Film What was the last film you watched more than once? Not just more than once, on a regular basis, because you had to, because you were addicted to it? Now that the availability of material has signalled the death of cinema, I don't tend to watch much of anything more than once. The MARVEL films certainly, at an auditorium then subsequently on the home release. If I've some kind of viewing project on, like #garaiwatch last year which led me to sit through One Day for a second time. But as a friend commented on social media, seeing something again feels like a luxury with so many other options available.
During the commentary for X-Men: Days of Future Past, composer and editor John Ottman laments that for the audience who turned up for the world premiere, their only experience of seeing all the hard work of himself and his colleagues will be at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York with its crappy acoustics and distracting airport nearby, hoping against hope that they'll get the chance to see it in a better environment. He'll be pleased to know I've now seen his film three times, twice in the superior Rogue Cut, albeit with the commentary turned on for two thirds of those. Yes, that would the other reason I might repeat watching a film now.
But there are films which I've seen over and over and over again and most of them are on this list: the Star Wars films (obviously), When Harry Met Sally, All The President's Men, The Last Starfighter, It's a Wonderful Life, the Three Colours trilogy, Starcrossed, In The Bleak Midwinter (most christmases), Love and Other Catastrophes and Citizen Kane. There are others but these are the films which have wracked up at least ten viewings, some of them over twenty, most from the days before you could watch the latest disappointing Simon Pegg vehicle at the click of a button. We'll cover the film you wish you hadn't even watched the once some other time.
Towering above them all is Adventures in Babysitting. I may have seen Adventures in Babysitting over fifty times. For a period in the early 90s, it's the only film I would watch on Saturday night and because I didn't go out much on a Saturday night I spent a lot of time watching Elizabeth Shue take little kids into the city alone. Within a few months I knew the film backwards and forwards and could quote along with the actors, knew where all the music queues would be and eventually the actual film probably became beside the point. Yet we carried on, every Saturday night, Chris Parker, Brad, Straydog, Sara and me.
During my Art A-Level we were encouraged to do as much homework as possible. As we've discussed before I couldn't draw so my main form of expression was in collage and the giant home project I worked on was a paper and paste mosaic of a woman who I knew to be Deanna Troi from Star Trek, though I don't think ever told my teacher that. This consisted of thousands of tiny squares cut from fashion magazines, of black and red from adverts and flesh colour which across the months I painstaking pasted to a piece of card. When I have an image of it to hand I'll add it here so you can see what I mean.
It's during these evenings that I'd watch Adventures in Babysitting too. Now I can't even do monotonous tasks with a film on in the background. Complain about disappointing Simon Pegg vehicles on Twitter perhaps but not tasks. But on those nights I'd be just as absorbed with Bradley Whitford lying about being contagious as making sure all the squares were lined up properly on Deanna's nose or singing along to Babysitting Blues as matching the various reds in her blouse. Eventually I completed the picture and I like to think it was what upped my grade to a B and enough to go to university.
Except I carried on watching. As Hadley Freeman rightly details in her book, some of the socio-economic and racial politics in the film are borderline. But at the age of sixteen I didn't understand any of that. I was too busy seeing myself in Brad with his crush on Chris and indeed having my own crush on her too. My sexual awakening had come much earlier (at around the time of the original release of the film) with Kylie Minogue as Charlene in Neighbours and those dungarees but my eyes didn't leave the 14" portable screen in my bedroom when Shue mimed to The Crystals's Then He Kissed Me, inconsolable when she utilises the bedpost as an imaginary microphone.
For all that, and this seems crucial as Hollywood goes through a process of remembering how to tell stories with female protagonists, I also identified with Chris, even wanted to be her, going on this big adventure in Chicago (not know then that it was largely filmed in Toronto), albeit with the kids in tow. She's smart, ingenious, brave and funny. In an ideal world, Shue would have been able to leverage this performance into a career as a leading actress. Instead she'd spend the next couple of decades playing wives and girlfriends and even though Leaving Las Vegas reminded everyone she could act, it's not until CSI that she'd really become valued.
All of this mostly before I had a decent copy. After renting the film one night and adoring it, I was later in in receipt of a satellite recording which turned out to be a television melon-farmer version with all of the swearing either dubbed over or removed, sometimes with characters reacting to lines which no longer existed, rather like the daytime cuts of Friends which ran on E4 for years. This was later replaced with an ITV broadcast, but that had adverts and the British title of the film, A Night On The Town at the beginning. It wasn't until WH Smiths on Church Street in Liverpool had a sale that I could afford to buy the sell-through release, swearing intact.
Of course the knock on effect of that was I had to learning all the lines over again. Where Darryl had said, "Watch my mouth? You gotta be kiddin’ me" it was now "Watch my mouth? You gotta be shittin’ me" and even now, with the film available on Netflix and owning dvds in two different regions this jars. When Chris says, "Don't fuck with the babysitter!" it sits badly, even though its a more coherent line than "Don't mess with the babysitter!" especially in the context of the train carriage stuck between two warring gangs. But eventually, I was as profane as the characters and in any case when you're the kind of teenager I was, this was all quite liberating.
Watching it again recently on Netflix, giving myself that luxury, I can now see the influence of Scorsese's After Hours, a series of misadventures in the city at night. If only Chris Columbus could scale its heights again, though I have a great affection for his adaptation of Rent, especially the "Light My Candle" sequence. Yet was still impossible for me to watch it as a "film". Even after ten years, even with the freshness of seeing it in high definition in the correct aspect ratio, I could still anticipate every scene, every music cue, every line of dialogue and talked along with it again. Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues.