Valentine’s Day, Filmed

My wife was riding out the end of one of those ubiquitous illnesses teachers get, so our Valentine’s Weekend started with a trip to the doctor and mostly included her laying on the couch instead of sleeping in bed, and my repeated efforts to toggle that state. We did manage to complete a few dungeon runs in WoW, which we come to late; I’d played it for a few months over the years, but she’d never touched it. We’ve done (arranged in order of increasing time spent playing and returns to) WildStar, Elder Scrolls Online, Trove,  Guild Wars 2, and Rift. We’ve also abortively attempted Star Wars: The Old Republic, Neverwinter, and Dungeons and Dragons Online. No arranging those by successive levels of disapproval—she hated all of those.

Rift’s had the greatest staying power, but Guild Wars 2 has the biggest mindshare, because the discovery-based cooking hooked her. The success or failure of any other MMO is largely based on how similar to Guild Wars 2 the cooking is; sadly, no one else really does it that way. WoW, though, has been a huge success, and she absolutely loves the Monk; this is a marked deviation from her usual wizards or fighters.

So we managed some video games, but we also took in a couple of films. Romantic films, even, amidst a broader theme of women cursing (we watched several Melissa McCarthy flicks).

First, we watched Man Up. This was actually a re-watch for her, as in she watched it while I was sleeping then we watched it when I woke up. Her description of the movie was that it was “lovely,” and I was surprised by this for the first hour os so. The movie’s great, anchored by magnificent performances from Lake Bell and Simon Pegg. But it’s great in a bawdy, profane, cynical way for much of its run time. You have two people on a blind date, doing their best to put forth an idealized visage and gradually having the cracks show through. Also, they’re drinking an impressive amount.

So lovely didn’t seem to be the first thing to come to mind, but ultimately I think it applied. The characters are both charming, and watching their date unravel is interwoven with the same date managing to pull itself back together, again and again. Man Up manages to present a number of visibly and intrinsically flawed characters in ways that allow the audience to laugh at–and root for–them. Even the creepiest character comes out okay, and this even in the face of the recent study linking romantic comedies to acceptance of stalking behavior. Hell, the movie actually presents an example of that trope’s inversion.

Plus, it has the most positive presentation of positive adolescents I’ve ever seen in a film.

We also watched (rewatched for me) Goon. That’s a more complicated love story, managing to hit agape, eros, philia, and storge. There’s absolutely a romance at the heart of the film, but much of the screentime devoted to it has one character on the ice while the other watches from behind glass. There’s brotherly love present as well, between  Sean William Scott’s  Doug and Jay Baruchel in full aggro-douche mode. Baruchel’s roles tend to vacillate between nebbish and bloviating machismo. The latter roles work because of the incongruity between the actor’s build and the stream of profanity and aggression blasting out of his mouth; it works for him much like it’s given Melissa McCarthy an explosive film career in contrast to her long run on Mike and Molly or her work in Gilmore Girls.

Scott is also playing a departure from the type that my generation associates with him intentionally eschewing fast-talking and smirks for a slow, measured approach to expressing himself…and lots of punching. Doug’s love for his brother is the impetus for the film’s plot, as he delivers a brutal beating to a homophobic hockey player. This gets him on a team—despite barely knowing how to skate—and that gets him out of his job as a bouncer and on the road. His eager willingness to suffer for his teammates gradually draw…well, you know how sports movies work.

Ultimately, and like Man UpGoon is a lovely film. There’s lots of blood, and some lost teeth, but by the end of the film almost everyone is closer to one another. Even the ones who spend the last few scenes punching each other.

It’s an unconventional Valentine’s Day pairing of flicks, but my wife and I are usually low on sap by the time the 14th rolls around. The stretch between Christmas and Valentine’s Day tasks couples with a lot of gift-buying and special evenings already, and we manage to shove both of our birthdays into that same period. Skinning raptors and completing two Fang sets while people muddled through profanity-laced declarations of love was exactly the right speed for the holiday.

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