As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

Joining the Fray

Posted by Hedwig on March 4, 2008

Mick LaSalle wrote about some classics he had not seen: To Kill A Mockingbird, Blade Running, An Affair to Remember, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Young Frankenstein. He proceeded to watch them and give his thoughts, summarily dismissing 2001 in particular. Kevin Lee from Shooting Pictures, who’s on a quest to watch all 1000 films on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? list, took offense, and responded. The blogosphere – in particular Jonathan Lapper (Cinema Styles) and Dennis Cozzalio (Sergio Leone’s Infield Fly Rule) – continued the discussion. Jeff Wells of course did also, calling LaSalle’s post “brave”, and eliciting almost 300 comments I don’t have the time or energy to go through.

Who am I to stay behind? Below is a copy of the comment I left on Jonathan’s blog – and I definitely recommend going over there to read his post first. I’ve only seen 2 of the 5 films on LaSalle’s list, and probably somewhere between 100 and 200 of the Shooting Pictures list, so I might not seem equipped. But with the film canon growing bigger and bigger, and more movies worth seeing coming out all the time, it’s worth considering how completist we can be. You’ll find the comment after the jump.

I’ve refrained so far from commenting on the whole LaSalle controversy because I somehow feel I have no right to. The list of classics I haven’t seen far outnumbers the list of films I have seen – I have this book with 1001 so-called “movies you have to see before you die”, and well, it’s a good thing I’m still young because I haven’t even seen 200 of them.

It’s time, partly. But it’s also that I don’t feel “up to” a great film, or even a film, every night of the week. Yesterday I was exhausted and I was only too happy there were dumb procedurals on TV, because on some nights that’s all I can process… and I think that if I forced myself to watch a good movie on one of those nights, I wouldn’t do it justice, wouldn’t be, as you say so eloquently, communicating with it.

Then there’s the availability problem. No Netflix here. There are some similar services, but I searched their catalogs for 5 ‘classics’ and none of them found more than 1.

Why do I finally comment? Well, I may not have seen as many movies as LaSalle. And, admittedly, I didn’t quite “get” 2001 the one time I saw it (it might have something to do with the fact that I was 16 at the time). But I would never dismiss a revered movie like that. I’d at least try to find out what it is people admire about it, and try to analyze why my own response was less than enthusiastic.

Not liking 2001 is not a crime. Writing less than a paragraph, dismissing it summarily as “virtually unwatchable, boring, impenetrable” is unforgivable.

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5 Responses to “Joining the Fray”

  1. You know La Salle did a post after this that Dennis linked to and I found both it and the post by Wells to be entirely missing of the point. They both had the same feeling of “Oh how brave it is to do this but it’s not worth the trouble because everyone gets unreasonably angry with you.” Uh, no that’s not it at all. When I or you or Dennis or any other blogger I know have admitted to classic films not seen no one gets upset about it. I’ve written many times about the holes in my viewership and no one’s ever left an angry comment. What upset people about La Salle was that he so quickly dismissed these movies after seeing them rather them give them full proper reviews. Even if the reviews were negative, as long as they weren’t condescending and dismissive, I don’t think anyone would have had a problem. But Wells and La Salle refuse to see that. They think everyone is angry because La Salle hasn’t seen every classic film. Either they’re too stubborn to see what the real problem is or too thick.

  2. I refuse to read the Wells post which kind of guts the whole point of your post here I suppose, but I aim to read the others as soon as I get a free minute.

    I’m sometimes embarrassed at how much more some people know than me and I went through a phase where I was sort of ‘collecting’ movie views. Like checking them off a list and cataloguing them as though it would make me smarter.

    What I finally realized is that I wasn’t always necessarily enjoying them they way they were meant to be enjoyed. I was just consuming them and moving on. I do believe the experience has made me a more well rounded movie viewer (though not as well rounded as many) but the important thing is to enjoy the movie in the moment first and let it resonate historically later.

    Also, the gaps in your viewing experience should be exciting, not embarrassing. I’m a little jealous of someone who has never seen 2001 before or The Seven Samurai or Casablanca or Jules and Jim or pick your favorite movie. Everyone has gaps and it’s the passion to fill them that keeps us all going.

  3. Lanchka said

    To be fair to LaSalle, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was the only film for which he “managed” to write more than a paragraph. Additionally, he as good as admitted that he was biased against “2001: A Space Odyssey” before he even saw it, though of course this does not excuse his final glibness on the film.

    That said, after having read his reviews, I’m still just as clueless as to why any of these movies – perhaps with the exception of “An Affair to Remember” – are worth watching, or why they are classics. To reduce them not only to a single paragraph, but, perhaps worse, to strings of empty adjectives that say nothing about the movies themselves, is the real crime in my eyes.

    “Eerie,” “beautiful,” “hysterical” – I’m left wondering WHY he thinks these movies are so. C’mon, show not tell.

  4. I have tons of gaps in my viewing experience, and it is the single most thrilling feeling in the world knowing that one can never know everything there is to know about film and that one can never have seen every movie ever made. Films are like treasures to me, and I am guilty too of “consuming” films Craig, but it is an awful waste.

  5. sarcastig said

    @ Jonathan: I know, that’s exactly what I meant, also. Nobody, not even someone who watches films for a living, can ever see everything that’s worth seeing. Admitting the gaps in your film education is hardly “brave”, but not something to be mocked for either. What offended me, and apparently many others, is how obviously superior he found his opinion to that of all the people who love these movies. Again, it’s ok not to like classics, but if you’re going to be contrary, at least take a bit of time to support your opinion. And as Lani says: show, don’t tell. Don’t restrict yourself to easy and vague adjectives.

    Seven Samurai is actually one of my gaps (I’ve seen the others), and I’m looking forward to discovering it. That’s the nice side about many gaps: so much left to discover. And while I, too, have gone through voracious periods, now I wait until I have the time and energy to really give each film the attention it is due.

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