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My shelf of constant reproach

Da na na na na … boom boom, boom boom … da na na na na.

Yep, this sad white girl approximation of rhythm means there’s no getting around it — I got the “I’m a big, fat, shameful fraud of a movie buff” blues.

This, however, is only 80 percent my fault. I blame NPR and Lynn Neary for the remaining judgmental, snippy percentage. See, for years I’ve been able to coast by on my uncanny ability to remember random dialogue and snippets from films I’d never seen. No one ever called me on it (except for one certain person, but pay no attention to him; it only encourages him), and so I kept right on coasting, knowing deep down I was — gulp — a poser, an imposter, a hypocrite, a mimic, insert your own synonym here. 

Then Neary went on vacation and decided to unburden her soul about classic books she never got around to reading. While there are plenty of books I could name-drop here, I won’t, because I only have the time and energy and inclination to upbraid myself for one set of failings. One closet at a time, my friends, one closet at a time.

But the time has come to — to slightly mangle the catchphrase of the seminal show of my generation, “The Real World” — stop being fake and start getting real. So bring on the public shame, I say, and the more the better. (I own every CD Hanson has recorded and nearly every Godzilla movie ever made, including “Godzilla Vs. Megalon,” so I’m accustomed to weathering storms of scorn.) Here are the classics I intend to see before the ball drops on 2010:

  • Almost anything by Alfred Hitchcock
  • “9 1/2 Weeks”
  • “2001: Space Oddysey” (done)
  • “Bonnie and Clyde”
  • “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” … or nearly everything else starring Audrey Hepburn
  • “Casablanca” (done)
  • “Chinatown” (done)
  • “A Clockwork Orange”
  • “The Crossing Guard”
  • “Gone with the Wind” (done)
  • “The Graduate” (done)
  • “La Dolce Vita”
  • “The Maltese Falcon” (done)
  • “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
  • “Raging Bull”
  • “A Streetcar Named Desire” (done)
  • “Taxi Driver” (done)

But enough talk of my abject failings as a movie reviewer. Let’s hear from you, readers. What movies are you ashamed to admit you haven’t seen? Are there more I should add to this list? I’m open to suggestions, since I’m on a kick to improve the core of my very being.


17 Responses

  1. this is one reason i started watching a movie every day. i hoped to make time to see some classics i’d never seen. i had seen some hitchcock, but not nearly enough, as what i’ve watched since then has been great. i saw casablanca, citizen kane, the graduate, breakfast at tiffanys, bonnie and clyde, and the french connection. i haven’t loved all of them, but i’m glad i’ve seen them.

    if you haven’t seen It Happened One Night or the ORIGINAL Taking of Pelham 123, i’d recommend both of those as well. as for other audrey hepburn movies, Roman Holiday is probably my favorite that i’ve seen.

  2. I’m not ashamed to admit I haven’t seen The Wizard of Oz, but frankly I don’t know if I want to. I should however see Casablanca and An Affair to Remember. I haven’t seen a lot on your list, either, so that’ll give me some ideas what I need to catch up on! Have you seen BEN HUR? If not, that’s definitely one you should put on your list!

  3. “Ben Hur,” “It Happened One Night” and the original “Taking of Pelham 123” (which I did not know existed) … check, check and check. Thanks for the suggestions. I can see that the countdown to 2010 just got a lot busier.

    M. Carter

  4. I struggle with this all the time. There are so many classic movies out there that a person is supposed to see, but then you’re supposed to keep up with the current mainstream hits, and the current indie hits, and somehow do something with your life beyond watching movies. (Oh, and you’re supposed to read all of these books, too. And screenplays. And TV shows!)

    For what it’s worth, I’ve only seen six of the movies on your list there. And I haven’t seen Gone With the Wind either. I have read the book, and I didn’t like it. And even though I know I should still watch the movie, the idea of spending 3.5 hours of my life watching a story I don’t even like makes me sad.

    • It’s kind of comforting to know that there are other people out there who haven’t seen “classic films.” This seems to be a common phenomenon deserving of a proper name, or at least a mention by Stephen Colbert. I blame Netflix for this — with all these movies at my fingertips, it’s always a battle between what I WANT to see and what I think I SHOULD see.

      M. Carter

  5. this is good stuff M Carter – a gutsy list. strangely, there are a few on your list that i also made a point of viewing recently for the first time – Raging Bull, Chinatown and Bonnie And Clyde – i have to say, i enjoyed them all, perhaps Chinatown most, mainly because its a very beguiling film that lulls you. Raging Bull i liked, but definitely a little overrated. looking forward to reading your thoughts on the films in your list as you see them. if i could throw one in that maybe you havent seen (correct me if im wrong), i would highly recommend The Sting.
    nothatwasacompliment: i visit your site regularly and your dedication always impresses me – keep it up.

    • Thanks for the suggestions — I have not seen “Sting” but it will go on The List. I’ll have to think of a catchy name for The List, something that evokes a sense of accomplishment the way “Bucket List” does! I’m interested to see “Chinatown” so I can finally grasp the meaning of “Forget it; it’s Chinatown.”

      M. Carter

  6. I haven’t seen Gone With the Wind or Casablanca, either.

    If you haven’t seen Raging Bull or Taxi Driver, maybe you haven’t seen The King of Comedy or Mean Streets, both of which I would recommend.

    I think this may be the first time I’ve ever seen 9 1/2 Weeks or The Crossing Guard listed as classics.

    (saw your comment on a friend’s blog)

    • I’ll confess I only included “9 1/2 Weeks” and “Crossing Guard” in that list because they’ve become pop culture touchstones of sorts. I can’t count how many times someone has said “this is a ‘Crossing Guard’ situation” or made a crack about “9 1/2 Weeks.” I figured it was high time to start getting those references.

      M. Carter

  7. I haven’t seen Gone With the Wind either. I mean, come on! It’s 3.5 hours long! I have it to watch but I always pull something else out instead.

    • Since the advent of Netflix, I’ve found there’s this huge gap between what movies I WANT to see and what movies I feel like I SHOULD see. Want wins more often than should, but I’m trying to rehabilitate myself.

      M. Carter

  8. Godzilla vs Megalon is the best Godzilla ever. There is no arguing with Jet Jaguar!

  9. I am in the same boat as you. Despite being a graduated film student, who currently has a job in the film industry, I am considerably lacking in some areas of my film education. For example I hadn’t seen a Marx Brothers movie until just recently, the same goes for Woody Allen, and most of Robert Altman’s movies. I still feel shame about never having seen a Charlie Chaplin movie, or the Exorcist, but I plan on fixing all of these things!

    A few I’d recommend are Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Bonnie and Clyde, Z, and Let the Right One In. All are great for different reasons.

    Good luck!


    • The more people respond to this post, the more oddly comforted I feel! Apparently this classic movie guilt is something many people carry around. Or maybe it’s just that I feel there are SO many great movies out there that it’s hard to focus on one genre, you know? Oh well. Focus has to be the name of this game, though, if I ever plan to have a working knowledge of classic movies.

      Thanks for your comment, Ed!

      M. Carter

  10. I’ve seen “A Clockwork Orange” but in my opinion “Shining” was better…

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