You've seen “Annie Hall” a hundred times. Turner Classic Movies will probably be showing the latest restoration of “Casablanca.” Forget the multiplex. Silly paint-by-numbers romantic comedies are all the studios care to make anymore. The following is a brief list of unconventional picks for Valentine's Day viewing — maybe not the most romantic movies ever made, but enjoyable love stories nonetheless. They're also unconventional enough to make the day more interesting, whether or not you have a special date to share them with.
“Buffalo '66” (1998)
Filmmaker and star Vincent Gallo's vision of love in snowy, quiet Buffalo, N.Y., is his best film: a stylish, imaginative and peculiar look at an ex-con (Gallo) who abducts an amateur dancer (Christina Ricci) on his way to revenge against the Buffalo Bills player who threw the game that put him behind bars. Eccentric but never goofy, the movie is always grounded in real feeling, even when Ben Gazzara lip synchs “Fools Rush In,” a scene you'll never forget.
Sure, “Annie Hall” might be the obvious Woody Allen choice, but “Manhattan” finds a more realistic balance between humor and heartache in a story about an older guy (Allen) who ditches a much younger girl (Mariel Hemingway) for one his own age (Diane Keaton), only to regret it. New York City provides the glorious backdrop, in stately black and white.
“Magnificent Obsession” (1954)
Instead of disdaining the 1950s with a downer like “Revolutionary Road,” revel in them with the recently released Criterion edition of Douglas Sirk's masterpiece, starring Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman in a May-December romance full of sparkling Technicolor melodrama and unbelievable kitsch. The new two-disc edition also includes John M. Stahl's 1935 version as well as a rare 1991 documentary on Sirk.
“A Room with a View” (1986)
Life-affirming, romantic, humorous and beautiful to look at, this excellent Merchant-Ivory production of E.M. Forster's novel finds Helena Bonham Carter caught between Julian Sands and an unforgettably priggish Daniel Day-Lewis. Available on DVD, but the newish BBC Blu-Ray edition is one of the few truly must-see transfers in the new media.
“Valley Girl” (1983)
Quintessential '80s teen flick about the perils of teen love stars a young Nicolas Cage and is notable for its daring centerpiece, a mesmerizing montage dedicated to falling in love and set to Modern English's “Melt with You,” played beginning to end.
“Welcome to the Dollhouse” (1995)
Should you be alone this Valentine's Day (or just wishing you were), remember misery loves company, and there's no company as miserable as the Wieners — especially Dawn (Heather Matarazzo), known to her middle school simply as Wienerdog. Writer-director Todd Solondz places her in a bizarre love triangle amid the most uncomfortably accurate portrait of American public school and suburbia this side of “Election.”