Forget about classic, big-screen romance. You won't find Leonardo DiCaprio embracing Kate Winslet on the deck of the Titanic. In this year's Oscar race, DiCaprio plays a Texas billionaire obsessed with his own bodily fluids, while Winslet baby-sits a guy more interested in kite flying than sex.
To be sure, the cast of characters in this year's Oscar-nominated films are the sort of oddballs that you'd fear meeting on a blind date. We've got a morbidly depressed high school English teacher, a muscle-bound waitress who wants to box and a philandering, heroin-addicted pianist -- not the sort you'd want to bring home to mama.
Still, this year's crop of Best Picture nominees might still offer some heartfelt love lessons, and not just for people looking for romance, but for people looking to live richer lives.
Let's look at "The Aviator," "Finding Neverland," "Million Dollar Baby," "Ray" and "Sideways," and see if they can fill our chocolate hearts with some Valentine's Day inspiration.
As Howard Hughes and Katherine Hepburn, DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett play larger-than-life, two-of-a-kind lovers, who bring out the best and worst in each other.
"You feel like a little adventure?" the billionaire playboy says as he ushers her onto his fancy plane for a date.
"Do your worst, Mr. Hughes," Hepburn says with abandon. Of course, she ends up piloting the aircraft.
In "The Aviator," a young Hughes romances a string of legendary Hollywood beauties, including Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale). But the frenetic redhead Hepburn is obviously his match. And they both recognize it, for good and ill.
"We're not like everyone else," Hepburn tells Hughes. "Too many sharp angles. Too many eccentricities. We have to be very careful not to let people in or they'll make us into freaks."
Perhaps it's a doomed love affair. Both are bent on professional success. Neither seems suited to making sacrifices. Even on that romantic airplane ride, when Hepburn says, "Howard, there's a rather alarming mountain heading our way," it seems more than a bit symbolic that their relationship is heading for a crash.
But Hepburn and Hughes still illustrate the nurturing value of love. She is the first to see the manifestations of the obsessive-compulsive tendencies that would ruin his life, and she tries to help him.
You can tell he still loves her, even later in life, long after their relationship ends. When she's facing blackmailers who are threatening to expose her surreptitious relationship with Spencer Tracy, Hughes flexes his financial muscle to make her problems go away.
"What's the matter?" Tracy asks Hepburn at one point in the film.
"There's just too much 'Howard Hughes' in Howard Hughes," Hepburn says. "That's what's the matter."
Then again, there was an awful lot of Katherine Hepburn in Katherine Hepburn.
Della Bea Robinson looked into the eyes of a blind heroin addict and philandering scoundrel, and there she saw the heart of one of the greatest musical artists of the 20th century. It's apparent in "Ray" that there might not have been a Ray Charles worth remembering if not for the woman who held his life together.