Monday, November 5, 2012

Who Knows What About Movies?

My partner and I were Sam and Suzy from Moonrise Kingdom for Halloween and nobody knew what the hell that was. Outside of my movie friends the film does not exist. I would have expected this had we gone as Irma Vep and Guérand, not Wes Anderson characters. Perhaps its the innocuous title: Moonrise Kingdom sounds like a Twilight installment. I wonder, because conversation has proven that these people are familiar with (and love) Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr Fox. Do they only know about films that advertise on the streets they travel or run commercials during the reality TV they watch? I know not everyone eats movies like I do, but I might as well have been explaining that we were characters from a Lav Diaz movie.

Films are always falling in and out of cultural memory. If anything speaks to the value (for me) of writing about film, of criticism, of video essays, and perhaps even film studies, it is the experience of this movie being totally forgotten in the realms I navigate (non-film academics, retail job, [most] friends and family). A mainstream film with A-list talent that has only been on DVD for a month.


A coworker, knowing I like movies, asked me what the deal was with John Waters. They had never heard of him or any of his pictures. They were fascinated by what they were watching (working through a boxed set someone lent them). I don't know much about their tastes or politics, but they were thrilled by this new find. If anything speaks to the longevity of subterfuge (for me) it was this moment. Even when movies or entire directors drop out of some people's cultural memory, they still retain the power to shock and disrupt and plant seeds of curiosity.


I recall an add slogan run by NBC's Must See TV when I was a child: if you haven't seen it, it's new to you.


This is the entirety of an exchange in the comments sections of a piece for The Notebook written by Fernando F. Croce (source):

Blue K Custodian of the Cinema:  Wow, you guys send “critics” to a major festival who haven’t even seen a single work by Ghatak? Bravo.

Daniel Kasman: Ghatak’s films are very hard to see in the States, Blue.

Fernando F. Croce: This “critic” hopes to never run out of new directors to discover.


  1. One time my mom and I couldn't believe that someone didn't know who Charlie Chaplin was, which got us naming various famous people we thought it would be odd for someone to be unfamiliar with. It turned out she had no idea who Jean-Luc Godard was. Had never even heard of him! I couldn't believe it. Like Chaplin, he was one of those people I just assumed everyone knew.

    What's even more amusing is that, though she thought the person who was unfamiliar with Chaplin ignorant and strange, she didn't think it was odd at all to have never heard of Godard... Now that's some funny psychology at work!

  2. It's funny how that works. I was totally blindsided that not a single coworker of my age group in the big city of Chicago knew who RoboCop was. Maybe one person did. This was even more shocking because I come form a tiny farming town of about 5,000 people and all of my friends knew about RoboCop as kids. I always assumed that people that grew up in major urban areas had cultural advantages, being exposed to more things that would never make it to little hamlets like my hometown. How wrong I was!