EDITORIAL: Romantic movie escapes for every state

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As often happens when writing over on Examiner.com where my work gets published as the "Westmont Film Examiner," I am presented often with intriguing editorial projects.  Most of the time, the projects are very broad topics that have nothing to do with movies, but I always twist them to create a cinematic slant.  I still don't know how my movie nerd mind came up with as many movie hoarders for a "unique collections" editorial as I did, but I tend to pull this off with gusto.

Anyway, the latest one has a Valentine's Day edge to it.  It's entitled "Romantic Escapes" and encompasses more travel destination focus than anything.  Of course, I figured a movie spin could be done.  Sure enough, I have done just that.  With a bit of research (thanks, IMDB), I have put together a fifty state tour of the United States of America through romantic movies.  Every state is known for something (as the map above jokes) and their movies can be part of that.   Listed below are some classic, favorite, unique, and sometimes odd romantic comedies and/or dramas that are either filmed in or set in each of the great states of our Union.  In some states, there were easily more than one choice.  In those cases, I tried to narrow the winner of each state to a single film, but are, most certainly, some name-dropped honorable mentions along the way.  Go ahead and find your state and set up a little individual "romantic escape" on the couch for your upcoming Valentine's Day.  Better yet, tour the whole country and see them all!  Enjoy, lovers!

ALABAMA-- Does it get any more easy off the bat than Reese Witherspoon's Sweet Home Alabama?  Perfect choice!  Romantic comedy and southern charm at its finest.  (trailer)

ALASKA-- We've got two slam dunks in a row! The Proposal, with Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock, is a perfect Alaskan romance (even if it starts in New York).  (trailer)

ARIZONA-- Here starts the off-beat selections that come from thinner states.  Christian Slater romancing Samantha Mathis via hard talk radio in the Phoenix suburbs in 1989's Pump Up the Volume will have to do.  (trailer)

ARKANSAS-- Other than Bill Clinton's shenanigans, there might not be any romance in Arkansas.  They best I've got is LaBeouf (Glen Campbell or Matt Damon) hitting on teenage girls in either version of True Grit.  That's all I've got.  (trailer)

CALIFORNIA-- California is a gorgeous state full of gorgeous people, but the romance that stands out is the prostitute Cinderalla story of Pretty Woman, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.  American excess and romance that could only happen in California.  (trailer)

COLORADO-- Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married? is set in Denver and sure beats Things to do in Denver When You're Dead. Good romance from the Southerner!  (trailer)

CONNECTICUT-- While I could let the darkThe Ice Storm or the screwball classic Bringing Up Baby represent the Constitution State, I'm going with 1989's Stanley and Iris with the illiterate Robert DeNiro trying to woo the widowed Jane Fonda.  (trailer)

DELAWARE--Saturday Night Live 's Wayne and Garth were right.  There's nothing in Delaware.  This was the hardest state to find a good romance for.  The best I can do is Wrestling, a completely obscure 2008 independent film from writer-director Jeremy O'Keefe about possible romance brewing in the summer between high school and college, starring Grease's Jeff Conaway.  That's scraping the bottom of the USA barrel.  (info)

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA-- There is no more perfect Capitol-set romance than The American President with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening.  Dave is fun with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver, but Rob Reiner's 1995 film wins, hands down.  (trailer)

FLORIDA-- Like California, the hot bodies reign in the Sunshine State.  A hot body and a hot husky voice are the charms of Kathleen Turner over William Hurt in the noir classic steamer Body Heat, here to represent Florida.  (trailer)

GEORGIA-- The discussion in Georgia begins and ends with Gone With the Wind.  Nothing else can top the epic Civil War romance between Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).  It's one of the best movies of all time for more than just the burning of Atlanta.  (trailer)

HAWAII-- I know the winner of this is supposed to be 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, but I refuse to put a movie with my #1 most-hated actor and my #1 most-hated actress at the top of the list.  I would rather let a tie decide between the hunky Elvis of Blue Hawaii and the tears of Jason Segal in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. (trailer and trailer)

