Have you ever given much thought to the stuff you like? Over the past week I’ve had a bit more time than usual to think about it. And then there was the TNT back-to-back showing today of two of my favorite movies (Pay it Forward and Erin Brokavich). It’s a sign. Let’s talk about all the stuff we love and why. (And, truth be told, I just don’t have it in my heart to hate on stuff today.)
I’m a sucker for stories (be they movies or books) about people overcoming obstacles (Norma Rae), especially if they transcend who they were born as to become someone better who does something great for their family, community or world (like Pay it Forward and Erin Brokavich). For instance, who can help but love Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird? It’s more than standing up to bullies, which is a personal battle. He stood up for someone else at a very real personal risk to himself and his family. And he stuck to his guns about what was right, and we all hope we will have the guts to do the same if we are ever faced with similar choices. That’s bravery. And it’s so inspiring.
I also love movies based on books and I’m sure that’s because I’m a writer. Unless the producers do a bad job of it, movies based on books have the advantage of fully realized characters. And when you write prose you are thinking about so much more than the dialogue. The mood. The scenery. And so when that gets translated into film, it just seems to resonate more. But that’s also why they tend to fail, because in a film you have to limit what gets told. But I think you can do a good job with these kinds of tales whether you stick religiously to the text, such as Mockingbird, or if you take some creative license like The Wizard of Oz.
One of the other things I love is if it is an original, the first of its kind or has a certain kind of energy that defies the passage of time. The Wild Ones, High Noon, Pale Rider, Casino, His Girl Friday, Woman of the Year, Roman Holiday are great movies. And I love how certain books or poems can blow your mind today even though they were written years ago. Being There, 1984, Winter in the Blood, Frankenstein, Maus, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Sun Also Rises, The Wasteland and anything by Emily Dickinson.
My last criteria for really loving a story is if it challenges me. I love satire, especially about things that seem impossible to satire, like abortion. A brilliantly funny movie that does this is Citizen Ruth. I love that movie so much that I bought it on VHS back in the day just to loan it out to people. It cuts the perfect form by making fun of all sides and showing the absolute absudity that people are willing to go to for their beliefs. Because when you get down to it, the argument has idiots on both sides. Another one I love is Election. But I also like funny stuff too like Gross Pointe Blank.
So what’s on your must list?