Fans of every medium have The List. Some are more meticulous about it than others; it’s the difference between vaguely trying to remember and writing it down with who recommended it and when. Actually getting around to things on the list can also vary between “as remembered” and “precisely checking things off.” The List can be gleaned from friends, from critics, from award winners. The one universal is that The List Never Gets Any Shorter.
Oh, it’s possible, if you stop adding to it. But this isn’t “I’m going to watch all the Best Picture winners” or “I’m watching the AFI Top 100 lists.” (The former of which technically never gets any shorter but in practical terms is easy to keep up with.) This is just the list of things you mean to get around to and will someday. Really. Any day now. I promise.
One of the ways this comes up around here, at least, is in our twice-annual Movie Gifts. Surely I am not the only one who has gotten a gift with delight because it’s a movie that’s been on The List for years that just hasn’t come up yet. Heck, last week, I reveled in waking up enough before my kids to fit in two movies that I’d owned for months, in one case probably a year, without having time to watch. One, I liked; one, I didn’t. But the point is, I finally had a chance to watch them without worrying about whether or not they were appropriate for my kids and was able to cross them off The List.
I don’t remember when The List began. For me, at least, it was books first. I was a nerdy child—I’m sure you’re all shocked—and nerdy children tend to get book recommendations. Perhaps lesser known is that these can also come from non-nerdy children. However, think of it as being similar to your non-film buff friends’ recommendations. They don’t watch a lot of movies, but they do still watch some, and if there’s one they really enjoyed, they want to make sure you know about it, so they share. And you have another entry on The List.
You would think this means that you always have something new to read/watch/listen to, but of course we all know that isn’t true. Because at the same time as you’re marking things off on The List, you’re doing two other things. You’re watching/reading/hearing stuff you hadn’t put on The List in the first place, and many of us are returning to old loves. Just because there are literally dozens of movies, many of which are in my house, that are accessible and on The List, it doesn’t mean that I won’t spend six solid hours watching M*A*S*H reruns instead.
Not everything on The List ends up being something you actually like. No matter how you accumulate items for it. Sometimes, your friends are wrong. Sometimes, things work for other people in a way that doesn’t work for you. If you are working on Pulitzer Prize winners or Grammy winners or similar, the voting audience’s taste and yours don’t necessarily coincide. That’s okay. Because there are also hidden gems that got added onto your List, you may not even remember how, and it becomes something you’ll come back to over and over rather than check something new off The List instead.