I was planning a different topic for today but at the beginning of the week my good friend SJ emailed me a question that stirred up a lot of thoughts and prompted this blog, which is a bit of a mental jazz riff. Bear with me.
Her question: “If you could save only one DVD from your sinking ship, to have on a deserted Island that mysteriously has a means to play a DVD, what would your pick be?”
Without even thinking about it, before I was even finished reading her question, a movie immediately came to mind. I was surprised. It’s not my favorite movie by any means, though I do love it. It’s not in my top ten even nor do I watch it often, the way I watch over and over again other movies. I thought, ‘Wait, that can’t be right. You have to give this some consideration. After all, it’s the only movie you may ever seen again!”
I realize there are criteria. I definitely want a movie that’s long, if not epic in length. I mean, I love The General, it’s one of the best movies ever made, it’s in my top ten, it’s a movie I could watch most every day. But it’s 78 minutes long. If I only get one movie for the rest of my life, I want a movie that has a little more heft. I go through my top ten… The Godfather is #1 and seems to fit the bill: it’s amazing, it’s entertaining and yes it’s long. Ok, then. But like many of my top films (Klute, Chinatown, Se7en, All That Jazz, LA Confidential, various Hitchcock and Spielberg favorites) The Godfather is pretty dark. I love dark. Give me Se7en over Chariots of Fire any day. Every day for the rest of my life, though? Maybe not.
Another in my top ten, Bridge on the River Kwai, qualifies. It’s sheer genius, start to finish, with a final hour I could spend months analyzing shot by shot in my film classes. Beautifully directed and acted across the board, with Alec Guiness delivering one of the best acting performances ever on film, I can watch Bridge over and over. It’s certainly epic. But it’s very plot driven. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Bridge’s plot construction is part of what makes the movie so tense, so brilliant, so fulfilling. But a movie not so dependent on the outcome, where the satisfaction of the movie doesn’t lie as much within the plot, that would be a better choice.
Ok, then, so how about one of the movies I already watch over and over? Erin Brockovich comes to mind. It satisfies my justice issues, it’s wildly entertaining, it has a terrific audience pleasing ending… it’s a wonderful movie, across the board. I could also teach this one for weeks in my film classes. For me personally, it’s a great choice. But it’s topical. For “The Only Movie I May Ever See Again”, something a little broader in theme and story would be better. Take Charade and Pillow Talk. They also are both wildly entertaining. They are not as topical and when I need an uplift, either one is just what is needed. (What’s up Doc, Young Frankenstein, Tootsie, Annie Hall, all top favorites, also apply!) But while these movies are completely entertaining and even have a little heft in that they have something to say, they are not as epic as what is called for.
I imagine some of you see where I am headed.
I also imagine some of you are thinking Casablanca. It certainly has it all. Romance, humor, complexity, heft. And there’s that wildly entertaining thing. It’s pretty much the perfect movie. Funny thing with Casablanca for me: I never put it in my top ten, I don’t tend to think of it often, but anytime I sit down to watch it, I am always again amazed by how perfect it is. And yet…
Casablanca was directed by Michael Curtiz, a very underrated director who helmed another movie I watch over and over: Mildred Pierce. Mildred Pierce fits into my wildly entertaining category, start to finish, though in a different way than the movies above. It’s a remarkably satisfying movie to watch. And it contains some of the most dazzling lighting ever put on film. I use this one a lot in film class as well. Oddly, this one could easily fit the bill, a very personal choice. Conflict, drama, humor, murder, mystery, some social commentary. As much as I love it, though, it’s missing that epic part.
Additionally, most of these movies I’ve mentioned I sit down and watch, start to finish. There’s no coming in and out, at least for me. Put on Mildred Pierce or Bridge, The Godfather or Jaws, and I’m there until the movie is over. For a deserted island, what’s also called for is a movie I can turn on and off, rather than sit through every viewing. Like a great novel I can read slowly, chapter by chapter, a movie I can watch a little bit here, a little bit there would be excellent. One where I can even skip around to my favorite parts, like a clip show, though on any day I could certainly take an afternoon or evening, watch it all at once and be supremely satisfied.
Only one movie fits what is needed. A big bold movie that, well, has everything. One that never gets old, no matter how many times I watch it. One that sucks me in from the very first scene. Surely you know now. It’s a movie that, while not on my own “top ten” list nor is ever in contention on critics’ lists for “the best movie ever made” remains the most popular movie of all time.
Ah, Scarlett and Rhett. It’s what came immediately to mind before I even finished SJ’s question and, try as I might, I could not find a movie that better fits. It simply cannot be beat. Gone With The Wind has everything: it’s epic in scope, yet often intimate with it’s characters; it has every element I could ask for… war, action, intrigue, romance, death, tragedy, uplift, humor. It has two of the greatest characters ever invented, Scarlett and Rhett. Scarlett in particular is a blast to watch. I tell my writing students what often makes a great character is a character who acts in a manner we always wish we could act, but refrain from doing so. In Gone With The Wind we get to see Scarlett lie, cheat, steal, kill. We see her say and do things we’d never say or do ourselves but wish we had the gumption or impropriety to say and do. Additionally, Margaret Mitchell’s story is full of surprises, even after viewing it numerous times. So that’s my movie for a deserted island.
As for food…
“You have one choice… one dish, or one food item, to choose.”
Well, this one comes easy, too. I won’t spend as much time here, but if I only get one choice, the pick also comes immediately to mind. While I’d love to pick something like my Mac-N-Cheese recipe, which people clamor for continually, comfort foods would get old quickly. Anything would get old, of course. Even one of my favorite meals, which comes from Alice Waters, would get old. Alice Waters was asked how she judges a restaurant. She replied that she orders a filet and a side of spinach and can tell everything she needs to know about the kitchen by what she its served. Add a baked potato and it’s a pretty perfect meal for me. But it, too, would get old and besides, we are not talking a meal here, but one food, be it one dish or one item.
Which is why I think I have the perfect pick. Like GTWT, it has a little bit of everything. You can eat it as is, all together, as presented. But when it gets old, you can break it down. One day eat a certain section and you get salad. One day, eat another section and you get dairy. Another day, break it down and you have bread. Need protein one afternoon? Perfect. And you have a variety of combinations here so that over the course of ten days you can have a different type meal, every day, before you start to repeat.
I won’t go too far overboard and say The Cheeseburger is the perfect food ever created. But for a deserted island? Pretty damn perfect.
What are your picks? Click comments and tell us below.