Tag Archives: Singin’ in the Rain

The Films That Made Us — U-571

By Nathanael Griffis

Every film I’ve ever seen has had some personal impact; it is simply the degree of impact that differs. I would argue, that it is the point of something artistic, to have a personal impact. Art is meant to reach out to a viewer and affect them somehow. Quality does not necessarily lead to impact. Citizen Kane is one of the best films I have ever seen, but it does nothing for me personally. This does not diminish its value as art. It is simply to state that personal impact is just that, personal and not tied to quality. I love the film Troll 2  because of all the Friday nights I’ve spent sharing this film with friends, but it is undoubtedly one of the worst films ever made.

Still, one film has always stayed with throughout my life: U-571. This is by no means the best film I’ve seen, or even my favorite, but I’ll always love it for what it meant to me and what it still means to me. It was late April 2000 and I was on spring break. I had always liked films, but truth be told I was a bookworm and saw movies simply as entertainment. I liked Schwarzenegger movies, Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Monty Python, and that was about it. Movies with kissing were lame, stupid, and girly, and as such to be avoided. Basically, I was a teenage boy.



I saw U-571 in the theaters on opening weekend, which was unusual for me. I know you expect me to say I came out of the film changed, that my vision toward film or something was shaken, but the truth is U-571 is not that kind of film. What was important to me was that I went with my Dad and a friend of his who was visiting in town. This mattered to me greatly, because they let me choose and I trusted my instincts, which turned out to be good. We all enjoyed it. I remember my father’s friend and my father turning to me as we left:

“Good pick, Nate, that was one intense film. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time,” my father’s friend said.

“Yeah Nate, that was a good movie. I’m glad we saw it. You did a good job picking that one,” my father said.

Now sure, we could say this is nothing more than a clichéd response to liking a film. Where’s the depth right? Shouldn’t I be talking about a movie that resulted in a long three-hour conversation over coffee and left me a different person? No, sorry. This film matters more than most others, because I had chosen a film and people I respected enjoyed it. It lifted me up and made me realize that my opinion mattered and that I could contribute. For a child this is a profound moment; this is truly a moment when one finds an important aspect of one’s identity. It had little to do with the film, which I still think is fantastic and has some of the most intense scenes in film. It had everything to do with the idea that I could choose a good film.

How many times do we look at kids and discount their opinions, because they’re kids. Hey, it’s cute that they watch silly Disney Channel shows. We throw away what they like and neglect to even give anything from music, books, or movies that they enjoy proper consideration. It meant so much to me to know that my Dad respected me and thought I’d made a good decision. It made me feel like an adult. It made me realize I mattered. Teenagers’ opinions are brushed off and thought of as ridiculous fads (sometimes rightly), so much so that we sometimes see adolescence itself as a fad of sorts. We see it as a phase that a person just needs to get through until they matter and can start contributing.

U-571 made me want to love films more, but not because of its filmmaking prowess, the depth charges, Matthew McConaughey or Harvey Keitel’s acting, or that insane scene where McConaughey willingly sacrifices one of his men to save the rest. It was because I wanted that affirmation. Simply put, I wanted people to like me. I wanted my Dad to be proud of my choices. It seems trivial and if I look at it objectively it is, but I’m a person and people are subjective. I have since seen at least 100 more films that are better and have a strong impact on me. WALL-E reminds me of the amazing bond and value of love and friendship. Up in the Air spoke to me when I was in a time of personal struggle between being single or in a healthy relationship. A History of Violence made me reevaluate my ideas about violence in film and in life completely. A Beautiful Mind gave me hope in my own ability to conquer whatever challenge was set before me. Singin’ in the Rain is nothing short of good memories of my family and sheer elation on screen. Finding Neverland helped me address issues of imagination and reality and their relationship to mortality.

None of these matter more to me than the simple act of my father being proud of me.

Expectations — Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

By Nathanael Griffis

Hyperbole is fun, but it’s also the cute girl that flirts with you at the bar for drinks and then says no to dinner. Not that I’m bitter or that that’s ever happened… Anyways moving on, sometimes I find myself getting carried away with how excited I get for a movie and use hyperbole. I might expect it to be another stupid romantic comedy with no depth and a waste of my precious time and then discover that The Notebook is a great movie. On the other hand, when all the trailers tell me a film is going to be the best comic book movie ever made and I really want Matthew Vaughn to be a good director, then sometimes our hearts are rendered to shreds of… I don’t know, X-Men: First Class was just bad, it didn’t really scar me.

