Last week, we ran a comment diversion inspired by a list of films that viewers polled claimed that they have lied about seeing (Godfather was number one). But there’s a flip side to that, too: What about those classic films that you lied about loving? Because you felt you were supposed to love?
Over the weekend, Dan Kois, writing for the New York Times magazine, had a wonderful, funny, and painfully true piece on “Eating Your Cultural Vegetables,” about those movies (and “Treme”) that we watch, not because we enjoy them, but because we feel the need to, because it raises our cultural intelligence at the expense of two or three painfully dull hours (or 13 so far, in the case of “Treme”).
As I get older, I find I’m suffering from a kind of culture fatigue and have less interest in eating my cultural vegetables, no matter how good they may be for me. I don’t fool myself that aspirational viewing no longer has anything left to offer, that I’ve somehow absorbed the lessons Tarkovsky couldn’t teach me all those years ago. Yes, there are films, like the 2000 Taiwanese drama “Yi Yi (A One and a Two),” that enrapture me with deliberate pacing, spare screenplays and static shooting styles. I’ve watched “Yi Yi” five times and never once dozed off over 15 cumulative hours of low-key Taiwanese domesticity.
But while I’m grateful to have watched “Solaris” and “Blue” and “Meek’s Cutoff” and “The Son” and “Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)” and “Three Times” and on and on, my taste stubbornly remains my taste. Perhaps I’m realizing that enjoyment doesn’t necessarily have to be a performative act, even for someone who writes about movies. Or perhaps I just lack the youthful exuberance that led me to believe I could rewire my brain through repeated exposure to Antonioni. Part of me mourns the sophisticated cineaste I might never become; part of me is grateful for all the time I’ll save now that I am a bit more choosy about the aspirational viewing in which I engage.
It’s a risky piece for a critic who writes for The New York Times to post, essentially admitting that he watches certain classics and even feigns adoration for them out of the need to fit in (and the comments on the piece are what you’d expect from Times readers, “Oh, maybe you don’t like “Treme,” but I love it. I don’t think it’s a cultural vegetable at all.”).
I know we’re a different brand of reader over here: A mix of those that flaunt their pretentiousness and others who proudly trumpet their dislike for slow-moving classics. But are there movies that you’ve lied about loving? I generally cop out on the question: I’ll say I appreciated films like Solaris and 2011 Space Odyssey, but I won’t admit I liked them. Because I didn’t. Terrence Malick falls into the same category: I always look forward to his films, mostly because I think: This next one, I’m really going to get. It’s going to sink in this time. I’m going to enjoy and not just appreciate, and finally understand what it is so many others love about his work.
But I never do. I can’t wait to see Tree of Life, but man: I bet I end up as bored as I was watching New World and The Thin Red Line (shoot somebody, goddamnit. Stop looking at the motherfucking grass and take some people out!).
What about you folks? Are there movies, not that you’ve lied about seeing, but that you’ve lied about enjoying? Feel free to check your Pajiba card at the door; you can pick it back up on your way out.