Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday morning. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” can be found at the end of this post.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.
Q: Critics have a responsibility to know their art form, but no one’s seen everything. What’s your most glaring omission, the X in “You’ve never seen X?!?”
Kevin Lee, Fandor, Sight & Sound
When They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? first put out its aggregated list of the top 1,000 greatest films in 2006, I decided to make it my mission to watch every title I hadn’t seen and document the process on my blog Shooting Down Pictures. The project took five years to complete… but since that time, annual revisions to the list have sprouted 21 films I haven’t seen, starting with Marketa Lazarova at #294. Seeking out all the films was definitely an invaluable exercise in making me reflect on what makes a film “great,” and how those evaluations themselves are not set in stone, but always subject to larger issues of human value.
Richard Brody, New Yorker
The glare of an omission is often like starlight — invisible for many years — until consensus crystallizes and reveals a venial neglect as a gap in cultural knowledge. The only way to account for movies unseen is to fill in the blanks of time around them, in the form of true confessions, even at the risk of revealing old prejudices yet unredressed. The early eighties were a sort of dead zone — I was in graduate school (and an intensive program in ancient Greek) when Blade Runner came out, was working as a researcher on a documentary film (traveling the country to interview veterans of the 82nd Airborne about the liberation of a concentration camp in Germany) when The Terminator was released. Movie-viewing time was rare; I didn’t own a VCR and went far more often to revival houses (some of the few new films I do recall seeing in first run are First Name: Carmen, Once Upon a Time in America (short version), Stranger than Paradise, Moscow on the Hudson, and, of course, Love Streams); I didn’t plan to become a critic; was having the “cultural conversation” just with friends and presumed to be able to enter it by any door; and, in the years that followed, haven’t cared enough about other films by Ridley Scott and James Cameron to catch up with what I had missed. Which reminds me: I haven’t seen The Duellists in its entirety.
Mike D’Angelo, Las Vegas Weekly, A.V. Club
During the 17 years that I lived in New York, I saw older movies almost exclusively at rep houses and museums, thus leaving my viewing choices in the hands of the city’s venerable programmers. Most of the canon cycles through those venues on a regular basis, but one film continually eluded me, mostly because Anthology Film Archives tends to screen it unsubtitled (as part of their Essential Cinema series). Or at least that used to be the case. Anyway, by far my most glaring, embrrassing, downright unconscionable omission is Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc… which I’ll likely finally watch on video at some point soon. Though now I’m holding out for a Criterion Blu-ray upgrade…
Scott Renshaw, Salt Lake City Weekly
One of my own periodic bouts of canon-blind-spot self-flagellation just coincidentally occurred right before this question. I’d just noticed that I’d never seen any Carl Theodor Dreyer — not The Passion of Joan of Arc, not Ordet, nada — which somehow seemed particularly egregious. Yet I’ve also noted in the past that of all the arts, film is the only one where every expert is expected to be a generalist, familiar with The Great Works of every era, language, genre, etc. So I strive simply to see works that seem compelling, or perhaps important for an upcoming assignment, and try to go easier on the shame spirals. Having something amazing still to discover is part of the joy of exploring the arts.
Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine/Vulture
For years, my go-to answer for this sort of question has been, and remains, The Philadelphia Story. I love everybody involved in it: George Cukor, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart… Hell, I’m even kind of a Donald Ogden Stewart nerd, given my minor obsession with Cukor’s Tarnished Lady. And yet, I’ve never seen it. Yes, I know it’s a classic, like, a real classic. I’ve probably even recommended it to someone or other at some point over the years. And it’s not like it’s a hard one for me to see: I actually own the damned thing on DVD. At this point, I can’t tell if I’m too scared to watch it (“It’ll never live up to my expectations!”) or just monstrously indifferent (“I already know it’s gonna be great, and I’ll get to it one day, so why bother now?”) More likely, it’s a combination of all those things, plus just plain old inertia. But when you asked this, I thought a little harder and realized I have what might be an even bigger blind spot. I have seen a number of Andrzej Wajda films, and yet I have never seen the Andrzej Wajda Films, the ones everybody’s supposed to have seen: A Generation, Kanal, Ashes and Diamonds, Man of Marble, and Man of Iron. As a professed fan of Eastern European cinema, I have no excuses.