IDAHO-- Idaho is right there with Delaware.  The best I can give you is some counter-programming of Napoleon Dynamite.  If your girlfriend, fiance, or wife next to you finds Jon Heder's character attractive or hot, you have a more serious problem than loving and living in Idaho.  I don't care if women like men with a sense of humor.  Seek counseling on this one.  (trailer)

ILLINOIS-- This is my home state and a tough one.  My wife will tell you Sandra Bullock's While You Were Sleeping is the best Chicago-set romance and she would be doing Illinois and the genre proud by that choice.  However, I'm going to offer the tear-jerking curveball of Bonnie Hunt's under-appreciated Return to Me from 2000, starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver.  I guess it's a tie in your benefit at the Shanahan household.  (trailer and trailer)

INDIANA-- For my second home of the Hoosier State, I'm going with a little-seen independent film with some big names of today that were nobodies back then.  In 1997, Ben Affleck and Jeremy Davis teamed up for director Mark Pellington's (The Mothman PropheciesArlington Road, TV's Cold Case) Indianapolis-set Going All the Way.  Here, we follow two horn-dog Korean War vets returning home hoping the uniforms can score them some chicks in the form of Rachel Weisz, Amy Locane, and Rose McGowan.  (trailer)

IOWA-- Based on the sensationally popular Robert James Waller novel, director and star Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep showed in The Bridges of Madison County that there's still some scandalous heat to be found around covered bridges during one's golden years.  (trailer)

KANSAS-- The unrequited and forbidden love shared by the very younger Warren Beatty and the late Natalie Wood in the Kansas prairie puts Elia Kazan's Splendor in the Grass firmly on this romantic escapes tour.   (trailer)

KENTUCKY-- This is going to sound wrong, but Kentuckians must be more in love with their turf and horses than each other in Cameron Crowe's sub-par Elizabethtown with Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst, is the best I can find for romance in the Bluegrass State.  (trailer)

LOUISIANA-- Alright, ladies.  You can have Louisiana and Steel Magnolias.  I can't fight you off that chick flick's connection to the great Pelican State.  Call this your Valentine's romantic escape alone on the couch with ice cream and cookies.  (trailer)

MAINE-- With the hot button topic of abortion sneaking in, The Cider House Rules is an awkward place to find romance, but Tobey Maguire sure does his magic on Charlize Theron.  (trailer)

MARYLAND-- The crab cakes aren't the only tasty things in Maryland as evidence by the shenanigans of Wedding Crashers, with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, which definitely offers enough romance to match the raunch.  (trailer)

MASSACHUSETTS-- The crime scene of Boston comes to mind in movies like The Departed and The Town, but Good Will Hunting gives us a great romance to root for.  Go see about a girl yourself.  (trailer)

MICHIGAN-- While American Pie wins a worthy honorable mention for its quest for love and fun in East Great Falls, bigger props have to be given to the Mackinaw Island Grand Hotel-set tearjerker Somewhere in Time, starring a time-traveling Christopher Reeve seeking out Jane Seymour.  (trailer)

MINNESOTA-- There's more warmth in Burgess Meredith's Grumpy Old Men pick-up lines, but the best "Land of 10,000 Lakes" romance goes to bun-in-the-oven power between Ellen Page and Michael Cera in the super-charming Juno.  (trailer)

MISSISSIPPI-- Denzel Washington gets a little pre-Jungle Fever forbidden interracial romance going in 1992 with Indian-Ugandan immigrant Sarita Choudhary in Mississippi Masala, from great Indian director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding).  It's definitely a different and younger side of Denzel than we see lately in his action films.  That and I have now fulfilled my responsibility to include Denzel Washington in every editorial top list I make.  (no trailer, but a Beyonce-backed montage of images)

MISSOURI-- Sometimes there's snuggling and romance to found and appreciated in the crazy lives of our American families, much like the quirky one led by Steve Martin in the St. Louis-set Parenthood from director Ron Howard.  Honorable mention goes to Judy Garland and one of a group of daughters learning a little young love in Meet Me in St. Louis. (trailer)

MONTANA-- While the ladies will undoubtedly find Brad Pitt nice to look it in the Montant-set A River Runs Through It, he was better and more romantic in Big Sky Country as the rebellious Tristan Ludlow in Legends of the Fall.  That beats the unspoken passion between Robert Redford and Kristen Scott Thomas in The Horse Whisperer by a nose.  (trailer)

