thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

What’s Your Favorite Movie to Watch Over and Over Again?

In Film on February 2, 2013 at 8:00 am
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He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.

Sarah T:

Today is the most important holiday of the year: Groundhog Day. And with it comes an excellent excuse to re-watch Groundhog Day, the classic 1993 comedy starring Bill Murray as a bitter weatherman who gets stuck repeating one day of his life over and over again. In tribute to the movie’s theme of repetition, I have seen it over a dozen times. Sometimes I watch it back-to-back on TBS.

What is it about watching Murray struggle through one February day in Punxsuatawney, PA that I never get tired of? Partly it’s that Groundhog Day has a pitch-perfect ear for silly, nihilistic humor, from Murray surprise-punching the annoying insurance salesman Ned Ryerson to his wild ride after he kidnaps a squat, furry rodent in an attempt to end Groundhog Day once and for all. But the real reason I’m in love with this movie—like many people the world over—is that I relate to Phil’s predicament. Phil sucks as a human, which makes him experience the world as a stupid place populated exclusively by people to use, people to ignore, and people to try to bed. It takes him years–30 or40 of them, according to the movie’s director—just to stop hating life. I love watching Phil slowly slough away at his frustration and anger and despair, until finally he gets it. For all he knows, it’ll never stop being Groundhog Day. All he can do is make himself useful. He starts helping people, catching ungrateful brats when they fall out of trees, learning everybody’s names, playing the piano while they dance. Because he does all that, he gets happy. Watching the movie always reminds me to stop feeling sorry for myself and start taking action–and that sometimes, anything different is good.

Kids don’t like eating at school, but if they have a Remains of the Day lunchbox they’re a lot happier.

Jeni:

My favorite movie to watch again-and-again-and-again is Waiting for Guffman. The cast of this mockumentary is classic Christopher Guest, of course, and filled with some of the most talented comedic actors around: Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Catherine O’Hara, and Fred Willard. Despite some of the most quotably hilarious one-liners (“I’m gonna BITE MY PILLOW is what I’m gonna do!” “People used to say, you must have been the class clown. And I said, no I wasn’t. But I sat next to the class clown and…I studied him.”), what I love most about this movie is the tenacious and totally misplaced hope that endures in Blaine, Missouri, “a little town with a big heart in the heart of a big country.” Like most of my own misplaced dreams, their hope (to bring their show to Broadway) is laughably destined to fail. But they believe in it–they believe in each other, and work to create something despite their lack of talent, their lack of funding (In response to the director’s request for $100,000 to put on the show: “The town budget for the whole year is $10,000 and that includes swimming!”), and their lack, really, of any clue about how such things work. There’s something inspiring in still trying, despite all that–and probably a lesson about the benefits of a little bit of self-delusion sometimes. Oh, and did I mention it’s a musical? With a song called “Stool Boom”? Definitely worth watching over and over. We all could use a little more Corky in our lives.

Kick the tires and light the fires.

Melissa:

I rarely do cool things on New Year’s Eve. The throngs of drunk people making questionable decisions about dressing, driving, and more drinking encourages me to stay at home. So New Year’s Eve is dedicated to doing awesome things with my sisters, whether that was back in our parents’ house in Kalamazoo, Michigan or in my sister’s all-grown-up, twenty-something-house in Seattle. One of my favorite memories is of the New Year’s Eve where we watched Independence Day. 3 times. Back to back. I don’t know what got into us that night. We love “explosion movies.” And we love goofy melodrama. Independence Day has it all. I love Will Smith and his “exotic dancer” wife. I love Jeff Goldblum and his nerdy science love and his awesome Jewish father and his angry political ex-wife. I love the sentimental drunk fighter pilot subplot. I love Bill Pullman, trying to channel MLKJunior, as he gives the cheesiest awesome speech in the face of aliens ever. And I like the “Recycle, Kill Aliens, Save the Earth” subplot. Apparently, I love all these things so much that watching just once is not enough. Welcome to Earth.

The babe with the power.

Sarah S:

You remind me of the babe. That I used to be. The one who loved princesses and dragons and couldn’t wait to be 16. You also remind me of the adult that I have become. The one who recognizes that you are actually about not growing up, about holding onto childhood, about keeping links to the babe that you used to be. You remind of the essential person who joins that girl and this woman—the kind of nerd who wonders if I could actually quote the entirety of Labyrinth from start to finish. So many watchings and rewatchings of a film I’ve loved for over 25 years. In sum, every now and again in my life, I need you…

What, he looks nice.

Paul B:

I’ll be honest and say I don’t often watch films more than once, but there are plenty of internet videos that draw me back. The first video I remember re-watching on youtube was “Old Greg,” an awful clip from British comedian troupe The Mighty Boosh. “Old Greg” left me disturbed by the title character’s inversion of hospitality tropes. Sure, he was sincere and generous, but so creepy and coercive at the same time. To watch the clip again with others was a perverse initiation ritual, that the worst fraternities only regularly achieve with alcohol. I found myself watching the look on someone else’s face when they realized just how awful it was: some loss of expectancy, a lip curled in disgust. One couldn’t really overcome the horror of “Old Greg” until one became somewhat like him.

You look like Pippi Longstocking. Well you look like Forrest Gump.

