What films do I turn to again and again, the media equivalent of comfort food? Recently I tried to answer that question, and came up with a list of twenty, closely followed by another batch of twenty. And that would seem to answer that intriguing question for me.
But wait! There's no way I can have a favorite multiple viewings list without "Galaxy Quest" and "Ghostbusters"! Horror of horrors; what was I thinking? And now, upon further reflection, maybe I impulsively included "Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" merely because I viewed it recently... would I really want to see it multiple times? Maybe I need to rethink that one. What else would have to go off the list to make room for those two entertaining favorites?
The great thing about that group of titles was, their assembly was not encumbered by criteria such as literary quality, technical mastery, creativity, cinematic or historic importance (although this doesn't mean many of them didn't have such qualities). Someday I'll put together such a list, or I should say lists, and they will be very different.
Lately, more than ever, I watch a film to go to another place, a dreamlike escape-realm designed to be just what I need at a given moment.
There are some so-called important films that I'm grateful to have seen, films that have truly achieved something, films that played a key role in cinematic development, or affected me or surprised me or grabbed my attention, or haunted me. But they're not the film equivalent of comfort food. Would I really want to see "Saving Private Ryan" or "Inglorious Basterds" or "No Country for Old Men" over and over again, kicking back after a long day of modern-day anxieties? Honestly, I think not. "The Godfather" is an important, compelling piece of filmmaking, but it's just not where I want to be right now, and neither is "Chinatown". Not for me.
And yet, it's not simply that I prefer a happy or cheerful film, because my list isn't made up of silly fare or romantic comedies... not even close.
"Gone With The Wind" might be one of the greatest films ever made, but "The Matrix" or "Monsoon Wedding" or "Metropolis" seem like better choices for my personal plug-in-drug collection.
There's a strange logic behind my viewing habits lately, one that isn't easy to explain. Those choices might say just as much about the times we live in and the role film and television play in our daily lives as it does about my own idiosyncracies, but its no obvious formula. Fascinating.
Onward, to more lists!