Everyone has gaps in their movie-watching. My gaps are particularly embarrassing at times, due to a complete aversion to scariness, violence or gore, and a disinterest in anything computer-generated, sci-fi, or based in alternate reality or on comic books, which covers about 85% of most films made these days. And I'm picky. And I re-watch films. And (not cool to admit) my tolerance for aggressively unhappy cramped films is pretty low these days. And my ass doesn't fit in the Siskel Center's seats. I have a decent film education, including parents with much better and wide-ranging taste than mine, but oh the gaps.
Try having a conversation in 2009 if you've never seen The Matrix (for instance). Or have seen Star Wars only twice in your life, including once when it first came out and you were eleven. Or never saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy; or rather, saw only the second one at the old Village Theater on Sheridan Road, alternately bored and scared by the mice scuttling around near the screen. Or can't really watch Tarantino films, but don't really want to, either. This is a very tip-of-iceberg thing to put out there (there are other reasons for my gaps), but whatever. They're there.
I am pretty good at covering the gaps, and not just out of a desire to hide my ignorance, when I care to do so. Not having read a book or seen a movie has never stopped me from talking about it--writing a paper about it--giving it thumbs up/down--referencing it. I'm inclined that way, although I think we are all professional cultural magpies these days anyhow. We are all lists of favorites, conglomerations of cultural signifiers...it is easy to pretend you know about something, because basically you do. Even if you don't.
However, I also like embracing my ignorance. I enjoy the power in "I don't know," "I've never seen that," or "What's The Godfather about again?" I especially can enjoy being honest about those films that you feel like you've seen and may have seen bits and pieces of a million times but haven't really seen.
In that spirit, I have a friend whose biggest gaps tend to be the opposite of mine (basically he doesn't do pre-1968), so we are trading lists of Must-Sees. He has to watch these ten films:
All About Eve (1950)
The Apartment (1960)
Brief Encounter (1946)
The Crowd (1928)
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
The Fallen Idol (1948)
House of Games (1987)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
And I have to see these:
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Bottle Rocket (1996)
The Insider (1999)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
RKO 281 (1999)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Zero Effect (1998)
Note: I know these lists are somewhat unbalanced. But the point is I haven't seen the ten films on my friend's list. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone. So I'm just going to watch them. No long justifications for our choices using the word "seminal" or "important"; just watch them. The fact that my remote doesn't work helps, because all I can do is put a DVD in and hit Play, then go sit down and watch it. There's no pause, no subtitles, no slowing down or speeding up.
Will report more as I'm further in my 10!