Get in the Mood With a Valentine’s Day Double Feature

Photo: Universal Picutres

COVID test strips are red, N95s are blue, are we really still doing Valentine’s Day in 2022? Our second pandemic V-Day is here, and whether you’re in a lovey-dovey relationship or decidedly single, you might decide it’s a better idea to stay in rather than go see Marry Me in theaters. (It’s also streaming on Peacock, FYI.) But if you’re looking for some more out-of-the-box ideas for your Valentine’s Day weekend viewing, might we suggest one of these thematic double features? They’ll be sure to get you in the mood — whatever your desired mood may be.

Photo: Miramax; Jet Tone Productions

Chungking Express (1994) & Fallen Angels (1995)

These are two Wong Kar Wai movies about flight attendants; one (1995’s Fallen Angels) is ostensibly a sequel to the other (1994’s Chungking Express), but for the sake of your Valentine’s Day, it makes more sense to watch them in reverse order. Of the pair, Fallen Angels holds faster to one of Wong’s central tenets: Unresolved endings starve new beginnings. An assassin’s fixer can’t quite turn their business relationship into something more pleasurable. A mute, motorcycling denizen of the night can’t quite get a crush to pay more attention to him than her possibly imagined romantic double-crossers. So much yearning! When we finally encounter our first flight attendant, she’s a signal that the flight path is letting down. The landing spot might not be where our hearts want to be, but it’s terra firma.

On the flip side, Chungking Express shows us that behind every ending is a possible new beginning. A mysterious, troubled woman gets pursued by a detective who is on the other side of a romantic expiry. She escapes on the first plane she can, and when we meet our second flight attendant, she’s leaving a patrolman stranded midair. A worker from his favorite snack stand takes notice, and though red flags abound — what’s a little breaking and entering between hearts — she reminds us to leave open the possibility that someone out there wants nothing more than to come in and completely refresh our shopworn, heartbroken lives. We meet the second cop’s flight attendant again, out of uniform, but when she defers his entreaty to a third attendant, this one on-duty, he finds out he’s truly free to roam the aisles (of love). Swoon.

Our silent Fallen Angels nocturne says at one point: “You rub elbows with a lot of people every day. Some strangers might become your friends or even confidants.” Emphasis on might. Love in these movies is all about forcing narratives in your favor, and though friction might not always create sparks, if you can power through the clanging dissonance of the myriad, recurrent, concurrent starts and stops in your frame, you might be rewarded with a little warmth. — Melvin Backman

Chungking Express and Fallen Angels are streaming on the Criterion Channel.

Photo: Tri-Star; Universal

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) & Bridesmaids (2011)

For centuries, nothing has said “happily ever after” quite like a wedding. From Shakespeare to Jane Austen to countless movies, we’ve been inundated with the message that romances (and comedies) should end with matrimony. This weekend, however, I don’t care about two beautiful people declaring their undying love for each other. Instead my valentine and I only have eyes for movies where single women come into bridal parties like hurricanes and rain on their friend’s pre-wedding events at every turn.

Both of these movies feature flawless performances from their leads. In My Best Friend’s Wedding, Julia Roberts risked her image as America’s Sweetheart to play the conniving career woman looking to steal the heart of her best friend (Dermot Mulroney) on the eve of his wedding to a charming Cameron Diaz. With Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig proved the depths of her talent beyond Saturday Night Live by playing a woman struggling to get her life and finances together while handling the pressures of her own best friend’s (Maya Rudolph) lavish wedding plans.

Am I influenced in this choice because my own 2020 wedding plans were completely upended by another messy tour de force, Miss Corona? Probably! But, like me, Diaz’s and Rudolph’s characters got their spouses, even with the unexpected drama. —Tolly Wright

My Best Friend’s Wedding is streaming on Pluto. Bridesmaids is streaming on Peacock.

Photo: Superlative Films; Focus Features

Lost in Translation (2003) & Columbus (2017)

I like my Valentine’s Days the way I like my indie movies: sad, wistful, and mostly quiet. This is why I’m advocating for you to sit down for an evening with Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003) and Kogonada’s Columbus (2017).

The similarities are obvious. Both films revolve around age-gapped pairs — Bob and Charlotte (Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson), Jin and Casey (John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson) — who find themselves drawn to each other as they recognize a fellow wayward soul. Their relationships, formed over a short period of time, are intimate, and while they aren’t ultimately romantic, they’re not not romantic either. It’s a closeness between two people who recognize they’re uniquely trapped in purgatory together, and who turn out to be exactly what the other person needs to move onto the next phase.