My expectations and how they influence my viewing experience has always fascinated me. Do I like The Notebook more because I didn’t expect to like it, and because the depth or characters surprised me? Was the problem with X-Men: First Class my desire for it to be good or its failure to be good? Our expectations are powerful things, and don’t think for a moment studios don’t know this. That’s why trailers can sometimes be more exciting than the films themselves. If enough good buzz is generated about a film people will see it. On Buried Cinema we did an entire podcast that dealt with this issue after we saw Catfish. I’d sum it up for you, but then you wouldn’t watch the podcast. I will say this, though: the directors of Catfish are now horror directors. I’m happy for them, no doubt, but Catfish is a not a horror movie. The way the film was advertised, though, was almost like a horror film, and you can imagine that that comes with certain expectations.

How stupid am I, this poster clearly screams middling documentary.

What I’d like to do, from here on out, is look into those expectations and try and determine how they affect my film watching experience. I’m going to drown myself in introspective metacognitive processes (i.e., probably just babble a lot) and try to discern, if at all possible, some of the connections between what we expect from a film and how we then judge it.

How this’ll work is simple. I’ll watch a film I’ve never seen before, but before doing that I’ll analyze what advertisement I’m given: posters, trailers, clips of the film, screen shots, probably not everything but enough to get a gist of the film. Then I’ll see what critics have to say. What does the mighty Internet tell us about this film? Is it highly regarded? Is it the kind of film that divides friendships? Does it involve people staring at each other for hours? I’ll sum up my expectations into a sort of hypothesis. Then I’ll watch the film and say my piece. Consider this the results and analysis section, so now it’s got scientific pretensions.

To start us off I’m going with a movie that has a whopper of expectations for me personally: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

My expectations: This’ll be a shorter article than the next few I suspect1 but perhaps deserves as much space as those that follow. The fact is I’ve been waiting for this movie for at least two years. After watching Let the Right One In, I was stunned that a film like that could be made. It was full of depth and perfectly crafted. There wasn’t a flaw in it. Every cut mattered, every performance was airtight and convincing. It transcends the sense that you’re watching a film and engages you in a shared experience. I know, I know, that all sounds very fluffy and as philosophical as it is nonsensical, but I believe it’s the truth and you won’t convince me otherwise. Although bribed with a cookie, I will gladly say otherwise.

It wasn’t long after that I heard Tomas Alfredson, who directed Let the Right One In, was working on an adaptation of John le Carré’s novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I immediately went and told all my friends and it was at this point I began to suspect I am the only John le Carré fan under 50 years old. (These suspicions, by the way, were further indicated by the silver-haired audience I sat with tonight.) My friends did not care, but the fire for espionage and paranoia continued to bubble within my blood. Then mysteriously, casting began to leak: Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Mark Strong, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy. Clearly Britain has heard of John le Carré. It was like they were making this movie just for me. A stupendous trailer followed that told me nothing except that there was a spy, a mole, at the head of British Intelligence, and suddenly, with as much seemingly swift power as the anticipation had, there was silence and disappointment. My small upstate New York town was not deemed important enough to receive this gem of movie.

Best Poster Ever, nope, Best Poster Ever.

The time and waiting I think built up my expectations; it drove my thirst for a slow-paced, realistic spy thriller. Enough Jason Bourne. I wanted a real spy, an old tired man with a briefcase who goes over files and tapes photos to chess pieces, yeah sexy. Lack only strengthened my desire. It was like the theater deliberately didn’t want me to see this movie and, like a child being forbidden, my thought was that the verboten must by amazing, for all adults are selfish and want to keep all the fun to themselves. So I started to devise this theory. An idea began to creep up in my head. Hyperbole dripped down through my nerves till it fed every bone in my body. I was convinced, plainly, simply, deludedly, that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was the greatest movie ever made.

With all honesty those were my expectations going into the film. I was about to watch something that would leave Citizen Kane in the celluloid dust, a film that wouldn’t even blink at Raiders of the Lost Ark, a movie that redefined violence previously exposed in A History of Violence, a movie that struck my heart deeper than Singin’ in the Rain, a film that better understood the craft of filmmaking than WALL-E, something more eternal than Casablanca. So, not a big deal right?

