[This piece is part of A Life in Equinox's Greater Good Blogathon.]
The aim of A Life in Equinox's Greater Good Blogathan: Pick one movie and It's-a-Wonderful-Life it (yeah, I just made It's a Wonderful Life a verb; what you gonna do 'bout it?). That's right, I must give a reason to erase one movie from the history books, make it all never been born and shit. I have said many times before that no matter how wrong, bad, or inconsequential-seeming a movie, it has worth for at least one person. Who am I to be arbiter over this shit? Everything's relative. One person's shit is another person's gold. Saying that one movie is so wrong, bad, or inconsequential, it should be removed from existence seems a tad douchey.
All that being said—knowing that whatever I pick, my deeply ingrained sense of guilt would forever torture me for destroying the beloved movie of another, no matter how little said movie may mean to me—I decided to go another route: I'm gonna go ahead and jump on the hand-grenade and destroy a movie that means a lot to me. I'll sacrifice my precious for the greater good. That's right, I'm gonna It's-a-Wonderful-Life The Graduate.
The Movie I Destroyed: The Graduate. Let me explain: As I've said many times on this blog, I was a movie-lover from a very early age. Of course, throughout most of my childhood, I watched a lot (I mean a whole lot) of movies for no other reason than that it was better than not watching movies. Sure, I loved the flicks, but, being young, I got not much more out of them than: "Me like that." Movies were a great babysitter. When I saw The Graduate for the first time, however, that changed.
Let me elaborate: Growing up, I was lucky to have a cool Uncle (he wrote this review of Mulholland Drive on my blog a while back) who was well-versed, film-wise, and who introduced my siblings and me to all score of classic pictures (Casablanca, Hitchcok, Billy Wilder, and whole lots of other stuff). After he showed us The Graduate, I thought: "I enjoyed that; it was pretty weird but I liked it." Sensing we didn't get much out of it, he went on to explain that the movie was more than just the story. All that "weirdness" I shrugged at had a purpose. The director (Mike Nichols) and the cinematographer (Robert L. Surtees) created a distinct visual motif for the entire film—a fishbowl. Yes, whenever Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock was on screen, he was framed in such a way that it looked as if he was in a fishbowl, trapped, unable to move beyond a certain restricted perimeter. This motif was in aide of the stifling-suburbia theme. At that age, Braddock, and many other young'uns, may feel that their choices are limitless; but they soon come to realize, as they get older, that they really don't have much choice at all. Whether explicitly or not, everything is decided for them—whether by the class, race, social standing, or what have you, that one is born into. Even when Ben and Elaine escape in the end, seemingly triumphant, they are framed in the final shot by the rear window of a city bus. The fishbowl again. Still no choice. They will merely repeat the lives lived by their parents.
I don't know if I fully grasped all those themes and whatnot and everything—felt it all on an emotional level, I mean—but I was still floored that there was more to the movie than just the movie. Yes, as I said before, by the time I saw The Graduate, I had a lot under my belt, movie-watching-wise (I doubt many other folks in my generation had numerous Abbott and Costello routines memorized by the age of ten), but I had no idea that there was more to movies than just interesting stuff happening—that there was more beneath the surface.
Were it not for the revelation I experienced with The Graduate, I likely would have continued to see film as nothing more than a fun diversion—nothing to get serious about. But The Graduate changed me.
My Intended Outcome: Instead of plunging full-force into the lonely world of movie-geekism/writing, I would have followed a more fulfilling vocation and settled down with a loving wife, with whom I birthed a couple of lovely children.
The Actual Result: I would most likely have just been exposed to another gateway-drug movie, sending me on the same track.