Valentine’s Day weekend during the COVID era can go a myriad of ways. Those who are coupled (or throupled) up might have already planned tranquil getaways or outdoor meals with their special someone(s). Singles might be planning a day in the outdoors or a movie night in with chocolates and a strong cocktail.
Since we all can’t celebrate together, we gathered up a list of things we love to do both at home and around the city. Maybe you’ll find the perfect plan to partake in with your Valentine, or a good movie or music collection to enjoy while staying safe at home.
However you celebrate, we wish you a safe and happy Valentine’s Day.
Visit the “Cupid’s Span” public sculpture
There are two types of San Franciscans: those who appreciate the fun, pop art romanticism of the Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen sculpture “Cupid’s Span” on the Embarcadero, and unfeeling monsters.
The 60-foot steel and fiberglass archer’s bow with arrow appears on the green overlooking the water like a monumental artifact left behind by the gods, both arbitrary and endearing in its jarring placement before the city landscape. Over the years, countless couples have photographed engagement or wedding photos in front of the piece and, even during a pandemic, it’s one famous local artwork that is never closed. Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but Cupid left his magical bow.
What could be a better part of a San Francisco romantic date montage than an evening stroll along the water, Leo Villareal’s “Bay Lights” blinking above and “Cupid’s Span” straight ahead? It’s the kind of date night that is technically free but is better described as priceless.
The Embarcadero between Folsom and Howard streets.
— Tony Bravo
Take a bike ride on upper Great Highway
I can’t tell you where my brain goes when my two-wheeled steed reaches the intersection of Lincoln Way and Great Highway, the northernmost point of the section of Great Highway that’s closed to cars. But I know it comes back when I approach Sloat Boulevard, the southern end of the car-free paradise, and I know that’s always too soon.
To bicycle that flat stretch, as the sands of Ocean Beach try to reclaim their rightful territory, is always (or, at least, when you ride with prevailing winds) to lose consciousness of physical exertion. You might feel like you’re pedaling on top of an endless stick of butter, bobbing among skaters and pedestrians. All of a sudden, riding north to south, the dunes to your right recede, and the glittering breakers peek through, brazenly flaring their foamy skirts.
Or maybe it’s foggy out, and the gray-green waters are matte. You appreciate that, too. Poseidon’s waters can appear a churning cauldron on those days, you think as you whisk by, a 21st century Odysseus on a poor man’s Homeric galley.
Great Highway is closed to cars between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard.
— Lily Janiak
Valentine’s Day movies for singles
With many of us still stuck inside, bars closed and a persistent fear of contact with strangers, this is not the best time to be unattached. So here are some movie recommendations for single people, who either want to be in a relationship or want to feel good about not being in one.
In the latter category are well-paired films from across the span of the sound era — “Private Lives” (1931) and “Malcolm & Marie” (2021). The first, starring Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery, is based on the Noel Coward play about ex-spouses who rekindle their romance while on their honeymoon with new spouses. The second is about a new film in which a glamorous young couple, Zendaya and John David Washington, tear into each other over the course of a long evening.
For people thinking about getting into a long-term relationship, check out “Animal Kingdom” (1932) with Myrna Loy, Ann Harding and Leslie Howard. Basically, it’s a surprisingly adult exploration of what an ideal relationship can be, told through the story of a man who marries the wrong woman.
Finally, for a dose of passion, check out “The Last of the Mohicans” (1992), with Madeleine Stowe and Daniel Day-Lewis, which is as grand-scale as an old-time Hollywood movie, but one in which the people don’t just dance or engage in screwball antics, but have actual sex.
Watch it: “Private Lives”: Rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video or other major streaming platforms; “Malcolm & Marie”: Available to stream on Netflix; “The Animal Kingdom” and “The Last of the Mohicans” can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.
— Mick LaSalle
Valentine’s Day movies for couples
With the pandemic making this a weird Valentine’s Day, we are in need of some good ol’ happy endings. A few recent films provide the perfect old-fashioned vibes for the occasion — all set in the 1950s and all unashamed of their romantic purity. No irony allowed here, only honest feelings and the belief that love will conquer all.
“Brooklyn” (2015) is an achingly sweet romance, with a screenplay by Nick Hornby, about an Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) who finds love in New York with an Italian plumber (Emory Cohen), but is forced back to Ireland after the death of her sister. Will she choose love in Brooklyn, or are her family ties in the homeland too strong?
“Carol” (2015) is set in 1951, the same year as “Brooklyn,” but presents a very different view of midcentury romance. Based on a landmark lesbian novel, “The Price of Salt,” by Patricia Highsmith, it is about the attraction between a society woman (Cate Blanchett) going through a divorce and a rising young photographer (Rooney Mara). Director Todd Haynes skillfully navigates a deeply felt in-the-closet love story.
“Sylvie’s Love” (2020) is a Harlem-set romance between a struggling jazz saxophonist (Nnamdi Asomugha) and a woman (Tessa Thompson) working in her father’s record store who has big dreams of becoming a producer in the newfangled world of television. Trouble is, she’s already engaged to a fellow stationed in Korea. It’s not only a wonderful love story, but also a look at the ambitious professional aspirations of two talented African Americans at the dawn of the civil rights era.
Watch it: “Brooklyn”: Rent or buy on Amazon Prime video and other streaming platforms; “Carol”: Available to stream on Netflix; “Sylvie’s Love”: Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
— G. Allen Johnson
Watch “Firefly Lane”
Valentine’s Day may not feel as romantic or hopeful as in previous years, but there’s nothing like getting in tune with your feelings to honor love’s special day. If you’re looking for a dramatic show to binge-watch over the three-day weekend, look no further than Netflix’s latest hit: “Firefly Lane.”
Based on Kristin Hannah’s book series of the same name, the show stars Katherine Heigl (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Sarah Chalke (“Scrubs”) as two inseparable best friends. The 10-episode first season takes viewers on a devastating journey through the women’s lives in 2003, the 1980s and their teenage years in the ’70s as they navigate relationships, devastating secrets, over-the-top twists and declarations of love.
Watch it: Available to stream on Netflix.
— Jose Alejandro Bastidas
Enjoy Brahms, late piano music
By the time Brahms approached the end of his life (which is to say, unfortunately, around his 60th birthday), he knew a thing or two about the vicissitudes of love. That’s not to suggest that he had a wide or varied romantic past — on the contrary, he spent most of his life nursing a deep and evidently unconsummated passion for Clara Schumann, the widow of his friend and mentor.
But Brahms was a master at saying the unspoken with his work, and it may not be a stretch to hear the imprint of his long-held, painful passion in the four collections of piano pieces, Opp. 116-19, that were published just before his death in 1893. Some of the most beautiful pieces here — I’m a sucker for the E-Flat Intermezzo, Op. 117, No. 1, and the A-Major Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 2, but find your own — radiate with a combination of emotional flavors that is hard to pin down. Exultation is in the mix, and regret, and hope, and sometimes even a touch of bliss. And if that isn’t love, what is?
Listen: Available to stream on Spotify. bit.ly/brahmspianomusic
— Joshua Kosman
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