The film experience: Will you still love me tomorrow?
I don't just mean one with a complicated plot, I'm talking about a film so engaging or compelling that you found yourself daydreaming about it for the next week or two or three (when, let's face it, you should have been working)?
And does that make it a good film?
I guess it depends to a certain extent on what you want to take away from your movie experience. I have friends who just want to zone out for 90-120 minutes, plow through a jumbo popcorn and a Coke and go home. For these viewers, all but the name of the movie may be a distant memory by the time head hits pillow, and that's just fine with them.
I'm not dismissing this type of experience, but I tend to hold most movies to a higher standard. What I really like is when a story gets stuck to me, like a piece of double-sided tape fusing two of my fingers, and I just can't shake it off.
The Oscar nominated "The Reader" is one such story. I admit that I approached this particular movie night with trepidation because of the reviews I scanned (I never read full reviews until after; don't want a spoiler ruining my night!). They were mixed. As I write this, http://www.rottentomatoes.com/ gives it 61% fresh approval rating, meaning 61% per cent of the reviewers the site includes in its consensus ratings offered a positive review. This is quite a low rating for this site; most Best Picture nominees hit well over 80 per cent.
But "The Reader" was superb. I came away with questions about the characters' motivations and actions - and inaction - that kept me going for days. I thought that Kate Winslet and 15-year-old German actor David Kross, who played her lover, were heartbreaking. Ralph Fiennes, playing the 15-year-old as an older man, was wonderful too, and he had to breathe life into a brooding, rather troubled man. I don't believe his Michael Berg character ever cracks a smile.
I found "Slumdog Millionaire" to be a glorious film too. Why? Because I cared deeply for the main characters and I wanted them to succeed, against terrible odds. The visuals, the music, the cinematography in "Slumdog" was superior to the other films I saw in 2008, which helped burn it into my brain. I still think about it often.
Yet I saw several movies last summer that I also loved. "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight." were both incredibly exciting, offering farfetched but highly entertaining story lines, good acting, frightening villains (especially Heath Ledger's Joker, possibly the most terrifying screen villain of all time) and cool effects. On the comedic side, "Tropic Thunder" was a hilarious send-up of the filmmaking and actor's processes.
The problem is I can't honestly remember much about "Iron Man" or "The Dark Knight" today. I know that they contained excellent action scenes but I can't recall more than a few. I can't even remember their climactic hero-versus-villain battles. Not good - and I have a pretty good memory for such things. And "Tropic Thunder" made me laugh hard, but it feels like a distant memory.
Sure, there are movies that get better upon repeated viewings. They get under your skin because you uncover more layers to them and you like what you're uncovering. You can even learn to appreciate what you first thought was a bad movie. Maybe my three summer movies will get better with age, and another viewing.
But a film that you love right away and think about a lot afterward - like "The Reader" for me - is bound to stay with you the longest. Have a think about your favorite movies of all time. Do they fall into the "acquired tastes" or "thinkers" category? I'm guessing the latter.
So next time you find yourself daydreaming about a movie you saw recently, let your friends know about it. It's probably a good sign.