Whether you’re coupled or single, Valentine’s Day can be pretty stressful. Restaurants are crowded. Flowers are overpriced. And like New Year’s Eve, another constructed holiday that’s supposed to be the best night ever, it’s actually impossible to do much more than meet basic expectations. But if you’re doing the wise thing and staying in for the evening, but still want to entertain yourself, you can actually have a pretty good time. And thanks to the wonder of streaming video, you can do all of it without any advance planning.
If You Want To Celebrate Friendship, Not Romance: If you’re celebrating your female friends, Ann Friedman makes the case for Parks and Recreation‘s season-two episode “Galentine’s Day,” and for living every day as if friendship is just as important as love. But best friends don’t always have to be same-gender, and if you’re a guy celebrating a female friend or vice versa, I recommend the terminally-underrated TBS sitcom My Boys, which stars Jordana Spiro as a Chicago sportswriter with a group of male poker and bar buddies. And if you’re dealing with a happiness imbalance in your best friendships, The Trip, a road trip involving comedians, amazing food, and Michael Caine impersonations, is incredible.
If You’re Exhausted By Valentine’s Day Commercialism: The good people over at Vulture are debating Sleepless In Seattle v. You’ve Got Mail. But they’re both wrong! The best Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan romantic comedy is the deeply weird Joe Versus The Volcano, in which a disgruntled factory worker gets asked by a wealthy industrialist to jump into a volcano so he can continue mining a valuable metal, and along the way to his fiery death, ends up dating three different Meg Ryans. It’s delightful. Or if the king and queen of romantic comedies aren’t your cup of tea, there’s always The Jonses, in which David Duchovy and Demi Moore play a fake family whose job is to model an aspirational lifestyle and to ramp up spending in whatever neighborhood they’re moved in to. It’s less lighthearted, but much sharper about the recession!
You’re Working On Your Work-Love Balance: It’s been a rough couple of years for romantic comedies, but Morning Glory is the rare bright spot. It’s the slightly surreal story of Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), a workaholic morning news show producer, who is rewarded for being awesome at her job with Patrick Wilson and the sight of Harrison Ford making her a frittata on national television. From the back catalogue, there’s Soapdish, the weirdest, best workplace romantic comedy of all time, which features Sally Field as a soap opera star, Kevin Klein as her ex-husband doing dinner theater, Robert Downey Jr. as an easily-manipulatable network executive, and Whoopi Goldberg as a deeply put-upon writer.
You’re Feeling Totally, Sentimentally Romantic: I’m all for fighting the romance-industrial complex if you feel like it, but that doesn’t have to mean that love is dead! If you’re in the mood to give in, here are two ways to go. You could dig into Baz Luhrmann’s back catalogue and watch Strictly Ballroom, his lush, but comparatively low-fi movie about competitive ballroom dancing competitions in Australia, Spanish immigrants to the continent, and the power of “Time After Time.” And if you want a little film school to go with your heart-warming, watch The Lady Eve, if only for this scene:
And the fact that every woman should want to be as tough as Barbara Stanwyck in this movie, and every man should be cool enough to want to date her.