Sean Axmaker, MSN Entertainment, Parallax View
I spent 12 years working in video stores — clerk, manager, buyer, whatever — and even longer as a home video reviewer. As a result I managed to take home about every major film one is expected to know about, or at least those that were released on VHS and DVD. That means that the kinds of “glaring omissions” on my list aren’t quite as glaring as others. Given that, for some reason I have never gotten around to seeing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. At first I was waiting to see it on the big screen, and then after I missed my chance when it did finally screened in Seattle, it just got shuttled to the side. I’ve also never seen Pasolini’s Salo, and after all these years, I think it’s going to remain that way. This is a film I’m perfectly fine with being an omission.
Adam Nayman, Cinema Scope
I’ve never seen Breaking Bad. I thus felt very alone last night as seemingly everyone in the world — by which I mean everyone in my Twitter feed (same difference?) — geared up for the first episode of the second part of the fifth season. Having been an evangelical Sopranos devotee, I know this particular drill, right down to the part about the final season being split in two to maximize suspense and advertising buys, and I suspect that it’s my enduring admiration for David Chase’s achievement that I’ve been wary to try its unofficial pop-cultural successor: you’ve seen one pulpy serial about an unscrupulous family guy trying to scarf down his piece of American pie, you’ve seen em all. Which is nonsense, of course, and I’m sure Breaking Bad has flaws and virtues all its own on top of whatever it’s borrowed from The Sopranos. But I’m not eager to start watching it, and I’ll tell you why. When you have a particular feature film in your blind spot, it’s not that hard to fill it — all you need is 90 minutes and the appropriate motivation. (Well, maybe not if Bela Tarr is the guy in your blind spot but you get my point). The joys of serialized storytelling — the sense of distension and elongation, dragging pleasure and dread out for hours and hours of viewing time over years and years of real time — become deterrents when somebody who already has to watch anywhere from three to six movies a week considers sitting down with “Season One, Episode One.” I’ve been on the other end of these complaints from friends who carp that they just don’t have 88 hours to commit to finally watching The Sopranos, and so I should probably just follow the advice I’ve offered them, which is: find the time. Or else just avoid Twitter on Sunday nights until the end of the fall, at which point it will be NBA season and I can get back to using basketball as my excuse not to catch up on all of this high-end television.
Peter Howell, Toronto Star
My most shocking omission isn’t a film one, but a TV one: I haven’t seen a single episode of Breaking Bad. I keep meaning to. Keep hearing amazing things about it. I feel like the only person in North America, maybe the world, who isn’t completely immersed in it. I feel like Will Smith in I Am Legend. I’m just always too busy watching movies to devote much time to TV (even my once-compulsory Mad Men viewings have slipped). But I’d like to join the Breaking Bad cult. Anybody have any suggestions on how to catch up, so I can chime in for the final season?
Katey Rich, Cinema Blend:
To pick just one of many (so many!)…. Seven Samurai. And not only have I seen Magnificent Seven and adored it, it’s actually my father’s favorite movie. There is literally no reason beyond laziness — and professional obligations to go see Planes and Grown Ups 2, and those seasons of Breaking Bad I haven’t watched yet, and those 30 Rock reruns that come on every night at midnight — that I haven’t seen it. And while I’m usually pretty laissez-faire about the “list of shame” and accepting that it’s impossible to see everything, Seven Samurai is obviously such a fundamental building block for so many movies that have aped it. I’m way overdue. Once I catch up on Breaking Bad I promise I’ll get to it.
Ernesto Diezmartinez, Reforma
Ok, here I go: I haven’t seen Breaking Bad. Not a single episode. Uff… I’m feel better.
Todd VanDerWerff, A.V. Club
As a TV critic, I’ve always felt like I should be more familiar with Gunsmoke, the drama that codified so much of what TV drama is all about, but I’ve seen maybe one or two episodes. The prospect of watching the whole thing is daunting, because it ran 20 seasons, and so little of it is readily available to the curious. Someday, I will sit down and check out more of the adventures of Marshal Matt Dillon, and I hope to be duly impressed.
