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Criticwire Survey: Glaring Omissions

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by Sam Adams
August 12, 2013 9:00 AM
7 Comments
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A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club

I've never seen Lawrence of Arabia, which is a pretty enormous blind spot. If I have to rationalize my stubborn refusal to move it up the Netflix queue, it probably just comes down to running time: In the hours I'd spend giving Lawrence its belated due, I could watch two other revered classics I've neglected. (Thank God this question doesn't call for a top 50 list of glaring omissions; that would get embarrassing.) Anyway, I tend to run hot and cold on David Lean -- The Bride on the River Kwai is exciting and morally complex, while Doctor Zhivago is just an epic bore. One day, on rainy Saturday during a long weekend, I'll fill that gap in my viewing history. Then again, I've seen the match fade into the sunrise; what else does Lawrence really have to offer? I'm kidding. Mostly.

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket

I've yet to see Lawrence of Arabia. A few years ago, I realized this glaring omission and promptly went out to buy a copy on DVD. It's been on my shelf ever since. The reason I still haven't gotten around to it? It's surprisingly difficult to find three and a half hours to watch a movie I'm not being paid to see. Every time I think of popping the DVD in, I remember a looming deadline, or notice the stack of screeners I have to get to, or realize I won't have time to watch the whole thing before rushing out to a screening. I've considered watching half of it one day and half the next, but that doesn't seem right. I also nearly watched it last year, during a particularly nasty flu that had me in bed for several days. For something as important as Lawrence of Arabia, though, I want to watch the whole thing in one sitting, when I'm not half-delusional from cold & flu medication. This particular film seems like it deserves my full attention. One of these days, I really will get around to it. Because, seriously, who hasn't seen Lawrence of Arabia?

John Keefer, 51Deep.com

I have never seen Lawrence of Arabia.  This is through no fault of my own or prejudice against either David Lean or desert epics.  I just have not seen it yet, like many films I have yet to watch.  This is a subject that comes up often amongst people I know who, upon hearing I haven't seen a particular film, "But I thought you were a movie guy?"  I am indeed a movie guy but I unfortunately have to work and eat food and be in certain places at certain times.  This unfortunately prevents me from spending however much time I have on this planet watching every movie I possibly can.  If this were an option I would take it but the dirty work of being alive prevents total absorption in passion and that is, in my opinion, a shame.  Once the singularity hits I will gladly join my consciousness to every film available in digital format and know heaven.  Until then I'll be making my way down the Netflix queue, up next Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, a film I will soon have seen and have a good chance of enjoying greatly.

Alan Zilberman, Tiny Mix Tapes, The Atlantic

Lately I've been good about correcting my omissions -- this year I watched Citizen Kane, Sabrina, Roman Holiday, The Triumph of the Will, and Schindler's List for the first time, among others -- but I still haven't seen Lawrence of Arabia. At this point, I may as well hold out until I get a chance to see it on the big screen. I have no doubt the wait will be worth it.

Sean Hutchinson, Latino Review, CriterionCast

I have to admit that my most egregious and glaring omission is that I've never seen Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story. Something about the storyline of the mistreated elderly Japanese couple and my knowledge of Ozu's mannered style has been off-putting whenever the chance comes up to see it. I've seen plenty of other Ozu films, and for whatever reason it's the one that is widely regarded as his best that I've never seen. This glaring omission was compounded by the fact that it ranked no. 1 on Sight and Sound's Director's Top 100 Films poll, and though it's been weighing on my conscience for a very long time maybe the embarrassment of admitting it here will work up my desire to finally sit down and watch it.

Brian Tallerico, HollywoodChicago.com, Film Threat

Easy. Tokyo Story. Every time Sight & Sound releases a poll, I feel bad about it. Back to my circle of shame.

Gary Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News

For decades, I had never seen the original Rocky. As a kid, I'd seen Rocky IIon cable, and I went to see Rocky III in the theater and I didn't care for either of them. But I had never seen the classic, Oscar-winning Rocky. It was not lack of interest. My resistance wasn't about the film, it was that I insisted that I would only see Rocky at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Rocky runs, famously, up the steps. Last summer, I finally got the chance. The city screened the film not in the Museum's Van Pelt Auditorium, but on the actual steps. It was an incredible, memorable experience--the perfect way to see this film. And I loved Rocky. Being with that crowd of fans, who responded so enthusiastically when Rocky runs up the steps was a thrill only those of us who were there could share. So my reasons for not seeing a "classic" sometimes come down to how and when and where you see them. As for what I am "holding out" to see next, Roger Ebert once wrote, "Sooner or later, everyone who loves movies comes to Ozu" and I will think of him when I do.

