Well I never!
Let me just say I am aghast, no, several ghasts at so many of your treasonous cinematic ways.
It’s like that time a few years ago when I played that April Fools joke where I shamefully admitted to having promoted Crocs in exchange for cash and prizes (do I LOOK like a mommieblogger? Do I talk about gluten-free cupcakes, knitting or fabric with owls on them? No, I do not.) and a whole bunch of people were calling for my head, offering themselves as my editorial replacement.
Of course there are classic films I don’t enjoy.
I adore Vivien Leigh but I’d be fine without sitting through another viewing of Gone with the Wind, and although I won’t say neither love nor money could make me sit through Lawrence of Arabia again, it would take large quantities of both to get me to watch Omar Sharif ride in from the horizon on his camel, no matter how cinematically important that scene remains.
These are not bad films.
It’s the rare piece of pop culture that stays relevant 50 years (as in the case of Lawrence of Arabia, released in 1962) or nearly 75 years.
It’s amazing so many of them still are.
1939 brought us GwtW, The Wizard of Oz, Of Mice and Men, Ninotchka, Dark Victory, The Women, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Gunga Din, Stagecoach and a whole bunch of other classics that lend credence to the idea that it’s been all downhill in tinseltown since the clock struck 1940.
Ideals, tastes and conventions, not to mention technology, have changed dramatically since Greta giggled, so it’s important to appreciate film (or music or, I don’t know, body shape) on their own merits and not how well they compare to modern tastes, no matter how deeply or subtly engrained those tastes are.
Take, for example, the top musical hits from the same year.
You’ve got plenty of Glenn Miller, Bessie Smith singing “God Bless America”, a doubtlessly timeless ditty called “The Adventures of Piccolo Pete” and a personal favorite of mine, “Little Brown Jug” (it is a Plumcake family tradition to bounce wee children on one’s knees and sing Little Brown Jug, dipping them dramatically during the “we fell in!” line).
You can’t really fault Glenn Miller or Bessie Smith even if they’re not your preferred genres, but for my imaginary money, the only song that sounds as fresh and painful today as it must have then is Billie Holiday’s haunting “Strange Fruit”.
It reminds me of a brutal breakup when I was 26.
Uh, the over-easy rejection of classic films, not the horrifying epidemic of lynching of the thirties and forties, although I once had to gently tell my sweet but occasionally oblivious voice teacher that even though he was doing an all Billie Holiday tribute, as a middle-aged white man from East Texas with a twang thicker than day old grits, he didn’t exactly have the cultural pedigree to get away with singing that particular song.
Back when I was 26, my long-term fella dumped me HARD for an East German amnesiac who couldn’t remember her name.
I’m not EVEN making that up.
Although he’d always been all about my big girl body, and his new strudel had all the svelte daintiness normally associated with a brain-damaged East German shot-put champion (I’m just guessing about the shot-put part, but the rest is dead on) he told me
“Just because you don’t hate your size doesn’t mean your size is okay.”
I was, for one of the very few times in my life, speechless. How could someone so smart be so wrong wrong wrongitty wrong?
It was then I realized –because I’m not very bright and hadn’t figured it out sooner– that some people really did decide on a person or object’s value and virtue based on whether they liked it or not.
What a crippling way to live.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t empirically rotten films or people out there, and there’s a whole conversation to be led by someone much more erudite than I about the joys of good taste and whether the enjoyment of quality craftsmanship is better or purer than the pleasure derived from “ooh, shiny thing go boom!” and whether, from a pleasure aspect, having good taste is more of a blessing or a curse.
Oh, and the next person who dares to say The Searchers is a bad film, when it is fairly and universally acknowledged as one of the best American films ever made, gets a one way trip to the woodshed behind Villa Plumcake and will be treated to a lengthy lecture on its cultural import, visual beauty and merciless examination of racism and the attitudes about Native American genocide. You don’t have to like it, but it doesn’t mean it’s not great.