Last night, I had a plan. I was finally going to put away the stacks of (clean) laundry that have piled up in my living room because I am lazy. I was going to make the grocery store run that I should have made over the weekend, but somehow never got around to. I was finally going to make some forward progress in reading The Twelve, as I’ve been stuck at the same place for several weeks. I’d cleared my DVD out quite a bit over the weekend and there were no new programs that I watch anymore on Monday nights (adios, How I Met Your Mother), so I should have been able to get a lot done.
And then I stumbled upon Anchorman on HBO. And there went the rest of my evening.
There are certain movies that when you come across them on TV, you just have to stop and watch them. It’s like you are compelled to do so. You don’t plan it – most of the time you don’t even know that the movie is on, but simply find it while mindlessly flipping channels. It’s like a surprise gift that you didn’t even know you wanted until you see it. But once you do, the movie casts some sort of weird spell over you and you just can’t keep flipping the channels. You’re down the rabbit hole and for the remainder of the film’s running time, you are in. The only exception for me is if the movie is on basic cable; occasionally, a commercial break briefly breaks whatever hold the movie has over me and I can change the channel or turn the TV off. But most of the time, once I start watching there is no escape.
I can’t really explain this phenomena or why certain movies trigger this reaction and others don’t. In many cases, I actually own the DVDs of these films so I am not a slave to when they show up on TV; technically I could watch them whenever I want. Yet there is something more compelling about discovering the movie unexpectedly rather than making the conscious decision to put the DVD on. Perhaps it feels more like good luck when it is unanticipated – a gift bestowed upon you by the pop culture gods on high.
The other interesting wrinkle is that not all the movies that have this power over me are necessarily “good” movies. They are all movies that I enjoy, but I can still recognize that some are quality filmmaking and others not; some of these movies are more the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. I thought that The Hurt Locker was a fantastic film and deserved the Academy Award, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I ever want to watch it again. The films that compel me to watch them are all selections that I can view over and over again without tiring of them; what some of them lack in “quality,” they make up for with durability.
Though the list is lengthy, these are some of the films that immediately suck me in when I find them on television:
The Shawshank Redemption
This movie has consistently been in my all-time Top 5 of movies since I first saw it in graduate school, so it is not a huge surprise that one of my favorite movies is also a movie that always draws me in. The great thing about Shawshank is that no matter what place you are in the movie, it is pretty easy to jump in and be instantly immersed in the film. It’s a great movie, but it is also accessible. The plot isn’t complicated and there aren’t a lot of twists and turns to keep track of. And who wouldn’t be lulled in by narration stylings of Morgan Freeman? If it’s on and I know about it, I’m watching it. And the good people at TNT and AMC must agree with me because they have re-aired this movie a lot over the years. In fact, though I’ve seen this movie at least 50 times, I don’t know that I have ever watched the DVD that I own.
Though I tend to agree with arguments that The Godfather Part II is the better film, nothing can kill an afternoon for me like the original movie about the Corleone family. It’s so immensely quotable and the story draws you in so quickly that it is hard to change the channel. I always seem to jump into this movie in two particular spots – when Michael is standing guard outside his father’s hospital room and when Sonny is handing Carlo an epic beatdown in retribution for what Carlo has done to Connie
I think I could watch this movie 100 times and never tire of it.
What can I say? I love me some mafia movies. Thankfully for my productivity, I tend to catch this one toward the end of the film, right before Henry gets caught. Just a great cast that you can’t help but get sucked in. Joe Pesci at his absolute best.
Drive Me Crazy
This movie is not good. I will fully admit that. It’s also not a movie that on paper you would think that I would like. The only thing that most people know about this movie is the Britney Spears song of the same name on the soundtrack. But I am embarrassed to say how many times I watched this film in the late 90’s/early 2000’s when it was on heavy rotation on HBO. I refused to by the DVD for this film because I was embarrassed to have it on my shelf, so this is one that I totally had to rely upon finding on TV to enjoy. It’s mindless, but something about it draws me in. Chances are you have caught me watching this and I have claimed that it was “just on.” I was lying to you.
This one is pure nostalgia – I’m sure if I watched The Goonies with adult eyes and without the memories of childhood I would be much less enamored with this film. But thankfully, I don’t have to, so I can continue to spend entire Saturdays laying on the couch and watching Goonie adventures.
Starsky and Hutch
I’ll admit that I didn’t much like this movie the first time that I saw it. However, I’ve been bored enough to watch it several times since then and it has grown on me. I still think it’s a step below a lot of the other “frat pack” movies (like Old School, Zoolander, etc.) and I would never seek it out, but somehow if I happen upon it I am tricked into watching the rest of the film. I do enjoy the dance off, however.
I could go on, but I’ve already embarrassed myself enough and you get the idea. What movies always reel you in whenever they are on? Sound off in the comments below.