Films I watch again and again

Tagged by Steve Turnbull, who recently made a list on his blog of films he keeps coming back to again and again. And tagged me to do the same.

My list isn’t particularly deep, or clever, and isn’t even necessarily a list of films I consider great. The Third Man is missing, as are Aliens, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and many other films I think are essential viewing.

But this isn’t a list of amazing films. It’s a list of films that I just keep going back to and watching again.

There’s no particular order to it; it’s just the order that I happened to think of them in. You may wish to read some significance into this, but I don’t personally.

Pitch Black
Star Wars: A New Hope
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
Die Hard
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Frankenstein (1931)
The Bride of Frankenstein

The Princess Bride
The Spy Who Loved Me
The Terminator
Hard Boiled
The Thing
The Quiet Earth
Metropolis (usually the Moroder version, but with the sound off)

I shan’t perform any particular analysis on why I keep coming back to these above all others, but I will say I would consider every single one of these films, if you haven’t seen them, to be well worth your time.

Now, let’s see if I can remember how these meme things work. Oh, yes.

1. Provide a non-exhaustive list of films you’ll happily watch again and again;
2. There is no rule 2.
3. Reprint the rules.
4. Tag three others and ask them to do the same.

Tagged: Stephen Gallagher, Danny Stack, and Jason Arnopp

The McGrath Point

Contains spoilers for the first few episodes of Lost and Firefly.

Denis McGrath is off to Los Angeles. Possibly for good. And his blog, in its current format at least, is going into the long archive.

So as we bid him farewell or au revoir, I want to share something that he brought to my attention many years ago. He called it the commit moment. I think the McGrath Point is catchier.

And, hey, my blog.

It’s the moment when you’re watching a TV show, and you sit up, and you think: I have never seen that before. The moment when you think, I’m in. I’m committed. I’m going to watch the rest of this now.

I work with people who read unsolicited scripts. A lot of unsolicited scripts. And, when asked what it is that makes a script stand out, makes it irresistible, makes them want to meet the writer and find out more about them and their craft, they all say the same thing:

Show me something I’ve never seen before.

Might be a character. Might be a world. Might be a moment. But always, it’s something new.

Which brings us to the McGrath Point.

In his original post on the matter, Denis talks about Walkabout, the fourth episode of Lost, and the moment at the end where we realise that Locke, in his previous life, was in a wheelchair.

The title itself hides the mystery in plain view. It’s a twist that not only puts an entirely new spin on every scene in the episode, it reveals new facts about the island, and the rules of the world.

One moment in the script that makes you think: I’ve never seen that before.

Joss Whedon does this magnificently in both of the pilots for Firefly.

Towards the end of the first episode, our heroes have been betrayed by their allies. Meanwhile on the ship, a hostage situation has developed. A bad guy has River at gunpoint. She’s dead unless the captain does what he says, gives him a ticket out.

And we know how this goes, we’ve seen it a dozen times before. The hero walks in. There’s a negotiation. Bad guy uses his hostage to get away, then does something foolish (usually breaking a promise) resulting in his downfall.

Not here. Mal walks in, shoots the bad guy in the face without breaking stride and the still-warm corpse is unceremoniously dumped out the back of the ship in a well-rehearsed manoeuvre.

Right there. Something I’d never seen before. Something that made me certain I was going to watch the rest of this series.

And he does absolutely the same in the next episode, The Train Job. Big Evil Henchman has been defeated, is captured. And Mal offers to set him free. And he does the Big Evil Henchman speech, the I-will-track-you-down-and-kill-you-all one.

So Mal kicks him into the (running) engine of the spaceship. The next henchman is much more reasonable.

It just takes one moment that you haven’t seen before to make a script great.