Love for Rent

For Valentine's Day, our staff offers some of their favorite romantic moments from films (and one game)

Best So-Wrong-It's-Oh-So-Right First Date: King Kong (1933)

Say what you will about interspecies fondling and May-December romances, but there's no denying the beastly erotic pull of the hirsute bachelor and his blushing, screaming mimi. Kong's tender curiosity toward his diminutive captive gives new meaning to the cinematic dom/sub genre. Pioneering stop-motion animator Willis O'Brien endowed the true King of Monsters – sorry, Godzilla – with just the right amount of amorous playfulness atop that Skull Island outcropping to transform total terror into a timeless, tentative tease. Quoth the Dickies, "You drive me ape, you big gorilla!" – Marc Savlov

Love for Rent

Puppy Love: Lady and the Tramp (1955)

A pampered cocker spaniel runs away with a street-wise mutt in Disney's uptown-meets-downtown animated love story. When circumstances become unmuzzled, the two dogs go on the lam, only to be brought to justice by the local dogcatcher. Don't worry: All ends happily, and the circle of love in the Darling household grows exponentially. Along the way, the pups create one of the most enduring images of romantic love when the young lovers chew on opposite ends of a strand of spaghetti while staring deeply into each other's eyes. One slurp and you're hooked. – Marjorie Baumgarten

Love for Rent

Love in an Elevator: Singles (1992)

Janet Livermore doesn't expect much from a boyfriend. The barista (Bridget Fonda) from Cameron Crowe's rom-com love letter to grunge-era Seattle thought, by age 23, "people would be traveling in airlocks and I would have five kids." Now all she wants is someone who says "bless you" when she sneezes ("at least gesundheit"), but she's dating rocker Cliff Poncier (Matt Dillon), and the self-obsessed minstrel/wastrel can't even manage that. When she wisely dumps him, his extravagant efforts to reunite end in car-wrecking farce. But when they're forced to share an elevator, she sneezes, and he offers those two little words ... it's true love. – Richard Whittaker

Tenderness on the Rock: Brokeback Mountain (2005)

It's the last time cowboys Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) rendezvous on Brokeback Mountain, the idyllic piece of Wyoming rock where they fell in love 20 years ago. After confronting the futility of their secret relationship ("I wish I knew how to quit you."), Jack comforts an anguished Ennis, crumpled on the ground sobbing. Suddenly, a flashback to their first summer there: Ennis standing behind a sleepy Jack, his arm extended across Jack's chest, his face nuzzled in his neck humming a lullaby before heading up the mountain for the night. When have you ever seen such a tender moment between two men as this? – Steve Davis

Love for Rent

Best Wizard of Oz/Lovers on the Run Mash-Up: Wild at Heart (1990)

David Lynch's follow-up to Blue Velvet is a disturbing descent into a hellscape populated by characters running the gamut from the lecherously repugnant to the certifiably insane. Sounds like the perfect movie to settle into with your paramour, right? But the center of this tale is the mercurial love between Sailor (Nicolas Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern), as they barrel down the alleyways of the Yellow Brick Road avoiding the wrath of Lula's Wicked Witch mother (an unhinged Diane Ladd). Is their love strong enough to overcome the odds? You better believe it, Toto. – Josh Kupecki

Love for Rent

Best Lifelike Portrait: Laura (1944)

Noir, by definition, cackles maniacally at romance, yet there's a tryst at the heart of nearly every noir drama, even if they're all mostly fatal. Otto Preminger wines and dines the genre in a murder mystery fraught with studio politics, yet without a single one of its 88 minutes out of sync. Lonely police detective Dana Andrews investigates Gene Tierney's shotgun facelift at her apartment, where he reads her letters, paws her undergarments, and finally passes out drunk under her uncanny portrait. When he wakes – or does he? – noir takes an arrow dead center through the ticker. – Raoul Hernandez

Love for Rent

Best Romantic Rebuff: Killer of Sheep (1978)

