Some movies are terrific classics—but re-watching them is a bit like “eat your lima beans.” Sure Citizen Kane is wondrous, but it’s not a movie you can lose yourself in. You’re forever saying “Look at that iconic shot, that fabulous editing, the great mode of storytelling.” And Casablanca, for instance, rocks—just not on the seventh or eighth viewing.
On the other hand, there’s nothing “great” about The Fugitive. So why am I watching it for the 12th time, enjoying every frame, getting so deep into the story that popcorn is gratuitous while Harrison Ford fights for justice keeping one step ahead of the law?
There are a number of others: Midnight Run—a Robert DeNiro-Charles Grodin buddy movie with a great script that keeps throwing unexpected rocks at both heroes; Out of Sight—George Clooney and J-Lo on opposite sides of the law in one of the best Elmore Leonard adaptations; Bon Voyage—the perfect French comedy-thriller set during the time the Nazis marched into Paris (I know, but trust me, this movie is not only fun, but pitch perfect); Being Julia—a comedy featuring Annette Benning’s spectacular turn as an aging actress in the 1930s, determined to re-claim her life and place on the stage (with Jeremy Irons as her husband).
There are other movies where the groove is ready and greased, and I am welcomed back into the fantastic and insular world for what I know will be 120 minutes of pure escape. Punch Line, Soap Dish (thank you, Sally Fields), Sexy Beast (Ben Kingsley as an insane gangster) Topsy-Turvey (Mike Leigh’s take on Gilbert & Sullivan), and The Empire Strikes Back come immediately to mind.
So what’s going on? Why hang on and re-watch these movies? For me, I think it’s the essence of story: How will the hero/ine cope with all those different rocks being thrown at them? And is everything in the story and the world created consistent? Oh yes. Thank you gods and muses of creativity. Here I am, in good strong hands, warm in bed, getting ready for sleep as the adult voice begins the magical incantation “Once upon a time…”
Don’t we all need some respite, from time to time? And aren’t the old stories told around the safety of the campfire the best place to be?
NEXT: Guilty Pleasures: Books.