Three or four years ago I bought what I believed was going to be one of the best presents of the year for Louise: A Christmas Story DVD. I've yet to meet a single person who hasn't seen it and everyone that's watched it loves it.
To many people it's the most classic of Christmas movies, even ahead of another perennial favorite, It's a Wonderful Life. Every scene is memorable, every line quotable.
The tongue on the cold post.
"My little brother had not eaten voluntarily in over three years."
"You'll shoot your eye out, kid."
"Some men are Baptists, others are Catholics; my father was an Oldsmobile man."
The leg lamp.
Randy lay there like a slug. It was his only defense.
My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master.
And on and on. Anyone who doesn't own the movie can usually watch it during TNT's annual 24-hour marathon, a perverse programming decision that somehow only delights fans of the movie. Of course it's overkill, but the only reason it seems to upset people is that it's not a 48-hour marathon.
So I just knew Louise would love the movie. This is someone who actually bought a leg lamp - just like Ralph's old man - during a trip to Fargo, and didn't understand when several people told her it was just like from A Christmas Story. So how could she not enjoy the movie that gave birth to the lamp? She'd unwrap it and pop it into the DVD in one motion. Then we'd sit back and laugh.
Four years later, and she's still never seen it. No reason, really. It's just sort of...happened, or not happened. She hasn't had any desire to watch it. Maybe she's heard too much about it and it's been built up too much. Maybe she's sick of me quoting the best lines. And somehow she's avoided it during those all-day marathons. I feel like restraining her, taping her eyes open and forcing her to watch every second. Then she would learn to love it. I'd say she hates Christmas and that's the reason for the boycott, but judging by the crazed Christmas tree decorating session and December shopping excursions, that's not true either. Instead, A Christmas Story is that one movie that everyone has seen that she hasn't, something most people have in common, though the films are always different.
I know people who have somehow never seen the first two Godfathers. But have seen Part 3. Friends of mine who are avid baseball fans haven't seen The Natural. Talk to them about Roy Hobbs' final at-bat and they greet you with a blank stare.
"The bloody shirt. Old bullet wound. Pennant on the line. Broken bat. Home run. Exploding lights."
"Meh, doesn't sound that great."
Some so-called basketball fans have never seen Hoosiers. Up until a few years ago, a close relative of mine had never seen Braveheart, which would make sense if the person was a descendant of Edward Longshanks but seems improbable for anyone else.
The movie I've never seen that always surprises people when they hear about it? Grease. Some people take pride in the fact they've never seen movies or read a famous book that seemingly everyone else has seen or read multiple times. It's not like that with me, at least not consciously. It's just that I've never gone out of my way to watch it. While I'm not the biggest fan of musicals, people whose opinions I trust rave about the movie and insist I'll love it upon first viewing. But I've never rented it and have never stopped on whatever channel it's playing on Saturday afternoons. I know the characters, the story and the songs. I know the look and the styles. For all intents and purposes, I feel like I've seen it.
But the thing that bothers people the most when I tell them I've never seen Grease is that I have seen - and thoroughly enjoyed - Grease 2, the much-maligned sequel starring a young Michelle Pfeiffer and an unknown English actor named Maxwell Caulfield. I saw it with a friend in the theater when it first came out. We went with his parents. After the movie, we stopped at a small liquor store. Knowing now how many people hate Grease 2, perhaps his folks were trying to drink away memories of the night. But I liked it then, and I'll stop and watch it anytime it's on these days. The foreign exchange student trying to win the heart of the girl he loves - or at least lusts after. The songs about patriotism and getting laid. "A girl for all seasons." The epic motorcycle jump over the pool. Highly enjoyable.
"If you've seen that one, and liked it, then you will love Grease because the original is about 100 times better," I've been told. And I believe them. But there's a mental block, something keeping me from finally sitting down and watching the damn thing.
Everyone has these movies. Or maybe it's a TV show. For instance, I've never seen an episode of HBO's The Wire, even though friends of mine stutter and practically pass out when talking about the show. Numerous critics have called it the greatest show in the history of television, which sounds like a Bill Walton-type overreaction but is probably true. I don't doubt its greatness. But we don't have HBO and I've never rented it and have turned down offers for the DVD. Don't know why. And I understand when people get incredulous; it's the same reaction I have when they profess no desire to ever watch Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Yes, we all have these shows. If I was into resolutions, maybe that would be one of mine: to watch Grease. But I'm not so 2010 will likely be another Grease-free year. I'm not ashamed of this but I'm also not proud of it.
But, if you haven't seen Godfather or Godfather II...how do you live with yourself?