What makes a movie re-watchable? What makes a casual fan into a devotee? Is it the actors? Is it the story and the writing? Maybe it’s what the director says subtly through the sub-plot. Perhaps it’s the musical score.
I think that any of these ingredients help to make great art, but I truly believe that the perfect symphony of all of these creates the magic that draws us back time and time again.
The story is the foundation, of course. Without a great story, two hours of pretty people is still just a two dimensional way to pass time. We need to care. We long to stretch our feelings—to laugh, to cry, to rage and triumph. We desire a step away from our desks. We want to wander the world through time. Exercising our imagination is healthy.
The actors are the vessels for the stories. They convince us. They fool us, and we love it. A great actor can seduce us and frighten us at the same time. The good ones don’t ever let us know how incredible they are. We just can’t stop watching them, and we don’t know why.
My all-time favorite leading man is Cary Grant. He usually played the hero—sometimes quite begrudgingly—but he could play a villain, too. He played a slick con man, a suspected serial killer, and a ruthless gangster. He made us doubt him. He made us hate him. As a war bride, Grant was an ugly woman, but we loved him all the more.
He was terrific when he played the ordinary guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. He showed us all how to rise above a bad situation and persevere to become that champion.
Some of his best roles were when his character kept us guessing about his motives. He played a bad-boy so well, that every woman who watches is certain she can change his ways. And if not, so much the better. That’s the kind of actor that makes us watch.
Behind the actors is the score and soundtrack. The music is the medium that heightens our emotions. It’s the instant connection that carries us through the highs and lows of the story arc. The right score turns a tense moment into a nail-biter. A sweet exchange suddenly becomes the setting for love to blossom.
The director is the master of the imaginary world. He says when the sun rises and sets. What you see on the silver screen is the story that the director wants you to see. A talented director weaves the sub-plot and hints precisely, revealing details at just the right moment to keep us on the edge of our theatre seats.
Consider Spielberg or Hitchcock. They orchestrate amazing casts into tapestries of intrigue and romance. They inject humor when we can’t take one more second of fear or sorrow.
Think about the movies you watch over and over. What makes them special? What keeps you coming back? I want to hear from you!
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.