NEBRASKA-- While Nebraska has to shareTerms of Endearment with Texas, the award-winning story of the mother-daughter relationship between Shirley McClaine and Debra Winger spends a good bit of time in Kearney, NE.  It's a skinny fit, but it works.  (long trailer)

NEVADA-- I find the lovable William H. Macy courting Maria Bello in The Cooler better than Nicolas Cage being nursed by Elizabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas.  The schlub beats the movie star.  (trailer)

NEW HAMPSHIRE-- The small states of the Northeast are tough ones, but a classic vote goes to the censored teenage seduction of 1962's Lolita, from the great director Stanley Kubrick, set in Ramsdale, NH.  Stylish trailer too!  (trailer)

NEW JERSEY-- You Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore fans are going to grill me again, but I can't put a Garden State award on The Wedding Singer.  Instead, give me Kevin Smith's lesbian comedy/drama Chasing Amy with Joey Lauren Adams and Ben Affleck anytime.  Honorable mention goes to Woody Allen's Depression era Purple Rose of Cairo. (trailer)

NEW MEXICO-- The comic book dork in me says there's enough New Mexico-set romance in Thor, but I'll go indie with 1992's Gas Food Lodging, from director Alison Anders, covering two trailer-park girls (Fairuza Balk of The Waterboy and Ione Syke of Say Anything...) looking for highway love.  (railer)

NEW YORK-- Love beckons in the "city that never sleep" quite a bit.  Maybe native Big Apple folks will go with Woody Allen's best Annie Hall.  The kid in us might give a vote for Tom Hanks in Big, or even just Empire State Building climax of Sleepless in Seattle.  But, when it's all said and done, to this writer, the quintessential New York romance is When Harry Met Sally... with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.  I'll go down swinging defending that movie's greatness as an all-time great romantic comedy.  (trailer)

NORTH CAROLINA-- Oh jeez.  Just pick any Nicholas Sparks novel turned into a movie.  He's the king of Outer Banks romance.  Go ahead and start the parade between Message in a Bottle, The Notebook, Dear John, A Walk to Remember, Nights in RodantheThe Last Songor The Lucky One coming to theaters this very spring.  From that list,The Notebook is the best with my second place vote going to Message in a Bottle. (railer)

NORTH DAKOTA--Everyone knows the only good movie set in North Dakota is Fargo, but it's hard to generate much "romantic escape" vibe from that, other than wanting to leave North Dakota.  So, take a left turn and go with a ND-set horror movie like The Messengers starring Twilight's Kristen Stewart.  Sometimes a good horror movie is nice way to get close and cozy on a date night.  (trailer)

OHIO-- A fictional Ohio high school full of cliques, intimidation, contempt, and sex appeal is the etting for the dark comedy and late 80s romance of Heathers, with young versions of Christian Slater and Winona Ryder.  (trailer)

OKLAHOMA-- While a huge chunks of the movie take place in New York and Ireland, the big climactic recreation of the Oklahoma Land Rush is worth fast-forwarding to in Ron Howard's Far and Away to see Tom Cruise finally earn Nicole Kidman's respect and admiration in the end.  (trailer)

OREGON-- The cast and characters of TV's Portlandia are right.  There's not much good going on out there.  The best offering I can give you for Oregon is a little tawdry kinky sex in Body of Evidence between murder trial suspect Madonna and married Portland lawyer Willem Dafoe, who's in way over his head.  This will get the candle wax out at home.  Yikes!  (trailer)

PENNSYLVANIA-- Between the blue collars in the Burgh to brotherly lovers in Philly, there are many romances to choose from.  I will give a slight edge to the chick appeal of the young Christian Slater in Bed of Roses over the fun of Groundhog Day, the heart of Flashdance, and the gags of She's Out of My League.  (trailer)

RHODE ISLAND-- The comedy team of the Farrelly Brothers call Rhode Island home, but, sadly, their best movie, There's Something About Mary, takes place mostly in Florida.  That means we have to settle for the oddball Me, Myself, and Irene with Jim Carrey hounding Renee Zellweger.  (trailer)

