Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Best of the one-timers
You could argue that a good indication of how much you like a movie is how many times you've seen it.
Sure, people have many different criteria for why they like a movie, and most of us tend to rewatch guilty pleasures more regularly than we rewatch imposing epics or lacerating dramas. It doesn't mean we like the guilty pleasures more, it just means they're easier to consume.
Still, I come back to the idea that whatever your criteria for liking a movie, it gave you a certain feeling that means a lot to you. Even if it was difficult to watch, it stands to reason that you'd want to experience that feeling again, for the same reason you got so much out of it the first time.
So today on Flickchart Tuesdays, I'm going to look at my favorite movies I've seen only once, and try to figure out why I haven't gone back for a second viewing. In case you are new to Flickchart Tuesdays, I use the website www.flickchart.com to examine what movies have risen to the top of an endless series of duels I've performed in my time using the site. Flickchart gives you two movies, you choose which one you like better, and then it gives you another pair. Over many weeks and months you build up a huge list of favorite movies, and if you've fine-tuned it like I have, it yields a pretty accurate distillation of your feelings toward cinema in general.
I like this topic also because it should give me a good hit list of movies I need to get better acquainted with. I already love them -- the next step is watching them again.
So which movies I've seen only once do I like best? Let's jump right in.
1. The Bicycle Thief (1948, Vittorio di Sica). Why I've seen it only once: A bias against classic foreign films? I guess this is one of those cases of perceived difficulty. Although it contains a very moving depiction of the desperate lives of poverty-stricken Italians, and there's a lot of satisfying emotional material (especially between the central father and son, a theme that will gradually be more personal to me as my one-year-old son grows older), the film's very neorealist style probably makes it seem less "fun" to me. There's no denying that the perception of fun is an important factor in the decision to rewatch a movie -- at least for me. Flickchart: #26
2. Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock). Why I've seen it only once: My goodness, I don't know. And may not have consciously realized I've only seen it once until now. I always discover things about myself when I analyze my Flickchart rankings in this way, and here's something I'm discovering even though I hate to admit it: I don't think I've seen any of Hitchcock's films more than once, so expect to see more of them here. I guess I must attribute this to a certain laziness about revisiting films of a certain vintage. Of all the Hitchcock films I haven't seen again, clearly this is the one I most need to -- at least according to my own valuation of his films. Flickchart: #48
3. Schindler's List (1993, Steven Spielberg). Why I've seen it only once: Length, length, length. And this may be a common theme as we go forward. When I thought of great films I'd seen only once, this is the first one that came to mind. You can't just pop it in on a Saturday afternoon ... although starting it in the afternoon would give you a lot better chance of actually finishing it than starting it at night. I'm worried that we're going to start seeing a lot of overlap with my last Flickchart Tuesdays, which focused on movies over three hours in length. I think there were only two movies on that list I'd seen more than once, so expect more of those titles to start cropping up here. Flickchart: #51
4. All About Eve (1950, Joseph L. Mankiewicz). Why I've seen it only once: And the bias against older movies rears its head again. At least with Eve I've had the definite intention of a second viewing. I seem to always encounter this movie at the library, and often have it among a handful of choices that I eventually pare down to the three I'm allowed to check out at once. This one never makes the cut, because I'm realistic about the actual likelihood of watching it. Such a shame ... revealing myself to be a philistine with a strong preference for movies made in my lifetime. At least I liked it enough to rank it as Flickchart: #63
5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2008, Cristian Mungiu). Why I've seen it only once: Three words: Romanian abortion drama. Heavy stuff. Brilliant, but heavy. Also, my first viewing was only a couple years ago, so it may not have started scratching its way to the surface and demanding a second viewing yet, anyway. And since the topic is especially difficult to watch while you are expecting or in the first year of your child's life, it wasn't like I was going out of my way to offer it as a joint viewing experience with my wife. Flickchart: #65
6. 127 Hours (2010, Danny Boyle). Why I've seen it only once: It hasn't been a year yet since I first saw it. 127 Hours was my favorite film of 2010, so it's possible I'd have already been clambering for a second viewing. But there are only four movies that came out in 2010 that I have already seen twice. This just doesn't happen to be one of them. Flickchart: #77
7. Dances With Wolves (1990, Kevin Costner). Why I've seen it only once: See Schindler's List. Flickchart: #84
8. A Clockwork Orange (1971, Stanley Kubrick). Why I've seen it only once: The extreme brutality? Maybe. Actually, I've only seen one Kubrick film multiple times, and that would be 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although, I do have a second viewing of Full Metal Jacket on the docket for sometime in the near future. I think Kubrick is one of those ponderous filmmakers whose films leaving you staggering -- but not necessarily wanting more, or at least not right away. In fact, I only saw 2001 a second time because it was on the schedule of the Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival, which I attended -- you guessed it -- in 2001. My first viewing of Clockwork was relatively recently (within the last ten years), but I've been thinking recently about how I need another helping. Flickchart: #85
9. Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola). Why I've seen it only once: Another movie that staggers you but does not necessarily leave you wanting more -- at least not right away. Still, when I think about the fact that I've seen this only once, I have only one thing to say to myself: "The horror. The horror." Flickchart: #89
10. Before Sunrise (1995, Richard Linklater). Why I've seen it only once: And at #10, we finally get a movie I haven't failed to rewatch because it was old, because it was too long, or because the subject matter was too depressing. By rights, I should have seen Linklater's masterpiece a second time. I'm sure I would have if I'd seen it when it first came out. But I believe my first screening was around ten years ago -- which still doesn't excuse it. I'm especially likely to want to revisit a movie in which interesting, intelligent characters are involved in a brief romantic whirlwind with an uncertain future. Better get on this. Flickchart: #93
And now, 11 through 20:
11. The Graduate (1968, Mike Nichols). Flickchart: #100
12. Rain Man (1988, Barry Levinson). Flickchart: #102
13. Bonnie and Clyde (1967, Arthur Penn). Flickchart: #103
14. Waltz With Bashir (2008, Ari Folman). Flickchart: #108
15. All the President's Men (1976, Alan J. Pakula). Flickchart: #110
16. North by Northwest (1959, Alfred Hitchcock). Flickchart: #111
17. Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale). Flickchart: #117
18. Rabbit Hole (2010, John Cameron Mitchell). Flickchart: #119
19. The Crucible (1996, Nicholas Hytner). Flickchart: #125
20. Field of Dreams (1989, Phil Alden Robinson). Flickchart: #126
So it's interesting to note that each of my top 25 and 89 of my top 100 are films I've seen more than once. That's a pretty high percentage, which supports the theory that you do find your way back to movies you really love, regardless of the length, age and subject matter.
Or, maybe I just love a lot of movies that are short, new and easy. One thing this doesn't tell you is the 106 of my top 126 movies that I have rewatched. But then this post would really be getting long.
Another good question you could ask: Have I watched these films many times because they are my favorite movies, or are they my favorite movies because I've watched them many times? Ah, the old chicken-and-egg debate. I know that there was a rotation of about 12 films that I regularly watched on VHS when I was younger, because my mom had taped them off cable. I'm not saying all these movies are in my top 100, but I am saying that some of them are much higher ranked than they would be if I'd seen them only once. (The Pirate Movie at #825, anyone? Out of nearly 3,300 films I have ranked?)
Let's see if next time I can refine my topic to get us really deep into the rankings, instead of seeing these same titles coming up again and again.