Jeff Berg, Local IQ, Las Cruces Bulletin

I've never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, mostly because I find most sci-fi and such insufferable (exceptions being Silent Running, Sunshine and Alien).  I've also not seen any of the Hobbit pix or Harry Potter.  Fantasy has just never caught my attention. as limited as it may be. 

Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit

I've confessed to this purportedly glaring omission before, but I've never seen any of the Harry Potter movies.  No, not even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (I'm still not sure why that one specifically bothers people so much).  The first one never interested me and by the time it was solidified as a cultural touchstone, I was both disinterested and far behind, so I opted to just stay out of the loop there.  One day I'll marathon the franchise over a weekend or something, but for now I remain willfully ignorant...

Andrew Welch, In Review Online, Dallas Observer

When it comes to big Hollywood movies, the glaring omission I'm most painfully aware of is Die Hard, especially with it reaching 25 this summer. Why haven't I seen it? No good reason. I like action as much as the next guy; I've just never gotten around to it. Do I think it matters to the work I do? Not really. As so many recent pieces have pointed out, Die Hard's impact has been enormous. Some of its copycats are better than others, and watching them makes me feel like I've come close to seeing it anyway. Will I ever sit down and watch it? Probably, but since I've gone this long, I'd almost like to make a game of it and see how much longer can go. My guess: pretty long.

Eric D. Snider, Twitch, Movie B.S. with Bayer and Snider 

I compiled my own Shame List last year and started making an effort to cross off the most egregious entries, both canonical (e.g., Schindler's List) and pop-cultural (e.g., Beetlejuice). Of the remaining films on the list, the one that is most appalling and baffling to the most people seems to be Dirty Dancing. It was simply a matter of demographics that kept me from seeing it at first. It came out the summer I turned 13, and 13-year-old boys are notoriously difficult to attract to female-oriented romantic musical dramas. (Mind you, I did have the double-LP soundtrack.) After that, when it became a cultural phenomenon, I just never felt the need to catch up with it. It's not the sort of "important" movie that a film critic ought to have seen; it's just a movie that most people HAVE seen. If it's any consolation, I did see the quasi-remake, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

I constantly feel like I need to be catching up; just recently, I had to acknowledge that I still haven't seen Dressed to Kill or Body Double (in conversations about De Palma's Passion) or Oldboy (which I plan to get to before seeing the Spike Lee remake). One of my most howling omissions would probably be Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, which I will not watch until I can see it projected on the big screen, preferably in 35mm. Luckily, I live in Los Angeles, where opportunities periodically come up; I've had to miss the last few times this one surfaced, but next time, for sure, honest, pinky swear.

Edwin Arnaudin, Ashvegas

Had this question been posed a month ago, I would have said City Lights or Modern Times.  I don't know how I went so long without seeing a Charlie Chaplin film, but I also don't know if I've had more fun eradicating a blind spot than with those two films. That leaves The Maltese Falcon as my most glaring omission. I love film noir, Bogie, Hammett novels, and most of John Huston's films, but have yet to block out 100 minutes for the combination of these assets. I think part of not seeing it has to do with the film's ending being a pop culture staple and the resulting lack of surprise (or what I presume to be so) removes some of the allure. Still, so much film noir and detective stories reference the film that I owe it to myself to actually watch the damn thing, which I will do... some day...

Danny Bowes, RogerEbert.com/Tor.com

The last time we had one of these, I answered The Grapes of Wrath, which was a great excuse to finally watch The Grapes of Wrath, which was great, better than the book, in nomine John Ford, et filis, et Spiritus Sancti, amen. My most glaring omission now is either Mughal-e-Azam, the landmark 1960 Bollywood epic, or Jacques Rivette's Celine and Julie Go Boating, depending on whose stern finger is wagging at me.

John Oursler, In Review Online, Sound on Sight

My instinct was to be embarrassed about whatever I was going to admit, but get outta here with all that nonsense. My name is John Oursler, and I've never seen Gone With the Wind or Casablanca. With movies so pervasively canonized in the American consciousness, there's an inevitable pressure to have seen something because it's great, as is the case with these two movies. I'm sure they're both wonderful, but, knowing what I do about them, I can't imagine them being among one of my favorites. Still, as a cinephile and blogger, I feel like it is part of my job to see movies that "I should have seen," so I'll get to them one day. 

