The other night, as is wont to do with too much alcohol and too many film students, the subject of classic film came up. Now, as I pointed out last night and will do so again, the term “classic” is loaded in my mind.
As a kid, I would have argued that Batman: The Animated Series was a timeless piece of television. My elders were bound to disagree.
But the topic of Lawrence of Arabia came up amongst the small group of film students and cinephiles. In my true scandalous fashion, I confessed to the group that I had never seen the film. Luckily for me, there was one other person who hadn’t seen the film.
Judging by the looks on these people’s faces, you’d think I had just confessed to raping their grandmother. My confession was met with equal parts shock, incredulousness, and a hint of disgust. As my fellow film school failure explained how he had been holding out on Lawrence of Arabia, I explained that I had never had much of an interest in seeing it.
I’ve never been one for sweeping epics, nor do I usually find that classics hold up as well with the amount of praise heaped upon them. One of the party members looked at me and simply asked, “why?”
I tried to explain that A) I had never had the opportunity B) I had never had that much interest and C) I had been waiting for the years to go by, to escape the confines of film school academia so that I might be able to enjoy it as a movie more than a demonstration in technical excellence.
My reasoning was met with scoffs and eye rolls, none of which seemed to bother me that much until I suddenly myself frustrated at the corner I had been backed into.
Naturally, since I disagreed with the populist perception of this movie, I had to explain myself. My question is, why don’t the people who enjoy things have to explain themselves?
As a writer on film, I’ve found myself disagreeing with others before. There are those who think Titanic is a masterful work because it garnered countless Oscar nominations. Then there are those of us who find the storytelling weak, the dialogue trite, and the running time excruciating.
Again, I have just explained why I do not like a film, but what about those who do like them? I have never heard a person forced to justify liking something, unless the majority of people had another understanding. The counter-culture always has to justify itself or prove itself, while the mainstream is simply accepted.
Even as I type this, I’m beginning to realize what a hipster debate this is, but it is something that should be accounted for. I’m tired of being dismissed as contrarian or merely bitter. Sometimes there are things that aren’t as great as they may have once been. There are even things that aren’t as great as people claim they are at the time of release.
If I am being held accountable for not liking something, you can be damn sure I should expect the same of people who disagree with me, on both ends.
Editor’s Note: I have attempted to watch Lawrence of Arabia at least three times. The acting is phenomenal and the look of the film is great, but neither are compelling enough for me to overlook my lack of interest in the story, resulting in me falling asleep at every attempt.