Movies to watch on Valentine’s Day or any other day
Anis recommended a few movies for a Valentine’s Day in!
If you’re spending VDay with your loved one or alone or with a bunch of friends and you’re thinking to yourself, what are we going to watch.. I know because we all are! To save you the trouble of browsing and wasting precious love time, Anis prepared a list.
Like every other holiday or occasion, Anis takes his time to compile a list of movies fit for the occasion. For Valentine’s Day, he did the same and this is what he recommends we watch on “Valentine’s Day or any other day.”
I also included the reviews he’s written for these movies to give you an idea of what you’re getting yourself into but they’re all truly amazing films!
Cold War ★★★½ (2018)
This stunning movie from Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski is up for 3 Academy Awards, and deservedly so. Shot in beautiful black and white and set against the backdrop of the 1950’s Cold War in Poland, Pawlikowski tells an impossible love story between two musicians: Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), a jazz musician putting together a traditional folk group that sings traditional songs about love and heartbreak, and Zula (wonderfully played by Joanna Kulig), who joins his group to become a professional singer.
The emotional impact comes from our ability to relate to these characters from the word go, and you couldn’t ask for better actors to fulfill this mission. There were times where I forgot I was watching a modern film and convinced myself that both these actors were straight-out of a 1950’s film. That’s not to say that the film is merely a star vehicle. Everything else, from the music to the costumes to the cinematography, are simply beautiful. Cold War is clearly a labor of love for Pawlikowski and his collaborators, and the result is cinematically and emotionally dazzling. It’s a thing of beauty.
Call Me By Your Name ★★★½ (2017)
Luca Guadagnino’s devastating and unforgettable Call Me By Your Name hits you like a shot in the heart. In detailing the relationship between 17-year-old Elio Perlman (a wonderful Timothée Chalamet) and an older man (Armie Hammer) during the summer of 1983, Guadagnino takes us on a roller coaster ride of emotions and heartbreak. Both actors wear their hearts on their sleeves, which makes the movie vulnerable, especially with the constant rise of homophobia in this corner of the earth. But with lines like “How you live your life is your business,” the movie is up against it, and rightfully so.
Guadagnino and his gifted cinematographer transform Andre Aciman’s novel into visual poetry. Shooting in the north of Italy, the movie is simply beautiful to look at. Of course, none of this would matter if the actors didn’t deliver the goods. Chalamet finds the sentimental core of Elio, while Hammer’s Oliver lives in fear of coming out (he doesn’t even have to say it). “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine” he tells Elio during the film’s most intimate scene. Both actors are brilliant, wearing their characters like second skins. Call me be your Name is a uniquely rewarding film, pulling you in before it sneaks up and quietly breaks your heart.
A Star Is Born ★★★½ (2018)
Bradley Cooper has managed to do the impossible: take an old-fashioned Hollywood story that’s been done and redone so many times before (in 1937, 1954 and 1976), hire Lady Gaga to play the lead, and turn it into one of the best films of the year. In many ways, A Star is Born pays tribute to these old movies, but it also stands on its own by telling its story in a way that feels fresh.
Let me put it this way: I loved every minute of it. And yet I have to admit: when I heard that Cooper was working on this remake, I didn’t anticipate such an ambitious piece about dreams realized and unfulfilled in the music industry. And I certainly did not anticipate a terrific soundtrack to go along with it. In terms of plot, I’ll only say that Cooper plays a famous musician who helps a young singer (Gaga) find fame. The success of such a story relies heavily on our ability to root for these characters, and you couldn’t ask for better actors to fill these shoes. Gaga, in her first lead role, is truly sensational. And Cooper, his face a road map to his character’s soul, gives one of the best performances of his career. As for the movie itself, its grounded in reality, but also manages to transport us to a world of fame and fortune in just a heartbeat. It’s obvious that Cooper isn’t merely doing this for the sake of a quick paycheck; this is a labor of love that emerges as something poignant and truly memorable. Put your prejudices aside and take this “remake” on its own terms. That’s what it deserves, because A Star is Born is one of the year’s best films.
