Summer Movie Series: Rerun Repertoire Throughout the summer, we've been munching popcorn and chatting about things we love -- or don't -- about the movies. Murray Horwitz of the American Film Institute talks with listeners about a specific kind of cinema delight. What films do you watch over and over again?
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Summer Movie Series: Rerun Repertoire

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Summer Movie Series: Rerun Repertoire

Summer Movie Series: Rerun Repertoire

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NEAL CONAN, host:

It's time now for our TALK OF THE NATION's summer movie festival. This week we bring you the last in our series. I know, we're sad too. To say goodbye we thought we'd honor those films that keep us glued to the screen or the TV set over and over and over again.

(Soundbite of movie, The Wizard of Oz)

Ms. JUDY GARLAND (Actress): (As Dorothy Gale) Yes, I'm ready now.

Ms. BILLIE BURKE (Actress): (As Glinda) Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times and think to yourself, There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home.

Ms. GARLAND: (As Dorothy) There's no place like home.

CONAN: A scene Murray Horwitz repeats every time he comes back to NPR. Some of these films are Hollywood's finest. Others are cinematic comfort food. Dirty Dancing may be no Citizen Kane, but eh, you know which one you plop into the DVD player on a rainy day. So what movie have you seen more than any other and why? Give us a call, 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail us, talk@npr.org.

With us once again is Murray Horwitz, director and COO of the American Film Institute's Silver Theater and Cultural Center, located here in the Washington area. Murray, good to have you back.

Mr. MURRAY HORWITZ (American Film Institute Silver Theater and Cultural Center): Good to be back, Neal, thanks. I'm going to miss this.

CONAN: There's an awful lot of great movies out there, and watchable movies, not always the same thing. What makes somebody go back again and again and again?

Mr. HORWITZ: Well, that's what we proposed to find out today. I'm really interested - these movies - first of all, you have to remember that we're the first - one thing to think about in all this is just the power of film in people's lives. You know, as you mentioned, I used to work here at NPR. I used to work with jazz, with classical music. This is the first time I've ever worked in a setting with an art form that's actually popular.

People want to come to the movies. And we want to maybe think about what it is that makes us watch something over and over again. We're the first cluster of generations - those of us who've been living in the past 25 years - who have the option of seeing a movie over and over and over and over and over again, to really, you know, sort of take the coaxial cable out of the set and stick it in our vein and just, you know, be addicted to any of those movies you were talking about. But they fall into some categories and we can talk about that later.

CONAN: Sure. But there - you know, the advent of television, first of all, made a lot of us, you know, sort of, you know - my film education was The Late Late Show Part II.

Mr. HORWITZ: Yours and Martin Scorsese. He talks about that a lot in My Voyage to Rome, this wonderful documentary he did about Italian cinema. And he said, you know, it was as a kid growing up in New York City watching The Late Show that he learned about movies.

CONAN: And then our children watched, you know - got one movie and played it 30 times the first day.

Mr. HORWITZ: Your kids too? Isn't that amazing. And that's what I call the default category. Those are movies that just passing through the den or the playroom you know more about than you want to. I know a lot more about Frank Langella and Billy Barty in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe than I do about Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest. But I like the one more than the other, but I've seen the other a lot more times.

CONAN: I don't want to give it away at the end, but Skeletor goes down. Let's get some listeners involved in the conversation. This is Nick. Nick's calling us from Goshen, Indiana.

NICK (Caller): Hi, Neal. How are you doing?

CONAN: I'm very well, thank you.

NICK: Hey, the movie that I'm watching a lot, and I have been watching since I was in high school - and a group of friends of mine, actually - The Big Lebowski is a great film.

Mr. HORWITZ: It is indeed. And this is a Coen brothers film and it falls in - I said we'd talk a little bit about categories. This is - much of this has to do with generations. I mean, everybody of my parent's generation had seen Gone with the Wind more than once.

For people, particularly women of a certain age - I'd say women in their early 20s right now - they probably saw - in the theater - probably saw Titanic more than they've seen any other movie. It was just the thing to do if you were a teenager at a certain point, go back and back and see - how old are you, Nick?

NICK: I'm 24 years old.

Mr. HORWITZ: See? Yeah, my son, who has memorized The Big Lebowski - thank goodness, because it's a wonderful movie to hear lines from. He's 25, and I think depending on your generation, there are certain - you might almost call them cult films, and The Big Lebowski is one.