Alyssa Rosenberg, ThinkProgress, Women and Hollywood
I’ve never seen Silence of the Lambs, and I never will, because, true story, since childhood, I have had recurring and horrible nightmares about a cannibal who doesn’t want to kill and cook me, but who rather wants to take me into his confidence and show me his Fridge o’ Horror. I suppose this dream raises the possibility that someone showed me Silence of the Lambs when I was too young to remember it. But in any case, I’m absolutely fine with this remaining a glaring gap in my education, and sleeping easy.
Joanna Langfield, The Movie Minute
Nightmare on Elm Street. Because I am a wuss.
Matt Prigge, Metro
I’ve never seen Greed. (But I have seen Jonathan Lynn’s Greedy.) In my defense, it’s never made it to DVD, even though somewhere among my belongings is a dub of the four-hour TCM construction job from the 1990s. However, to make things worse: I’ve never seen any film directed by Erich Von Stroheim. I might as well commit seppuku now. I’ve also never seen The Conjuring.
Robert Greene, Hammer to Nail
I haven’t seen all eight hours of Warhol’s Empire, but as we all know that’s not a movie. I also haven’t seen The Avengers or much of Inception or many other Movies Everyone Talks About Until The Don’t Anymore. Meanwhile, I have so many classic cinema holes that I’m prone to panic attacks when opening repertory calendars. But as a serious documentary person, my biggest hole is probably that I haven’t seen all of Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, which some have called the greatest documentary ever made. I’ve seen enough to know what the movie is, which is just about the most insulting thing you can say about a great work of art. I’ve even cited Shoah more than once as an example of a cinematic use of “talking heads” when defending the form, an act of true hypocrisy. As one who gleefully applies a Puritan work ethic to my viewing habits, it is forgiveness that I seek.
Christopher Campbell, Film School Rejects, Movies.com
As someone consistently called a documentary guy, I have a lot of glaring holes in what I’ve seen from the history of the form, including the whole of Shoah (I’ve seen one hour), The Sorrow and the Pity, In the Year of the Pig and Hearts and Minds, not to mention a ton I’m forgetting. I have no excuse except to say I can’t speed through my education. I’m always learning and watching and I’ll get to them eventually.
Glenn Kenny, MSN Movies, Some Came Running
I took Sam’s advice and looked at the “They Shoot Pictures” 1,000 Greatest Films list, and at the risk of engendered some professional resentment, it did not make me feel inadequate. I was almost shocked to still have my eyesight, as it were, because damned if I haven’t seen pretty much 95 percent of the movies on that list. (And for some reason at this point the line from “The Producers,” “Look at me, I’m wearing a cardboard belt” springs to mind.) HOWEVER. I was disturbed to be reminded that I’ve never actually sat through the entirety of Ikiru. That’s messed up, right? And I’ve never seen Rocha’s Black God, White Devil, either. I really need to take a crash course in Brazilian cinema, because outside of Jose Mojica Marins, I am not that up on it. I am somewhat less mortified on having missed out on The Life Of Maxim Gorky, but now that’s on my list… Of course I was able to see ALL THOSE MOVIES because I’m 70.
Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames a Second, Periodical
The answer to this question is a title which has haunted me for some time now; Touki Bouki. Djibril Diop Mambety’s film was the only one on last year’s Sight & Sound top 100 that I’d not seen at the time of the list’s publication, and I still haven’t rectified this in spite of having had 12 months to do so. I also took to the IMDB top 250 in order to answer this question more fully, that most hallowed of digi-turfs when it comes to measuring a contemporary zeitgeist of sorts (it’s not great, but it might be the best thing we’ve got when it comes to measuring the broad popularity of cinema), to see which of the unusual bunch that make up “The 250 Greatest Films of All Time” I was missing. Amidst the genuine “WTF’s” (Hotel Rwanda sits at 156, while Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is the 137th best film ever made) there were one or two notable standouts. Sidney Lumet’s Network is the most criminal omission from own viewing history. A victim of late-night television scheduling as much as anything, Network is a film I’ve seen in portions, but never as a whole.