The Result: The best movie of the year. One of the best films I’ve ever seen. But, the best movie ever made? No. Let’s return to the pretty girl metaphor. Forgotten it already because of my stirring prose, I’ll remind you. A pretty girl flirts with you, your hopes travel wildly down the path of the delirious lie that is the male imagination. A single thought drips down a stalactite in far reaches of your brain: perhaps. Perhaps what? Perhaps anything, and that is what is so engaging. This could be the one. She’s pretty smart… and she says yes to dinner. Then comes dinner and it’s wonderful. You have salad, she orders steak, it’s fancifully contradictory. The sad thing is it never really becomes all those amazing things your imagination thought up, does it? Still, it’s something worth treasuring. This film is like that.

Saying a movie is one of the best ever made, a Top 100 film, is not an insult, but it’s a long way from the best. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is, to review the film as a whole, astoundingly perfect. There is a haunting combination of cinematography and sound, a blend of acting and directing like I’ve never seen, and the sharpest editing and script this year or in several years. Alfredson does some amazing things with the camera. He on several occasions pulls back, which seems minute and a simple small choice, but it’s a brilliant subtle reference to the larger picture. We, like the characters, will at first only see a small glint of the truth, but once we stand back…well, you’ll come to realize that perhaps there is still farther back to step. Nothing is completely cleaned up or solved; most things are, but the loose ends and questions remain. There is still farther back we could step, but won’t or can’t. There is a limit to perception, and we have to content ourselves with such limits.

The film is not simple. It’s complex and realistic. There is no over-hyped Bourne tension. No globetrotting action scenes. These are quiet, nervous men with guns, reading books. My father said, as we drove from the theater, “They’re real spys: men getting killed over dangerous, boring things.” He’s right, and it adds a sense of realism to the film that is backed up by le Carré’s past as a commander in British Intelligence. The performances are the best I’ve seen all year. Each man is a unique picture of caged, controlled, and unleashed emotion. Gary Oldman deserves the Oscar, but if Brad Pitt wins I won’t throw a fit. I will, however, if Alberto Iglesias doesn’t win for his score and Tom Brown and Zsuzsa Kismarty-Lechner don’t win for their art direction.

I don’t want to give anything away, yet I suspect that even if I did it might still stand on its own. This is a film for film-lovers, and a film to make a film-lover out of you.

Analysis: So were my expectations met? No, but I think they impacted my view greatly. Trying to be unbiased with this film is impossible. I honestly cannot see any way I would have disliked this film. If something catastrophic, like a random car chase and Hollywood slow-motion suddenly crept up and ruined the film, I would have brushed it off as the producers’ fault. Excuses would have been made for missteps, and the film would have still ended up on my shelf. I just got lucky that it’s a spectacular film. It wouldn’t surprise me if my views aren’t agreed with, but I think I can chalk that up to the difference in expectation perhaps. A viewer expecting something akin to Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, or James Bond, will be befuddled when actions scenes are limited to a few frames. People expecting closure, but perhaps a sequel teaser at the end, will be grasping for answers to a serpentine plot that may come full circle or not. It’s a hard film to dislike, because I think expert artistry is simply noted and appreciated, but not free of the shackles of  bias and expectation. But are any?


1: I said this before I finished writing the piece, so this is probably how long they’ll be. If they’re not, I’m clearly even more of a pompous verbose ass than I think I am.

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Adaptations of songs and such: Singin’ in the Rain vs. everything else

By Nathanael Griffis

I love Singin’ in the Rain and little else needs to be said, about anything. This masterpiece of film, not just musicals, revolutionized how dance, music, and film coalesce, but it was adapted from a single song. Now, that makes sense with a musical, but if you hear the story, it simply shouldn’t be so successful. Gene Kelly thought the song, written by Arthur Freed and composed by Nacio Herb Brown in 1929 (the original rights of the song are actually unclear, but these two men have the clearest claim), would make for a good dance routine. He got in touch with MGM and started writing songs. With no plot to speak of, but a whole slew of songs, they started production. Somehow, sheer talent and enjoyment with the craft of filmmaking and dancing gave us the best musical ever, a beautiful romance, and a striking critique of the changing landscape of film. This is, of course, my opinion, but it’s right and the American Film Institute agrees as it’s number five on their top 100 movies of all time, so I win.

Gene Kelly was actually really thirsty. This had nothing to do with love.

