Eschewing the usual romantic-comedies (while fully admitting that I own quite a few of those too), I thought I’d pick a few films that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside in lieu of everyone’s fast-approaching favorite holiday to hate: Valentine’s Day.
Kissing Jessica Stein: In 2002, friends Jennifer Westfeldt (who has been John Hamm’s lady for 9 years!) & Heather Juergensen co-wrote a comedy about what would happen if two single ladies burnt out from bad dates decided to give it a try with the same sex. The end result: one of the best things I’ve ever seen on film to laugh & cry at – and it makes me sad that whenever I mention it, most people don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.
Favorite moment: Helen asks two random horndogs at a bar why the idea of two women kissing is so exciting.
Secretary: Who knew that snooty 80s James Spader would turn out to be so sexy? Ok, maybe we all did – but anyway, knowing full well everyone who says they love this movie gets labeled as a deviant, I’m just sayin’: I LOVE THIS MOVIE. The casting is brilliant, the story is great, and you get to watch Maggie Gyllenhaal (as Lee Holloway) blossom from a scared wallflower to super-sexy submissive. How can that be a bad thing?
Favorite moment: Red pen. Desk. Spanking. ‘nuff said.
Y Tu Mamba Tambien: Two teenage boys (Diego Luna & Gael García Brunel) go on a spontaneous road trip with an older woman, Luisa (Maribel Verdú, who I love in everything, ever), and boy howdy do they have some adventures. Set against mind-blowingly beautiful Mexico beaches, this might sound cliché, but the story transcends its fairly graphic sex scenes and becomes an inspiring lesson about living life to the fullest.
Favorite moment: Luisa dancing with absolute freedom.
Stranger than Fiction: I’m not normally a Will Ferrell fan, but he totally blew me away in this and I absolutely fell for his leading man, Harold Crick. The script is not typical and a bit hard to swallow: Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is writing Harold’s life – while it happens. But from the first moment his character lays eyes on bakery-owner Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal, yes again), you know he adores her. This is sweet, funny, and unexpected.
Favorite moment: The box of flours.
Henry & June: 1931 Paris. Anaïs Nin + Henry Miller + his wife, June. Even though Fred Ward (playing Henry) isn’t really my definition of attractive, this may be the most beautiful trio in the most beautiful setting I’ve ever seen. Maria de Medeiros is perfect as the tormented and confused Ms. Nin, Uma Thurman nails it as spoiled June, and every frame is like a piece of art. This is one of those films that I’ll never get tired of. (Side note: there’s a book with all of Nin & Miller’s letters to one another called A Literate Passion, and it is amazing. Read it!)
Favorite moment: Anaïs drunk and slow-dancing with June