Kate Aurthur, BuzzFeed
I’m too list-oriented both in life (see my years of packing lists and be afraid) and in my at-home movie education to have missed any truly huge films. But looking at this They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? list of the “1,000 Greatest Films,” I will admit that there are many movies that I watched as homework (self-imposed homework) that I either was truly bored by or, eep, do not remember at all. Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? I’ve seen it so many times — it is boring. Kurosawa’s incredibly influential Seven Samurai? No memory of it! I can’t feel guilty about these things anymore.
Peter Labuza, The Cinephiliacs
I quit counting omissions a couple years ago and just decided to watch instead. It’s been better for my personal health to not search out the canon and instead discover what hasn’t been written about yet. Because the particulars of film history are mutating every year — those who place emphasis in the history of cinema on the developments on editing are missing the work being done on the developments of tableaux – I find searching out the canon can be almost harmful. I’m much more curious to search out new discoveries in the archives, things we’re only just learning about thanks to institutions like NFNP and festivals like Il Cinema Ritrovato, than filling out what’s becoming more and more an outdated canon. It shouldn’t be our duty to follow the old path, but forge new ones.
David Ehrlich, Film.com
Not to flagrantly take the easy way out here or anything, but for me the question has always been less about what movies someone has seen than how well they’ve seen them. Digital technology has made the canon (any canon, really) appear easier to master, but that ubiquity has encouraged much more casual viewing habits, even (and especially) from cinephiles with the most honorable intentions. And the crux of the matter isn’t even that people have one eye on their Netflix window and another on their Twitter feed, it’s that the amazing ability to marathon through… say… *every* Kinoshita film naturally discourages truly engaging with any one of them. It’s entirely possible that my brain is just too feeble for this kind of thing, but I have a hard time believing that someone who watches 700 movies a year really *sees* all that many of them. Of course, in the case of someone like Hong Sang-soo, steamrolling through a filmography can actually be conducive to greater understanding, but I digress. Maybe I’m just nostalgic for my college days -– all the way, way back in 2007 -– when we had the luxury of devoting an entire semester to studying La Dolce Vita, or maybe I’m just trying to preach a healthy balance, but I think what I’m *really* trying to say is that I’ve never seen All About Eve (eh, I’ve got The Lady Eve) or a single episode of The Wire (eh, I’ve got Bunheads) or anything from Nollywood (eh, I’ve got company) and we’re probably all going to die one day. Good talk.
Carrie Rickey, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Don’t tell Jonathan Rosenbaum, but I have yet to see Orson Welles’ Othello. Which is weird, since I’ve seen Olivier’s Othello, Fishburne’s Othello, the Placido Domingo opera Otello and the modern update, O, with Mekhi Phifer. And because I think of myself as a Welles completist. It’s possible that because I saw most of my Welles movies during his Paul Masson spokesperson period, I had had enough of his sepulchral voice. Also possible that I couldn’t bear the blackface (which was a challenge in watching the Olivier version, too). I’m in no rush to fill this gap.
William Bibbiani, CraveOnline
This may not be a popular opinion, but I like not having seen “every” movie. It’s not that I don’t take my job seriously — take your pick of any “Top 100” list and I’ve seen at least most of them – but it would be depressing to think that there aren’t at least a few classic movies out there left for me to discover for the first time, on a rainy day with a bucket of popcorn and open eyes. A handful of prominent “great” films come to mind, but if I had to pick the most shocking omission, I’d have to say that it’s probably Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, considered by many to be the 8 1/2 director’s best. And yet f I had to pick the omission that bothers me the most personally, it’s easily Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight.
Dan Kois, Slate
The Godfather, Part II. I don’t know why. I think in high school I heard godfather III was so bad that I somehow didn’t understand that II was beloved. Then once I did I never got around to it.