Colette ★★★ (2018)
Whether it’s in Pride and Prejudice, Atonement or The Duchess, Keira Knightley is always portraying interesting and colorful characters in period pieces. Now with Colette, this might be her most important role yet.
Director Wash Westmoreland (who did a fine job in Still Alice) manages to capture the “grandiose” dreams of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, the woman who fought gender roles in the early 1900’s and revolutionized literature. But first, we’re transported to a time when Colette was still a young woman in 1893 Saint-Sauveur, a small village in France. She meets and falls in love with an older man (Dominic West), a Parisian writer who takes her to Paris as soon as they’re married. Soon after, she starts ghostwriting for him, releasing one successful book after the other but taking no credit whatsoever. West tackles the difficult role of a self-destructive man with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but principal acting honors go to Keira Knighley, who truly becomes Colette and makes us root for her. As someone who loves period pieces and stories about people who made a difference, I immediately warmed to this film. It’s not flawless, but it won me over completely.
The Shape of Water ★★★½ (2018)
Guillermo Del Toro makes movies like no other filmmaker. If you’ve seen The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, you probably know the scale of his vision. But nothing could have prepared me for his latest masterpiece: a beautifully crafted, visually stunning love letter to cinema that ranks among his best films. Other Hollywood movies may boast great special effects, but Del Toro has created a world of wonder, and I found myself completely immersed in it. How many times can you say that these days?
Sally Hawkins (in the best performance of her career) plays a mute woman who works as a cleaning lady in a top-secret government lab . The year is 1962, the Cold War is in full force, and the government is experimenting on a South American sea creature, which holds many mysteries. One night, Hawkins accidentally meets our amphibian man, which leads to a series of incredible events. I know I’ve said the word “immersive” before but that’s the best way to describe the way I lost myself in this film, with its captivating story, terrific performances, and wonderful music by Alexandre Desplat. Del Toro has said that he found inspiration for this movie when he was 6 years old, and it’s been a long process ever since. In a perfect world, The Shape Of Water will swipe every Oscar out there. At the very least, it will show audiences what a great filmmaker can do when he is truly inspired by his material. If you find yourself looking away for one second, you’d be cheating yourself. This is a beautiful movie you’ll want to savor, from start to finish. It truly is the stuff that dreams are made of.
The Big Sick ★★★½ (2017)
From the trailer and poster you might think this is yet another film about culture clashes with absolutely nothing new to offer. But it doesn’t take long for this constantly appealing crowd-pleaser to draw you in, win you over, and make you leave with a big smile on your face. How you can create a movie with a serious tone that manages to respect its subject and still be funny as hell is a mystery to me, but director Michael Showalter and stand-up comedian Kumail Nanjiani have managed to pull it off.
Nanjiani is extremely likable as a Pakistani comedian who meets and falls in love with an American girl, played by Zoe Kazan. Standard comedy stuff? You’d think. Then something serious happens, and this is my cue to shut up. Kudos to director Michael Showalter for keeping the tone of the movie on-target at every turn, which is no small achievement for a movie that clocks in at 2 hours but never feels long. There couldn’t be a more serious subject, yet Nanjiani makes the comedy seem both spontaneous and organic. And by the end, The Big Sick gave me more satisfaction than many other movies of the same genre. Needless to say, it’s one of my favorite movies of the summer season. Do not miss it.
La La Land ★★★★ (2016)
Hollywood has always had a soft spot for musicals. The Broadway Melody in the 1920’s, Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris in the 1950’s, Oliver! in the 1960’s and Chicago in the early 2000’s. In 2011, french director Michel Hazanavicius hired Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo to star in his film The Artist, a tribute to the silent era that managed to win 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Already nominated for 7 Golden Globes, La La Land could be on its way to replicate the huge success of The Artist, and deservedly so.
