Unseen Movie Reviews #1: Caddyshack

I’ll start this final review with some films that nearly made this list:

  • 12 Years a Slave — There’s no way I’m not going to see this eventually
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — one of very few superhero movies I’ve skipped. The first film in this Andrew Garfield reboot was very disappointing, and the reviews convinced me the sequel was equally forgettable. 
  • The Fifth Element — an acclaimed sci-fi action film, but I’ve seen plenty like it

And now, for our winner…

Why I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Seen This Movie: At the time it came out, this 1980 comedy classic starred just about every one of my favorite comedians. If they had somehow snuck in Steve Martin or Robin Williams, I definitely wouldn’t have skipped it, but the cast they had should have been enough.

The One Time I Came Close To Finally Seeing The Movie: I was at home one weekend while my wife was on a business trip, and my toddler sons had just gone down for their naps. I flipped through the channels, and saw this movie had started thirty minutes earlier. I leaned back in my recliner… and my younger son woke me an hour later.

Why I Probably Won’t Ever See It Now: While it satirizes the country club world, the friends of mine who are serious golfers adore this movie, which tells me it is a very loving satire. And the country club is not a world that interests me much.

The One Image I’ll Never Forget, Even Though I Haven’t Seen It: Enjoying the best round of golf of his life, an elderly man plays on through a driving rainstorm, and is when he raises his golf club in victory, is struck by lightning.

The One Line I’ll Always Remember, Even Though I’ve Never Heard It: “It’s in the hole!”

I Haven’t Seen This Film, But I Have Seen: Tin Cup, a 1996 romantic comedy starring Kevin Costner as a journeyman professional golfer; think Rocky Balboa with a nine-iron and a better sense of humor.

Unseen Movie Reviews #2: The Graduate

Like fine literature among intellectuals, great movies so dominate populate culture that we have no choice but to be familiar with them. Much as I’ve never read a certain American literary classic but can tell you most of its plot and recite many of its famous lines, there are films I know so very well despite never haven seen them. So far in this series, I’ve fabricated memories of a horror classic and an epic fable of the American south; the next entry is a bit more contemporary. 

Why I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Seen This Movie: If you were a cynical undergraduate between the years 1967 and 1987, enjoyed films, and had ambivalent feelings about the adult world into which you were about to enter, there simply was no way you could not watch this film. It was a perfect expression for the anxiety of a generation. And the soundtrack from Simon and Garfunkel was absolutely awesome.

The One Time I Came Close To Finally Seeing The Movie: One night in graduate school, my roommate rented this film and invited a buddy of ours over to watch. I was in the graduate student office, and a bunch of fellow students talked me into going out drinking with them. I had just done poorly on a paper, and decided to get bombed. The next day my roommate said I could watch it if I wanted, but I was too disgusted to allow myself even a pleasure so small as watching a movie. So I returned it.

Why I Probably Won’t Ever See It Now: A sentiment that once appealed to me so strongly no longer has any attraction. In “My Back Pages,” Bob Dylan said it with far more eloquence: I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

The One Image I’ll Never Forget, Even Though I Haven’t Seen It: Dustin Hoffman being seduced by Anne Bancroft. I mean, it’s on the friggin’ poster, after all.

The One Line I’ll Always Remember, Even Though I’ve Never Heard It: “Elaine! ELAINE!”

I Haven’t Seen This Film, But I Have Seen: The Freshman, a quirky 1990 dark comedy starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick. Like “The Graduate,” it follows the journey of an intelligent young man struggling to understand the world around him, but doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously. Brando plays a character who claims to have been the inspiration for Brando’s performance in “The Godfather,” Bert Parks dances and sings about a Komodo dragon, and Broderick’s attempt to ruin the film with his typically awful acting go unnoticed through all the bizarre plot twists.

Unseen Movie Review #3: Gone With The Wind

Continuing a series of posts I started last week, recounting fond memories of movies I’ve never actually seen.