Smashing together the differences between the two films can get interesting. Lost in Translation plays within and around the fringes of the fame industry, so everything’s couched in a kind of comforting class gauze: Bob and Charlotte are existentially fucked, but they’ll be fine materially. In contrast, Kogonada’s film is grounded within the tougher conditions of Casey’s home life … aaand then there’s the race stuff. Some of Lost in Translation’s fish-out-of-water elements continue to not age well (particularly the escort scene), eliciting an even bigger wince when juxtaposed against Columbus’s subtle handling of the cross-racial dynamic between Casey and Jin, who is Korean American.

Anyway, they’re also good travel films. Lost in Translation is set in Tokyo, obviously, and Columbus in Columbus, Indiana, a gorgeously shot city with a somewhat surreal history as an architectural mecca. (It’s also, weirdly enough, known for being the birthplace of Mike Pence, but let’s forget about that.) So if you’re looking for a low-cost way to travel this Valentine’s season, you could probably do a lot worse. —Nicholas Quah

Lost in Translation is streaming on Peacock. Columbus is streaming on Kanopy.

Photo: Universal City Studios; 20th Century Fox/Paramount

Twister (1996) & Titanic (1997)

On this Valentine’s Day, cue up a ’90s-themed disaster-movie double feature to remind you of the benefits of staying inside on a cozy, cuddly couch. Let the only threats to your good time come from the tornadoes and icebergs on your small screen as you take in 1996’s Twister and 1997’s Titanic, both of which featured the late, great Bill Paxton. These blockbusters were two of the decade’s biggest hits thanks to their array of visual effects (Twister’s flying cow; Titanic’s sinking ship) and the well-acted love stories at their center.

In Twister, Paxton and Helen Hunt play estranged storm chasers on the brink of a major research discovery, while Philip Seymour Hoffman steals every scene he can. Meanwhile, Titanic is Titanic; there is no need for a spoiler warning here, right? Paxton plays a treasure hunter with very silly blond highlights, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are beautiful, young, and in deep like with each other. It is an excellent choice for snuggling under a blanket and being relieved you are not freezing on a floating door while the person to whom you lost your virginity in a steamy PG-13 sex scene sinks to his death below you. Happy Valentine’s Day! —Roxana Hadadi

Twister is streaming on HBO Max. Titanic is streaming on Showtime.

Photo: RADiUS-TWC; Netflix

The One I Love (2014) & Cam (2018)

There’s a dark subtext to a holiday dedicated to romance. Just look at how often someone (okay, a man) forgetting Valentine’s Day is used to create conflict in rom-coms. The implication is that there are prescriptive ways to telegraph love. The truth is much messier. Love isn’t all flowers and champagne; more often it’s trying to be the best version of yourself, and accepting that we all inevitably fail at that sometimes.

Charlie McDowell explores that idea in his movie The One I Love. Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss play a couple who go on a therapist-recommended retreat, with the intention of reconnecting. There they meet doppelgängers of each other, but these doppelgängers are more charming, more put-together. Basically, better versions of themselves.

That idea of the best version of yourself gets twisted even further in Daniel Goldhaber’s Cam. Orange Is the New Black’s Madeline Brewer stars as a camgirl named Alice, known to her fans on FreeGirlsLive as Lola. Obsessed with boosting her ranking, once Lola (finally!!) reaches the site’s Top 50, she wakes up to find that her account has been taken over by a doppelgänger and she can’t get it back.

Sure, this doesn’t make the most romantic Valentine’s Day viewing, but think of it as a kind of relationship stunt. If you can comfortably talk about these thorny topics of love and identity, bodies and ownership, it’s a sign that your bond is pretty dang strong. Much more romantic than flowers, IMHO. —Emily Palmer Heller

The One I Love is streaming on Tubi. Cam is streaming on Netflix.

Photo: Warner Bros.

V (1983) & V for Vendetta (2005)

As you see, we have offered, this Valentine’s Day
Many recommendations, as movie valet.
Double features to watch via streaming or discs
Or maybe a VHS tape, just for kicks.

For your downloaded screening (which needs no antenna)
We’d first off suggest you try V for Vendetta.
Okay, not so cuddly, but think: You would go to
Most any new film with the great Weaving (Hugo).

And then for the second one, how about V?
No, not Pynchon, not Churchill—the scary E.T.:
The one where the aliens land and uncork
All manner of mayhem. (It starts in New York.)

V-dystopia twice! Not exactly romantic.
Maybe too grim, and it might leave you frantic.
But if you (like the team here) devour all culture
You can choose your own evening of Vs. —XO, Vulture

V is streaming on Tubi. V for Vendetta is streaming on HBO Max.

Get in the Mood With a Valentine’s Day Double Feature