If it were merely a tribute to old Hollywood musicals of the 1950’s, it would be easy to dismiss it as an amusing stunt and nothing more (think Hail, Caesar!). But writer-director Damien Chazelle (who directed Whiplash) has other ideas. His direction is so sure, his actors so engaging and charming, that he manages to grab us with his dynamic story and holds us in the palm of his hand from beginning to end. Leading man Ryan Gosling needs no introduction, and his leading lady, the wonderful Emma Stone, is a perfect match. Together they make La La Land an irresistible film that wins its audience the old fashioned-way: through songs and a love story. Gosling plays a Jazz musician who dreams of opening his own Jazz Club. Stone plays an aspiring actress who dreams of showing the world what she can do. I shouldn’t reveal more. But I will say that in Damien Chazelle’s hands, La La Land becomes an instant classic. My advice to approaching it is to sit back and let it engulf you. In terms of acting, imagination and spectacular musical numbers, La La Land is a masterpiece, a miracle of a film that deserves every award that is coming its way.
Carol ★★★ (2015)
Carol has all the classic ingredients of an Oscar contender: it’s extremely well directed by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven) with a keen eye for detail, it features Cate Blanchett like you’ve never seen her before (and you’ve seen her in many different roles throughout her colorful career), and more importantly it has an emotional story to tell. I didn’t fall in love with the overall result, but as far as love stories go, this one hits all the right notes.
Blanchett plays the title character, an elegant woman in the early 1950s who is in the process of divorcing her husband (Kyle Chandler). He discovered her having an affair with a woman (Sarah Paulson) and yet he isn’t ready to move on and let her go. One day Carol meets a department-store salesgirl (Rooney Mara) and a love story unfolds. The movie arranges a sentimental education for both mismatched lovers (they barely have anything in common), and there’s no denying the collateral damage, especially when Carol risks losing the custody of her young daughter. One thing’s for sure: you won’t forget Blanchett’s haunted eyes. And Rooney Mara is equally impressive; she is a first rate actress with appealing looks. It’s a shame about the tidiness of the film’s wrap up, but otherwise Carol will hit you like a shot in the heart.
Brooklyn ★★★ (2015)
Brooklyn is a low key, likable film with all the right ingredients to call it a “crowd pleaser”. I’ve been a fan of Saoirse Ronan ever since she played Briony Tallis in 2007’s Atonement, and in Brooklyn she finally gets the chance to shine in her own love story.
She plays an Irish girl who leaves her small village in Ireland to emigrate to America in the early 1950’s. A priest (Jim Broadbent) has promised to look out for her as she tries to settle in the big city. One day she meets an Italian-American guy who falls in love with her instantly and makes her feel at home for the very first time. The sweet narration, as we follow the main character’s bumpy journey, touches on familiar truths about relationships and responsibilities. There aren’t many revelations here, but there is relatability and that’s what makes the movie work, along with Ronan’s believable performance. If you’re into romantic movies, consider Brooklyn a must see.
Her ★★★½ (2013)
Yes, this is the movie where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with a machine. No, this is not a movie you should rush to avoid. Screenwriting this smart, inventive and passionate is a rare species these days. So all praise to Spike Jonze, who wrote and directed his most original film since 1999’s Being John Malkovich. Her is a movie I’ll probably end up watching twice. Maybe more. It’s a film with the richness of great fiction. Like The Master (the movie I’m always mentioning these days), it’s not that you have to return to understand it. It’s that you have to return to realize how fine it really is. The surface may terrify you (who the heck falls in love with a talking machine?). The depths enfold you. The whole reveals itself, and then you may return to it just to appreciate its many beautiful moments. Yes, Her is a science fiction movie set in the near future. But it’s a movie that relies on ideas instead of computer tricks to stir up excitement. What you won’t know until you see it is that Jonze is a virtuoso, a master filmmaker who turns the future into his own thrillingly unique vision. I realize that this has not been a normal review. There is no need to name the characters, name the actors, assign adjectives to their acting. Look at who is in this cast. You know what I think of them. And you know what I think of this film by now. Jonze, a fantastic director, has given us a movie to dream on.
PS: The above are the original reviews written at the time of release of the movies.