Monday, August 31, 2009

A Parade of Changing Tastes

I am beginning to doubt my taste. This is nothing new. I have friends who have doubted my taste for years.

I originally started to think about this in relation to one of the shows I loved as a child. Bewitched was the story of a mortal who marries a beautiful witch. I found Elizabeth Montgomery enchanting, pun intended.

I saw a re-run recently on TV Land and thought it was the most idiotic thing I'd ever seen. I couldn’t believe I'd actually looked forward to watching that show each week.

Okay, so the tastes of a child are different than the tastes of a man. But I also watched The Godfather again recently, which I had disliked as a teen-ager. I probably found it overly violent and wasn’t convinced by Michael Corleone's sudden transition from a soldier in the U.S. Army to a commander of a Mafia family. This time around, I understood better its rich undertones of family, loyalty, and the fact that sometimes life takes you unexpected places.

Then there's The Poseidon Adventure. I think I saw this disaster movie six times as a teen-ager. Now I can't bear to watch it. The action is all in the beginning of the movie, and the religious metaphor of climbing upward toward salvation annoys me. I am only somewhat placated by the fact that it was the top-grossing movie of 1973, so at least other people agreed with my initial assessment.

But the more I think about this, the more embarrassed I get. Most people don't know that I spent six years early in my career as a movie reviewer. (I rarely go now, not only because the incessant chattering aggravates me, and also because theaters don’t have captions like DVDs do.) The bulk of my reviews were published in the Stanford Daily, but some did appear in daily newspapers and magazines. I'm beginning to wonder if I owe a whole bunch of those readers an apology.

Sometimes, admittedly, I was dead-on. I skewered most of Peter Bogdanovich's post-Paper Moon disasters, such as Nickelodeon and At Long Last Love. I lavishly praised One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. But anything by offbeat or foreign directors, such as Altman or Antonioni, just left me cold. Oh, and I liked Funny Lady, the sequel to Funny Girl that disappeared like a rock and, to my knowledge, has never surfaced again. A classmate once told me that he and his friends used my reviews as a contrarian device; if I hated it, they bought tickets.

Now that I'm in middle-age, I'm wondering, do I have to re-think my whole value system regarding what's good entertainment? Do I have to go back and watch all the movies from my past all over again in order to form a more accurate opinion? The idea of sitting down for hours to prove myself wrong seems counter-productive, a time-consuming search for an inconvenient truth.

On the other hand, making amends may not be such a bad idea.

1 comment:

  1. I recently re-read East of Eden, complete with all my margin notes from High School. I had to keep asking myself, had I been I paying attention at all? Did I have any insight into the book or characters? I was embarrassed to read my comments. I like us a lot better as adults, and I am glad to be done with my youth (except I don't care much for the flab and wrinkles)