Jason Shawhan, Nashville Scene, Interface 2037
I’ve never seen The Bridge on The River Kwai or The Conversation, mainly because at this point, I’m waiting to see film prints. That reflects a conscious decision on my part, so I’m not completely sure that’s what this survey wants to uncover. Here’s something shocking, though: despite my love for scandal, Shelley Winters, and all things meticulous, I’ve never seen the Kubrick Lolita. But I have seen the Adrian Lyne one. That should do it…
A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club
I’ve never seen Lawrence of Arabia, which is a pretty enormous blind spot. If I have to rationalize my stubborn refusal to move it up the Netflix queue, it probably just comes down to running time: In the hours I’d spend giving Lawrence its belated due, I could watch two other revered classics I’ve neglected. (Thank God this question doesn’t call for a top 50 list of glaring omissions; that would get embarrassing.) Anyway, I tend to run hot and cold on David Lean — The Bride on the River Kwai is exciting and morally complex, while Doctor Zhivago is just an epic bore. One day, on rainy Saturday during a long weekend, I’ll fill that gap in my viewing history. Then again, I’ve seen the match fade into the sunrise; what else does Lawrence really have to offer? I’m kidding. Mostly.
Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket
I’ve yet to see Lawrence of Arabia. A few years ago, I realized this glaring omission and promptly went out to buy a copy on DVD. It’s been on my shelf ever since. The reason I still haven’t gotten around to it? It’s surprisingly difficult to find three and a half hours to watch a movie I’m not being paid to see. Every time I think of popping the DVD in, I remember a looming deadline, or notice the stack of screeners I have to get to, or realize I won’t have time to watch the whole thing before rushing out to a screening. I’ve considered watching half of it one day and half the next, but that doesn’t seem right. I also nearly watched it last year, during a particularly nasty flu that had me in bed for several days. For something as important as Lawrence of Arabia, though, I want to watch the whole thing in one sitting, when I’m not half-delusional from cold & flu medication. This particular film seems like it deserves my full attention. One of these days, I really will get around to it. Because, seriously, who hasn’t seen Lawrence of Arabia?
John Keefer, 51Deep.com
I have never seen Lawrence of Arabia. This is through no fault of my own or prejudice against either David Lean or desert epics. I just have not seen it yet, like many films I have yet to watch. This is a subject that comes up often amongst people I know who, upon hearing I haven’t seen a particular film, “But I thought you were a movie guy?” I am indeed a movie guy but I unfortunately have to work and eat food and be in certain places at certain times. This unfortunately prevents me from spending however much time I have on this planet watching every movie I possibly can. If this were an option I would take it but the dirty work of being alive prevents total absorption in passion and that is, in my opinion, a shame. Once the singularity hits I will gladly join my consciousness to every film available in digital format and know heaven. Until then I’ll be making my way down the Netflix queue, up next Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, a film I will soon have seen and have a good chance of enjoying greatly.
Alan Zilberman, Tiny Mix Tapes, The Atlantic
Lately I’ve been good about correcting my omissions — this year I watched Citizen Kane, Sabrina, Roman Holiday, The Triumph of the Will, and Schindler’s List for the first time, among others — but I still haven’t seen Lawrence of Arabia. At this point, I may as well hold out until I get a chance to see it on the big screen. I have no doubt the wait will be worth it.
Sean Hutchinson, Latino Review, CriterionCast
I have to admit that my most egregious and glaring omission is that I’ve never seen Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story. Something about the storyline of the mistreated elderly Japanese couple and my knowledge of Ozu’s mannered style has been off-putting whenever the chance comes up to see it. I’ve seen plenty of other Ozu films, and for whatever reason it’s the one that is widely regarded as his best that I’ve never seen. This glaring omission was compounded by the fact that it ranked no. 1 on Sight and Sound’s Director’s Top 100 Films poll, and though it’s been weighing on my conscience for a very long time maybe the embarrassment of admitting it here will work up my desire to finally sit down and watch it.
Brian Tallerico, HollywoodChicago.com, Film Threat
Easy. Tokyo Story. Every time Sight & Sound releases a poll, I feel bad about it. Back to my circle of shame.
