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I heard a rumor somewhere that FSR founder and big time publisher-guy Neil Miller had never seen The Empire Strikes Back until recently. First of all, if this is true he should be beaten. Second of all, what movies have some of the rest of you never seen that you’d be embarrassed to tell your movie-loving friends? – David D.
It is true. Until last week, to be exact, I had never sat down and enjoyed that second Star Wars movie, the one consistently praised by many a close friend as being the best of the lot. It wasn’t a matter of being oblivious to the movie or its many, many plot-points — I had seen the ending, much of the Hoth invasion seen and I was acutely aware of Han Solo’s thing with carbonite (I’ve seen Jedi, okay). It was a matter of timing. Born in ’83, I never got the opportunity to see The Empire Strikes Back in its theatrical run. During my early teen years, while it was making its big run on VHS, I had already moved out of my nerdy stage (Ghostbusters, Captain Kirk and Ninja Turtles for life, yo!) and into my playing sports stage. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I reconnected seriously with movies. And at that point, I was caught in a whirlwind of what is new, what is relevant and what is being remade. It’s a vicious cycle. Somehow the middle child in the Star Wars family never became much of a priority. There was always something to be reviewed, a production to be scrutinized or a trailer to be broken down. For one reason or another, it just kept getting skipped over.
Do I feel bad about not seeing Empire until recently? Absolutely. I know that it’s a great movie — one of the greats, if you will — and I know that everyone who has heard this story shudders to think that I own this very website. How can I possibly own a movie website and not have seen one of the great films of all-time? The answer is simple: I’ve got good people on the team. And as you’ll see below, their cinematic gaps are just as embarrassing… (For those who are curious, I did hunt down and first watch the original theatrical version, so as to have my initial experience go untainted.)
I guess I’d have to chalk up the majority of iconic 1950s Westerns on the afraid-to-admit-I’ve never seen list. Don’t get me wrong: I find the classical westerns to be absolutely fascinating. The way these films develop, and then challenge, myths of America’s frontier history provides a lot of intriguing ideological conflict, and the stars of such films are engaging as hell to boot (Henry Fonda and Gary Cooper are particular favorites of mine). But two essential Westerns from one of the most fruitful and important decades of the genre have managed to pass me by: George Stevens’ Giant and John Ford’s The Searchers; two very different westerns from what I understand, but according to some people I trust, I’ve never seen two of the greatest westerns ever made.
I’d have to attribute these egregious gaps in my movie knowledge to the fact that I had absolutely no interest (and, to the contrary, had an active disinterest) in the western genre. Once I saw High Noon and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, my perception of how great the genre can be changed completely. That being said, I still have a lot of catching up to do, and it will likely be awhile before I fill in all the gaps (as a cinephilic Europhile, anytime I try to marathon through the canonical entries of a classical Hollywood genre, I burn out very quickly, as I did when I tried to sneak in all the great American noirs a few years ago). In fact, there’s a bevy of incredibly important westerns I could admit to never having seen here, but my admission regarding the two entries above is embarrassing enough as it is.
Rebel Without A Cause. It’s one of the seminal pictures of the 1950s, but I’ve never seen it. It supposedly contains the definitive performance from one of the most iconic of all Hollywood actors; and I’ve never seen it. It encapsulated an entire generation of counterculture…never seen it. It’s probably the first American film to get women perpetually wet and I’ve never seen it, and therefore don’t know the cinematic origins of causal female perspiration of the hoo-ha. What’s my excuse for ignoring one of the most important and significant films in our country’s history? I’m afraid James Dean will get me wet and I’ll discover I am, in fact, a woman.
I honestly have no [good] excuse. I own the movie along with Dean’s other 2 films (also have yet to see) and, for reasons ranging from “oohh, Honey is on TNT” to “the dvd player is so far away from this couch which I am attached to,” I’ve consistently lacked the energy and desire to walk from my couch to my dvd shelf, grab the movie, walk to my dvd player, turn it on, open the case, insert the disc, sit back down, and press play. That requires at least 2 WHOLE calories and in this economy I simply just cannot scrounge that from in between the cushions.
