Have you ever rented a movie only to realize a third of the way into it that you’ve seen it already? This has happened to me at least twice. A few years ago it was a movie called Saving Grace starring my favorite Scottish person, Craig Ferguson. And just the other day it was a movie called Thumbsucker. I had been admiring Vincent D’Onofrio’s work on Law & Order: Criminal Intent and was looking for other work he’d done.
Incidentally, Criminal Intent is a solid but ultimately flawed show. D’Onofrio’s character, Detective Goren, could be really interesting, but like all the other shows in the Law & Order franchise, Criminal Intent is forced by genre to focus on the plot and not the characters. So D’Onofrio does what he can with this “Sherlock Holmes” character, and we get to see that he is unusual and unusually good at solving crimes, but we never really understand him on the level of a character like Monk. The rest of the cast is left to back him up and fade into the background. It’s frustrating at best because the audience can see the potential but ultimately the show never lives up to it.
Back to Thumbsucker. When I realized I had seen the film before, I began to think about how the majority of films are utterly forgettable. I remember my favorite films, because great movies leave an impression. I also remember the films I’ve hated, because terrible movies also leave an impression. But most films are forgettable. As soon as the credits roll, the memory begins to fade until until all but the knowledge you’ve seen the film – and sometimes even that – is gone. Hopefully, the two hours spent watching them were at least enjoyable.
Then there’s a fourth type of movie: The Fascinating Film. Fascinating films are the ones that you watch over and over again, usually when you accidentally pass by them on cable, only because you can’t stop. I have a few of these. Apollo 13. The Shawshank Redemption. A League of Their Own. And even though I’ve seen these movies a thousand times – and kinda wish I was watching one of them right now – they still wouldn’t make my list of top ten favorite movies. Space travel, baseball, and Stephen King prison novellas are not subjects that I am particularly interested in.
These movies do a great job of making those subjects universally interesting though. They are storytelling at its finest, with plot, character and pacing all in perfect sync. And like a great novel, they stand the test of time. No matter how many times I watch them, they’re always engaging and suspenseful. So how about it? What are some of your fascinating films?