I’m picky about what I read and watch. This isn’t the result of some uber-conservative and sheltered upbringing. It’s due to one simple reason – I have high standards. The average summer popcorn flick does nothing for me. (The one ‘guilty pleasure’ movie that I have is Pitch Perfect, and I’m not ashamed to say it. It has a lot of great singing, okay?) Pitch Perfect aside, I need things from what I watch and read, okay? I have needs. I don’t do things for pure entertainment. I need to take things away from it, things I can use or mull over. If I’m going to really enjoy something and watch (or read) it again, it has to do a few things.
1. It has to make me think. Even if it’s only a few lines, a phrase, an action – it has to make me consider and ponder. I need to question, ‘was that the right thing to do?’ or ‘Was what X said really right?’ or ‘That was really deep, and something I can apply not only in my novels, but in everyday life.’
2. I need to laugh at least once (preferably more than once). If something has no humor, I will not enjoy it. I can’t think of a single movie or book that I’ve enjoyed that hasn’t made me laugh at least one time. Humor is important to me – everyone in my family has a huge sense of humor, and whether I laugh because of an expression, or a joke, or clever dialogue, I need to laugh or I won’t enjoy it. For me, humor is The Great Balancer – as someone once said, ‘Make it dark, make it grim; but for God’s sake, tell a joke.’ (I probably butchered that line, but you get the gist.)
3. I need to be attached to at least one character. Even if they have five minutes of screen time and die off-camera. If I’m not attached to anyone, if I can’t feel for a specific person, then it won’t matter how good the story is, or how great the soundtrack is, or what an all-star cast it has – I will not enjoy the movie/show/book.
4. It needs to be clever. And I don’t mean that every line has to be smashing, but it needs to be smart. A plot that consists of ‘we gotta blow this stuff up and get out’ (*coughA-TEAMREMAKE*cough) won’t hold my attention (unless, by chance, it has a really great character, as I said before). I like intrigue, I like politics, I like betrayal, I like being on the edge of my seat, held there by unexpected twists.
5. It needs to have heart. Have you ever left a movie wondering why on earth you didn’t like it? The acting was great, the plot was good, the special effects and soundtrack were top-notch, but it just didn’t ‘do it’ for you? That’s because it had no heart. I don’t know how to describe what a ‘heart’ really is, but I think it comes closest to caring. You can tell if characters genuinely care for one another. You can tell if their goals are sincere. You can tell if what they do is heartfelt. If it isn’t, it comes through, and leaves you feeling flat and unfulfilled.
There are other prerequisites, but it basically boils down to this: if a movie has one or more of these things, the chances are high that I’ll enjoy it, and I’ll take something away from it that I can later use in novels or artwork or whatever medium I choose. But now I’m curious – what does this for you? What really makes you love a movie, or a TV show, or a book? Tell me in the comments below!