The thing is that this will probably never happen again, and no one should try to make a film that way, but they have, as Staying Alive (the sequel to the decent Saturday Night Fever) proves, and it is awful. Let’s forget it ever happened. We can’t really count Sweet Home Alabama since it doesn’t fully utilize the song or use it at all really except in the trailer. Songs might make good material for adaptations for musicals, but Hollywood is willing to go stranger. They’ll adapt, toys, theme park rides, video games, and restaurants.

The main issue is that frequently, and let’s use toys as an example, the studio is only concerned with money. So, in the case of toys, it’s mostly just a chance to reinvigorate merchandising, hence why they have no problem hiring Michael Bay. Now, let me say this–he’s made the best toy adaptation yet in the first Transformers, although that his competition is G.I Joe at this point isn’t saying much. Does Hasbro care? Nope, they made money, because I was stupid and wanted to see things explode, and now kids think it’s cool and will buy toys. Maybe the toys are cool, so that’s a good thing, right? No, because it encourages films like the upcoming Battleship, and the Stretch Armstrong project which keeps trying to get off the ground. Thankfully the Ouija board movie was scrapped, but Monopoly still looms out there. If you want a really strange trip into this category, go check out the 1987 film The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, which was based on a satirical set of trading cards that played off the popularity of the Cabbage Patch Kids. The concept of the Garbage Pail Kids is as a funny collectors item–they’re worth a lot now actually–but as a film, it’s basically meant to generate press for the cards and the disturbing toys.

Um... yeah, that was weird movie.

Now, sometimes a film like Clue comes along and uses the toy concept to good effect, and honestly I haven’t lost all hope for Monopoly, because a story about money-grubbing companies snatching everything up could work, but doubtful. Still, who’d have ever thought that Hollywood would try to adapt animatronic rides into film? Of course our mind thinks of Pirates of the Caribbean, but you have to go back further to a project that was initially in Gore Verbinski’s hands, ironically. Mission: Space at EPCOT, which might as well be called Mission to Mars, is about, you guessed it, a mission to mars. Gore Verbinski thought this ride made a simple premise for a sci-fi thriller. He rounded up Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, and Don Cheadle, the budget inflated, and Brian De Palma out of nowhere became interested, and poor Gore Verbinski was ousted (then proceeded in an act of transference to inflict The Mexican upon the viewing public).

Of course Verbinski would later go onto direct the highly successful Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which is a wonderful pirate adventure, that adapts the ride by basically using the song and a dog with a key. And that should have been the blueprint for how to adapt rides, make a fun adventure or comedy that uses the title. We were given hope. Disney responded by gifting us with The Country Bears and digging the knife deeper with the Pirates sequels and The Haunted Mansion.

If it seems like they don’t care about the quality of the film they make, it’s because they don’t. It is all about merchandising. Thankfully, ride adaptations have all but been abandoned, because only Pirates was successful. The studio thought to themselves that people will see it because it has an audience, which is something they’ve been doing with video games for awhile now. Tron is almost the first video game adaptation, and in some ways it might be the best, but it’s not based on an actual game. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, in my opinion, is the best, but it’s also not based on any particular video game. If you go by Rotten Tomatoes, the best is Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Why are video game movies so atrocious? Because they don’t give a crap about story. It is about money, and it’s our fault.

Still hard to believe this inspired an Oscar-nominated performance.

I’m playing Resident Evil and think, hey, this could make a good movie. Somehow I forget the ridiculous plot, awful dialogue, and repetitive nature of gaming. Gaming is an interactive experience. Stories are getting better (see Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire, BioShock, and Mass Effect, and these games may have films upcoming) but if we have to pander to fans of the game the film will fall flat. Fans want these movies done right, or so we claim, but I still saw Max Payne. Why? Because I’m stupid and I wanted to see what they would do with it. I had no expectations it would be good, but I still fed them my money, and they responded with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. As proof that it’s all about money, instead of finding a Persian actor, Disney went with Jake Gyllenhaal, because he’s a more recognizable face, plain and simple. He can be marketed. Saïd Taghmaoui, Amr Waked, and Alexander Siddig cannot (and also Omar Sharif is too old).

Hollywood will do anything if they think they can make money on it, even to the point of ripping off E.T. because McDonald’s wants to sell more hamburgers. There’s a simple way to solve this problem: don’t give them your money. Films that are built around merchandizing are going to be bad, because they’re adapting nothing into nothing. There is a rare gem here and there, but overall it’s a dangerous, sad, pathetic road that we as viewers keep getting suckered into.