Daniel Carlson, Pajiba

There are so many classic films that I still haven't seen: Gone With the Wind and The Seven Samurai spring to mind as examples of American and international film "canon" that I still haven't made time for yet. The reasons I haven't seen them are totally pedestrian. Gone With the Wind didn't look interesting to me as a younger man, and now that I'm curious about it I find I'm still reluctant to set aside a four-hour chunk for it. Seven Samurai, who knows? I've known of its existence and importance for years, but have just never made it a priority. It's my own laziness. I think what matters most, though, isn't just that I want to see these movies (and, spurred on by this public disclosure, likely [hopefully?] will watch them soon); it's that I don't beat myself up any more for not having seen certain movies by a certain age or stage in my career. Because look: I was born in 1982, so I wasn't able to begin searching out adult films like these until the late 1990s, by which point I had a century of cinema to contend with. If we're always measuring ourselves against some elusive ideal of "the critic who's seen it all," we'll never be happy. Movies will become notches on our belts, not artistic and emotional experiences. I love the search, and I love finding new-to-me movies. (Hell, just the other night I saw Suspicion for the first time, and The Women the night before.) The idea of a canon can be helpful, but only if it's a way to celebrate films, not categorize the viewers. 

Scott Meslow, The Week

Gone with the Wind -- and frankly, my dear, I don't have any excuse. Maybe it's how the film's most iconic scenes are so embedded in other films and TV shows that I feel like I've already seen it. Maybe it's the many, many times I've heard friends complain about its racism and sexism. Maybe it's because I'm rarely in the mood to clear an evening for a three-plus hour film that asks us to sympathize with a plantation owner during the Civil War. Gone with the Wind has been on my cinematic to-do list long enough that I've resolved to see it as soon as one of the New York theaters offers a throwback screening, intermission and all -- but until then, it'll remain an embarrassing gap in my "wait, you haven't seen that?" list.

Josh Spiegel, Mousterpiece Cinema, Sound on Sight

I have literally no excuse for not having seen Gone with the Wind before, but there you have it. My wife bought it on Blu-ray a couple years ago, so I could watch it whenever I wanted. (And, of course, the movie's on TCM enough that I could DVR it.) I suppose I could connect my lack of interest in the film to presuming the decades of hype will cause me to be disappointed, though I imagine it's closer to me equating it with a chore. To me, Gone with the Wind is less something I desire to see, but more something I feel I have to watch. One day, I will. It just hasn't happened yet.

Piers Marchant, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sweet Smell of Success

While there are a great number of masterpieces I ashamedly still haven't seen (Tokyo Story leaps to mind), and still more quirky, popular faves that somehow haven't made their way to me (I'm the guy who still has never seen Being John Malkovich), the single title I get the most grief for not seeing is Singin' in the Rain. In order to keep it real for you, I'll flat-out admit this hard and bitter truth: I'm really biased against the musical form. I know, it makes me a soulless lout and a cad and someone who can't find beauty in anything, but something about the concept behind musicals -- people expressing heartfelt emotions via song and dance -- leaves me utterly cold. Ascribe it to my Middle School trauma of being relegated to "deep background chorus" when I tried out for Oliver (Oliver!) in 7th grade. Whatever, I make no excuses. Someday, I guess, I'll finally break down and see it, and maybe it will be a transformative experience that will bring me joy and quivering rapture and enlarge my Grinch-like heart. But I sincerely doubt it.

Don Simpson, Smells Like Screen Spirit

Okay, I confess that I have not seen How Green Was My Valley, but that will never stop me from lambasting it for winning the Academy Award for Best Picture over Citizen Kane. It might sound like a petty and childish grudge, but that really is the sole reason that I have refused to watch it. Sure, it is not the film's fault that the Academy had its heads up their collective asses that year, but I know I will never be able to watch How Green Was My Valley without comparing it to Citizen Kane, which is by all accounts a far superior film. 

Tony Dayoub, Cinema Viewfinder, Press Play

I'm an auteurist who is still working his way through the catalog of some American auteurs like Ford, Hawks and Huston. What that means is that I've delayed watching some important world cinema classics, most notably anything Japanese that's not Kurosawa like Ozu's Tokyo Story or anything Italian that's not Bertolucci, Fellini, Pasolini, Rossellini, or Visconti like De Sica's Bicycle Thieves. I'm not really proud of that.

Luke Y. Thompson, Topless Robot

I have yet to seriously engage the bodies of work of Antonioni or Truffaut. Also Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid -- been in my Netflix queue forever but has never reached the top.

