Confessions of a Movie Disgrace

Some guy. I dunno. Johnny Knoxville's dad, maybe?

I’m fascinated by gaps in cultural knowledge. Sometimes you’ll bump into a person who hasn’t heard of the Rolling Stones, or who’s never seen Ghostbusters. I know someone who’s 25, and only just watched the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time. But it’s not just crazies – everyone has those gaps, to some extent, and it’s usually surprising. I feel like I couldn’t even sustain an existence without having seen Con Air, but some people will just throw you a blank look and start screaming if you start quoting Nic Cage and actually crashing a plane into the Vegas strip, as a means to jogging their memory.

I touched on this before with this piece about Planet of the Apes. Personally, while I consider myself a massive movie nerd who’s seen a vast amount of movies, and could probably whup any man or woman in a straight up duel of trivia or knowledge, there are some pretty big holes there too. It’s time I fessed up to what would be deemed by most folks as the worst of these crimes.

The entire Toy Story trilogy. Much renowned, greatly loved, and thoroughly unseen by Millard. For whatever reason, animation never grabs me in the way live action does, so animated movies tend to slip on by. The Godfather trilogy. Again, I haven’t actively avoided it, it just never really happened. Hitchcock is another one. I bought a box set a few months ago to remedy this, but haven’t given it a spin yet, while, on the subject of notable directors, I saw my first, and only Woody Allen film last year. Raging Bull, Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard; I hang my head. All in all, my experience of pre-80’s cinema is pretty shoddy, and the further back you go, the worse it gets. Classic Hollywood is something I have a sense of, but no actual experience. Casablanca exists only to me as that famous (mis)quote, while your Bogart’s, Cary Grant’s and Clark Gable’s are merely flickering, stately ghosts in Oscar-night montages. I’m just a big, fat fake.

But hold on, before you beat me to death with this month’s issue of Total Film, because I’m atoning for my sins. See, 2011 was the year I decided to use my Lovefilm subscription to put right these awful wrongs, and rent out nothing but classics. Last night, a first viewing of Chinatown made me a little less wretched, and as the weeks go on, I’ll continue to educate myself, and maybe, eventually, I just might be worthy of my self-doodled movie geek label.

So, what are your cinematic holes? Which classics have passed you by, either by design or simply because you’ve never gotten around to them? Leave a comment, and let’s confess our nerd-sins together. And if you’ve got some recommendations of classics you think I should see, but probably haven’t, drop them in too.

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~ by Stuart on January 28, 2011.

18 Responses to “Confessions of a Movie Disgrace”

  1. For me, it’s Westerns and cinema of the ’60s and ’70s. So many ’70s films are just so damn bleak I find it hard to sit still through them with undivided attention. CHINATOWN is a good example. Critically, I understand why it’s a “good” film, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. Annoying dichotomy, that.

    • I personally love bleakness, so me and the 70’s are probably going to get on fine. What does intimidate me is what I perceive to be the downright chirpiness of 50’s era stuff. But this is my year of pushing cinematic boundaries. I’m even seeing The King’s Speech over the weekend.*shiver of fear*

      I think another problem with not connecting with Classics is that, though a story well told will always be such, things that were groundbreaking at the time, even the story itself, are only going to get more old hat as the years go on.This is especially true when they feature moments that have been referenced and parodied to death, which is why a film like The Exorcist just seemed wildly overrated by the time I got around to it.The dichotomy of not enjoying something while still appreciating that it is good is interesting though.

  2. I agree with the 70s. We don’t get along very well, and likely never will. I have almost no experience with American Westerns before the revisionist stuff starting in the 90s. Spaghetti westerns I’m all over, but that white hat black hat stuff isn’t really my thing.

    I love classics, though I’ll admit to anything in the 30s or earlier is pretty hit or miss. Probably heard of it, no guarantee I’ve seen it.

    I didn’t like the one Bergman film I saw, so I haven’t sought his stuff out. Again, bleakness.

    Everyone’s pretty spotty with foreign cinema, but I like to think I do okay. I’ve got a good peg on asian stuff, anyway. Less so Europe, and way less so anyone else.

    Also, I have a huge swath of popular stuff from the 80s and 90s I haven’t seen, in part because I have that thing where when stuff’s popular I want to see it less, and in another because I find those decades weird and awkward to watch. Especially the comedies.

    Lot of holes, but there’s a lot of cinema. So I guess it’s to be expected. I think I can pretty much hold my own with anybody I know, at this rate. So some day we need to have a trivia throwdown.

    • Westerns are a hole in my game too, which is weird because I grew up in a house with them on all the time, to the point that my mum wanted to call me John Wayne, but was sadly vetoed by my grandmother. I bet the John Wayne me would have been such a bad-arse.

      Unless they’re really great, comedies do tend to date pretty badly, particularly from the 80s, like you say. I’m pretty good as far as the 80s and 90s goes, though. Before that period is the problem. My own European knowledge is alright/middling, but there’s just been so much Asian stuff the past decade, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

      It is hard to see it all though. But the fact you’ve even mentioned the 30’s or earlier as hit and miss suggests you’ve done better than I have with pre-70’s cinema.

      And yeah, trivia throwdown someday. Three way dance. Last man or woman standing.

  3. For me, it’s most of the “man” films – The Aliens, The Rambos, The Rockys, Godfather Trilogy. I might as well just hang my penis up and go and watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s weeping.