And so with all my venom exhausted, I have finished my series on adaptations. Maybe not on a positive note, and truthfully, it’s more of a rant than anything else, but this is the Rant Pad, so it makes sense. Over these eight articles I’ve found myself wondering if I can somehow define what is the perfect way to adapt something. The answer is there is no perfect way and there are no rules. It seems to have more to do with the intentions and the talent surrounding an adaptation. If the film is made simply because there is a rabid fan base that wants it, quality will probably falter. It takes, like with any film, an entire group around it developing and creating a work of excellence. If I can leave you with one piece of advice, don’t see a film simply because you liked the original production (lest The Last Airbender be repeated). Demand something more of your adaptations. Money drives the buisness, so don’t give them your money unless they earn it.

Oscar Month: The 1955 Academy Awards

By Tom Kapr

As part of my Year of Movies, during the month of February I will be focusing on past Academy Award-winning films, facilitated in large part by Turner Classic Movies and their annual 31 Days of Oscar marathon, in which they air nothing but Academy Award nominees and winners every hour of every day for 31 days, leading up to and eventually eclipsing the 83rd Annual Academy Awards on February 27. Throughout the month of February, I will be posting short articles on films that have won Academy Awards in past years, most of which I will not have seen before. So you can expect me, by the end of the month, to be even more of the classic film snob of the Incidental Dog crew than I already am. (I’m sure the other guys will love it.)

Having seen eight of the films from 1954 that received Academy Award nominations, I thought I would take a look at all of them in the various categories in which they appeared. I begin with the film I saw this week for the first time, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, directed by Stanley Donen of Singin’ in the Rain fame.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was nominated for five Academy Awards in 1955. Its only win was a two-fer: Adolph Deutsch and Saul Chaplin took home Oscars in the category of “Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.” This award, as well as its nominations for “Best Cinematography, Color” and “Best Film Editing,” are the three of the five categories in which Seven Brides seems deserving. Although, there is a peculiarity about the win.

Seven Brides won the Best Musical Score Oscar over A Star Is Born (now generally considered the superior film), but it was conspicuously absent from the “Original Song” category, for which composer Harold Arlen and lyricist Ira Gershwin were nominated for their song “The Man That Got Away” from A Star Is Born. In other words, there have always been certain inexplicable Oscar nomination anomalies–and I’ve just invented a new tongue-twister. (This category also gave White Christmas its sole nomination for Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep.”)

Seven Brides‘ other two nominations were for Best Picture and Best Screenplay, neither of which it deserved. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is one of those films that I am constantly asked if I have seen. I finally have seen it, so I finally can say yes; but now, I foretell that when I say yes I am in for a debate. I cannot fathom this film’s popularity, especially over half a century later. It might more accurately have been titled Seven Kidnapping Victims Who Develop Stockholm Syndrome Over a Long Winter of Being Held Hostage in the Mountains by Seven Brothers. And that doesn’t even describe this film’s most bizarre and disturbing plot development, which occurs during the final scene. Women like this movie?

The film does have merits, going back to its three deserving nominations: the music is great, the cinematography is beautiful, and the editing is impeccable. It also has one of the most fun, entertaining, and well-choreographed dance scenes in musical history–when the seven brothers (the colorful shirts in the still below) go into town for the barn-raising festivities and use fancy footwork to vie for the affections of the young ladies of the town.

The phenomenal dance scene from "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," before the film's sanity begins to deteriorate.

As a whole, the film doesn’t hold up. Even its popularity from its own time in the 50’s is a little surprising. It’s far too simplistic (I’ll even go so far as to say sexist) to deserve any nominations for writing or Best Picture. But then it seems musicals used to get away with that sort of thing quite often.

I could have shown a picture of the apartment complex set from "Rear Window." Instead, here's a largely irrelevant shot of the film's star Grace Kelly. You're welcome.

Seven Brides‘ spot in the Best Picture nominations should have gone to Rear Window, which was nominated for Hitchcock’s directing, John Michael Hayes’ screenplay, and Robert Burks’ cinematography, but, in one of Oscar history’s most glaring omissions, not as one of the best films of the year. (Rear Window was also strangely absent from the art/set direction category, despite featuring one of the most memorable, unique sets ever built–the apartment complex and courtyard as seen from James Stewart’s character’s window.) Rear Window is my personal favorite from 1954, and I’m shocked it didn’t get a Best Picture nomination, but at least the film that did win for Best Picture that year was entirely deserving of the honor. That would be On the Waterfront.

