Allow me to shift my blog to popular culture, briefly.
Sometimes a book, movie, song, etc. hits the scene and it soars among critics and cultural hipsters. They care nothing for the opinions of the rest of us working schmoes. These cultural elite guardians feel it incumbent upon themselves to tell us what piece of work should go down in sacred antiquity.
A few days ago I sat through a few minutes of Sideways. Remember that movie? The one with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church and the Asian girl from Grey’s Anatomy. It got a few Oscar nods but it didn’t win anything. What I remember most though was that so many critics labeled it as an immediate classic. It got a Metacritic score above 90, rare for any movie.
But today, few remember it. Maybe it wasn’t quite the memorable work that some thought it should be. I remember seeing it when it came out and being so disappointed because of all the hype around it. It was good, but not great.
A classic to me is if you walk in to a room with 100 people. You mention the name of a book, and at least 66 people remember it and of those 66, 50 recall enjoying it, then that’s a classic. If you bring up a movie and only three people have seen it and absolutely loved it, it’s still not a classic.
Now, if you ask 100 people if they’ve seen Casablanca, I’m almost willing to bet only 30 have seen it. (I have not watched it for whatever it’s worth) If you ask 100 people if they’ve read Moby Dick, maybe only five will have read it.
Still classics though. You know why? Because all 100 people, in both situations, will know what those titles are and what they’re about.
There has to be a consensus when it comes to what we remember as important works of art. We have to label things as essential pieces of human history. Because what we remember and cling to is part of who we are.
We should definitely cling to Shawshank Redemption though. Sorry, it’s the best movie of all time. I don’t care what any of you say.