The Movies That Charm Me Every Time

DSC_1409Hello Friend,

I LOVE movies!  I always have.  I love them so much that I moved to New York and Hollywood to study acting when I was young.  There is just something so magical about them.  I think it must be that a movie is one giant piece of art that requires so many different types of artists to make: writers, directors, actors, costume designers, set designers, composers, musicians, and more.  When all of these things come together in just the right way, the result is two or three mesmerizing hours of pure enchantment and escapism for me.

Sadly, since having kids five years ago, a few consecutive hours of quiet are extremely rare in my world.  So, my beloved hobby has been temporarily put on the shelf along with other friends like golf, reading, and meditation.  I still allow myself the guilty pleasure of watching the award shows (Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and Oscars) as my one link to this hibernating passion of mine.  I say hibernating, because I will definitely be back.  I love movies too much.

I have to admit to being a bit of a movie snob (I even call them “films” a little too frequently in conversation).  That little movie that film critics like but that only plays at the little art-house theater because most folks won’t sit through it: that one is probably just right for my tastes.  In my pre-kids days, I made a point of seeing all of the films—see, I just did it—that were up for the awards.  On the other hand, I never made it a point to see the giant blockbuster that everyone in the world had seen at least once (I’m that one guy who has never seen “Jurassic Park” or “Mission: Impossible” or the modern “Star Wars” trilogy, to name a few).  I wasn’t intentionally avoiding them; they just didn’t appeal to me.  Generally, if there are a lot of explosions, aliens, superheroes, car chases, or jokes, I am in a different theater.  The closest I come to an “action movie” are films about war, which I love in a way I can’t explain (because they make me sick as I watch, but watch I must).  I tend to go for a drama–something with some gravity–that stirs me up in a deep place.  I am the guy who sits in the theater until all the credits have rolled and the lights come up, because I need all of that time to process such a serious work of art.

So there I was today, in front of the cabinet of my favorite DVDs, taking a stroll down memory lane.  As I looked through the titles and considered each movie, I realized that certain ones had me grinning.   I love all of the movies I own—most have landed on various “William’s Top 10” or “William’s War Favorites” or the like over the years–but somehow a whole new category of favorites was being created as I perused.  What was it, though, that was causing this grin on my face?  What separated these favorites from the others?  At first I thought it was just that these movies were not as serious as the others, not as typically “dramatic” as my usual favorites.  That was part of it.  Indeed, I was not grinning as I passed most of the war movies. But that wasn’t the big answer, wasn’t the common denominator.  But what was the defining element?  What was making me grin?  It took me awhile to pin it down.

It was charm.  I realized that during the many times I have watched this handful of movies, I probably had a subtle grin on my face, or at least a lightness in my heart, all the way through them.  I thought about the effect that charming people have: they are captivating yet keep you grinning, as though under a spell.  They make you feel a little happier, a little more alive.  They connect with you and also tickle you a bit with their sweetness.  They charm you.

These are the movies that touch my heart in just that special way:

  • Stand By Me—This has been on my short list of favorites since I was a kid, and still I enjoy every sweet, poignant minute with those boys from Castle Rock.
  • Almost Famous—There is an innocence and purity about this movie for me.  Both with the musical choices—I dare you to try to NOT sing along on “Tiny Dancer”–and the genuine humanity, it strikes just the right note.
  • Cinema Paradiso—If you have to read subtitles the entire time and are still as completely smitten as I am with this movie, it must be charming.
  • Beautiful Girls—There are so many flat-out funny lines and monologues in this one, but it is the tender, truthful scenes that keep it among my all-time favorites.  The young Natalie Portman is absolutely captivating.
  • American Beauty—The fact that a film with so many dark, disturbing elements can make it on this list is a testament to its amazing director and cast.  This is a great movie!
  • Home for the Holidays—Much like “Beautiful Girls”, there is a lot of straight funny in this one, but that is mixed so beautifully with honest, sad truth-telling.  And it is about family, so of course it touches a soft spot in me.
  • Life is Beautiful (La Vita e Bella)—I told you I love war movies, so I had to include one!  Despite covering a horrific topic, Roberto Benigni managed to bring a love and sweetness to this one.  (Added props again for making this list despite subtitles).

There they are: the movies that charm me every time I watch them.  I am grinning just thinking about them.  That is the power of great art!

So, which movies charm you every time?  Get out your journal and write the first titles that come to your mind when you think about the charm factor.  When you come up with a few, write about them.  What is it about them that sticks with you?  What about them keeps that subtle grin on your face the whole way through?  What is so special?  As you explore your mind for that answer, you probably will find more old favorites popping into your head.  Write them out.  See if you can find similarities among the favorites on your list.  The answer can give you some terrific insight into what makes you tick.  Then—PLEASE–leave me a reply.  As I said, I love movies and any discussion about them, so I would really appreciate hearing which ones have charmed you.  What is on your list?