Eva Marie Saint and Marlon Brando have electrifying chemistry in "On the Waterfront."

On the Waterfront was nominated in 12 categories and deserved every one. All five of its foremost actors (Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, and Rod Steiger) were nominated, which must be a record (but don’t quote me on that). Brando and Saint took the gold, and for my money, if those two had won solely on the basis of their make-out scene, I’d say they deserved it, because it may be the best kiss in all of cinema. (Just thought I’d throw that in there.)

Waterfront also took home awards for Richard Day’s art/set direction, Boris Kaufman’s cinematography, Gene Milford’s editing, Budd Schulberg’s writing, and Elia Kazan’s directing. Leonard Bernstein was nominated for his dramatic musical score but lost to Dimitri Tiomkin for The High and the Mighty. (There were two separate music scoring categories in 1955: “Best Music, Scoring of a Musical PIcture” and “Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.” Musicals were so popular, they essentially had their own category.)

Other favorites of mine that were classy contenders at the Academy Awards in 1955 were the Edward Dmytryk-directed The Caine Mutiny, which was nominated in seven categories including Best Picture and Best Actor for Humphrey Bogart (his third and final nomination after 1942’s Casablanca and 1951’s The African Queen, for which he won); Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which won for its art/set direction and its visual effects; the post-nuclear horror film Them!, whose giant killer ants lost in the visual effects category to 20,000 Leagues‘ giant killer squid; and the Friz Freleng-directed Sylvester-and-Tweety short Sandy Claws, which lost in the animated short category to Mr. Magoo.

(Learn more about these films and the 1955 Academy Awards at the Internet Movie Database.)

Classics I Can Live Without

–Steven Moore

Blade Runner is an amazing and important film. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a masterwork of theme and composition. The Godfather: Part II defines the word classic. Yet I don’t really enjoy any of these movies. They mean something to film as an art but not to me as an individual. I can easily put them farther down my list than Zack Snyder’s fun-as-hell remake of Dawn of the Dead or Dreamworks’ endearing Kung Fu Panda.

You meet a girl. She is beautiful, smart, funny, sexy, and, why not, rich. She wants nothing more than to lavish her attention, beauty, and fortune on you. But that spark isn’t there; she just doesn’t hit you where it means something. You don’t actively dislike her; you just forget about her. When people talk about how stunning and perfect she was, you just kind of shrug and stay quiet.

The movie experience is not simply the sum of its parts. If that were the case, Singin’ in the Rain would be a long-since forgotten disaster. If you were to try and look at Singin’ in the Rain as a whole, the movie barely holds together, a hodgepodge of scenes loosely connected by a weak story. Yet there’s something mystical that happens when I watch it. I am watching a movie that rises beyond its material, however flawed, becoming not just entertainment, but a magical experience. Singin’ in the Rain is magical, and I surely can’t say why.

On the podcast we often tease Tom for his love of Citizen Kane. In truth, I think our teasing is more a result of our own uneasiness. We wonder if being uninterested in Citizen Kane is a sign of our own intellectual inadequacies. It’s all very Freudian and probably stems from mother or father issues.

Nonetheless, Citizen Kane is an amazing film. Its contributions to cinematography are immeasurable. All films made today use techniques birthed in the belly of Citizen Kane‘s production. Yet I could live my entire life never sitting down to watch those innovations again and be perfectly okay. I know, in my head, that Citizen Kane is an important piece of cinema, but it doesn’t get me. It doesn’t pull me into another world that I want to stay in, to inhabit for two hours.

Charles Foster Kane reacts to Steve's lack of interest.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of DoomStargateTop GunThe Goonies: these movies are flawed, silly, sometimes just plain bad; but they wrap me in a world that I revel in, and for that I love them. For that I place them high in my canon, films I must watch until I can quote every line. I want to be in their realities again and again until I have my own address.

I’m not sure what that magic formula is. Maybe only Christopher Nolan knows. The recent Indiana Jones film proves that if Spielberg knew, he’s forgotten. Maybe it’s undefinable, like pornography. You know it when you see it. So the next time someone is going on and on about Taxi Driver, you can just say, “Look, it’s not you, it’s me.”