San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle ran a brave piece last Sunday. He admitted he hadn’t seen Blade Runner, To Kill a Mockingbird, Young Frankenstein, 2001: A Space Odyssey and An Affair to Remember, and then declared he’d watched all five on DVD and then reviewed them. He half-panned Young Frankenstein and almost totally shredded 2001, admitting “there’s something to be said for the movie’s adventurous subject matter and its vision of the future” but nonetheless calling it “virtually unwatchable, a boring, impenetrable experience that I’m glad to finally have behind me.”
The bravery wasn’t in panning Stanley Kubrick‘s 1968 classic (which will be shown at the American Cinematheque over the weekend of March 7-9 in a reportedly pristine 70mm form) but admitting he hadn’t seen five major films. Major critics are supposed to have covered the waterfront as throughly as possible before becoming major critics. They’re supposed to have 5,000 movies under their belt, know all the players past and present, know the language and the references, and pass along a certain perspective.
How the hell does a big-city film critic manage to not see 2001: A Space Odyssey or Blade Runner after a couple of decades on the beat? I don’t know but I can guess: LaSalle isn’t a big fan of futuristic sci-fi films. Just like I’m not much of a fan of 1930s and ’40s big-studio women’s films (especially anything with June Allyson), or almost any late-period film directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
Anyway, LaSalle inspired me. I’ve never admitted the following derelictions but here goes. I’ve never seen F.W. Murnau‘s Sunrise, William Wyler‘s Mrs. Miniver, Budd Boetticher‘s Seven Men From Now, Samuel Fuller‘s 40 Guns, William Deterle‘s The Story of Louis Pasteur and The Life of Emile Zola, Michael Curtiz‘s Mildred Pierce, Sidney Franklin‘s The Good Earth, Fuller’s Fixed Bayonets, Jules Dassin‘s Thieves Highway, and LeRoy’s Little Women, A Majority of One and Mary, Mary.
Which bothers me not. All but A Majority of One and Mary, Mary are on DVD so I’ve got several viewing experiences to look forward to. What does bother me are the black-hole films I’ve sat through and can’t erase. Films that have acted like siphons or poisons. Films whose running times are like shark teeth that have taken bites out of my life. That would be a much more interesting list to assemble — Ten Movies That Have Eternally Polluted My Soul.