Questions: What must we do before we die? Should we spend more time with family? Should we engage ourselves in what we love? Should we watch movies? What is the meaning of life? If you find yourself staring out the window, watching the clouds while contemplating the matter of existence, perhaps it is because you’ve never seen George Kuchar’s Hold Me While I’m Naked, or Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Gabbeh, or of course, Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. But why should they matter? You’ve probably never seen or heard of them before, but yet, they are all included in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (2014 Edition). Literature dedicated to the movies all of us should experience before our number is called and we step up to life’s deli counter to receive that slice of heaven (or maybe ham).
Sarcasm aside, I won’t throw any of these films under the bus just yet since I’m sure they’re all notable in their own way (Gabbeh received the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996 and holds a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes). I also understand that perhaps this book isn’t meant to be taken literally but is merely a list of films it finds significant for people attempting to broaden their cinematic resume. Nevertheless, I maintain my childhood instincts in not liking to be told what to do and I’m also frightened of a world in which everyone has seen Birth of a Nation. There’s some messed up sh*t in there.
My animosity for this list extends beyond the book itself. The whole idea behind this project of mine, to watch 365 films I’ve never seen before, is to broaden my own views on film but to also take the time to experience and learn from something I would not have normally given the time of day. I’m guilty just as much as anyone of not straying from the pack or taking enough chances, which means last month I probably would not have taken the time to watch a documentary on Mitt Romney or given my attention to a silent film (I probably would instead have watched Star Wars for the millionth time), but in the past 3 weeks I’ve done both.
I’m using this book to open up a much larger can of worms. Now that Oscar nominations have been announced, everyone has to go see the nominations. When the new Transformers movie sells out on opening day, swarms of people will continue to flood into the theater regardless of it’s quality. Tomorrow, I will think about watching Game of Thrones. These behaviors all stem from the same fear: being left out. I’m all to aware of this feeling. Just a few weeks ago my Top 5 was movies I was embarrassed of not having seen. Until now, I didn’t understand conversations that revolved around Holy Hand Grenades or Knights that Say “Ni!”, but I now understand. I’ve watched these as well as other culturally loved movies like Animal House and Caddyshack, so is my life really better now that I understand the true context of toga parties? I don’t feel any different. I’ve begun to question why it is that we all need to share the same experiences in order to fit in. Netflix will even connect to my Facebook to let me know what my friends are watching so I can watch them as well.
A lack of exploration becomes the issue that trouble me the most. Who leads the pack if we all look to someone else when it comes to what we submit ourselves to? Why did I have to watch Breaking Bad? Why did I see Boyhood? I don’t care how beautiful it is this time of year, why must I visit Florida? There are places across America I feel are just as beautiful. When does a lack of an original identity come into play when we all feel the urge to experience what everyone else is experiencing? If the average film is an hour and a half long, General Editor, Steven Jay Schneider, wants to make sure that we share 1,501.5 hours (62.56 days worth) of the same life.
Films have the power to hit everyone in ways beyond what the artistic style represents or how much money it made at the box office. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure could have just as big of an affect on Person A as Star Wars had on me, yet only one of these apparently seems to matter. But still, Person A obviously isn’t wrong, nor should be ashamed of the affect it had, and nobody else should feel the need to watch it now because there’s a good chance they won’t feel the same way. Films should be embraced by the viewer for the ways they make them feel, not for the ways they make other’s feel.
In the end, the way this list makes me feel is that the movies included just suck. For my generation, the Harry Potter series was a huge hit and defined the way our youthful selves not only looked at a the fantasy genre but literature as well. Yet, not one of the films have been deemed worthy enough to make the list since its first incarnation was published in 2003. How would our lives be different if these movies really weren’t worthy of our attention? I guess I wouldn’t have been disappointed when my Hogwarts letter didn’t come in the mail on my 11th birthday. Not only this, but the series is inconsistent in it’s taste and with each edition more are added and lost to make room for new releases. It grabs a variety of styles but gravitate heavily toward independent foreign films as well as big budget Hollywood cinema. In the wake of these decisions, some notable smaller independent American films are forgotten such as Blood Simple, Donnie Darko, Kids, and I my biased personal favorites: The Squid and the Whale and (500) Days of Summer (there, I said it). Among the last to be added were Blue is the Warmest Color, American Hustle, Gravity, Wolf of Wall Street, and 12 Years a Slave, which have nothing seriously wrong them, but I would mourn the loses of Little Miss Sunshine, The Departed, The King’s Speech, Les Miserables, and No Country for Old Men. Yet, they could be in same position as predecessors like The Passion of the Christ, Collateral, The Aviator, and Million Dollar Baby which were added in 2005 but betrayed and forgotten a year later.
Now I’ve been lead to my own list.
My Top 5 I’ll Most Likely Die Before I See
- Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
- Hold Me While I’m Naked (1966)
- Hostel (2005)
- The Human Centipede (2009)
- Babe (1995) There’s too much delicious food at stake.
- The Seventh Seal (1957). I’ve tried watching it on three separate occasions and have fallen asleep each time. I worry it may never happen.
But wait, there’s more. As a companion to Schneider’s book on movies, there is also 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, 1001 Golf Holes You Must Play Before You Die, 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die, and 20 others! Where does it end? Perhaps in the end, this series is not looking for people looking to expand their horizons but for people who just have a lot of time and money on their hands.
How Am I Doing? Thank’s for Asking
On the day of this posting, January 30th, I’ve seen 27 movies I have never seen before. On account of my “Lost Weekend”, I am a few behind but see no worries in catching back up. Some honorable mentions are taken from my Top 5 from two weeks ago: Jaws, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, The Godfather: Part II and Life of Brian. But also I found time to catch up on Annie Hall, Punch-Drunk Love, and Some Like it Hot. Not because I felt left out for not having seen them, but really for my love of comedy.
Thanks for reading this week. Now it’s your turn to disagree with me. Post your Top 5 or a comment below if you’re feeling saucy enough to engage in a discussion.
Once again, if you care enough to track my progress you can follow me on Letterboxd here where I’ll be posting other reviews and comments on films that may not come up in this blog. Until next time, goodbye and I love you.