Hm. This is a hard one to answer. I mean, there are a lot of classic movies, or essential movies, that I should have seen but haven’t. What qualifies one as more shameful than the other? Should I be more ashamed of not seeing a “true classic” like Gone with the Wind, which I own but have not yet watched because of it’s massive run time. Or should I be more ashamed of not watching How the West Was Won as a big fan of Westerns. Why haven’t I watched that one? I was hooked on the films of Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone and assumed all pre-1960s westerns were hokey sing-a-long boring types without enough awesome shoot-outs.
Or maybe I should be ashamed of having not watch JCVD yet as a massive Jean Claude Van Damme fan. I’m sure there is some horror film I should have seen as well that I probably haven’t. Which is the more embarrassing failure on my part? I mean, I’ve never seen Singing in the Rain either, but I’m not exactly embarrassed about that one. I’m a blood, guts, and boobs kind of guy most of the time, so I doubt that one would be held against me. So while I’ve casually given you four films that I’ve completely missed, I guess the one that stings the most at the moment is How the West Was Won. I always say we need more Westerns in theaters, but here I am avoiding an essential one.
When it basically comes down to why haven’t I seen any of these films, I think it’s basically just because I’ve not yet been in the mood. I know I’m supposed to watch these, and other films, but something about it isn’t attracting me to it – either the body count or the complete lack of female nudity. One day. One day I’ll watch them all!
A short while ago I posted a review of Apocalypse Now on Blu-ray, and I revealed there that it was my first time viewing the film. Judging by the overall critical respect the film receives it was apparently one of the biggest gaps in my cinematic knowledge. Well, that’s not the only entry in Francis Ford Coppola’s film canon that I’ve successfully avoided over the years. I’ve seen and disliked Dracula, Peggy Sue Got Married, and Jack… but I’ve never watched The Godfather. Or The Godfather II. Or The Godfather III: When Nepotism Goes Wrong.
I never went out of my way to avoid the Godfather trilogy, but I’ve never made any effort to watch any of them either. Mob movies in general don’t do much for me because I’m often bored by the recurring themes present in most of them. I prefer mob movies that do something different with the concepts of mafia families and organized crime. Films like The Untouchables, A Prophet, and Corky Romano are far more original and exciting representations of the genre for me.
It felt like the darkness was closing in all around me. People I had called friends stood shell shocked, some angry, most bewildered, many unable to even look at me. My family stood around shamed, unsure where exactly they had gone wrong. I sat with tears in my eyes and tried to explain, but some sins are so grave they simply defy reason. But the sad fact is, it’s true. I have never seen Back to the Future. I’ll give you a moment.
To be fair, there are several major films I’ve never seen. But Miller said I couldn’t do mine on the entirety of the 80s, so I had to pick just one. And the one film that it is easily the most egregious mark against me is Back to the Future. I’m fairly certain every human being on earth has seen Back to the Future. I’m sure it’s on many favorite film lists and I’ve even heard that it’s taught in film school as an example of a near perfect screenplay. Marty McFly, Doc Brown, flux capacitors and the Delorean are all legendary, permanent fixtures of pop culture so entrenched that it’s hard to imagine someone having no context for those cinematic mainstays.
I haven’t consciously avoided seeing it, it just never happened. I somehow skipped over it as a kid, and now it’s become such a glaring omission that it feels like there should be a party to celebrate my first time. That’s what she said. Now that the Blu-ray set is out, I have no excuse and I’m sure if I don’t see it soon, the universe will implode. But rest assured, dear reader, with the help of my fellow Rejects, I will right this wrong and you can once again look on the writing staff of this website with only mild disdain!
My biggest cinematic shortcoming is undoubtedly Schindler’s List. I guess drama has never really been my particular cup of bourbon, but as a big fan of Spielberg, I have no excuse for missing this one and actually think I now owe restitution to the families of the victims somehow; that guy’s good! But wait, it’s a period drama with enormous production design and epic storytelling featuring Nazis? I’ve seen The Sound of Music so I think I get the gist. What? More restitution? Damn! I’m going to have to keep a diary about this.
To our readers: Before you jump all over us for the movies that we’ve not yet seen, we urge you to think about some of the great films that you’ve never taken time to watch. They are there, you just need to be strong enough to admit it (we’re thankful that our own team had the fortitude to come out with it, as these are usually facts that get buried deep inside the bruised psyches of geeks). It’s a bit of therapy, movie nerd style.