Gary Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News
For decades, I had never seen the original Rocky. As a kid, I’d seen Rocky IIon cable, and I went to see Rocky III in the theater and I didn’t care for either of them. But I had never seen the classic, Oscar-winning Rocky. It was not lack of interest. My resistance wasn’t about the film, it was that I insisted that I would only see Rocky at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Rocky runs, famously, up the steps. Last summer, I finally got the chance. The city screened the film not in the Museum’s Van Pelt Auditorium, but on the actual steps. It was an incredible, memorable experience–the perfect way to see this film. And I loved Rocky. Being with that crowd of fans, who responded so enthusiastically when Rocky runs up the steps was a thrill only those of us who were there could share. So my reasons for not seeing a “classic” sometimes come down to how and when and where you see them. As for what I am “holding out” to see next, Roger Ebert once wrote, “Sooner or later, everyone who loves movies comes to Ozu” and I will think of him when I do.
Jeff Berg, Local IQ, Las Cruces Bulletin
I’ve never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, mostly because I find most sci-fi and such insufferable (exceptions being Silent Running, Sunshine and Alien). I’ve also not seen any of the Hobbit pix or Harry Potter. Fantasy has just never caught my attention. as limited as it may be.
Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit
I’ve confessed to this purportedly glaring omission before, but I’ve never seen any of the Harry Potter movies. No, not even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (I’m still not sure why that one specifically bothers people so much). The first one never interested me and by the time it was solidified as a cultural touchstone, I was both disinterested and far behind, so I opted to just stay out of the loop there. One day I’ll marathon the franchise over a weekend or something, but for now I remain willfully ignorant…
Andrew Welch, In Review Online, Dallas Observer
When it comes to big Hollywood movies, the glaring omission I’m most painfully aware of is Die Hard, especially with it reaching 25 this summer. Why haven’t I seen it? No good reason. I like action as much as the next guy; I’ve just never gotten around to it. Do I think it matters to the work I do? Not really. As so many recent pieces have pointed out, Die Hard‘s impact has been enormous. Some of its copycats are better than others, and watching them makes me feel like I’ve come close to seeing it anyway. Will I ever sit down and watch it? Probably, but since I’ve gone this long, I’d almost like to make a game of it and see how much longer can go. My guess: pretty long.
Eric D. Snider, Twitch, Movie B.S. with Bayer and Snider
I compiled my own Shame List last year and started making an effort to cross off the most egregious entries, both canonical (e.g., Schindler’s List) and pop-cultural (e.g., Beetlejuice). Of the remaining films on the list, the one that is most appalling and baffling to the most people seems to be Dirty Dancing. It was simply a matter of demographics that kept me from seeing it at first. It came out the summer I turned 13, and 13-year-old boys are notoriously difficult to attract to female-oriented romantic musical dramas. (Mind you, I did have the double-LP soundtrack.) After that, when it became a cultural phenomenon, I just never felt the need to catch up with it. It’s not the sort of “important” movie that a film critic ought to have seen; it’s just a movie that most people HAVE seen. If it’s any consolation, I did see the quasi-remake, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
I constantly feel like I need to be catching up; just recently, I had to acknowledge that I still haven’t seen Dressed to Kill or Body Double (in conversations about De Palma’s Passion) or Oldboy (which I plan to get to before seeing the Spike Lee remake). One of my most howling omissions would probably be Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, which I will not watch until I can see it projected on the big screen, preferably in 35mm. Luckily, I live in Los Angeles, where opportunities periodically come up; I’ve had to miss the last few times this one surfaced, but next time, for sure, honest, pinky swear.
Edwin Arnaudin, Ashvegas
Had this question been posed a month ago, I would have said City Lights or Modern Times. I don’t know how I went so long without seeing a Charlie Chaplin film, but I also don’t know if I’ve had more fun eradicating a blind spot than with those two films. That leaves The Maltese Falcon as my most glaring omission. I love film noir, Bogie, Hammett novels, and most of John Huston’s films, but have yet to block out 100 minutes for the combination of these assets. I think part of not seeing it has to do with the film’s ending being a pop culture staple and the resulting lack of surprise (or what I presume to be so) removes some of the allure. Still, so much film noir and detective stories reference the film that I owe it to myself to actually watch the damn thing, which I will do… some day…
Danny Bowes, RogerEbert.com/Tor.com
The last time we had one of these, I answered The Grapes of Wrath, which was a great excuse to finally watch The Grapes of Wrath, which was great, better than the book, in nomine John Ford, et filis, et Spiritus Sancti, amen. My most glaring omission now is either Mughal-e-Azam, the landmark 1960 Bollywood epic, or Jacques Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating, depending on whose stern finger is wagging at me.
John Oursler, In Review Online, Sound on Sight
My instinct was to be embarrassed about whatever I was going to admit, but get outta here with all that nonsense. My name is John Oursler, and I’ve never seen Gone With the Wind or Casablanca. With movies so pervasively canonized in the American consciousness, there’s an inevitable pressure to have seen something because it’s great, as is the case with these two movies. I’m sure they’re both wonderful, but, knowing what I do about them, I can’t imagine them being among one of my favorites. Still, as a cinephile and blogger, I feel like it is part of my job to see movies that “I should have seen,” so I’ll get to them one day.
Daniel Carlson, Pajiba
There are so many classic films that I still haven’t seen: Gone With the Wind and The Seven Samurai spring to mind as examples of American and international film “canon” that I still haven’t made time for yet. The reasons I haven’t seen them are totally pedestrian. Gone With the Wind didn’t look interesting to me as a younger man, and now that I’m curious about it I find I’m still reluctant to set aside a four-hour chunk for it. Seven Samurai, who knows? I’ve known of its existence and importance for years, but have just never made it a priority. It’s my own laziness. I think what matters most, though, isn’t just that I want to see these movies (and, spurred on by this public disclosure, likely [hopefully?] will watch them soon); it’s that I don’t beat myself up any more for not having seen certain movies by a certain age or stage in my career. Because look: I was born in 1982, so I wasn’t able to begin searching out adult films like these until the late 1990s, by which point I had a century of cinema to contend with. If we’re always measuring ourselves against some elusive ideal of “the critic who’s seen it all,” we’ll never be happy. Movies will become notches on our belts, not artistic and emotional experiences. I love the search, and I love finding new-to-me movies. (Hell, just the other night I saw Suspicion for the first time, and The Women the night before.) The idea of a canon can be helpful, but only if it’s a way to celebrate films, not categorize the viewers.
Scott Meslow, The Week
Gone with the Wind — and frankly, my dear, I don’t have any excuse. Maybe it’s how the film’s most iconic scenes are so embedded in other films and TV shows that I feel like I’ve already seen it. Maybe it’s the many, many times I’ve heard friends complain about its racism and sexism. Maybe it’s because I’m rarely in the mood to clear an evening for a three-plus hour film that asks us to sympathize with a plantation owner during the Civil War. Gone with the Wind has been on my cinematic to-do list long enough that I’ve resolved to see it as soon as one of the New York theaters offers a throwback screening, intermission and all — but until then, it’ll remain an embarrassing gap in my “wait, you haven’t seen that?” list.
Josh Spiegel, Mousterpiece Cinema, Sound on Sight
I have literally no excuse for not having seen Gone with the Wind before, but there you have it. My wife bought it on Blu-ray a couple years ago, so I could watch it whenever I wanted. (And, of course, the movie’s on TCM enough that I could DVR it.) I suppose I could connect my lack of interest in the film to presuming the decades of hype will cause me to be disappointed, though I imagine it’s closer to me equating it with a chore. To me, Gone with the Wind is less something I desire to see, but more something I feel I have to watch. One day, I will. It just hasn’t happened yet.
Piers Marchant, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sweet Smell of Success
While there are a great number of masterpieces I ashamedly still haven’t seen (Tokyo Story leaps to mind), and still more quirky, popular faves that somehow haven’t made their way to me (I’m the guy who still has never seen Being John Malkovich), the single title I get the most grief for not seeing is Singin’ in the Rain. In order to keep it real for you, I’ll flat-out admit this hard and bitter truth: I’m really biased against the musical form. I know, it makes me a soulless lout and a cad and someone who can’t find beauty in anything, but something about the concept behind musicals — people expressing heartfelt emotions via song and dance — leaves me utterly cold. Ascribe it to my Middle School trauma of being relegated to “deep background chorus” when I tried out for Oliver (Oliver!) in 7th grade. Whatever, I make no excuses. Someday, I guess, I’ll finally break down and see it, and maybe it will be a transformative experience that will bring me joy and quivering rapture and enlarge my Grinch-like heart. But I sincerely doubt it.
Don Simpson, Smells Like Screen Spirit
Okay, I confess that I have not seen How Green Was My Valley, but that will never stop me from lambasting it for winning the Academy Award for Best Picture over Citizen Kane. It might sound like a petty and childish grudge, but that really is the sole reason that I have refused to watch it. Sure, it is not the film’s fault that the Academy had its heads up their collective asses that year, but I know I will never be able to watch How Green Was My Valley without comparing it to Citizen Kane, which is by all accounts a far superior film.
Tony Dayoub, Cinema Viewfinder, Press Play
I’m an auteurist who is still working his way through the catalog of some American auteurs like Ford, Hawks and Huston. What that means is that I’ve delayed watching some important world cinema classics, most notably anything Japanese that’s not Kurosawa like Ozu’s Tokyo Story or anything Italian that’s not Bertolucci, Fellini, Pasolini, Rossellini, or Visconti like De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. I’m not really proud of that.
Luke Y. Thompson, Topless Robot
I have yet to seriously engage the bodies of work of Antonioni or Truffaut. Also Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — been in my Netflix queue forever but has never reached the top.
Anne-Katrin Titze, Eye For Film
Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), based on the novel by Nelson Algren. It stars Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak and the subject matter had Preminger confront the Production Code again after his The Moon is Blue. I have been waiting to see it on a big screen.
Mark Young, Sound on Sight, The New York Movie Klub
Considering that it was a Best Picture winner which managed to enter the zeitgeist to such a degree that an episode of Seinfeld turned upon it, I always surprise people by revealing that I’ve never seen Schindler’s List. I don’t have much of an excuse: I was on my high school debate team and rarely saw movies during the winter as a result. Of the ten films that received nominations for either Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, or Best Actress in that year’s Academy Awards, the only one I saw was the summer release The Fugitive.
Jordan Hoffman, Film.com, ScreenCruch
Forrest Gump. Came out when I was still a student at NYU Film, so, at Peak Snob. I’ll see it some day.
Scott Nye, BattleshipPretension.com, CriterionCast.com
The highest-ranked film on the ever-handy They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? list that I’ve not seen is Pather Panchali, but given that film’s rather limited availability, I hardly get surprised reactions when I mention this. No, by far, the one I am most ashamed to admit I’ve not seen, the one from which I will actively steer the conversation away if it comes up, is John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence. The excuses are extraordinarily limited, given the ease by which one may come by it (I’m hardly waiting for special circumstances or anything), but nope, the fact of it is I just haven’t seen the damn thing. I’d sure like to, though.
Kenji Fujishima, In Review Online
I was reminded of one of my biggest blind spots yesterday when taking in my first-ever encounter with Robert Altman’s thematically similar 3 Women: Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. In some of the cinephile circles I’ve encountered, Bergman’s star seems to have fallen somewhat since his world-cinema dominance in the 1950s/’60s/’70s (same with Akira Kurosawa), but that 1966 film seems to be one film of his that even detractors admit to be a major work, if not an outright masterpiece. So I’m certainly curious just for that, if nothing else (though admittedly, there’s a lot of canonical Bergman I still have yet to see: Wild Strawberries, all three films of his unofficial God trilogy from the early ’60s, Scenes from a Marriage, etc.). I don’t really have much of an excuse for this glaring omission; I remember recording it off TV back in my teenage years but never getting around catching up with it, is all. But I will surely get to it…one day…when life doesn’t get in the way somehow…
Scott Weinberg, Twitch, FEARnet
What I know about the French New Wave could probably fill a thimble. I swear I’ll get to it soon.
What is the best movie currently in theaters?
Others receiving multiple votes: The Act of Killing, Before Midnight, The Spectacular Now, Elysium, Fruitvale Station, Blue Jasmine, Drug War.