After the second bottle of wine, the dinner conversation turned to the state of cultural affairs. The friends gathered shared reading lists and recent museum visits. One mentioned the retinue of movies in theaters. Almost instinctively, there was a quick dismissal of the latest Marvel characters as undeserving of thoughtful discussion among full-grown adults. Is film a worthy element in a serious review of our culture?
If American cinema is deemed significant (at least occasionally), then shouldn’t all well-educated and engaged citizens have a canon of required viewing? What might make the cut? Not surprisingly, internet list-makers cling to vastly different perspectives on art and value. Likewise, each of us boasts favorites – tied to our own times and places, laughs and tears.
Some would be popular, marquee blockbusters. The docket would include thrillers, dramas, comedies and even the odd horror film. Many must be small and independent. A few could be quirky enough to stand alone in their own quirky categories. The list would be revisited in conversations with new players, reinforcing the previous choices and adding some that had been wrongly overlooked.
For a decade or so, our family has woven this list between recent releases and small-festival winners. Occasionally, we miss the mark. More often, we are reminded why these films are special! Recently, we screened the 1959 movie version of “Ben Hur” and then its 2016 remake. After considerable family discourse, requiring a second piece of pecan pie, 1959 won big.
Does it matter what we watch? And does it matter that we talk about it? Maybe. Still, if we thought a bit, in advance, about what films are worthy, and shared them with those we love, wouldn’t we come to know each other better? And perhaps, wouldn’t we understand each other a bit more?