Charles Burnett's UCLA film school thesis doubles as a neorealist classic, its seemingly plotless story centered on a man killing himself to live. Given its tone of dry austerity and randomness, the film doesn't always puzzle together resolution. One of the few instances lies in the fatigued relationship of everyman Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders) and his wife (Kaycee Moore). As Dinah Washington sings "This Bitter Earth," the latter painfully attempts to draw affection out of her near-lifeless man. They dance slowly, Moore longing for reciprocation of her tenderness, which he rejects. She collapses into an almost orgasmic sadness of unrequited love. – Kahron Spearman

Best Bad Weather Forecast: I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)

Sensible, self-sure Joan (Wendy Hiller) intends to marry money, but foul weather keeps getting in the way. While her wealthy, much older beau awaits her on a remote Scottish isle, Joan cools her heels on the mainland, battling gale winds and the irresistible charms of a dashing naval officer at home on leave. He's named Torquil (Torquil!) and he's played by Roger Livesey, rocking a mean kilt. The great Powell & Pressburger film is near-ethnographic in its attention to the local landscape and tongue. I Know Where I'm Going! is a perfect storm of pragmatic, romantic, and comedic. Dare you not to be grinning like an idiot by the last, heart-melt frame. – Kimberley Jones

Love for Rent

Best Serenade by a Canoe-ing Canoodler: Horse Feathers (1932)

A sunny day, a placid pond, a man and woman in a canoe – it's quite the romantic scene, or would be were this not a Marx Brothers picture. Here, it's the lady paddling away and Groucho supine beneath a frilly parasol. As the Marxes take an axe to the groves of academe, each gets a whack at Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby's "Everyone Says I Love You," and when Groucho's Professor Wagstaff croons it for Thelma Todd's slinky "college widow," the lyrics about lions getting frisky and rabbits pitching woo leave no doubt as to what we really talk about when we talk about love – or what Wagstaff really wants to do in that canoe. – Robert Faires

Love for Rent

Best Come-On by a Cabbie: On the Town (1949)

Once Big Apple taxi driver "Hildy" Esterhazy (Betty Garrett) gets hayseed-sailor-on-shore-leave Chip (Frank Sinatra) alone in her cab, her meter is runnin' – and I don't mean the one on the dash. Part of this World War II-era musical's charm is its confident, competent women, with their independence, professional jobs, and – rare for the era – sex drives. With Garrett's going from 0 to 60 in nothing flat, she cuts right to the chase about what she wants to do with Sinatra, and it ain't see the sights. Her bedroom eyes, vivaciousness, and persistent, insistent pleas to "go to my place" are enough to rev up any motor. Va-va-va-vroom! – R.F.

Shut Up and Deal: The Apartment (1960)

It's New Year's Eve and unlucky-in-love Fran (Shirley MacLaine) sits in a nightclub with the selfish cad who's mistreated her, fiddling with her pearls just before midnight when she realizes something we already know. The menschy C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon), who's hopelessly enamored with her, is Mr. Right. A breathless sprint down a Manhattan street, the pop of a Champagne cork, and the shuffle of a deck of cards later, C.C. (finally!) expresses his feelings to Fran. And for the first time, we see her really smile. It's the perfect way for these two people to start the new year, romance-wise. – S.D.

Love for Rent

A Finger on the Pulse of Love: Plug & Play (www.plugplay.ch)

Hardly a love story, this experimental interactive app based on Michael Frei's animated short gets to the meaty heart of relationships. Using a none-too-subtle but hardly simple metaphor of plugs and sockets, the game shows love in all of its humiliating, confusing, funny, degrading, elusive, and ultimately necessary glory. The repeated finger imagery in the story creates an uncomfortable complicity as players swipe and tap their mobile devices to forward the action. And what would a romance be without awkward conversations, even if you have a choice of responses in this case? Add realistic thumps, thwacks, and sucking sounds, and prepare to feel the love. – James Renovitch

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle