Getting Around to the Important Books/Movies
‘Citizen Kane.’ ‘War and Peace.’ ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ ‘Ulysses.’
You know them (well, you know of them) but, for some reason or another, you’ve never gotten around to seeing or reading them. They are the classics, the books and movies that are always cited as the greatest of their kind, and except for a few of them, they all seem fairly daunting. With movies, you may avoid them because they’re too long (‘Lawrence of Arabia’), too boring (‘Dr. Zhivago’), too dated (‘Birth of a Nation’) or simply too strange (‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’)
With books, it usually comes down to language and length, with the overriding sense that, if you didn’t read them in school, you probably won’t ever get around to them. There’s a reason they’re classics, though, and, believe it or not, you can actually enjoy reading and watching them without having to write a term paper at the end.
Sarah on ‘Their ‘Classics’ vs. Your ‘Classics”
‘My husband and I were almost an hour into ‘Barry Lyndon,’ a movie we’d rented mostly because we’d read it was on Time Magazine’s Top 100 Films of All Time. I don’t know who looked at whom first, but when our eyes met, the verdict was clear. In unison we both said, ‘This is terrible!’ And there was almost two hours more of it left to go. Instead of feeling bad about our opinion, we quickly realized that, just because someone else said something’s a classic, doesn’t mean we have to think it’s a classic as well. Just because we think ‘Terminator 2’ is a classic, doesn’t mean we have bad taste. In fact, amongst our friends, I’d say it meant we had impeccable taste. We just like what we like, if that syncs up with critics, then great, and if it doesn’t, then, in the words of Arnold, ‘Hasta La Vista, critics.’
Alicia on ‘It’s OK To Cheat’
‘I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to read ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce. I’ve never been able to make it through the first few pages, much less the first few chapters. And yet, every few years, I try again. Only recently, though, did someone inform me of something that made me finally able to make it through and dare I say, understand the book. Cliff’s Notes!! Yes, it turns out the same things we felt guilty about using in school are now an incredible help. (In fact, rumor has it, that’s what they were designed for.) Rather of reading the notes instead of the book, I was able to use it as I would a knowledgeable teacher, helping me understand all the language and context issues that made me stop reading so many times before. Sure, I still felt a little guilty, but, after all those years it was well worth it.’
Here are a few simple tips that will help you expand your horizons to include the classics.
#1. Make Your List
For films, there are lists and lists of lists you can choose from to find out the movies you ‘should’ see. The American Film Institute has a list, most major critics have lists, and, if you want to delve into any sub-genre, there’s even more lists for things like ‘Best Documentaries,’ ‘Most Romantic Movies,’ or ‘Grossest Horror Films.’ Online movie rental sites have lists covering genres as well, so you can just put them in your rental queue and start your journey. For books, the New York Times put out a list of the Top 100 classics, and online stores like Amazon have a whole series of lists to choose from.
#2 Start a Club
The easiest way to read books and see movies that you may not otherwise pick up on your own is to start a book or movie club with your friends. With a book club, be sure to find people you know have the time and energy to get through what may be less than simple reads. For longer books you can even break it up into sections, so it isn’t as intimidating a task. With movie clubs, it can be especially fun, since it’s basically a great excuse to gather everyone for dinner and a movie. Whatever club it is, try including people who may have different opinions than yourself to liven up the discussion.
#3 Don’t Get Overwhelmed
The problem with lists is that it is easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to cross things off them. There are so many opinions of ‘Movies to See Before You Die,’ or ‘Must Read Books’ that you could never have time to enjoy some of the things you want to see and read on your own. If you’re at a loss for what movie to see next, take a look at the Top 100 and see if any sparks your interest. If not, rent ‘Bad News Bears’ for the 15th time. It’s a classic to you, and always will be.