I used to see a lot of movies. In college, I had a membership to the local art house theater that let me see everything for free (I think it was $50 a year). After college, I spent about two years doing weekly movie reviews for Juice, which often involved seeing films that weren’t quite as good as the art house options.
Around 2007, things seemed to change. I stopped reviewing and started watching a lot more Netflix. This was back “discs through the mail” era, and I noticed my habits of consuming entertainment were shifting. I would blow through seasons of TV shows, but films would sit on the coffee table for weeks. Sometimes it could be hard to psych yourself up to watch “Hotel Rwanda,” when there was also a disc of “30 Rock” waiting.
Then came kids, and suddenly watching movies felt even more impractical. It’s easier to blow through 20-40 minutes of a TV show when they’re napping or distracted by something than it is to put myself in the mindset to watch a three-hour foreign film. Sorry, Ingmar Bergman.
So my next challenge to myself (starting before I finish all my beer writing. I promise, that’s still coming) is to write about 100 films I’ve always meant to watch, but haven’t. I’m not giving myself a strict timeline on this, but I’d like to make sure I’m watching at least one a week.
Film 1: “Singin’ in the Rain”
My excuse for not watching it: I’d say the big one is I’ve never been big on musicals. I didn’t get around to watching “The Sound of Music” until I was 25 or so.
I listened to the song “Singin’ in the Rain” a lot as a teenager. After watching “A Clockwork Orange” as a teenager, I tracked down the soundtrack and played in regularly. I was, of course, familiar with the iconic street scene, trotted out whenever there was a special on the grandeur of old Hollywood, but to my cynical teenage mind it seemed cliche.
Another reason is I’ve never been thrilled by Hollywood’s attempts to turn the spotlight on itself. For every “Sunset Boulevard” or “The Player,” there’s a “Burn Hollywood Burn.” It’s probably why I’m in no hurry to watch “La La Land,” which drew inspiration from “Singin’ in the Rain,” but from everything I’ve seen seems to have somehow done so with too much and not enough self-awareness simultaneously.
Thoughts after watching it: Clearly, I was a fool. Ignore the music, “Singin’ in the Rain” is one of the physically impressive films I’ve ever seen. The dance scenes are staged as impressively as a classic Hong Kong martial arts flick. Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and John Woo have all mentioned Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire as inspirations, and having watched this it’s easy to see why. There were multiple dance numbers where it seemed like there was no friction when Kelly and Donald O’Connor’s feet touched the floor.
I know everyone thinks of Kelly when they watch this movie, but it was O’Connor who really blew me away. I think “Make ‘em Laugh” stands out as the masterpiece of the film. There are a few cuts, but they’re so well hidden that it feels like a four-minute marathon. The two walls flips, followed by breaking through a third wall. I want to show this clip to my kids to see if they’ll find it as entertaining as I do.
Movies it has inspired me to check out someday: “Brigadoon,” “An American in Paris” and I should probably figure out a few Debbie Reynolds movies to watch. I’m not sure I’ve seen any that predate “Charlotte’s Web.”