Same Old Seen

Something happened the other night. As it happened, I realized it happens a lot. It probably happens to you. I’m sure it’s happening somewhere out there right now. But as it happened I had this epiphany and I came to understand that it should never happen ever EVER again.

I was out with some folks, hanging at a casual dining restaurant, as they say on the TV. We were talking, chatting, goofing, just doing what groups of folks have done since our species first huddled together for warmth in caves or in trees on the savannah. Passing the time. Anyhow, somebody said something or mentioned something and somehow someone made a passing reference to a film.

Now, let me be clear: THAT is not what I have a problem with. Indeed, we are a pop culture culture and we make references to movies and flicks and motion pictures all the time. We see a movie, we rent a film, we quote lines from a favorite motion picture. We talk about ‘em over dinner, at the malt shop and around the water cooler. Something somebody does reminds us of a scene from a film and we say so. We talk about movies. We laugh about them. They move us and entertain us. Easily done and easily understood.

No. The thing I have a problem with is this: Somebody mentioned a movie and someone else inevitably piped up by saying, “I’ve never seen that.” To which several people said with all the seriousness of a minyan, “You have GOT to see that!”

Well, forgive me, but NO. You do not “have GOT to see that!” There isn’t a film out there from Hollywood, Bollywood, Eiling or Studio Ghibli that anyone HAS to see. Moviegoing isn’t mandatory. Last time I checked, a Blockbuster membership wasn’t required for U.S. citizenship. And until HBO is free on every telly, you can skip all the movies you want. And no one should be made to feel inferior or less of a person because they haven’t caught a particular release. There are some good films out there, certainly. Great films, sure. Enjoyable, thrilling diversions, definitely. And quite a few colossal turds that more than one dorkwad thinks is brilliant.

That’s why I get so irked when someone says, “You have GOT to see that!” Because even accepting that there are a few movies out that that we should probably make required viewing for all Americans – Casablanca, It’s A Wonderful Life and The Godfather – ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time whenever a person says, “You have GOT to see that!” to somebody who has the audacity to admit that their celluloid checklist is a few Ewoks short of a Return of the Jedi – well, to be blunt, they are talking out of their backsides. I mean, while someone could possibly make a solid case as to why you SHOULD see Annie Hall, I fear for the schmuck who tries the same with Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice.

Now, I’m a movie snob, I admit it. Studied Radio, Television and Motion Pictures at Carolina. So, yeah, what I consider a great film may not necessarily match what you do. Or the general public. (Twilight? Really?) But even the flicks I like best – Citizen Kane and Dr. Strangelove and The Graduate – I don’t necessarily recommend to just anyone. Sure, I think I could compile a pretty decent overview of American cinema … and anyone who claims to be pop culturally literate should know the shower scene from Psycho and what a Royale with cheese is … but I am not about to inflict my personal biases on anyone unbidden. Hell, yes, I’ll make fun of you if your Top Ten includes anything with the name Ernest in it, but I will NEVER tell you, “You have GOT to see that!” I feel there needs to be a moratorium on that phrase.

NOT seeing a film won’t kill you. It won’t make you any less of a man or woman or human. The lack of knowledge of (or exposure to) any particular chick flick, summer blockbuster, Oscar winner, cult classic or indie masterpiece will not cause the Earth to tilt off its axis leading to a bizarre post-apocalyptic world where giant scorpions roam the planet in an homage to Damnation Alley.

And, trust me – if you haven’t seen that film, feel free to dent the noggin of anyone who ardently tells you, “You have GOT to see that!”


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