unhealthy love for Cybill Shepherd, plans to kill a presidential candidate and decides to shoot holes in a few pimps instead (some might consider that a rather appropriate trade-off). Not much actual romance here, but Robert De Niro does try to seduce Shepherd by taking her to a porno and buying her Kris Kristofferson records. That’s some folks’ idea of a good romantic overture.

Corvette Summer (1978), followed by a required viewing of The Empire Strikes Back (1980):Who says romance can only exist between humans? In Corvette Summer, Mark Hamill, of Luke Skywalker fame, falls in love with a rebuilt Corvette and chases it all over the place when it gets stolen. He has sex with Annie Potts, but the real flames are exchanged between a man and his engine block (we won’t explore the physical abnormalities and potential disasters of that one). If you hate this movie as much as I did and want to see Hamill pay for it, that’s understandable. I’ll recommend chasing Corvette Summer with The Empire Strikes Back, where he at least gets his hand cut off.

Chasing Amy (1997): A comic book writer (Ben Affleck) falls for a lesbian comic book writer (Joey Lauren Adams) and converts her for a little stint of heterosexuality. This can either be viewed as the consummate love conquers all—even a sexual orientation triumph of the heart—or a major geek fantasy. Either way you look at it, the moment when characters share their oral sex scars is one of the all-time great odes to Jaws.

<i> The Last Temptation of Christ</i>

The Bad Boy Martin Sheen Double Feature—Badlands (1974) and Sweet Hostage (1975): This is the “when Martin was bad” double bill. Filmed within a year of each other, Sheen bags Sissy Spacek in the first film and takes her on a shooting spree, proving that crime does pay if you are Martin Sheen. In the second film, Martin bags a post-Exorcist Linda Blair after escaping from a mental hospital and kidnapping her, with Blair eventually falling in love with him—hence, proving again, that crime does pay if you are Martin Sheen.

Dead Alive (1993): A young woman goes to a tarot card reader, who tells her she is soon to meet the love of her lifetime, which she does. Unfortunately, the couple must fend off hordes of flesh-eating zombies and the man’s domineering mother, who has morphed into a demon the size of Godzilla, before consummating their love. This film is recommended for those of you who want people getting chopped up with lawn mowers mixed in with all the lubby-dubby stuff. Love triumphs over all adversity, including custard inadvertently spiked with bloody pus. If that’s not love, what is?

The Lovesick John Cusack Runs Around a Lot Quadruple Feature—The Sure Thing (1985), Better Off Dead (1985), One Crazy Summer (1986), Hot Pursuit (1987): Yes, John Cusack is at the center of some of our very sweetest romances (Say Anything), but I would like to submit these four almost interchangeable films, in which John basically “runs around a lot” looking for his true love. Hot Pursuit and One Crazy Summer are nearly identical, save for the first film including Ben Stiller as “The Evil Boat Guy” and the second one featuring Demi Moore singing horribly.

The Lovesick John Cusack Broods with the Best of Them Triple Feature—Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), Being John Malkovich (1999), High Fidelity (2000): Any true movie head would have to list these three films, in which John gets all deep, introspective and sometimes violent, but doesn’t “run around” quite as much, as some of the best love stories ever. Now that I think about it, this entire article could have been dedicated to lovesick John Cusack films.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988): This movie contains cinema’s all-time most twisted romance. After getting nailed up, Jesus (Willem Dafoe) fantasizes about Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey with collagen lip implants) and eventually does the nasty with her. Hey, if you’re up for weirdness on Valentine’s Day, nothing’s weirder than Jesus under animal skins making babies with one of history’s most famous hookers.

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990):OK, so this one does involve Meg Ryan. To hell with Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail; this will forever stand as cinema’s best pairing of Tom Hanks and Ryan. Not only does it remain Ryan’s best screen work, it features Abe Vigoda as an island king, a leader of natives who worship orange soda. You may have gotten all weepy when Tom and Meg met on top of the Empire State Building in Sleepless in Seattle, but it was the pair getting blown out of a volcano 15,000 feet into the air, landing in the ocean and being saved by their luggage that got me misted up.

Can’t you picture it? A romantic dinner, followed by a yummy chocolate tart, and then capping the evening with back-to-back viewings of Corvette Summer and Taxi Driver.

In case you’re curious, I’m 33, and I haven’t been able to keep a girlfriend more than three years, so use the above list with caution.