For my viewing pleasure


I don’t tend to revisit movies.

I don’t put them on in the background while I’m working. I don’t watch them over and over and hardly ever see the same once twice in the theaters. I rarely buy them on DVD.

But I do reserve one category of movies for repeat viewings: 2 a.m. movies.

I’m a night owl. I hate mornings and do my best work at night (no sleazy single entendre intended).

And by night, I mean the wee hours. Past midnight.

It’s time for jazz. Or if I want a movie, one that moves quietly, wistfully.

Maybe I call them “2 a.m. movies” because that’s when I first saw them. I can’t remember. Maybe they popped up on HBO or some local channel’s late-night flick. It’s how I describe their feel.

They put me at ease, like I am when all is still, save for the humming of the refrigerator or the crickets or the air vents. I’m up, alone, puttering around.

Two 2 a.m. movies for me are “Running on Empty” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” Indulge me for a moment.

“Running on Empty” is about a family on the lam from the FBI. Everywhere they go, new names, new identities, new lies, all because the parents participated in a campus bombing in the 1960s that killed a bystander.

River Phoenix plays the older son, torn between loyalty to his family and the promise of a life playing music, settling down and finding love. Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch play his protective parents.

It’s simply an amazing movie, mostly talking. I could be watching it right now.

I could watch it in the middle of the afternoon, but it wouldn’t feel the same. Don’t know why.

“Gilbert Grape” is another troubled family with the opposite problem. Johnny Depp plays the title character, trapped in a family he feels is both freakish and stifling, and a small town where little ever changes. Leonardo DiCaprio plays his mentally retarded younger brother who requires Gilbert’s frequent supervision.

It’s an underrated little film, and it’s the only Juliette Lewis performance (as the visiting teen who courts Gilbert, or vice versa) I can stomach. Someday, I must read the novel of the same title.

Again, a lot of talking. If things happen in the movie, they happen with little fanfare.

I didn’t see these movies when they came out (1988 and 1993); my discovery of them came years later, by happy accident.

Fortunately for me, they found life in many reruns on television.

Once is usually enough for me. But at 2 a.m., some dreams are worth another look.


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