Why I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Seen This Movie: This 1939 classic routinely appears on top ten lists of greatest films of all time, and while I was in college it played nearly every quarter either at the student union or at a vintage theater near campus. I watched nearly all the films I never got to see as a child in the rural town where I was raised, but there always seemed to be something that needed to be done each time I considered going to this show.

The One Time I Came Close To Finally Seeing The Movie: Maddie (name changed on the remote chance she’s actually reading this) was a smart, funny, and comely lass who shared my appreciation for classic cinema. One day at lunch in the student cafeteria, she mentioned wanting to see the showing of this film over the coming weekend, and asked if I was interested. If she had asked me to watch “Dawn of the Dead,” I’d have said yes. Unfortunately she had to go home to her parents that weekend, and our date did not materialize until we went to see “The Neverending Story” a few months later.

Why I Probably Won’t Ever See It Now: After my college days, I read a lot about American history in the Civil War era, and my study convinced me the war was inevitable. The Union states did not fight the war to end slavery or for any other noble purpose, but their victory over the Confederacy was absolutely necessary. For these reasons, I can’t appreciate any work that glorifies the South in the antebellum era.

The One Image I’ll Never Forget, Even Though I Haven’t Seen It: Clark Gable carrying Vivien Leigh up the staircase.

The One Line I’ll Always Remember, Even Though I’ve Never Heard It: Among several great quotes in the movie, one has become a personal mantra — “Tomorrow is another day.”

I Haven’t Seen This Film, But I Have Seen: Sommersby (1993), an insightful film about the aftermath of the Civil War, featuring great performances from Jodie Foster and Richard Gere.

Unseen Movie Reviews

I review movies occasionally on this blog, but there’s one type of movie review I’ve been anxious to try: an analysis of a film I haven’t seen.

The impulse comes from the large impact cinema has on American culture. Movies influence the words we use, the conversations we have, the shape and movement of our dreams. They can reach us even when we try to avoid them; I will never, ever watch a particular film from 1986, mostly because I have always wanted to punch the face of the lead actor from the film’s movie poster, but I still know that insufferable punk stops a Chicago parade by singing Danke Schoen.

I embrace the cinema’s influence, which is why I find it unusual to have missed certain films. From professional reviews and anecdotes related by friends, I know their most memorable scenes, and can recite many of their famous quotes. And while I could rent most of these movies from the library or an online rental service, I like being able to convey my appreciation for these films that I’ve never seen.

Some ground rules. First, and most important, these are films that I want to see; disappointing sequels, enigmatic foreign films, renowned movies from a genre I don’t appreciate, and the just plain bad are all exempt. Second, movies that remain on my must-see list, like this one, will be exempt from my irony. The films to be reviewed in these posts are ones that I have no good reason for seeing any more, as they can have no greater influence on me than they already have.

Four films come immediately to mind; I’m certain to think of others. But every series of movie reviews has to have a countdown.

#4: Dracula (1931)

Why I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Seen This Movie: All those weekend evenings watching black and white Creature Double Features on grainy UHF channels, and I somehow never saw this classic. I am completely enthralled by Bram Stoker’s novel, and many critics consider Bela Lugosi’s performance as the Count to be the best.

The One Time I Came Close To Finally Seeing The Movie: About a decade ago, I saw a DVD edition of the film on a shelf, and checked it out. It sat on the entertainment center for months, collecting late fees, until I got annoyed with myself and returned it.

Why I Probably Won’t Ever See It Now: The film’s nearly a century old and apparently wasn’t particularly well-made even by the standards of its time. Forty years ago, the fanboy in me would not have noticed the lack of quality; today, the film would probably inspire me to check my phone for Facebook updates.

The One Image I’ll Never Forget, Even Though I Haven’t Seen It: Bela Lugosi, hands raised to shoulder level, ready to pounce on his victim.

The One Line I’ll Always Remember, Even Though I’ve Never Heard It: “I don’t drink… wine.”

I Haven’t Seen This Film, But I Have Seen: The Lost Boys (1987), a distinctly modern American take on the legend of vampires, and a film that is both scary and genuinely funny. “Attack of Eddie Munster!”