NEAL CONAN, host:

Well, here are some lines that your son has definitely memorized, then. This is from The Big Lebowski.

(Soundbite of movie, The Big Lebowski)

employed, Mr. Lebowski?

Mr. JEFF BRIDGES (Actor): (As Jeffrey Lebowski - The Dude) Wait, let me explain something to you. I am not Mr. Lebowski. You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the Dude, so that's what you call me, you know? That or His Dudeness or Duder or, you know El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

CONAN: El Duderino indeed. Nick, how many times you figure you've seen The Big Lebowski?

NICK: Gosh, it's got to be in the hundreds.

Mr. HORWITZ: Wow.

NICK: Me and my cousin, we used to go - and he had his own copy of the movie -and every Sunday morning we would watch the movie, and then me and our friends, we'd go out and go bowling like three or four rounds, so I mean, definitely a huge impact on the teenage lifestyle.

Mr. HORWITZ: And quoting Talmud the whole time you were rolling those frames, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

NICK: Exactly. We were always says man, Donny, you really know how to roll.

CONAN: Nick, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

NICK: Thank you very much, Neal.

CONAN: And is this a category - you know, these are films that didn't do, you know - Lebowski did not kill at the box office.

Mr. HORWITZ: Right. There were some that were like sleeper hits, I think again for a certain generation. I think that Napoleon Dynamite falls into that category. But sometimes films that we think of as small films, a lot of the John Hughes films like Sixteen Candles, and Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink -some of these coming-of-age films - those are - you're right, they don't have so much to do with box-office success as they do with - they creep into the consciousness. They get a spirit of the time somehow, and people identify with them.

CONAN: All right, let's get another caller in. Francisco(ph), Francisco calling from Portland, Oregon.

FRANCISCO (Caller): Hi Neal.

CONAN: Hi.

FRANCISCO: I'm en route to San Francisco. I have two genres that I love to watch over and over again. One is comedies that are jam-packed with jokes that you have to watch repeatedly…

CONAN: To get them all.

FRANCISCO: Specifically Airplane and Caddyshack.

CONAN: Okay.

FRANCISCO: And the other genre is Kung Fu films, specifically Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee.

CONAN: Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee. Well, Bruce Lee is a whole cult unto himself.

Mr. HORWITZ: That's right, and there are certain people we identify with, and filmmakers. You know, I mentioned the John Hughes film, but there are also the John Waters films and the Christopher Guest mockumentaries. And certainly when it comes to marshal arts films, there are people who know them backwards and forwards like Francisco.

CONAN: And Airplane the only comedy you like that much?

FRANCISCO: No. Caddyshack, Animal House - repeated viewings, many misspent days.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HORWITZ: You know, and some of them, though, Francisco, don't feel so bad. Because the last category that I think we should mention are what I call national consciousness movies - movies that we've all seen so much that they've just become part of our cultural currency in the United States. We heard earlier from Wizard of Oz, but there are movies like The Godfather movies, and Snow White, and Pinocchio, and Animal House I'd put there. Star Wars, E.T., Casablanca, King Kong, Frankenstein. Those are all movies that we all know.

CONAN: And you know, a lot of these are indeed sort of seasonal tales. And one of them, of course, is the classic It's a Wonderful Life.

(Soundbite of movie, It's a Wonderful Life)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JAMES STEWART (Actor): (As George Bailey) Merry Christmas movie house. Merry Christmas emporium. Merry Christmas you wonderful old building and loan. Hey, merry Christmas, Mr. Potter.

Mr. LIONEL BARRYMORE (Actor): (As Mr. Potter) Happy New Year to you - in jail. Go on home, they're waiting for you.

CONAN: Yeah, they're going, Lionel Barrymore.

Mr. HORWITZ: Mr. Potter.

CONAN: And can you - explain to anybody what's that town like, and you say it's Pottersville, and they know exactly what you mean.

Mr. HORWITZ: That's exactly right. No, it's true. Or think of all the lines that come from a film like Casablanca: round up the usual suspects, and I was misinformed, and you know just - what are some others - this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

CONAN: Well indeed. We have a clip from Casablanca, and we'll get to hear perhaps the most famous exchange of lines ever.