Keep mining your inner treasure,


5 thoughts on “The Movies That Charm Me Every Time

  1. Richard Allan Gibbs

    Willy P!!!! “Supermodels are beautiful girls, Will. A beautiful girl can make you dizzy, like you’ve been drinking Jack and Coke all morning. She can make you feel high full of the single greatest commodity known to man – promise. Promise of a better day. Promise of a greater hope. Promise of a new tomorrow. This particular aura can be found in the gait of a beautiful girl. In her smile, in her soul, the way she makes every rotten little thing about life seem like it’s going to be okay. The supermodels, Willy? That’s all they are. Bottled promise. Scenes from a brand new day. Hope dancing in stiletto heels.”
    Love all your writings, but this is a favorite. I too enjoy those movies that make you think deep…think differently…open a door…a thought..,a wound, even. Write on, inspire!

    1. William Rutten Post author

      Thank you so much, kind sir. That monologue of Paul’s is one of my favorite in movie history, and I am sitting here smiling from ear to ear reading it. Thanks for the reminder and the support.

  2. Ashlee

    I LOVE movie…theater…popcorn!!! It’s true. I even confess to dropping in on a few ticket-takers asking to give me a pass to B-line to concessions and back. Back to the topic…I read your list and I have to admit, I think you are far more versed in all the elements that truly make what is deemed by professionals and to the general public as a “great movie.” And, you are definitely more knowledgeable on the skills it takes for an actor to portray a roll. Albeit, and sans a DVD library to reminisce upon, here are some of my favs:
    ➢ Monty Python and The Holy Grail – A staple in my family. If a sibling fed you a line, you had better be able to close it or be shunned for the rest of the (fill in the blank) road trip, day, week.
    ➢ The Count of Monte Cristo – It was right on the heels of reading the book and probably what led to why this is a favorite for me.
    ➢ Goonies – Come on! Who didn’t love this movie as a kid?!
    ➢ Pan’s Labyrinth – To me, this was as if someone had walked into my childhood dreams, both fantasies and nightmares, and had delivered them on screen. It had a very magical element to it, but without out all the Disney fairytale and fluff.
    ➢ It Started in Naples – (Sophia Loren and Clark Gable) Raw film + legendary actors + amazing location. Doubtful this made it to anyone’s list, but for me, it was so dialed down from everything I had watched up to that point that it was refreshing.
    ➢ The Departed
    ➢ Life is Beautiful – …I do not even know where to start. Most movies I think come to us in reviews, we view them, we get an opinion, they win an award (or not), and maybe it carries further on to make a Favorites List. This movie happened in reverse for me. I remember seeing Roberto Benini get the Oscar and standing on his chair pumping his hands like a hero. His energy and enthusiasm was so contagious. That was later reinforced by a friend talking about how amazing of a film this was. I finally (and typically) saw the movie months after most, and forever it has left an impression and stayed in my mind. I sort of feel like a little was taken away because of my lack of Italian…I can only imagine what it would have been like without. Principessa!!!

    I wish I had more experience to recognize good actors and directors, but as I look at the above list, I have to say that most of these movies come from a feeling it gave to me, or a feeling I got from it at a time in my life. Perhaps a happy time, sad time, uncertain time, perhaps just escape from reality, but it all contributed to a lasting impression in some way. A lot have a foreign element to it….with the exception of Goonies. I really just liked that cool waterslide in that movie. ☺

    1. William Rutten Post author

      Wonderful list and wonderful comments, Ashlee. Thank you so much for your honesty and the searching you did to come up with this. You gave me a few to add to my must-watch list, which I always appreciate. And of course, I am glad that we share a deep love of “The Goonies” and “Life is Beautiful”. Your “Principessa!!!” has me smiling ear-to-ear–I love Benigni! To your final paragraph, it is not at all important to recognize what other people deem to be “good” actors, directors, or movies. The only important thing is that feeling that you spoke of, how it connected to a spot deep inside you and left an impression. Any artist would consider it reward enough to know that their work touched you that way. If it made your list, it did its job and can thus be considered a good film. Keep searching for more of them, and of course, share with me! I love to add to my list.

      P.S. I have one more suggestion for you if you can find it. The one movie I was able to see in the theater last year was a documentary called “Stories We Tell”, directed by Sarah Polley, who acted in one of my other favorite movies, “The Sweet Hereafter”. I thought it was fabulous.

  3. Ashlee

    I will see if I can find the documentary, as well as the other movie favorite your mentioned. Thanks for thinking of something I might like and sending me the recommendation!

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