    • Oh man, Aliens was one of those that I was wondering might show up here. That’s such a core film in my nerdism that I can barely comprehend someone not knowing all the beats off by heart. Also, Rocky is a huge franchise gap, as big as The Godfather trilogy, but even more populist.

      WHY DO YOU HATE STALLONE?! WHAT DID HE DO TO YOU?!

  4. I went through a phase about 5 years ago of really trying to catch up on classics. Bless LoveFILM and it’s bottomless pit of shiny coasters. I filled a bunch o’ blanks in my movie knowledge. Of them all The Godfather was the one I was most pleased to ‘discover’.

    I’m quite lucky; I had a friend growing up who had an airing cupboard. Open the door and there were floor to ceiling VHS, his deceased Dad’s ill-gotten taped-from-TV collection. And inside the door, a blue book with an arcane indexing system so everything was within reach. It was really immersive and a reason why I’ve seen all the things you “should” have seen.

    I’m hardly complete though; I haven’t seen either of the sequels. Further afield I am Rambo-less. Lethal Weapon-less. Die Hard-less. I’ve not ticked a lot of Kevin Smith boxes.

    What will really gnash your teeth is that I’ve never seen a Werner Herzog movie. Hardly populist but…

    • An airing cupboard alright, an airing cuboard OF DREAMS! Wow. When physical storage mediums die out completely and everything is on HD or streaming, I’ll mourn the loss of such wonders as your mate’s dad’s blue book. Growing up, I think we all knew the ad breaks in the middle of our most-watched taped-off-TV movies as well as the movies themselves.

      I was Lethal Weapon and Die Hard-less until a few years ago. The original Die Hard is the only one I’ve returned to. I should probably add that I despise Kevin Smith. Herzog’s one of those autuer directors people probably have trouble seeing an entry point for, but if you wanted to take a crack, Aguirre and The Enigma of Kasper Hauser are good places to ease your way in.

      Another pick for Rambo too. Stallone is doing quite badly here.

      • YES, the ad breaks! Charlie Brooker’s new show featured the “don’t throw frisbees into pylons” PSA. I knew it word-for-word because it was wedged into something taped-from-TV.

        Nobody seriously mourns the death of VHS, it has no upside on newer formats. But I do miss discovering random adverts you’d completely forgotten about.

  5. @Gary It blows my mind a little when I’m watching a movie, crystal clear HD on a TV the size of a wall, to think back to how we all used to be happy with shitty, fuzzy, pan and scan crops on a 14 incher. A terrible warping of art. For that, VHS won’t be mourned, but for the random ads and the “hey, I forgot I taped this!” suprises that popped up on tapes, I shed a small nerd-tear.

  6. I worked in an independent film rental shop a few years back which went the way of the dodo (it wasn’t eaten by Dutch sailors and the dogs and rats they brought with them, it just couldn’t cope with Blockbusters, LoveFilm etc)

    It had loads of great classics, which I strived to watch, but I ended up watching all the old horror videos that used to stare at me from the hairdresser / video rental place when I was younger (small villages always had weird combination shops). The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 had a young Sherri Palmer from 24, and she got her future fictional first lady knockers out…

    I digress, I love the whole Movie Brat American cinema of the 70s but have not seen a lot of the cinema which influenced it ie Godard, Truffaut, Antonioni, Fellini etc. Some of it, especially the French New Wave, can seem stylistically outdated, but I guess we are so used to everyone else copying them that we forget they originated it. Someone who I have watched who influenced the Movie Brats, and who I advise everyone and their dog to watch, is Akira Kurosawa. Rashomon and The Seven Samurai changed my life, yo.

    • You lived the Tarantino video store indie dream. I really need to get my Godard et al on, because my lack of experience there is positively shameful. Why is it so tough to watch every movie ever made? 😡

      I have seen Seven Samurai at least.

  7. You need to see The Godfather trilogy (yes, even the third one, because Pacino is awesome in the final scene and you can LOL at Miss Crapolla’s acting skills)

    And watch Citizen Kane, it’s immense.

    Plus, more Chaplin – The Great Dictator, The Kid, Modern Times, Monsieur Verdoux, Modern Times, City lights and Limelight are his best work, in my humble opinion.

    • I have seen no Chaplin. Silent comedy is probably the biggest leap a movie watcher has to make. It seems so detached and hokey, but at the same time, any time I’ve seen clips I’ve felt a massive appreciation for the sheer perfected craft of it all, so that’s definitely another thing I need to just pull my socks up and get down to.

      • Well, you could start with Great Dictator, that’s a talkie as are some of the others on that list. It’s the first of his I saw


        Always relevant


        Even more impressive, because they couldn’t get the music to play on the day of filming, so he had to do it from his memory and then the music was added over later.

  8. @Gossy I’ll definitely queue up a bunch of Chaplin on my Lovefilm. That music story is exactly what I admire about silent comedy. There’s an insane level of dedication needed to pull any of that stuff off, so everything you see onscreen is the result of a real obsessive devotion to the craft. No short cuts. Just dudes dicing with death, or nailing intricate routines, because that’s what they had to do to get it made. And all in the name of entertainment.

    • Plus, of course he directed, produced, wrote the score etc.. for all his films. His obsession in making scenes included one scene being redone 342 times until he felt it was right and having a cat killed ad stuffed, because it wouldn’t keep still in a scene.

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