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Feb. 5, 2010

Sweet motion pictures for your sweetheart

by Warren Zhang, Managing News Editor and Ombudsman
February has always meant that winter finally starts to lose its icy grip over the weather, furious budget hearings are held around county and, of course, Valentine’s Day looms. With that in mind, we at Silver Chips have decided to compile a list of our favorite romantic comedies, or "romcoms." These are perfect for either watching with your significant other on Valentine’s Day, or on your own with a pint of Haagen-Dazs.

Romantic "knock-out"

A modern classic, "Knocked Up," as the title suggests, is a movie about pregnancy, though an unplanned one. Seth Rogen stars as Ben, a hapless slacker who, through a tryst with Allison (Katherine Heigl), becomes an unwilling and unprepared parent. Both stars are funny in their respective roles, though Heigl is a shade more convincing as a horrified and exasperated expectant mother, while Rogen is far more outlandish and funny. "Knocked Up," in many ways, feels similar to other Judd Apatow films, such as "The 40 Year Old Virgin" or "Superbad" in that they feature similar story arcs, raunchy jokes and Seth Rogen. "Knocked Up" is different in the way the romance is handled - the film deftly focuses more on the budding romance between Ben and Allison than other Apatow flicks. Their courtship result is charming and completely believable, resulting in a far better romantic comedy than most other R-rated comedies.

"Spotless" film

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," however, can be enjoyed by all audiences with an attention span longer than that of a Mongolian longhorn beetle. Created by legendary screenplay writer Charlie Kaufman, "Eternal Sunshine" tells the story of Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet). After the end of a disastrous relationship, Joel decides to permanently remove all of his memories of Clementine through a medical procedure. That’s all we’re going to spoil story-wise since the non-linear plot is best enjoyed viewing with as little prior information as possible. What we will say is that "Eternal Sunshine" brings out yet another excellent performance from the always-classy Winslet. The story is sweet and sad but, most importantly, it’s unique - the story has completely unexpected philosophical twists and turns. Most modern romcoms are uninspired trash by comparison, stinking up cinemas with formulaic plots and lousy leading performers. It’s also a brain teaser - viewers feel accomplished for having solved this jigsaw puzzle of a story by its end. This film is a romcom for those who demand more than fluff out of their romcoms. Viewers who seek better stories, convincing performances and distinctive cinematography will be pleased by the decidedly original "Eternal Sunshine."

Classic cheese fests

Most recent romcoms take massive amounts of inspiration from “Sleepless in Seattle” and "You’ve Got Mail." Both are classic Nora Ephron films of 1990s, a simpler time when Amazon hadn’t totally crushed retail booksellers yet and people still used their phone line to connect to the Internet. "Sleepless" and "Mail" both star Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in stories from these now-quaint times. In both movies, the duos meet cute and, of course, fall in love despite insurmountable obstacles. In "Sleepless," Hanks plays a newly widowed father who, through the magic of a radio talk show, winds up falling for Ryan’s character, a journalistic stuck in a lacking relationship. In "Mail," Hanks is part of a large bookstore chain trying to crush Ryan’s independent store. While Hanks and Ryan are convincing as star-crossed lovers and Ephron’s scripts have stellar dialogue, the real stars of the shows are the years they represent. "Sleepless" and "Mail" lack the knowing cynicism of 2000s romcoms. Watching an Ephron movie is the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. Sure, there are films with more original plots, and some of the elements of both movies feel hopelessly archaic (remember AOL?), but few movies are as feel-good and fluffy as "Sleepless" and "Mail."

Summer lovin'

If "Sleepless" and "Mail" capture the innocence of the 1990s, "(500) Days of Summer" is a snapshot of the 2000s. Like "Eternal Sunshine," "Summer" features a non-linear story about the doomed romance of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel). The movie starts off with a voice-over telling us that it is not a love story, and from there goes on to tell a compelling and heart-wrenching break-up story that’s unlike any other romcom. Though "Summer" is a great movie, this is probably not the best movie to watch with a significant other if readers wish not to send a wrong message: the movie keeps its promise of not being a love story. Levitt turns in a wonderfully nuanced performance but Deschanel absolutely steals the show. Who didn’t fall in love with Summer the moment she started singing Nancy Sinatra’s "Sugar Town?"
While there are definitely other movies that can be watched this Valentine’s Day, we believe that these four are excellent options. So, if you are a massive "When Harry Met Sally" fan who’s angry that it wasn’t included on this list, you can just go watch it instead.



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