Watchable films

Through the magic of Digital Versatile Disc I’ve finally seen all this year’s Best Picture noms. Have you seen them? They’re all decent enough, but you know you’ll never watch any of them more than once with the exception of Slumdog Millionaire. And that one you’d see twice, maybe, I did.
But the rest, and for that matter most movies, you probably only see once, right?

I’m interested in a style of movie I refer to as Watchable. As in, it’s very easy to watch many times. The ones you can and do go back to often. Many classics are never seen more than once, but the Watchables are hard to resist even if you catch them in the middle. You tend to stop flipping channels when you land on one. These are films with common traits. Not all need to be present, but the more of these you have; the better it’s watchability:

1. Not a lot of plot, intricate plots are usually boring after one viewing
2. Relatable characters (or just the presence of Bill Murray)
3. Sharp dialogue (you quote these)
4. Very funny
5. Striking visuals (sometimes)
6. Loved it before puberty (There’s definitely something to the theory that whatever you loved at around 10 or 11 can have lasting warmth for years. You seem to remember those better or something.)
7. Possibly ambiguous or up for interpretation (repeated viewings for dissection)
8. Uplifting/positive (makes you want to be…more? A better person?)
9. Musicals – if you like them, you probably have seen your faves many times, if not, these are not the droids you’re looking for, move along.
10. Family classics (not most classics, but ones all ages enjoy)

The films don’t always get the best reviews or make the most money. They are often cult classics which find life in later years on video. Like comedy in general, they don’t often win the big awards or respect they deserve. But they have our hearts.

Some personal examples (with director or writer):

Kicking and Screaming (1995) by Noah Baumbach (not, the more recent soccer one with Will Ferrell)
Bottle Rocket and
Rushmore by Wes Anderson, okay, everything by Wes Anderson
Trust and
Simple Men by Hal Hartley
Dazed and Confused by Richard Linklater
Metropolitan and
Barcelona by Whit Stillman
Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters,
Manhattan Murder Mystery,
and more by Woody Allen
John Hughes. Defined a time, mine.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry
Boogie Nights by P.T. Anderson
Flirting with Disaster by David O. Russell
Ghost World
Lost in Translation
Glengarry GlenRoss
Waiting for Guffman
Mullholland Drive (see #7)
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Empire Strikes Back, the whole original trilogy to be sure
The Philadelphia Story
Pulp Fiction, most Quentin Tarantino
You Can Count on Me
Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, early Coen Bros.
High Fidelity
North by Northwest, Vertigo, Rear Window, other Hitchcock
Early Spielberg anything, E.T., etc.
Clerks, Mallrats – early Kevin Smith
Judd Apatow related – The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, etc.
Anchorman/Old School – early Will Ferrell
Cinema Paradiso – movies about the love of film are often near and dear to people like me

Not a comprehensive list, but I’ll add more as they come to mind.
Please use or for more info on these films.

Look at the DVDs you own, not the children’s, the others. If you own one, it’s probably a watchable for you. What are yours? I’m very interested in your comments on my watchable theory and which films make this grade for you.

Vive le cinema!



Filed under Adults (kid-free), movies

8 responses to “Watchable films

  1. Beth

    There’s a whole lot of overlap on our lists, so I’ll try to just add some of mine that you haven’t already mentioned. Also, I would add a #11 to the list: Comforting. These are the cinematic equivalent of chocolate ice cream or mashed potatoes or mac ‘n’ cheese. There will be some of those that appear below.

    American Beauty
    Harold and Maude
    The Princess Bride
    Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    Sabrina (the original, starring Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart)
    Two for the Road
    The Life of David Gale
    10 Things I Hate About You
    13 Going on 30 (Prime example of my suggested #11.)
    Down With Love
    Love Actually
    Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch
    Newsies (Anyone who knows me saw that coming. File it under #6.)
    Scotland, PA
    Moulin Rouge
    Om Shanti Om
    Antonia’s Line
    Donnie Darko
    It’s a Wonderful Life

    I could go on, but you get the idea.

    • Thanks, Beth, I slipped my mind on part of that and made the adjustment.

      Comforting is key, yes. I would argue that watchable is comforting, sure. I just wanted a solid top ten. Maybe we could combine others to fit comforting in, but of course these comfort, yes. Spielberg is so mac n’ cheese. Good call.

