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The Great Guides -- Writer's Poke #274

Roger Ebert is my guide, and I think he qualifies as a great one. For the past twelve months, I have been watching the films he writes about in The Great Movies and The Great Movies II.

Each volume contains 100 great films, and Ebert's essays are generally four pages in length plus a photo from the film. At first, I found myself a bit daunted. After all, mentally preparing to watch 200 films is a pretty big commitment. And since I had already seen quite a few of the films in both volumes, I hesitated even further, as I've never been one to watch a film again... not with all the films out there that I've yet to see even once.

But although I might have previously watched a film, I soon discovered that this doesn't mean I remember the film. Sometimes I do, but sometimes I'll be watching a film again with absolutely no knowledge of the plot or characters. Example: I've always liked The Shawshank Redemption, but when I sat down to watch it last month, I was surprised (and disheartened?) by how little of it I remembered.

I usually watch the film first, and then I go back and read Ebert's essay. That way, I can compare my viewing experience with his, without being overly influenced or made prejudice by his insights. The essay serves as a reinforcement to memory, and it also helps me to more greatly appreciate the value of a piece of film making. I might not agree with Ebert, say, about Wings of Desire as a "great film," but after reading his essay, I certainly can better appreciate it as visual art.

We all need guides. It's impossible to go through life without them... not if we want to gain as much from our life experiences as possible.

Who guides you? In what way?

"The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate." -- Douglas Adams


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