(Soundbite of movie, Casablanca)

(Soundbite of song, As Time Goes By)

Mr. HUMPHREY BOGART (Actor): (As Rick Blaine) When that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

Ms. INGRID BERGMAN (Actress): (As Ilsa Lund) But what about us?

Mr. BOGART: (As Blaine) We'll always have Paris.

CONAN: We'll always have 3A, Murray.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HORWITZ: Yeah, but I wish 3A had been in Paris.

CONAN: Then it would've been 3-Ahh. Anyway, let's get another caller on the line, and this is Jeff(ph). Jeff's calling us from Mesa, Arizona.

JEFF (Caller): Yeah, this one's way out on the fringe, but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with Benicio Del Toro and Johnny Depp.

CONAN: Not a success on any number of levels, but a lot of people like that movie.

JEFF: Actually, it did really good when it came out on DVD, but yeah, it didn't do real good in the theaters. Terry Gilliam directed it, and it's just - I mean, you can watch that movie 100 times, and the performances in it are amazing, and it just never gets boring.

Mr. HORWITZ: And it's better than actually doing the drugs yourself, I think.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JEFF: Yeah, absolutely. You can do it all vicariously.

CONAN: All right, Jeff. Thanks very much. Here's an e-mail we got from Beth(ph) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I have never watched a movie as many times as I did The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. While I usually only see four to five movies a year, I actually saw that nine times in a theater before I bought the DVD. By the way, I am over 50, a 50-year-old woman, and other movies that I've watched many times at home are A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott, White Christmas, and Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, with Jimmy Stewart and Maureen O'Hara. That last one's a little strange. She must have the DVD of that.

Mr. HORWITZ: Right.

This from Galley(ph) in Milwaukee. One movie I watch over and over again is Fight Club, starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. I tend to watch it when I'm feeling sorry for myself, and I guess the movie reminds me of that fact that loss and failure can provide clarity.

Mr. HORWITZ: And I'm glad to hear that reason. That's what interests me is the reasons, and that's very eloquently expressed. It makes me think I better have a talk with my kids, who know that film by heart.

CONAN: Yeah, my son knows that film by heart, as well, and now I'm wondering why. Anyway.

Mr. HORWITZ: We're leaving now. We're going to go see our kids.

CONAN: That's it. Our conversation, by the way, continues online. Listeners offer their picks at the TALK OF THE NATION page at npr.org. If you'd like to join Murray Horwitz and me on this program right now, you can give us a phone call: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. You can also send us e-mail: talk@npr.org. This is TALK OF THE NATION Summer Movie Festival, and this is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's get another listener in. This is Hester(ph). Hester's calling us from Oakland, California.

HESTER (Caller): Hi. I've seen Lawrence of Arabia at least 60 times, and I also can tell you four hours of it by heart. The music is so stunning and well-integrated it just catches my breath every time.

CONAN: And when did you see it for the first time?

HESTER: Oh God, probably around when it came out, 1961.

CONAN: Yeah. That was my first trip into New York City, to see that movie. It had an intermission.

Mr. HORWITZ: Exactly.

HESTER: And it's visually absolutely gorgeous. All of the acting, top to bottom, is superb. And lastly, because I could look at Omar Sharif in this movie over and over for the rest of my life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HORWITZ: You're not alone.

HESTER: So now you know my secret PIN reminder question if you break…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HORWITZ: But Hester, you've really struck a chord here for two reasons. First of all, on my own personal list of movies I've seen more than any other, I've been really lucky because working at the AFI Silver Theater here in the Washington area, I've been able to see that movie on screen. How many times have you seen it on screen?

HESTER: All of them.

Mr. HORWITZ: Oh my gosh, 60 times on screen? You're a lucky woman.

HESTER: I'm crazy.

Mr. HORWITZ: But it's one of my personal favorites, and you can come every summer to our theater and see, in original 70-millimeter, Lawrence of Arabia.

CONAN: With an intermission?

Mr. HORWITZ: Sorry?

HESTER: Which theater is that?

Mr. HORWITZ: The AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland.

HESTER: Thank you.

CONAN: And does it have the intermission? That's what I want to know.

Mr. HORWITZ: We do have an intermission, yes we do.

CONAN: Popcorn opportunity.

Mr. HORWITZ: And we have bathrooms that you can use during the intermissions.

