February 14th 2013. Valentine's Pick Of The Day.

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The great greeting card holiday celebrating St. Valentine, the Catholic church's version of Aphrodite and Venus, is upon us once more, Stockers, and the various classic film venues in our lovesick metropolis are observing this day in ways traditional and otherwise.

The Film Forum's trib to Hollywood's great transitional year 1933 offers up a pair of Jean Harlow steamers, the first of which tagged her with the nickname she'd carry throughout her career. BOMBSHELL finds our precious minx exhausted by the lifestyle of a Hollywood movie star, escaping to territory unsoiled by the mystique of the movies and falling for insulated millionaire Franchot Tone in an attempt to forge a new life. Guess how that turns out. HOLD YOUR MAN teams Harlow with frequent co-star Clark Gable, as the latter involves the former in a blackmail-turned-murder scheme that finds our heroine doing time in a reform school. Harlow just exudes the sort of screen sex appeal that drew most if not all of the seven deadly sins, so if that's your Valentine's bag, here's where you'll find it. Not my Pick.

Louis Malle's THE LOVERS screens for the second of its three day run as part of MOMA's An Auteurist History of Film series. French cinema icon Jeanne Moreau portrays a woman who refuses to choose between husband and lovers. She would wind up one day with William Friedkin. I don't mean as her director. Quel dommage. If ya dig the French definition of amour, here's your wheelhouse. Also not my Pick.

Anthology Film Archives, not at all anybody's idea of an anti-romantic cold experimental film haven, surprisingly offers their four day trib to lovers worldwide with their Valentine's Day Massacre series. Two of the bleakest odes to the death of romance, indeed its outright falsehood, screen today through Sunday. One of them may actually be the funniest film on the topic anyone's ever made. WE WON'T GROW OLD TOGETHER isn't that film, capturing the fitful death rattle of a marriage over the course of two long hours. Albert Brooks' MODERN ROMANCE, on the other hand, is not merely one of the most observant of films on the topic of love that simply will never work, it's also one of the filmmaker's funniest. Brooks' was an early practitioner of the comedy of discomfort later finessed by Garry Shandling and then blown wide open by Ricky Gervais and Larry David. This could be his masterpiece. And yet, not my Pick.

Last but not least the Clearview Chelsea Cinemas offers up what I argue is Danny De Vito's finest two hours behind the camera, the pitch black hate story THE WAR OF THE ROSES. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, pre-Liberace and Slavic Jabba respectively, dared to team up for a third time following their light action-comedy excursion ROMANCING THE STONE and its sequel, to dig deep into the dark heart of not only Reagan era upper middle class angst, but the very primal forces repressed by the American nuclear family structure. As the great James M. Cain once observed, all it takes is one drop of fear to turn love into hate. De Vito and company proved it in spades. Not my Pick, though it really tempts, only because I am from time to time compelled against any other offerings to choose a screening by one of my faves, my heroes, a person I find essential to the very medium itself. One such screening is scheduled today, and you can eat tater tots and drink root beer with yer best guy or gal or both as it unspools. Read on.

Amongst the heroes cinematic to me personally and to the art form itself generally I will never pick against a John Ford screening, a Howard Hawks screening, a Charlie Chaplin or a Michael Curtiz or a Kurosawa, a Lumet or a Leone or a Powell and Pressburger. And most of Hitchcock. That attempt at cold war espionage thriller with John Vernon as Che? Remember that? I know ya do.

Prominent in this pantheon is the great Buster Keaton, rubberband test dummy extraordinaire. If anyone ever truly risked his life for his art it was this man, who did so repeatedly, and for stories that featured underdog heroes who risked the same for the chance to prove himself in film after film to the object of his affection. So if any star of the screen from any era deserves today's Valentine's Day Pick it's this fella, portraying a lovesick soul literally adrift at sea, who defies human adversity and the elemants treacherous to ultimately win the woman of his dreams. I'm blushing, aren't I?

THE NAVIGATOR screens tonight at the Nitehawk Cinema in B-Burg at 7pm, and will be accompanied by a live musical score from GERSH/REED/KNOCHE, as well as a CINEMA PARADISO inspired pre-show classic film kissing montage. Plus tater tots and root beer. I mean that's really why I'm going.


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-Joe Walsh