The Look of Love 

Let the movies do the talking this Valentine's Day.

Happy Valentine's Day, beloved readership! It's time to celebrate love. Love for anyone -- a spouse, a sweetheart, a friend, your family, or even yourself. Valentine's Day is also other things: chocolates, roses, plush animals, Hallmark, those chalky but wise candy hearts, and cuddling up to romantic movies. Below, I have combined these last two, candy hearts and cuddly movies, to help you send just the right message to him or her this Valentine's Day.

Trying to find the right time for "I love you"? Time to take a trip to the dump? Maybe you're trying to fend off marriage another year. It can all be communicated in the magical language of the movies!

Candy Heart: "I love you!"

What is the perfect date movie? Ideally, it's the one that will best facilitate cuddling, kisses, or action before the date is through. Allow me to submit, for your consideration, four films that will push you and your sweetheart closer -- by force if necessary!

Jerry Maguire. Maybe you want to tell your significant other "You complete me" or "You had me at hello." This quirky 1996 Tom Cruise romancer is just the ticket to bring two seemingly incompatible people together. Added bonus: If your message is "Get over yourself and your oppressive selfishness" or "Please date me even though I have a child," Jerry Maguire takes care of both.

Say Anything. This 1989 sleeper classic, featuring John Cusack at his noblest monotone, is most famous for the moment when Cusack holds a boombox above his head outside his sweetheart's window, blasting Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." Chick-flick haters, never fear. Say Anything is strong enough for a man, but it's made for a woman. Bonus message: "You can say anything to me."

Ghost. The strains of "Oh, my love, my darling, I've hungered for your touch a long, lonely time " will echo through the hearts of girls (and this boy) forever -- etched permanently to the ultra-hot image of Demi Moore spinning her clay wheel, as a shirtless Patrick Swayze steals behind her to likewise get messy. Thus, 1990's Ghost and the Righteous Brothers' incomparable "Unchained Melody" became immortal. Also works to say "If I die, you'd better not get it on with my best friend for I will haunt you both."

Titanic. At three-plus hours, this is not a movie to watch if you've not yet shared a first kiss. The tension will be unbearable. But if you've been together a while, there are plenty of slow, wordy scenes that can easily be broken up by making out, and Leonardo DiCaprio is just scrawny enough that the lady won't be distracted from the Prince Charming who's right next to her. Added bonus messages: "Never let go!" and "If you die, I will find the strength to move on and live productively. For a long time."

And now for some more specific messages ...

Candy Heart: "It's been a good ride."

The Way We Were. Picture it: 1973. Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand are at the height of their glamour. They're perfect for each other -- oil and vinegar. Two passionate people who find emotional life and challenge only in each other but whose passions only tear them apart. Romantic, epic (the '50s Hollywood witch hunt features prominently), and florid (Streisand). Bonus message: "Meanwhile, as we're breaking up, consider that never seeing each other again could be a good thing."

Candy Heart: "Maybe marriage isn't for us. In fact, maybe 'us' isn't for us."

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Whether you're a weathered academic trying to unload a shrill, boozy harpy or the other way around, nothing quite like 1966's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf to steer you away from the altar fast and furiously. George Bush should give this one a viewing next time he whips out a "sanctity of marriage" spiel. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor make wedding vows look like the Patriot Act. Bonus message: Taylor plus marriage equals unmitigated disaster.

Candy Heart: "Honey, about those magazines you found ..."

In and Out. Paul Rudnick's sharp 1997 pop satire makes coming out at the altar look perfectly festive. Romantic, hilarious, wise, and quietly political, In and Out is a great date movie even if he's not probably gay.

And speaking of gay ... "We can put our political, sexual, and racial differences aside."

My Beautiful Laundrette. Amazingly progressive for 1985, this unconventional tale of outsiders making their way in London brings together two cultural opposites: upstanding Pakistani youth Nasser and rough, pseudo-fascist street tough Johnny. My Beautiful Laundrette makes them lovers despite their differences and shows that attraction is a more powerful force than society. P.S.: Daniel Day-Lewis plays Johnny and his scene with Nasser in the back of the laundry with the champagne is HOT. Bonus message: "Leave your life among the street punks and join me in running a small business." That's universal, right?

Candy Heart: "Grow up."

Big. A boy wishes he could be "big" and grows up overnight into Oscar nominee Tom Hanks who has a beautifully honest romance with Elizabeth Perkins. This too must end, though, because he has to earn his "big"-ness with age. I asked my friends what their favorite romantic movies were, and one e-mailed back, citing 1988's Big as "Best movie to watch if you're dating a big kid." Two days later, she dumped her big kid! So, ladies, this earns my highest rating for "Best movie to watch with your 'big kid' when it's time to send him back to the playground."

And speaking of breakups ... "Hey, crazy person -- scram!"

Fatal Attraction. Nobody does "psycho ex" like Glenn Close in this 1987 horror. Your companion need boil no rabbits to deserve the boot -- calling and hanging up or stalking in general is quite enough. Bonus message: "Cheaters never win." See also The English Patient, Unfaithful. For a healthy stalker movie, see Sleepless in Seattle.

For infidels ... "If you're going to cheat, cheat with eternity."

Shakespeare in Love. It's a sumptuous, romantic, classy, passionate affair between bard and muse. But, hey, where's Mrs. Shakespeare? Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes heat things up and put on a good play in this 1998 Best Picture winner that leaves infidelity curiously unscathed. Bonus message: "Though I must return to my wife, our love will help me to reinvent the English language and you will live forever in the hearts of lovers everywhere."

That's it, beloved readership. This is all you need for a productive and communicative Valentine's Day. You'll get the results you need with these films and the sage lessons they teach.

And now, I follow my own advice with my own special, cinematic Valentine's Day message to my indefinable friend J.C. -- "You had me at hello. You had me at hello."

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