Still from DIRTY DANCING one of several cult classic films I just recently saw for the first time: Courtesy of Orion.
“The Great Escape”
“The Godfather Part II”
“The Princess Bride”
How would you react if someone told you they hadn’t seen any of the films listed above? Maybe not the same as if someone said they hadn’t seen a single “Star Wars” picture, but you get the idea.
Recently, I’ve started what I like to call the #QuarantineCatchup series where I dip my hand into a vault of classic films and view them for the first time. Everything from the teen comedy cult classic “Clueless” to the Paul Newman and Robert Redford two hander “The Sting.” I’m taking my time in purgatory to make up for films I’ve missed over the years.
And there are alot, including the ones listed above.
I understand that in my profession, it’s borderline unacceptable to have never seen a single frame of “Braveheart” – the 1995 Mel Gibson directed Best Picture winner or “The Deer Hunter” from 1978, and so, in the spirit of transparency, I’ve been documenting my journey on various social media platforms, chief among them Facebook. Last night, I posted that I was sitting down to watch “Dirty Dancing” for the first time and you’d think I had committed arson. Don’t get me wrong, the soundtrack was solid, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey had remarkable chemistry, but this is the same film Roger Ebert gave one star out of four and is nowhere to be seen on IMDB’s top 250. Not saying those rankings are gold, but they provide a concrete foundation for which classic films to catch up with if you’re trying to make up ground.
“Dirty Dancing” is no question an iconic film, beloved by many and is seemingly a product of its time and so people latch onto that, and rightfully so. I’m learning that folks have movies - like “Dirty Dancing” - that belong in their favorite genres and have viewed them a dozen times and it's unthinkable that a soul on this earth, especially one who calls himself “The Only Critic,” hasn’t seen (insert beloved film here) yet.
Trust me, I get it, and the backlash is warranted, but hear me out.
We all have skeletons in our closet and there are literally hundreds of thousands of movies that have been released in the pathos of cinema. If backed into a corner, I’m sure you could press folks on iconic films and discover they probably haven’t seen some of the best movies of all time. For the record, I went through IMDB’s top 250 and I have seen at least 175 of their top rated films (granted some of those have recently been added due to my series, but before that I’d say it was at least 160) not bad for a 24 year old whose only been reviewing professionally for the last two years. Not to mention all the Best Picture winners from 1996 and beyond are under my belt. And yes, I did take a film class in college, but again how – in 6 weeks – can you cover every movie? You can’t. However, my professor set me up for success by showing a carefully curated lineup: “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather,” “Psycho,” and “Casablanca” among them.
We live in an era where it’s almost near impossible to not find a movie on a streaming service or digitally, access I wasn’t privy too during my childhood. Like everyone else, we went to our local video store or Blockbuster (RIP) and I don't think my parents thought “The Godfather Part II” was appropriate for a child or, you know, threw it on at Christmas. Sure, I probably could have sought the film out while I was in high school, but it never plopped on my radar during those years. Same goes for “Clueless,” a film that wasn’t showcased prominently in my household, nor was this film a top choice for a young male obsessed with Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler comedies.
The important thing to note is that I’m seeing these movies now and making a point of it. I’m sure people can relate to not having the time to watch certain movies or television series (it’s probably why you haven’t caught up with this year's Best Picture winner: “Parasite” or seen “Breaking Bad”).
It’s not that I’ve skipped these movies intentionally over the years, but last year alone I covered 175 new releases, and 172 the year before. On top of covering local theater in the area and working a couple different full-time gigs, at the end of the day when you watch (on average) four or five new releases a week (most of those being bad action flicks or “Cats”) it would be a disservice to fire up “Apocalypse Now” and not give it the attention it deserves. I want to appreciate these movies, not feel burdened that I must see them or risk being chastised. That just implores me not to watch those movies, because if you force yourself to watch something, chances are, you’ll resent it. I wanted to view these movies on my own terms, and, in an odd way, the one thing I can be grateful for during these trying times is that I can finally see these beloved classics and, best of all, devote my undivided attention to them.
I’ve received a wealth of support from friends and colleagues championing me for catching up, and even sending me a suggestion or two, please keep sending them, I’ll do my best to squeeze them in the lineup, but just be mindful that even critics haven’t seen every movie ever made. I've seen my fair shake of movies, probably too many to count, but there's always more I haven't seen.
Finally, I encourage everyone to start their own #QuarantineCatchup series and take the downtime to watch that one movie you’ve been dying to see or just putting off because it’s daunting (looking at you “2001: A Space Odyssey.”)
And yes, I’ve seen every single “Star Wars” movie, thanks for asking.