Over the course of a typical Thanksgiving weekend, movies have become a part of our family experience. We watch them. We discuss them. For me, my family is my own private focus group. They challenge my ideas and generate new avenues of thought to explore.
This Thanksgiving was no different as my wife Pam and I flew into Seattle to visit with Meggie, Richie and Addie, our daughter, son-in-law and 4 month old granddaughter. Our son Brendan and his girlfriend Kristen (a very loyal follower of this blog) flew in from Boston. And our youngest, Colin, made the trip up the coast from L.A. With our family scattered from coast to coast, these family gatherings are very special.
Movies aren’t the only topic of conversation, especially when Addie’s in the room, but they do surface from time to time. Richie and I had a conversation about my Objective Top Seven from the years 1992 to 1998 that was in my last post. While he thought Schindler’s List was good, he would never put it at number one. He liked movies that made him feel happy when they were over. Now, Scent of a Woman, that was a movie on my list he could get on board with. On the other hand, my son Brendan couldn’t understand why his favorite movie Braveheart wasn’t on the list.
My conversations with Richie and Brendan illustrate why I rank movies based on “really like” probabilities. What movies we like and why we like them are unique to our own experiences and tastes. Many of us watch a movie to boost our mood. Schindler’s List is not a mood booster. On the other hand, if we are in the mood to expose ourselves to a harsh reality of the human experience and have our emotions touched in a very different way, there are few movies as moving as Schindler’s List. I confess that, like Richie, I prefer the mood boost to the harsh reality of life. The movie Moonlight has been sitting on my Watch List for some time now, waiting for me to be in the mood to experience it.
Later in the weekend, Meggie and Colin watched The Big Sick with me on Amazon Prime. They were really excited to see it based on the enthusiastic recommendations from Pam and I, and from many of the other people in their lives. At the end of the movie, they indicated that they both liked it but expected more from a movie that everyone else had raved about. It gave me another interesting insight into why people “really like” some movies but not others. Your expectation for a movie can significantly shape your opinion of the movie. Watching a movie that others say you “gotta see” may set the bar so high that only the great movies will reach it. A mere really good movie has no shot.
That expectations shape your opinion of a movie is a truism. If I flip the scenario to movies that I’ve stumbled upon that became unexpected movie treasures, I can attest to a second truism. Good movies that fly under the radar will be enjoyed more than they have any reason to be. One of my personal top fifty movies is the greatest baseball movie few people have seen, Bang the Drum Slowly. Less than 5,000 voters have rated it on IMDB. Released in 1973, it stars De Niro before he was “De Niro”. At the time it didn’t go totally unnoticed. The movie earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Vincent Gardenia. I only saw the movie because I went to a double feature at the drive-in. The second movie was one of those “gotta see” movies. Bang the Drum Slowly was the first. That’s the movie that I fondly remember today and not the second feature.
Rating movies is not a science. Movie fans who rate movies on websites like IMDB don’t use a Pythagorean Formula to derive that one correct answer. But it’s from these disparate reasons for each individual rating that I try to tease out some understanding each week as to which movies you will “really like”.
I am very thankful for the strong support and inspiration of my family at Thanksgiving and all of the other 364 days of the year.