Anne-Katrin Titze, Eye For Film

Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), based on the novel by Nelson Algren. It stars Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak and the subject matter had Preminger confront the Production Code again after his The Moon is Blue. I have been waiting to see it on a big screen.  

Mark Young, Sound on Sight, The New York Movie Klub

Considering that it was a Best Picture winner which managed to enter the zeitgeist to such a degree that an episode of Seinfeld turned upon it, I always surprise people by revealing that I've never seen Schindler's List. I don't have much of an excuse: I was on my high school debate team and rarely saw movies during the winter as a result. Of the ten films that received nominations for either Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, or Best Actress in that year's Academy Awards, the only one I saw was the summer release The Fugitive.

Jordan Hoffman, Film.com, ScreenCruch

Forrest Gump. Came out when I was still a student at NYU Film, so, at Peak Snob. I'll see it some day. 

Scott Nye, BattleshipPretension.com, CriterionCast.com

The highest-ranked film on the ever-handy They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? list that I've not seen is Pather Panchali, but given that film's rather limited availability, I hardly get surprised reactions when I mention this. No, by far, the one I am most ashamed to admit I've not seen, the one from which I will actively steer the conversation away if it comes up, is John Cassavetes' A Woman Under the Influence. The excuses are extraordinarily limited, given the ease by which one may come by it (I'm hardly waiting for special circumstances or anything), but nope, the fact of it is I just haven't seen the damn thing. I'd sure like to, though.

Kenji Fujishima, In Review Online

I was reminded of one of my biggest blind spots yesterday when taking in my first-ever encounter with Robert Altman's thematically similar 3 Women: Ingmar Bergman's Persona. In some of the cinephile circles I've encountered, Bergman's star seems to have fallen somewhat since his world-cinema dominance in the 1950s/'60s/'70s (same with Akira Kurosawa), but that 1966 film seems to be one film of his that even detractors admit to be a major work, if not an outright masterpiece. So I'm certainly curious just for that, if nothing else (though admittedly, there's a lot of canonical Bergman I still have yet to see: Wild Strawberries, all three films of his unofficial God trilogy from the early '60s, Scenes from a Marriage, etc.). I don't really have much of an excuse for this glaring omission; I remember recording it off TV back in my teenage years but never getting around catching up with it, is all. But I will surely get to it...one day...when life doesn't get in the way somehow...

Scott Weinberg, Twitch, FEARnet

What I know about the French New Wave could probably fill a thimble. I swear I'll get to it soon.


What is the best movie currently in theaters?

Computer Chess

Others receiving multiple votes: The Act of Killing, Before Midnight, The Spectacular Now, Elysium, Fruitvale Station, Blue Jasmine, Drug War.

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7 Comments

  • Sterling Cooper | August 13, 2013 5:25 AMReply

    Ha! You could have named this article, "Who's The Biggest Out-of-Touch, Socially-Inept, Wanna-Be-Filmmaker Nerd Out There" and you wouldn't have to change a word that follows.

  • FAM | August 12, 2013 8:50 PMReply

    Quite a few of the films these critics mention are "canon" films such as Godfather 2, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Gone with the Wind and Lawrence of Arabia. I can understand missing documentaries but these??? Makes me wonder if they lucked into getting that critic job. I personally own 3,250 movies in various forms and have seen everything on both AFI Best Movies list as well as having seen every single Best Picture winner. I WANT ONE OF THESE JOBS!!! Seriously, how do you get to be a paid critic without having seen GWTW? Like the movie or not, it's a benchmark film. You'd think these critics would take their job just a little more seriously unless they spend most of their time working on snarky prose.

  • [A] | August 12, 2013 2:45 PMReply

    I loooove movies but haven't watched GONE WITH THE WIND until last year.

  • Toshiki | August 12, 2013 1:51 PMReply

    Well, now, why doesn't it surprise me that the critic at the New Yorker has not seen two of the most groundbreaking and seminal genre films of the second half of the 20th century and - apparently - has little interest in correcting that situation. On the other hand, cite any somber 180 minute Russian drama from the 20s and 30s and I'm sure he'll be well up on those. And I say this as a big fan of Russian films. Genre ghettoization - alive and well today!

  • Richard Parkin | August 12, 2013 11:41 AMReply

    I confess I haven't read (or even heard of) most of these critics.

  • James Agee | August 12, 2013 9:47 AMReply

    Remember when shame was something people hid?

  • Bilge | August 12, 2013 10:30 AM

    YES. Everything was SO MUCH BETTER back then!

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