Interesting Point/Counterpoint, or whatever they call the thing, in this week's Slate, with David Edelstein and Joe Morgenstern discussing a topic near to my heart: "Did George Lucas and Steven Spielberg Ruin the Movies?" So far it's mostly notable for the fact that Morgenstern has yet to show. I'm still going to call it a draw at this point, because Tuesday Edelstein confessed his love for Jaws.
Maybe you love Jaws too. Maybe you think it's a tightly-plotted thrill ride of an entertainment. I've got no real beef with you. There are certain blockbuster flickers on the DVD shelf or upstairs with the prerecorded videocassettes that I would go on a strict Brussels-sprouts-and-Coors-Light diet rather than watch, yet I still love my wife. Feel free to enjoy whatever you like, without asking my permission. After all, this is America, or at least it used to be. But I hate blockbusters. I'm allergic to them. Not only will I not pay to see a blockbuster, I won't see any movie that shares a theme with one. Or a cast member. I won't see a movie if it has a gaffer who's ever worked with Spielberg. My reaction is so strong that I can come to hate movies retroactively. After Troy I now refused to acknowledge I ever saw Das Boot. In fact, I now pronounce it "boot" just out of spite.
About a year ago I thought I might actually start watching all the blockbusters I'd missed. As it happens, that began and ended with Jaws, a movie I found so utterly pedestrian, so silly and shoddy that I almost welcomed the intense pain that is Richard Dreyfus, like it kept me from falling asleep in a snowstorm. There are experiences you avoid for years and once you finally cave in you realize were no so bad as your imaginings. This was worse. Several orders of magnitude worse. I had thought I might work up some shared cultural capital with my fellow citizens. What I wound up sharing, with some, was that it gave me nightmares.
The list of blockbusters I've never seen is impressive. Titanic, certainly. E.T., Lord of the Rings, anything with Arnold, Bruce, or even Tom Hanks. I've never seen more than a two-minute segment of Gone With The Wind. Nothing animated, Roman numeralled, or named for a comic book. I've got no real objection to their hegemony over the nation's dwindling number of movie screens. I'd just as soon stay out of those places as do prison time for making the guy behind me eat his cell phone in under thirty seconds.
I did see the original Star Wars. It was not my choice. I was in the company of a college student/waitress with the carriage of an Amazon, except she still had both breasts. It wasn't worth it. Dear God, it was not worth it. The crowd--mostly adults, this was--started stomping their feet and cheering and hissing the Bad Guys. Yes, hissing. I couldn't believe what was happening. Had there not been one of a very fine pair of boobs resting on my arm I would have yelled, "Fire!" honest to god. Or marched to the front of the screen and screamed, "You are not dirt-besmirched Depression kids trying to laugh off your empty bellies for a hour! You're effing proto-Yuppies, though we haven't had need to invent the term yet. Fuckin' get ahold of yourselves, go home, do some bong hits and listen to Boston, or the next thing you know Ronald Reagan will be president!"
I have never forgiven myself for putting my own needs above those of my country.