See Princess Mononoke And Die

This is just a brief note to express my belief that Film Four's '50 Films To See Before You Die' is the silliest, most annoying and most counterproductive promotion ever.

I know, by the way, that it launched a year ago, but these days things have to repeatedly provoke me before I punch them, as various small children have discovered by experiment.

In short, if you want people to watch telly, don't remind them they're going to die. Both my work-rate and the amount of time I've spent out in the fresh air have improved immeasurably since I first heard that slogan.

I can imagine regretting all sorts of things on my deathbed, and being glad to have experienced all kinds of other things, but one thing I can guarantee is that I will not be going, 'Thank Christ I saw The Breakfast Club at least!' (no. 27 on the list) or 'Quick, someone get me a DVD of Boyz N The Hood (No.19) while there's still time!'

The dagos have a saying, which I've seen attributed to Plato, to the effect that everyone before dying should plant a tree, have a kid and write a book. To this it would seem we can now add, 'And watch Back To The Future,' (No. 10 on the list).

Or as Sappho almost wrote, in lines intended to buck up an underachiever:

When dead you will lie forever forgotten,
For you have no claim to the Pierian roses.
Dim here, you will move more dimly in Hell,
Flitting among the undistinguished dead.
On the other hand, at least you will have seen
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (No. 32 on the list)

It is not my intention to mock all the films on the list, or play the game they obviously wanted people to play of shrieking, 'Ooh, but Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo should be on it.' Actually, that was part of my intention when I set out. Just based on the adverts-for-Film-Four that get shown on Film Four, I fully expected it to be 90% gangster films. And indeed I think they must now have either expanded the list or turned 'Films To See Before You Die' into a general slogan for the channel, because I definitely saw it used to promote something gangstery only last night. But the original list itself, now I've seen it, I found mostly unobjectionable and disarming. It contains a large number of films I am quite glad to have seen, a handful of films which became part of my mental landscape after I'd seen them, moments of which will always stay with me, and only a couple that actually made me long for death or gave the illusion that I had already died and gone to hell. (And several that I haven't seen, so I suppose if I am hit by a bus tomorrow my shade will never know peace, and one that I am proud never to have seen just out of sheer perversity and resistance to hype.)

It starts off, I have to say, in the most heart-sinking way possible, with Apocalypse Now at No. 1. The worship of Apocalypse Now is the perfect example of the almost total vacuity and adolescent-arrest of movies and our culture in general. In itself it's a good film, possibly a work of art, certainly a memorable bit of pop culture. But... The first thing everyone thinks of instantly in connection with it is 'Ride of the Valkyries' played by the helicopters and the surfing and 'I love the smell of napalm in the morning'. It's cool, or it is when you first see it when you're a teenager and before it's spoiled by the 2000 times you hear or read media heads banging on about it. Only, it isn't meant to be cool. It's meant to be a black satire or a savage indictment of war or the dark heart of man or something. And then all the endless, 'They really did go mad shooting that film! It was like a war itself.' Fuck off. The compilers of the list obviously never read the Onion piece spoofing film nerds with the shock banner headline 'Girlfriend Hasn't Seen Apocalypse Now!' (For my money, yank Apocalypse Now and Back to the Future from the list and put in Peggy Sue Got Married, Coppola's real masterpiece. And then put some Fellini in the spare slot, for Christ's sake. But I am not playing that game).

But then I was all, 'Awww, The Apartment at No.2, how nice!' And Donnie Darko and Lost in Translation and Christ, Black Narcissus!'s a well put-together list with something to charm everyone.

That isn't the point. The point is that the concept, however abstract, of becoming a complete and fulfilled human being by going out of your way to watch certain bloody films before you snuff it is an awful one. The point is, the thought of your life one day flashing before your eyes and large parts of it consisting of being slumped in front of a screen is very, very depressing.

Speaking of which, I'm going outside now.

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June 11th 07