      From your list, I also find watchable:
      American Beauty
      Harold and Maude
      The Princess Bride
      Moulin Rouge
      Donnie Darko
      It’s a Wonderful Life

      I just printed my pass for Terminator Salvation.

  2. Hayley

    I agree a lot with the original list and Beth’s. Here are my additions I can think of right away:

    Sense and Sensibility
    Bring It On
    Napoleon Dynamite
    This is Spinal Tap
    Best in Show
    Shaun of the Dead

  3. I don’t know about rule #1. Sometimes I watch a movie I’ve seen a million times and can’t remember exactly what happens and that adds to the greatness. Fight Club. The Burbs. James Bond films. Titantic. I mean, does the ship sink!?! I’m going to put it on now.

  4. long time reader, first time poster…

    This is a convo jeff and i have been having for 20 years now. probably after we finished watching “Blue Velvet” and he said, “yeah…but will you ever actually watch it again?”

    I couldnt agree more w/ the sentiment on watchable cinema. it’s “warm blanket cinema”for me. It’s so comforting to watch people I like talk. I can watch the best woody allen films repeatedly… the way I listen to my favorite albums (for a different reply post… okay: westerberg). When I can’t sleep or I’m under the weather.. I watch “Manhattan” or “Hannah and Her Sisters” and it relaxes me. It’s comforting. Like old friends. Warm blankets.

    There are so few filmmakers that have made films that I can file under the warm blanket subgenre that I’ve made up.. but here goes a non-exhaustive list: woody allen, whit stillman (3 for 3, batting 1,000 … in some ways the definitive warm blanket filmmaker for me… and one that many find boring), noah baumbach (my all time favorite warm blanket film is “Kicking and Screaming”), wes anderson (minus life aquatic), pt anderson (“punch drunk love” is an all time favorite), Hal Hartley (my VHS copy of “Trust” is a wubby. it’s not going to hold up much longer. DVD…a lil help?), Cameron Crowe, John Hughes. And as depressed as it makes me every time… david gordon green’s “all the real girls”(ugh, it hurt just to type it).

    It’s about being soothed I think. Most of these films have a similar tone and great soundtracks. Interesting conversations. Subtleties, nuances, spacing/beats. Character studies. Introspection. They make you happy but not overly stimulated (at least not after 400th viewing). I often find myself smiling and happy that they exist. It’s finding the beauty in the truth.

    Most of these films are wistful but hopeful. Not too different than myself. So … do we like watching something that feels like us…or home?

    • just looked at your watchable list… yes. just rewatched eternal sunshine online …laptop in bed w/ me. it’s undeniable. and let’s face it… another subgenre is: films w/ jon brion scores… i love them like my pillow or picking the marshmallows outta the lucky charms. same w/ You Can Count On Me… laptop/bed/recently. small casts that have a lot of dialogue. pretty common thread through most of the warm blanket genre. I think the quintessential watchable/warm blanket films are woody allen’s annie hall, manhattan, hannah and her sisters. I’m rambling. I think Jeff and I just haven’t talked about movies much in the past few years.

  5. Anne Birch

    Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man
    51 Birch Street
    Crazy Love
    How to Draw A Bunny
    My Architect: A Son’s Journey
    7 UP documentary series
    Realms of the Unreal
    Grizley Man
    Cats of Mirikitani
    Grey Gardens
    Wings of a Dove
    Tell Them Who You Are
    Paper Clips
    A Man Named Pearl
    Interstate 60
    The Barbarian Invasions
    Factory Girl (before – watch Youtube memorials to Edi Sedgwick)
    Scenes from a Marriage
    Diving Bell & the Butterfly
    Absolut Warhola
    Kinky Boots
    Brothers Keeper
    Shattered Glass
    Love is the Devil
    The Staircase
    Love Actually
    Forgiving Dr. Mengele
    Who the X!0# is Jackson Pollock?
    Suddenly Last Summer
    Sofie’s Choice
    Out of Africa
    Vincent by Paul Cox

    Great seeing you at Garth’s, El Jefe, A

  6. Thanks for mentioning Hartley. He’s the best…

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