ABFF: Genuinely good date movies

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, February 12, 2010 22:05 EDT
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Michael, the inventor of Arbitrary But Fun Friday, is asking what sci-fi movies best portray the future how it’s likely to be. However, since he’s picked the best ones, I’m forced to pass on this one. Instead, I’m going to set up a discussion question based on this excellent face-stomping that Roger Ebert gives to the new Garry Marshall movie “Valentine’s Day”.

“Valentine’s Day” is being marketed as a Date Movie. I think it’s more of a First-Date Movie. If your date likes it, do not date that person again. And if you like it, there may not be a second date.

But it was Scott’s response that really inspired this post:

Speaking of both Garry Marshall* and alleged “date movies” whose only possible value could be providing valuable information about whether your date’s taste in movies is bad enough to like the crap you’re watching, it would be pretty depressing if Jessica Grose is right about Pretty Woman and Jerry Maguire — not merely flat-out dogs but two of the most annoying movies ever made — topping lists of good date movies. If providing negative information is the goal, I guess I’d go with the former, which would also indicate whether your date finds creepy misogyny moving.

Jessica’s piece explores the mindfield of picking a date movie to watch on a Valentine’s Day spent with someone you’re kind of new with. (For this reason, start all new relationships in late February/early March. Or be a Grumpy McCynicpants like me, and just boycott the whole mean-spirited holiday.) I have to admit, I don’t get the idea of watching romantic comedies as a thing you do on dates. I mean, I get watching them. Or even going on a date to watch them, but only if that just happens to be what’s playing. But specifically setting out to watch a romantic comedy because it’s a date? I don’t get it. Are you supposed to be picking up ideas? Are romantic comedies supposed to work like porn, to get you in the mood to replicate the behavior on screen? If you’re kind of new with someone—too new to be doing something romantic—wouldn’t all this Hollywood-induced pressure to couple up make you feel even more awkward? I don’t understand, folks. I think I’ve lived a relatively full life, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a date to romantic comedy with some dude I was in the new-ish stage with. Mostly because I don’t like the vast majority of them. But if I found myself sitting on a first or second date with someone and Jerry Maguire was bleating about how he feels all completed now, I’d probably die right there from social awkwardness. What if your date thinks you dig that sort of thing? Do you make fun of it, and risk upsetting them because they liked it?

This practice of going to a “date movie” on a date is the sort of thing that people who think John Mayer is deep think is a good idea, I’m forced to conclude.

I was never a big fan of going to the movies when you’re first dating someone. Movies is something I tend to do with friends or with my actual boyfriend—people you already know, and who you can sit in silence with easily. Getting to know you dates were always dinner, drinks, outings to a museum or park, something like that. But should someone be interested in going to movies during this stage of a relationship, what would you recommend? If you’re lucky, there will be a really good superhero action flick (like “Iron Man”), a genuinely funny non-romantic comedy ( “The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”), perhaps something a little artful without being overwrought, like a Quentin Tarantino movie, or an increasingly likely choice, campy horror comedy (“Jennifer’s Body”, “Zombieland). I’d imagine the aim is to come out of the theater in a good mood and pumped up, with something to talk about that isn’t button-pushing or upsetting. But I’m interested in what you guys think. What movies make better date movies than the ones advertised as date movies?

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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