Rachel:

I consider myself to have extremely high brow tastes in music, books, art, and food. However, when it comes to movies and television, my pallet is a little less… sophisticated. My favorite shows are Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twin Peaks, and for movies I like to stick to the Molly Ringwald oeuvre. I watch these films over and over again, but the movie that sticks out for its excellent re-watchability (not a real word) is Clueless. The 1995 classic starring Alicia Silverstone as valley girl Cher is filled with more one-liners and flannel shirts than all of the teen movies that came out of this decade combined. Something about this film just does not get boring for me, and that’s probably because it’s so smart that I find new things to appreciate each time. Jokes that flew over my head at 12 have led me to have a new-found appreciation for it at 25. Come for classic babe Paul Rudd in all his un-aging glory, stay for the irresistible charm.

Anybody want a peanut?

Chelsea H:

The movies I rewatch and rewatch and rewatch were, at least in my up-till-grad-school days, similar: same kind of story, different elements plugged in.  For me, at first, it was all about love.

When I wasn’t feeling well, the movie I watched over and over was The Princess Bride.  It was a good pairing: I was sick, little Fred Savage was sick, and this story was going to make us forget our troubles.  For me, at least while I was watching, it did.  I loved Westley.  He was amazing and mysterious and handsome and romantic (okay, so he’s kind of rude to Buttercup a few times, but it’s because he feels slighted!  She has, after all, gone ahead and gotten engaged to a prince!) and I’d always been a sucker for a blonde.  Being blonde myself, I could easily re-imagine myself as Buttercup, though I was always determined that I would be smarter and braver and more helpful than she is (she beats at the R.O.U.S. with a wimpy little branch.  Come on, lady, your true love is being mauled!).  As I got a little older, the love story stopped being the most compelling part for me, though.  It became about the comedic bits: the relationship between Inigo and Fezzick, Miracle Max and Valerie (Humperdinck, Humperdinck, Humperdinck!), and, okay, the love story.  But this was an important move to me because even though it swept me from reality, it made me see what a fairy tale might look like in the “real world”; these weren’t the animated characters I grew up with, they were real people acting like real people might.  So fairy tales might be real after all…

When I was in college, I fell into Love, Actually.  I recognize this is a bone of contention on this page, particularly for the Sarahs, but hear me out.  I first saw this movie recently following the conclusion of my first real love relationship.  He’d dumped me kicked me to the curb explained that he didn’t “have time for a full-time girlfriend right now,” and all the pastels I thought the world was made of slithered into mud.  This movie, I thought, projected the world the way it was.  Love doesn’t always work.  And when it does (Colin’s inexplicable sexy success with the American bimbos), it doesn’t make sense.  Attraction can, as I thought I had just learned, lead people to do shitty things.  And there isn’t a happily ever after at the end, either, because nothing ends.  If it did, time would have frozen for me before my relationship ended.  There would have been a fade out, or swelling music, or something, but instead there was just another year of school, a slog forward toward the rainy season, and, I was sure, loneliness.  Love, Actually depicts a version of the world where stories don’t come to clean, satisfying conclusions, and I appreciated that in a way that perhaps only the recently dumped can.  Plus, it has Bill Nighy, and who doesn’t love him?

The tenor changed a bit when I got to graduate school, and now I have to admit that my favorite movies to rewatch are the Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright masterpieces Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  They are lighthearted but determined stories of friendship and, in a way, growing up into a world you aren’t quite comfortable with and don’t quite understand (grad school, anyone?).  They are also fantastically quotable and have just the right amount of debauchery and gore to keep happy a medievalist (me) and an action flick fan (my husband).

Speaking of gore and the medieval, this list can’t conclude without a nod to perhaps the greatest comedic film of all time: Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail.  I’m not sure how much I need to say about this one.  If you’ve seen it, chances are you understand.  If you haven’t, treat yourself.  Britain in 932 AD is amazing through the Python boys’ eyes.  Over the years I’ve memorized and performed portions of this movie in variety shows and dinner parties, determined friendships based on how said person reacted to a viewing, and even (I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, and I’m not sure why, since they always seem to enjoy it) used the witch scene to teach argumentation to my writing classes.

There are others, of course.  I could watch Up and How to Train Your Dragon and My Cousin Vinny and possibly even Chicago again and again.  But the movies I’ve expounded on here stand out because they’ve entered and clung to me over mirroring moments of my life.  I don’t just watch them, I fall back into my own history when they play.  Over and over and over and over.

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  1. This post makes me so happy. @Jeni: I need to re-see Guffman; I don’t think I “got” it.
    @Melissa: lol.
    @Paul: I came to Old Greg when students in my class asked me to put it on the overhead on our last day. So awkward.
    @Rachel: As if!
    @ChelseaH: Princess Bride was in my consideration. Also, if you think about it, your Pegg-Frost picks about love for you given your, ahem, husband.
    @everyone: Love Actually haters 4evah! 😉

  2. “Inigo? I hope we win.” (Fezzick is so pure of heart, I can’t even take how much I love him.)

  3. So many great choices! Guffman is THE BEST Guest mockumentary (sorry BiS fans!) and I’m glad that Chelsea stood up for the melodrawesomeness of Love, Actually.

    If I had gotten it together I would have picked my current rewatcher, *Tangled.* For the love and the songs and the frying pans and the having of dreams.

  4. Come on, Spinal Tap is the best Guest mockumentary. But the battle for second place can begin in 3…2…1…

  5. I’ve never made it through Guffman, but I LOVE Best in Show. “We have so many things in common: we both like pea soup”

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