I watched the movie “Vanilla Sky” the other night. I had seen it before (years ago) and was ambivalent about it. I didn’t remember the movie much except that it had some good stuff in it but I was disappointed by it. Not overly so but just a little. In watching it a second time all these years later I liked it much better. I think it falls into a category of movies that work better with the second viewing.

I believe the problem lies, with this particular movie, in the fact that halfway through a “mystery” is introduced. I put the word mystery in quotes because it is not a real mystery. In a real mystery you have a chance at solving it. A classic whodunnit story introduces a whole bunch of characters, reveals a crime, shows clues and red herrings, and then challenges the reader (or watcher) to figure out who done it. You have a chance to figure it out if you want to. I prefer to watch the mystery unfold than to try figure it out but in the bad ones I figure it out without even trying.

The problem with “Vanilla Sky” is that the mystery format is not really followed. Sure there are a couple of “clues” but those are not nearly enough to figure things out and the storytelling gets purposefully weird in the middle. All of this creates confusion. A good quarter of the film, near the end, is confusing and caused me to no longer be into the world of the film. At the end it is all explained and everything makes sense but it’s too late because my head is already elsewhere.

I liked it more this second time through. I remembered the reveal so everything that happened made sense. Even though the character (Tom Cruise) was confused I wasn’t anymore. It made for a better movie watching experience. I’m not sure what the movie makers could have done differently to make the first time viewing better. If this is the kind of story they wanted to tell it’s tough to do conventionally. I think some movies are just better the second time through. Knowing the reveal helps the viewer understand everything that is happening in the world. The problem is that most people will never watch a second time. It’s a movie making conundrum.

The second thought I have about a movie is, “Whatever happened to the movie ‘Diner’ (1982)”? All through the Eighties I couldn’t escape that film. It was on every critics “Top Films of Whatever” list and was always being referred to. It was “The Film That Defined a Generation” and the soundtrack was ubiquitous. I only realized recently that I haven’t heard it mentioned or read about it in maybe a decade. I just checked and it only rates a 7.1 (not bad, really) on the Internet Movie Database. What happened for that movie to fall so out of favor? I haven’t seen it since about 1984 or so and barely remember it but I remember being annoyed by its omnipresence for years. It was as culturally relevant, both critically and popularly, as “Pulp Fiction” (1994) was but “Pulp Fiction” shows no signs of going away. The world is a mystery.

One final thing. The movie “Reign of Fire” is really bad. Everything that is wrong with big Hollywood movies is in that film. It’s not even entertainingly bad. Stay away!