Friday, April 23, 2010

My "Keeper Shelf"or "Play it again, Sam"

As many of you know, I am a huge classic movie fan. The cadence of the actor’s speech, the beautiful clothes, the dashing heroes, the witty repartee. All of it. You may have seen me blog before about my love of the Screwball Comedies of the 30’s and 40’s. And I do love them. They never fail to make me laugh. They never fail to transport me to a less complicated time and leave me smiling when it’s all over.

But today, I’m not going to talk about my favorite film genre, even though I could go on for days about the subject. I’ll leave that for another time when I’m less talkative. Today I’m going to talk about something slightly different, and perhaps more important…

That classic you just can’t help but watch.

You know what I’m talking about. Those movies that are on your “keeper shelf” of life. We all have a few of these. You can be flipping channels and come across a movie you’ve seen a dozen times before and you’ll watch it all over again no matter if you’re starting in the beginning, middle or end. And no matter what else you had planned to do that day. You get sucked in and the film captures you all over again just like the first time you saw it.

For me these titles include Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, Citizen Kane, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, and anything by Tennessee Williams. What is it about these movies that grabs me by the shirt collar and won’t let go? Well, it depends on the movie.

For some it is the quintessential love story, even if it doesn’t end happily. For some it’s a character who’s larger than life, even if they’re not always likable. For some it’s the adventure that captures my imagination. For some it’s the life lessons that are so superbly woven into the story I sense it in my soul. And for others it’s the raw emotion I feel just by getting caught up in the story.

As a writer, I want to dissect those films that I can never let pass me by. I want to figure out what makes them “tick”, what makes them irresistible. I want to figure out what I can learn from them and use in my own writing. Because the greatest compliment of all is being on someone else’s “keeper shelf”. Creating a character or story that so touches someone, they never want to let it go.

What is on your “keeper shelf”? And do you know why they're there?