HESTER: Thanks.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Hester. Let's get Rachel(ph) on the line. Rachel, you're calling us from Sisters, Oregon.

RACHEL (Caller): Yes. Monty Python and the Holy Grail - life-altering as a child.

Mr. HORWITZ: This is one that shows up on a lot of lists of most-viewed movies, and I mentioned the Christopher Guest mockumentaries and John Waters films. I should have mentioned the Monty Python films at the same time.

CONAN: Let's take a listen to a clip from Monty Python's, well, Holy Grail.

(Soundbite of movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (As character) Now stand aside, worthy adversary.

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor: (As character) Tis but a scratch.

Unidentified Man #3: (As character) A scratch? You're arm's off.

Unidentified Man #4: (As character) No it isn't.

Unidentified Man #3: (As character) Well what's that, then?

Unidentified Man #4: (As character) I've had worse.

Unidentified Man #3: (As character) You liar.

Unidentified Man #4: (As character) Come on, you pansy.

Mr. HORWITZ: I thought you would've opted for your mother is a hamster. That's my favorite line from that movie, but…

CONAN: Rachel, did that stir up a little memory for you there?

RACHEL: Absolutely. My brother and sister and I used to act them out, and now our nieces and nephews are all watching them, too.

Mr. HORWITZ: And you're all sane and walking around, right?

RACHEL: Yes.

Mr. HORWITZ: Oh, good.

RACHEL: Indeed.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. Let's see if we can get - this is an e-mailer by the way, who has in fact sent my story, the story I was going to tell, about the movie that I have seen over and over and over again. And this is a film that stars Jimmy Cagney, and for the very same reason that I saw it so many times - this is from Lisa Ryan(ph) in San Francisco - I watched Yankee Doodle Dandy every day on Million Dollar Movie for an entire week when I was 10 years old. Million Dollar Movie, WOR in New York City. It had a very small budget. They had I think three films. They were Yankee Doodle Dandy, Since You Went Away, and Son of Kong.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And they would show them. It would be the Million Dollar Movie that week, and they would show it 12 times that day.

Mr. HORWITZ: Well this is given - clearly those three films, you've got everything covered that prepared you for being one of the leading broadcast journalists in the United States.

CONAN: But the story of George M. Cohan as played by Jimmy Cagney as, well, the immortal George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy. Let's take a listen.

Unidentified Woman (Actress): (As character) What was your name again, sir?

Mr. JAMES CAGNEY (Actor): (As George M. Cohan) Cohan, George Cohan.

(Soundbite of song, Yankee Doodle Dandy)

Mr. CAGNEY: (As Cohan) I'm a Yankee doodle dandy, Yankee doodle do or die. Yankee Doodle came to London just to ride the ponies. I am that Yankee doodle boy.

CONAN: I'm welling up with tears, even as we talk.

Mr. HORWITZ: My mother thanks you, my father thanks you. No. My sister thanks you, my mother thanks you, my father thanks you, and I thank you.

CONAN: Who gets the Murray?

Mr. HORWITZ: Well, now you're - if you promise not to tell anybody, the one film that I promise myself on special occasions - I really haven't seen it more than any other, but it's the one that only when I've finished a big project or finished writing something that I allow myself to watch is my favorite film of all time, which is Ruggles of Red Gap with Charles Laughton and Zasu Pitts. It's a perfect movie. It is ensemble comedy at its best. It's probably slobberingly sentimental the way I am, and it's just - I recommend it to everybody. Ruggles of Red Gap.

CONAN: And before we leave, this was the most popular pick of our e-mailers, Princess Bride.

(Soundbite of movie, The Princess Bride)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MANDY PATINKIN (As Inigo Montoya): My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Mr. HORWITZ: Mandy Patinkin.

CONAN: And Murray, have fun storming the castle.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HORWITZ: Thank you very much.

CONAN: It's been loads of fun. Until next summer.

Mr. HORWITZ: Until next summer. I'll see you at the movies, Neal.

CONAN: Murray Horwitz is director and COO of the American Film Institute's Silver Theater and Cultural Center located here in greater Washington. He was with us in Studio 3A. We'd also like to thank Maria Ensua(ph) and Laurie Donnelly(ph) of AFI for their help. Ira's here tomorrow with Science Friday. We'll see you Monday. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

(Soundbite of music)

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