How We Learned To Keep Our Opinions to Ourselves

I don’t know what it is about movies I love — but I want other people to appreciate them as much as I do.  Why can’t I ever get the point that I’m playing a losing game?

Take the time a young French couple came to stay overnight with us in Dallas about 20 years ago.  My husband and I were surprised and a little appalled they’d never seen our very favorite movie on the face of the earth, Casablanca.   “You’ll love it!” we said — and rushed out to rent the videotape.

After the kids were in bed, we fired up the video.  God, what a wonderful movie.  I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it, but it’s never enough.  “This is the best movie ever made,” we assured the French couple.  “Just wonderful!  Wait till you see the scene with the Marseillaise!”  They smiled politely.

We kept clueing them in to key scenes and they kept nodding.  Finally, we just shut up and gave ourselves over to the movie.  As usual, my husband and I both became emotional basket cases during the Marseillaise scene — tears in our eyes, hearts thumping madly.

At the end of the scene, after I’d calmed down a little, I turned to the French couple, hoping they’d managed to control their own violently patriotic emotions.  Turns out, they had.  They were fast asleep.

You’d think that would have taught us something, but oh, mais non, au contraire.   A few months later, on a hot Saturday afternoon, we gave our two kids the great opportunity to watch one of the most heartrending movies from our childhood — Old Yeller.   This time, though, we didn’t waste our time getting them excited; we figured the sheer magic of the movie, with its canine hero and homespun life lessons, would work its own way into their little hearts.

Ninety minutes later, after my violent sobs about Old Yeller’s death had subsided, I looked around for the children.  “Oh, they went outside about an hour ago,” my husband reported.

So.  Enough with this movie proselytizing, the pearls before swine, the bubbles around hatpins.   We’d keep our movies and our opinions to ourselves.

All of which worked for a good 20 years, until this holiday season with our two now-grown children.  It concerned me that, at their age, they still knew nothing about the Bible and they’d never seen Godfather I and 2.  I’d leave their little heathen problem to another year.  But in the meantime, they needed to catch up with Coppola.

After Christmas Eve dinner, we arranged a little family time with the first Godfather.   Fifteen minutes later, our son, yawning, went to bed.  Our constantly texting daughter lasted a little longer before she announced her departure, too.  My husband and I looked at each other and shrugged.  We settled back on the couch and pressed “play.”  The familiar music, haunting and plaintive, filled the air.

We didn’t have to tell anybody in the room how great the movie was or when a classic scene was coming up.  No reason to preach when you’re both in the choir.

(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read another of my favorite posts on Too Many Lessons From the Godfather

12 comments… add one
  • Some people just don’t get into movies. When the original Godfather first came out in theaters, my (then) husband and I saw it with another couple. Driving home after the movie, someone mentioned how dark the movie was, and someone else followed with, “Yes, but wasn’t Marlon Brando wonderful?” My husband immediately asked, “Which one was he?”

  • I always think that if they would just PAY ATTENTION and have the RIGHT ATTITUDE they would see what a great movie it really is. But, alas, they are all off on their own agendas, so they just don’t get it.

  • After decades of fretting because movies I am drawn to don’t have the same power over other people, I’ve concluded that the experiences, subjects, moods and characters of interest to me in my personal life are reflected in movies that I like. The same with books that I like. Though still, at times, I’d like to severely beat others into adoring those movies and books also. You can teach a horse to read, but you can’t make him enjoy reading the handwriting on your personal wall. That’s why new books and movies are still being introduced. Each succeeds because they just exist and *find* an audience just by the power of that existence, not create one to go with it. Kind of like having a wallet filled with favorite photos, not everyone will ooh and aah over them the way you do. But you chose what’s in your wallet, they didn’t. But it’s OK to introduce others to a book or movie– just don’t expect preconceived results. Just quietly rejoice and do the happy dance if they do, for you’ve found a kindred spirit.

  • Chris Link

    So it’s not a good time to start rhapsodizing about “The King’s Speech”? I think I’ve been boring everyone to death about how fabulous I found it, but then with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush?

    Godfather 1 was my favorite for many, many years, still in my top 5.

  • Hey; I’ve noted this phenomenon as well. My husband and I have some favorite movies which we just KNOW someone else will love just as much. Not quite. Oh well. At lest we share the love and can watch them over and over again.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    I *loved* “The King’s Speech.” What a wonderful movie!

  • I always fall asleep in movies, even movies I really like. Awake or asleep, I love the Godfather 2. It is a commonplace that it is the only sequel that was better than the original. I am also v much looking forward to seeing the King’s Speech. Since the movie we have been treated to many repeats of the original broadcast on BBC radio, which suits my particular addiction.

  • I thought I’d be the first to wax on about the wonders of The King’s Speech but I see Chris beat me to it. Loved that film. Awesome acting and moving dramatic arc. And talk about an uplifting tale about the power of friendship. I was singing its praises to another film-going friend today (who agreed with me ) but then he burst my bubble a bit after telling me he’s read extensively about the royals and the story isn’t totally truthful when it comes to the personalities involved.

  • Steve Link

    I’m proud to say that my eldest child concurs with me in regard to the greatness of Casablanca, G1, and G2, in addition to the emptiness of G3. He appreciates but is not as taken with Paths of Glory (my personal favorite, barely edging Casablana), but I’ve not been able to convince him that Brian de Palma should be exiled.

    Excellent new photo, by the way!

  • I loved The King’s Speech too. Didn’t want it to end.

    A few years ago I forced a friend, in her late 20s at the time, to watch Hard Day’s Night, which she had never seen. She thought the Beatles were hilarious, for all the wrong reasons. “They’re so GEEKY!” she said. I still haven’t recovered.

  • Can’t wait to see The King’s Speech. How can you go wrong with Colin Firth.

    I have managed to snowball my son into loving the original Little Rascals. My daughter…no.

  • Chris Link

    Geeky? GEEKY??? They were pretty darn cute and witty to boot. I am so grateful that iTunes finally has “Things We Said Today” available for download. I get to hear that several times a day and I am quietly happy. Of course they say it’s from one of their movies, but it’s from an album no longer available – Something New.

    Anyway, The King’s Speech had me laughing, crying, laughing – heck, I had to drive over the border into British Columbia to see it since it has yet to make it to the northwestern-most part of the Pacific Northwest AND pay $12.50CAD for a weekday matinee.

    I daresay I could’ve eventually bought a DVD for that sum but miss Colin in all of his royally tailored garb? That man can wear clothes better than any other man out there. Yeah, I know, he was in that wet ruffly white shirt in Pride & Prejudice but nothing can surpass him in a well-tailored suit.

    Fun to see Jennifer Ehle in scenes with him again – she doesn’t seem to have aged as well as he has but then….who has?

    I am now reading a lot about that particular era, even going so far as getting the Queen Mum’s “official” bio from the library and it’s a huge mother of a book. But Lionel Logue is mentioned in every book I’ve thumbed through so far. I’m sure the “real” story would be as dull as dishwater; this movie was so definitely not.

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