Michael tells the biggest lie

When you’re known as the “movie person” in a Real Life circle of friends, people assume you’ve seen everything. Of course that’s impossible, but it’s reasonable to expect that such a person would’ve seen most of the big stuff. Me? It turns out there are plenty of large and sometimes surprising gaps in my film experience. Have I ever been tempted to lie about it in order to preserve my status as the movie guy? Of course I have.

According to the UK Telegraph, I’m not alone…or at least I wouldn’t be if I lived in the UK where a survey found that half of people have lied about seeing a classic movie they haven’t – 58 percent of men and 38 percent of women.

Here’s a list of the most commonly lied about films.

  1. The Godfather Trilogy
  2. Dirty Dancing
  3. Shawshank Redemption
  4. Rocky
  5. Gone With the Wind
  6. Citizen Kane
  7. Taxi Driver
  8. It’s a Wonderful Life
  9. Goodfellas
  10. The Great Escape

I have seen all of the above, but for many years I hadn’t seen Annie Hall. Weird right? Anyway, I don’t think I ever actually lied about it, but on at least one occasion I stood in a group of people who were talking about it and I nodded knowingly.

What about you? Do you have any embarrassing gaps in your movie knowledge? Have you ever lied about it?

26 Responses to “Have you ever lied about seeing a classic film you haven’t?”

  1. Wow, that lists goes from the ridiculous to the sublime. Somehow lying about having seen Dirty Dancing doesn’t seem like such a terrible crime to me. I’m sure even those who haven’t seen the movie in its entirety still have seen all the key scenes on youtube and they’ve heard all the choice lines, such as “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

  2. Ha. Like you, I haven’t actually lied, but I’ve hedged by failing to admit my ignorance. “Hmmm, Ben-Hur, yes. That chariot race was really something else.”

    I have also made negative comments about films that are generally hated that I haven’t actually seen, based on clips, reviews and blog comments others have made. “Mike Haggis, ha! He sucks.” Gotta quit doing that.

    I’ve also avoided films for years based on bad reviews, and then wound up liking them. Plenty of films that are now undisputed classics received mixed to lousy notices when they were released, and if you educated yourself by reading compilations of criticism from yesteryear, as I did when I was younger, you can find yourself with some odd biases. Both John Simon and Stanley Kauffmann dismissed McCabe & Mrs. Miller, for instance. Now I realize they were both drunk or insane.

    The moral: contempt prior to investigation is a bad thing.

  3. Craig, you would never lie. That one occasion where you adamantly and with great sincerity declared ‘I did not have sex with that woman’ was merely misspoken.

    I haven’t seen Dirty Dancing and only caught parts of Rocky. I feel no compulsion to properly watch either. Can’t recall lying about watching a movie but I have written some off unseen based on reviews and what I know about those involved, e.g. the only Michael Bay movie I’ve seen is The Rock (which I thought entertaining) but my reflex response to his work is mocking – the guy who blows things up.

  4. I probably have vaguely affirmed I’ve seen something I have not at some point, but I don’t remember specifically. I’m always afraid I will get sucked into a discussion of said whatever I have no knowledge of and look like a moron, so I would avoid the lie, but I have talked out of my ass on occasion about genres, directors, or actors that I didn’t have a strong handle on. I’ve learned to not do that. It usually gets you in trouble.

    Usually when this happens someone asks me about some mainstream movie I had no interest in and then I have to feign my lack of contempt for said mainstream fare. OK, I’m joking…but sometimes I do have to bite my tongue when someone recommends a movie I know isn’t going to be my cup of tea. They are simply being helpful and it’s not their fault I’m a elitist film-going snob (heh heh).

    Honestly though, still haven’t seen Gone with the Wind. I’m going to make up for it when the Blu-ray hits, but never seen it.

    And I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually seen Dirty Dancing in its entirety, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen enough to have a fair opinion of it.

  5. Never lied about seeing a classic. Have I lied about CARING about a classic? Sure. Usually just because I don’t want to get into it with someone.

  6. Naw, lying is monumentally useless.

    If you tell one lie, you generally have to tell at least two to cover up that one – and so on and so on and so on…

    Not worth it in the slightest.

    If people can’t handle the truth, that’s tough.

    Of this particular list, I own GONE WIITH THE WIND (obviously…), THE GODFATHER TRILOGY, GOODFELLAS and SHAWSHANK.

    I have an affection – to varying degrees – for all of the others. Except for TAXI DRIVER, which I CAN NOT STAND.

    The only one I haven’t seen is THE GREAT ESCAPE. I’ve had a life long allergy to McQueen, which likely explains it.

    Prevarication is eminently destructive. It’s also kinda silly.

  7. I have seen all of the above some numerous times the Godfather trilogy, and Taxi Driver

    I have not seen Dirty Dancing, but I have recently acquired the original sound track to it. I have not seen Citizen Kane.

    I know I don’t lie when I haven’t seen a film.

  8. Didn’t somebody else here say that they had only recently seen Citizen Kane? That’s one of those films that makes a better impression on the fifth viewing than on the first. But you do have to see it that first time.

  9. Lisa…just curious, what drew you to the soundtrack if you haven’t seen the film?

    For people who don’t really consider themselves movie crazy or don’t have a thing about cinema literacy, I think skipping Citizen Kane is perfectly acceptable. From a filmmaking and film history standpoint, it’s a marvel, but as a piece of entertainment I’ve always found it a little wanting.

    Heresy to say, I know, but there it is.

  10. I think that heresy can be quite a healthy thing on occasion. Maybe even sporadically necessary.

    You’ll get no argument from me on that particular front, Craig.

    I like CITIZEN KANE. I’ve never loved it.

    You can certainly admire it for its technical innovations and celebrate it for its iconic status. On both points, it’s definitely deserving.

    But it’s a rather cold cerebral piece of work.

    I’m sure lots of people revere it in some respect. I doubt many adore it wholeheartedly.

  11. Miranda,

    I’ll take issue with the idea of Citizen Kane as cold and cerebral. I don’t consider it the best movie of all time either (I don’t really consider those qualifications as often as most film nuts seem to) but the picture is youthful and spilling over with a brilliant man’s discovery of a new medium. There’s enough in that picture for 50 more, and I think its very direct and accessible emotionally. It’s a great movie to introduce budding film kiddies to, as their first “great movie”. As Kael said, its one the most sheerly fun masterpieces around.

  12. It’s definitely more fun, than, say, L’Avventura.

    I agree with Miranda that it’s probably not the personal favorite of many, even among film buffs. Folks don’t get passionate about it the way they do about Pulp Fiction or Taxi Driver or even The Breakfast Club.

    But it’s always better — and more emotionally affecting — than it was the last time I saw it. It will probably have me sobbing on the floor if I make it to seventy. It’s the kind of film you age with and into.

  13. “…For people who don’t really consider themselves movie crazy or don’t have a thing about cinema literacy…”

    What are those?

  14. I think we’d all appreciate Citizen Kane more if we didn’t have folks tellng us it was the end-all-be-all of cinematic history, but those folks won’t shut up and so we’re all weighed down with the knowledge that if Citizen Kane doesn’t lovingly caress us in our own personal cinematic bathing suit areas then either it has failed miserably or we’re all missing something.

    Basically, I think our expectations have been irrevocably FUBARed.

    Make of that what you will, but I don’t see Citizen Kane as cold and cerebral. It’s a difficult film that keeps the viewer at arms length for a short while but it’s hard for this film fan not to find some exhilaration in a man well ahead of his time or an individual willing to take capitalism by the reigns and own an entire age of history. He is most definitely flawed but his passion for life is infectious. It may not be the E.T. of it’s time but it’s an amazing achievement and nearly every great film of Western cinema that has followed owes something to it.

    Art for the sake of inspiration isn’t cold.

  15. In a discussion or a back and forth on a blog comments section, I have not lied – but, from time to time, I’ve just kept silent about not having seen a classic, popular, or cult film. Then usually what I’ve done is to make an effort to see the movie, which I’ve done in the past year with Bottle Rocket, Boogie Nights, Rashomon, Jules and Jim, and Seven Men from Now.

  16. OK, that last sentence doesn’t make sense and in retrospect, I can see how CF Kane is a cold fellow in his later years.

  17. Along the lines of Citizen Kane and opening ourselves to the classics of cinema, I remember finally seeing it in the 80s once films became available on video. I wasn’t enthralled at all. Ten years later I presented it as part of an American film history unit I do with my American history course. I said to the class, “Let’s try to find out why this film is considered by many to be the greatest American film ever made.” I was excited about how much the students enjoyed it. I have shown it to three sections of this course every year for the past ten years – thus, I watch it three times a year. I love this film! It delights me every time I watch it, and I notice new things about it at each viewing. I’m not going to say it’s the greatest film ever, and it’s not my favorite film ever, but it is certainly a magnificent film that always fascinates me and keeps my attention every time I watch it.

  18. Thanks for the backup, frank.

    It’s always nice to have your thoughts bolstered by someone else’s opinion.

    joel, I wholeheartedly welcome the clarification. You and Craig go back a long, long way OFF line. So it’s easy for him to comprehend your POV and understand where you’re coming from.

    I don’t have that luxury.

    I’m hardly the go along get along type. (FOR SURE.) But the vast majority of the time at other peoples’ sites I let stuff slide. Unless someone calls on you to explain in a more overt manner, I’ve said my piece and I’d just as well move on.

    Arguing and pettiness seem extraordinarily pointless on line. You don’t even know the person and nobody’s mind is likely to change in any case.

    So why bother?

    But I liked the fact that you came back to solidify the initial impression you made. That’s exceptionally decent of you.

    In my own defence, I’d just like to say that I wasn’t simply referring to Kane’s character when I talked about coldness.

    The film itself does have a kind of authentic crackling vibrancy to it. But that’s mainly because of its superior innovations.

    But It even LOOKS cold to me. Do you understand what I’m getting at? You’re watching a man’s life unfold. But it always seems to keep you at a distance. The glossy black and white is mesmerizing. But it’s foreboding, uninviting.

    The stark mists around Kane’s mansion look like they could freeze over just about anything. Hell included.

    That’s always been my personal impression. But that’s me.

    Again, thanks a ton for the explanation. It really helped a lot.

  19. I don’t think anyone was attacking you, Miranda, just disagreeing with your assessment. In reality, I was trying to offer an excuse as to why late-comers like ourselves may not see the wonders of Citizen Kane, as it has been endlessly copied and replicated over modern film history, but I agreed with Chuck that it’s not a cerebral film. I don’t think you need a “Joel secret decoder ring” to figure that out, but I admit I might have ended up amusing myself more than you with my stab at clever.

    Regardless, I’m glad to hear you appreciated the follow-up.

  20. Actually, I’ve always thought the key to “Citizen Kane” is the sad but inescapable truth that, for all our best efforts at understanding and/or empathy, some people are beyond our grasp — are, quite simply, unknowable. So, yeah, there’s a certain chilliness to the heart of the movie. But I also think it’s a marvelously entertaining film, and my students at Houston Community College and University of Houston always seem to enjoy it. (Was it Truffaut who said “Citizen Kane” probably made more people want to make movies than any other movie ever made?) Of course, I always introduce it thusly: “It’s supposed to be the greatest film ever made, but don’t let THAT scare you off…”

    I would like to ask those of you who also teach film appreciation courses: What classics have you been pleasantly surprised to find that students enjoy? And which ones have you been not-so-pleasantly surprised to find they dislike?

  21. Ahhh where to begin.

    Lots of great comments.

    Chuck: “but the picture is youthful and spilling over with a brilliant man’s discovery of a new medium.” That’s very true, but to me that argues my original point. It’s something that is more fascinating to those interested in the internal workings of the art of cinema.

    All too often, CK seems more about an idea than about a man…not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I think that helps explain the distance that some people feel watching it.

    Then again when you take a closer look at the big picture, it’s not just an American tragedy, it really is a personal tragedy. Kane is a sad figure.

    In the end I think what Joel says rings the most true: the film is on a pedestal so everyone’s expectations of it are through the roof. Hard for a film to live up to that. Plus, the synthesis of technical innovations that really make it remarkable are now a part of standard film grammar.

    Joe, don’t you think it’s not just that some people are unknowable, but everyone is especially after they’re gone? We all present different sides to different people in different situations, but how many of us are really known by one person? A spouse would surely have a leg up, but I wonder.

  22. Also, you have to give the movie a fair amount of credit for inspiring a little discussion in a quiet outpost of the internet nearly 70 years after it debuted to disappointing box office.

  23. I think you’re lucky in this life if you have one close friend. And you’re even luckier if the person remains your friend after they really get to know you.

  24. Wiser words….

  25. My two cents.

    I think it is a matter of degree. We all have personalities – which by definition mean our key traits see us behave in consistent ways across time and situation. This doesn’t change the fact of unique signature expressions of each personality type, we have unique life experiences, but it makes people a little more predictable than one might casually guess. It’s not that we don’t mature and grow as individuals but the changes produced deepen and bring shading to our unique profile rather completely overhaul it. We can’t change our personality anymore than a leopard can change its spots. How many of our friends actually truly surprise us? It’s not impossible, but generally when you gain a clear sense of the context and motivations behind what seemed on the surface surprising behavior the understanding that emerges invariably fits with what we already know about a friend’s core ways of thinking and acting in relation to the world. I think the biggest barrier to knowing others is ourselves – we’re so damn self-focused, self-referencing, and self-monitoring that we miss stuff about others. Naturally, we can’t know everything about someone else but I think the sense of others being mysteries isn’t as necessarily true as it might appear. No one is completely knowable but we probably know enough, most of the time.

    Fortunately my wife hasn’t yet got to the point of asking in relation to me ‘is that all there is’?

  26. i never lie.whether its classic or big blockbuster. and then people say ‘but your a film fan/what kind of movie fan are you…’

    guess i’m not a movie fan…

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