I have a quandary. It's actually something of a lifelong dilemma, so I don't anticipate resolving it within the confines of this column. Still, it helps to address things on a public forum.
I write about movies. I write about other things, too, but movies are what I write about with the greatest frequency and enthusiasm. I believe wholeheartedly that in order to become an informed film critic deserving of the title and of the trust that readers place in such critics, I need to see more movies. Many more movies. I'm not there yet, but it's a fun goal. It's a rewarding endeavor because, well, I love to watch movies. Every step I take toward becoming the more trustworthy, studied and knowledgeable film critic that I strive to be is a step I will enjoy taking. Every movie that a film-lover should see, recommended on whatever list is currently in vogue, is a movie that I am gratified to watch. I may not love all of them, but I learn from them. I understand cinema better for having seen them, I examine the way I feel after watching them, I read about how they moved writers I respect and I learn from that, too.
But there are so many movies out there. So many that even if I did nothing but watch movies I'd never seen before all day, every day, for the rest of my life, I'd still never come anywhere close to seeing every movie I should see. And the thing is, I'm really blowing my average by my irrepressible need to re-watch the movies I love best.
I can't help it. I love to revisit movies. Part of that is a love of the familiar, surely - a comfort that I seek out when I'm having a bad day or not feeling well or I'm struggling with the uncertainty of less controllable aspects of my life. Part of it is that I get in a particular mood for a movie, and I feel like no other film will suffice. And part of it is that the best movies reveal something new every time we watch them, no matter how many times we watch them.
So in some ways, I'm still learning from these films, but if I'm honest with myself, I know that I need to re-watch fewer movies in order to make room for all for all of the beautiful, mind-expanding, perspective-changing cinema that still awaits me out there. It's a conflict that's battled within me my entire life; I do it with books and television, too. I get panicky when I think of all of the brilliant new books I'll never read, and then I get panicky at the idea of never being able to revisit Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell because it's too long but I love it so much. (I've read it three times, so you can see which side is winning in this battle.)
Movies I've revisited countless times: The Fugitive. Tombstone. When Harry Met Sally. Ghostbusters. The Princess Bride. Gone With the Wind. The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Citizen Kane. Slither. Clueless. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Back to the Future. The Wizard of Oz. An American Werewolf in London. Dark City. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Re-Animator. Psycho. Coming to America. Singin' in the Rain. Every possible Jane Austen adaptation, but especially Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility. Probably more that I'm not recalling at the moment.
It's a lot, right?
Movies that I've never seen: so, so many more. Far too many to name.
So! I'm going to challenge myself. For the next few months, I'm not going to re-watch any movies (other than those I watch for work - hosting or writing - purposes), and I'm going to fill that time watching movies I've always intended to see but never have. I'm going to start with Tokyo Story. I've been meaning to watch that movie for years.
As I said, it's a rewarding endeavor that makes for a pretty fun challenge. Even though I'm going to miss checking back in with Cher and Marty and Scarlett and Prince Akeem for a while, I look forward to making some new friends.
Do you guys suffer from this predicament? If you're a re-watcher, what do you re-watch?