When Cinematical's editorial team suggested that the staff write pieces on the topic "Movies I'll Never See," it didn't strike me as especially controversial. I mean, everyone has personal tastes, preferences and prejudices, and we all avoid certain films for one reason or another. Am I right?
Well, maybe I'm not. If the over 100 comments on my resulting piece about never having seen Schindler's List are any gauge, there are a lot of people who will happily watch any movie, by any director, on any subject, at any time. And still more who think that film critics are obligated to see every movie ever made. A number of commenters strongly (and oh, I do mean strongly) feel that a true movie lover won't form an opinion about a film without seeing at least some of it -- although the amount of time one is required to spend before forming that opinion varies from 20 minutes to an hour.
It would seem that I hit a nerve. That wasn't my intention, really. But it inspired a lot readers to take to their keyboards.
My sin was in choosing Schindler's List as the movie that I don't think I'll ever see. In retrospect, it's an obvious hot-button choice. And I did expect to get a few angry comments. What I didn't expect was the outpouring of vitriol that followed. Granted, I could have picked something more universally agreeable, but I figured that writing about how I've never seen White Chicks or Ernest Scared Stupid was a little like saying that I'd managed to avoid contracting gonorrhea -- I mean, what response could there be to that other than, "Good for you?"
It's certainly not the only movie I've missed over my ten years of film criticism -- and if you honestly believe that film critics have seen every "important" film ever released, you live in a fantasy world. For one thing, when would we have the time? Have you seen every movie by Kurasawa, Godard, Wenders, Wyler, Kubrick and Cukor? I mean, every single one? How about Nicholas Ray, John Schlesinger, Fritz Lang, and Raoul Walsh? I've seen a lot of their movies, maybe even most of them, but certainly not all. And, admit it -- neither have you.
To be honest, what bothers me more than the flames (I mean, I shared my opinion and the public certainly gets to share theirs, even if that opinion is "Dawn Taylor's an idiot") are the comments that take me to task for things I didn't actually write. Yes, I said I'd never seen Lawrence of Arabia -- but I also said that I'd like to see it someday, so how am I getting slagged for refusing to see it? And, obviously, I know that Lawrence isn't 43 hours long. Then again, the consensus is that I'm an idiot, so I guess it stands to reason that I might think that. Pardon me, whilst I drool on my shirt.
But most importantly, I never said that I hated Schindler's List. I explained, in the spirit of the assignment I was given, why I'd never seen it, and why I never would. Sure, I said that I had a pre-formed opinion about that little girl's red coat. But I thought I made it clear that it was, indeed, an opinion formed having never seen the movie. There was no malice intended. Only a movie-goer who has never, not even once, avoided a movie -- or, for that matter, decided that a film is holy-crap-awesome-must-be-there-opening-weekend -- after seeing the trailer or an ad on TV has earned the right to criticize someone for coming to a conclusion about a movie before seeing it.
Some other things on which I was schooled by readers, both following my piece and after a commentary on the brouhaha by editor Scott Weinberg:
"These articles are doing a tremendous job in making me think that this writers for this site are not qualified for their jobs." Because, you know, people who write about movies for a living are required by law to see every movie, even if they don't want to. And god forbid, they aren't allowed to say they don't want to see something that's considered important.
"Instead of wasting time writing the article you could have been actually watching the movie." Except that the whole point of the series is that these are movies we don't want to see. You know, instead of writing that comment, you could have been pouring salt in your eye.
"You're just eager for controversy and attention." Yes, that's it. Because having a hundred fanboys tell me that I'm a moron is my idea of a good time.
"I only read Cinematical for movie news, and I don't care about your writers' opinions." Well then, for god's sake, start reading the trades, instead.
"You can't call yourself a movie critic and then say you won't see Schindler's List." I think a decade-long backlog of movie reviews pretty much proves that wrong. Of course, if we want to be literal, I could also call myself a neurosurgeon or a lion tamer if I like. It wouldn't be the truth, but I could still call myself that.
Anyway. It now seems like I'll have to watch fucking Schindler's List. Because coming out of the closet on this particular film has unleashed such a firestorm of "OMG you have to see it IT'S IMPORTANT AND BRILLIANT YOU MORON" that I have no choice. A few months ago, I ended up finally watching Titanic for much the same reason ... and admitted that my preconceptions had been wrong. So now I'll have to do the same with this one. And then I'll write about it and, if everyone's right and I have a transcendent cinematic experience, I'll be forced to admit that I've been missing out on something really special.
But I will not watch Ernest Scared Stupid, no matter how many angry comments I get. A girl has to draw a line in the sand somewhere.