SOUTH CAROLINA-- Maybe Nicholas Sparks needs to go golfing in Myrtle Beach and spread some of his magic to his southern neighbor, because there's not much to choose from.  For the Palmetto State, instead of taking the tawdry route like I did Oregon and go with Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Shue in the aptly-named Palmetto from 1998, I'll suggest and recommend Lawrence Kasdan's The Big Chill instead.  Not super romantic, but better than Palmetto.  (trailer)

SOUTH DAKOTA-- Yeah, even though Avatar stole the plot, the Sioux country romance within the Best Picture winner Dances with Wolves by Kevin Costner is more than good enough to represent the South Dakota countryside well.  (trailer)

TENNESSEE-- In the heartland home of country music, an excellent romantic escape would be Walk the Line covering the Nashville lives of Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and June Carter Cash (Reese Witherspoon).  (trailer)

TEXAS-- They say everything is bigger in Texas.  Well, so's the selection of Lone Star romances.  While the historic heartthrob James Dean populates Giant, he was better in other movies and other states.  I don't think we can count the "Hot for Teacher" or "whipped cream bikini" scenes in Varsity Blues as the best either.  So, tradition wins.  The Hallmark Channel watchers will proudly side with small town Texas charm of Sandra Bullock's Hope Floats.  If that's too easy, challenge your conventions with the daring Generation X Austin and Houston settings of Reality Bites with Ben Stiller, Winona Ryder, and Ethan Hawke or the steamy steamy Houston-set Jason's Lyric with Allen Payne and Jada Pinkett Smith.  Nevertheless, like Christian Slater, I've got to add up how many Sandra Bullock movies have made this list.  (trailer)  

UTAH-- This state has as bad of a selection as Idaho.  Since Christian Slater has made this tour guide three times already, a fourth won't hurt, even if all I can offer is the soldier/sheriff innuendo and flirtation in the Utah action-fest Broken Arrow from 1996 between he and his long-lost Pump Up the Volume co-star Samantha Mathis.  What?  The guys have to have something to watch too.  Did you really want me to put the one-armed 127 Hours on this list for Utah?!  I thought not.  (trailer)

VERMONT-- Ladies love normal guys and "everymans" sometimes, so, for the Green Mountain State, you get the charming Gary Cooper as the do-gooder of Mandrake Falls in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (no, not the Sandler remake).  That beats the cheating Harrison Ford and haunted Michelle Pfieffer in What Lies Beneath, also set in Vermont.  (trailer)

VIRGINIA-- Jodie Foster is not known for her romantic movies, but she delivers a very underrated drama with Richard Gere in the Virginia-set Sommersby about a man coming home from the Civil War a little different than when he left years ago.  (trailer)

WASHINGTON-- I didn't think this would be a big state, but the Seattle area notches some great choices for romantic escapes.  New York might steal the thunder at the end of Sleepless in Seattle, but the best of it is set in Puget Sound port city.  Other great choices include 10 Things I Hate About You, Say Anything..., An Officer and a Gentleman, and, if you absolutely have to fall for the hype, the Twilight series.  (trailer)

WEST VIRGINIA-- The secluded coal-mining countryside of the Appalachian mountains didn't give me a good straight romance.  That splits your tour into a pair of good inspirational movies between the "rocket boys" of October Sky or the football-overcoming-tragedy of We Are Marshall.  Both are excellent date movies without being true romances.  (trailer and trailer)

WISCONSIN-- Last year gave the riotous activities that women will do for love, friendship, and marriage in Bridesmaids with Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and Rose Byrne.  While it tips between Milwaukee and Chicago, our Kristen's nice romance with a Wisconsin state trooper (Chris O'Dowd) is all cheesehead.  (trailer)

WYOMING-- Last and certainly not least, we have the very strong and different romance running through the Wyoming-set Brokeback Mountain between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.  What a way to end the list!  (trailer)

There you have it, 50 states and 50 date movies for romantic escapes.  I think a great sequel possibility before February finishes would be romantic movie escapes in countries of the world.  That's going to take some more digging!  Stay tuned!