I’ve always had some pretty gaping chasms in my cinematic knowledge. I grew up in a family that was all about music, not films; we didn’t tend to go on that many cinema excursions or spend time gathered round the TV on a Sunday afternoon watching a film. In fairness, we didn’t spend it practising songs for our family band either, because mercifully that’s only come into existence on about three occasions. But generally, we weren’t really a particularly filmy family.
I did see a lot of the films that were necessary to an upbringing in the 80s and 90s – stuff like Labyrinth, Back to the Future, The Land Before Time, and The Lion King (and I’m still emotionally scarred by the last two.) But I missed a lot of stuff too. I’ve never seen Willow. I’ve never seen The Princess Bride. I remain bewildered by references to the Wizard of Oz.
And yes, when I was a bit older I went to the cinema with friends, but a lot of the time the thrill was in seeing if we could get into a 15 when we were 12, and an 18 when we were 15. I think we only failed once, which says something about how lax cinema attendants were around the millennium.
Then I went to uni, and for three years I was a cinematic fiend thanks to a combination of a friend who had grown up in a filmy family, and student tickets that were only £3. We saw pretty much everything that we could find time for, and since I studied English, had at most eight contact hours a week, and hardly ever did the reading, I could find a hell of a lot of time.
This same friend also took it upon herself to correct some glaring omissions from my cinematic past – notably Star Wars, which, despite my love of Spaced, I fiercly resisted for reasons that I just can’t remember. I obviously loved it, and then was immediately angry that I wasted 19 years of my life not knowing how attractive the young Harrison Ford was.
Then graduation happened, and eventually I ended up in London, and my friend ended up in Africa. I tried to keep up the cinema visits by myself and even bought myself an unlimited membership to my local Cineworld, but it was 2008 and my busy schedule of drinking and smoking got in the way.
So I fell out of the habit, and now I’ve become one of those people who sees ads for films and thinks “ooh, I should really go see that” and then does approximately cock all about it.
The only things I see in the cinema these days star superheroes, because I married a comic book geek and he won’t let me miss a single superhero film. When I said that I wanted to go see something that wasn’t part of the Marvel cinematic universe, I promptly got taken to see Man of Steel. Because apparently I should’ve specified that I also wanted to see something that wasn’t by DC.
And I enjoy superhero films, I really do. There’s a certain joy in watching things go bang, and aliens misbehaving, and superhumans fixing it all. But I’m very aware that my cinematic gaps just keep growing, and I’m in danger of becoming both out of touch and a bit detached from reality if I only ever go to the cinema to see people who can fly.
My summer with the Sky box went some way towards fixing the giant sinkhole that is my knowledge; I was talked into adding Sky movies a couple of years ago and have not been taking sufficient advantage of it ever since. But I kept accidentally watching either things I’d seen before and knew would be comforting, or terrible romcoms that I thought might entertain me with how bad they were. I would’ve watched Jawbreaker, the worst film I’ve ever seen, if only I could’ve found it.
Yes, I did also watch things like The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game, but I kept forgetting to watch stuff that I said I was going to, and I also kept forgetting to put them on a list.
Then, once I’d exhausted everything I could immediately think of watching on Sky, I signed up for Netflix. I initially did it because I wanted to watch Orange Is The New Black, so I was oddly surprised when I saw how many films there were on there. All anyone ever talked about with Netflix was binge-watching TV shows. Who knew there were films? Who cares that it’s basically there in the name?
And it had a handy feature where I could add things to a list without having to find paper and make a list, and then put it down somewhere and forget where that place is and then have to start again (for I refuse to make lists on my phone, because lists are important things and should be treated as such.)
So I’ve been going through and finding all the stuff I probably should’ve watched but never have, and am lining it all up for the afternoons where it’s raining and I hate people and have writer’s block and just want to flop in front of the TV and sulk a bit.
So far it’s a pretty small list, because it turns out there’s so much stuff I haven’t seen that I can’t think of individual things to search for and am reliant on them turning up in my recommendations. Which are still largely clogged with terrible romcoms thanks to some ill-advised watching in my early days of membership. I’ve remembered that I need to watch Good Will Hunting, and Pretty in Pink, and Say Anything, and the other day I watched Election.
There’s only one problem: I keep getting struck by the overwhelming sadness of not being able to watch absolutely everything that’s on there. It’s the same sadness I get when I think about how I can’t read every book ever written, or watch every TV show ever made. Even the bad ones. In fact, especially the bad ones, because being rude about stuff is just as fun as being in awe of things.
But I’m going to give watching it all a damn good try. I just may have to give up sleeping to do so.