30 December 2011

The Last Movie You Will Ever See

It's an old conversational prompt, and I put it to you now: If you could pick one movie to be the last movie you ever saw, what would you pick? Seriously, think about it and post in the comments section what you came up with and how long it took you. If you want to add anything else about your choice, I would love to hear what you have to say. Once you've done this, come back and read the rest of this post.

(Did you really come up with an answer? I hope you did!)

I've kicked this around myself over the years with friends and people online. In October, I was admitted to Our Lady of Peace to treat severe depression with suicidal urges. On a lark one afternoon, I decided to put the query to my fellow patients. To my surprise, nearly everyone at the table had an answer almost immediately. One woman struggled briefly to choose between two movies and one young man took a few minutes to make his selection, but on the whole, everyone had their answer reflexively at the ready. I found that curious, since in every other context, it usually provokes a great show of deliberation. "Oh, wow, I don't know...I'll have to think about that...Let me see..." with much chin rubbing throughout, and vacant looks off into the ether.

Some patients were there for substance abuse problems, but most of the ones involved in this discussion were there for the same reason as me: they, too, had been dangerously close to ending their own lives. Several of them had made an attempt within days of this conversation. For them, then, the notion of contemplating your final choices wasn't merely abstract conjecture. We each had already put ourselves in the situation to reflect on such things. I can't say for certain, of course, but I suspect a very strong correlation between being close to death and having an answer handy for this innocuous little question.

Also of interest to me is that no one picked a movie they've never seen. Not one person said, "I've always meant to see Citizen Kane; I hear that's great." There was no regard at all for one last new experience or to consider a highly regarded work of art for the first time. Instead, everyone picked something familiar and most of them picked a comedy. Here's the list, written as I went around the table (obviously, no patient names will be provided):
  • Up in Smoke
  • The Goonies
  • The Outsiders
  • Something's Gotta Give
  • Lean on Me
  • Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Now, these are not particularly revered works of cinematic history; there's no Casablanca or Lawrence of Arabia to be found. I'm not trying at all to disparage anyone's choice, mind you. But I found it interesting that, in an environment that precluded being self-conscious, these were the honest-to-God picks that patients had.

You may be wondering about my own answer to the question. I don't think I ever actually shared it with the other patients, because a group session began right after I went around the table and got everyone's answer. I do have an answer, though, and it's not one based on hypothesis. The night before I was admitted to the hospital was the night I came closest to taking my own life. I had the sleeping pills ready to go. I had removed my last bottle of Old Whiskey River from its box (though I never broke the seal on the bottle itself). My wife was gone, spending the night somewhere else. We had had an unpleasant argument on the phone. The last thread holding me to life had been severed.

Knowing I was just about to end my life, I managed to have the presence of mind to try to distract myself enough to let the impulse subside. I popped in the Blu-ray of Batman. I have no idea how many times I've watched that since it came out in 1989. I've seen it on the big screen twice (the second time in 2009). I couldn't fathom how many times I've watched it on VHS; several times on DVD and now thrice on Blu-ray. I probably saw it in a TV broadcast at least once or twice in all these years. It was comforting to watch it as a young boy when I was sick. I would curl up on the couch, bundle up with sheets and have chicken noodle soup and drink ginger ale (Canada Dry, thank you very much). As a depressed adult, I sought the same comfort. It helped tremendously. I know how it sounds, but I can sincerely say that Batman helped save my life.
"Haven't you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?"
Somewhere is a psychology student looking for a subject for a senior thesis. I think there's something genuinely insightful to be gleaned from a further exploration of this seemingly trivial question. Why do people who haven't actively thought about their demise find it overwhelming to work out what their final movie choice would (ideally) be, whereas those who were thisclose to dying had their answers at the ready? What does it mean that people wanted to laugh--and at a movie they've already seen, no less? Truth be told, one of the things I enjoy most about Batman is its sense of humor. ("Decent people shouldn't live here. They'd be happier someplace else." That line cracks me up every time, and I still maintain it's one of the best lines of exposition ever; that simple remark tells us all we need to know about Gotham City.)

I don't know what conclusions ought to be drawn from this, of course; that's well beyond me. But I did want to share the anecdote in hopes that you, dear reader, may find some value in pondering it. Perhaps you're that hypothetical psych student; if so, I would love to read your final paper!

19 comments:

  1. I think the movie I would pick would be "Glory."  Just because it is everything that a movie should be.

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  2. Oh, and that was an immediate pick.  Didn't have to think about it.

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  3. Hannah Megill12/30/2011 1:58 AM

    Annie Hall, I think. No particular reason, other than that I love it and it just *feels* right. I've always liked its blend of sentiment and cynicism, and it seems appropriate to close out either my life or the film-watching part of it (depending on why this is my last movie ever) with a movie that's so much about moving on but being OK.
    I debated a musical (Moulin Rouge and Company were both almosts)... but then decided I'd much rather have my last musical experience be a theatrical one, rather than a film one.

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  4. I'd pick Garden State in this instance. Perhaps it's not the best movie out there but it rests as my all time favorite on Flickchart and really spoke to me when I first saw it. Having it be the last film I ever see would seem kind of fitting.

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  5. I haven't seen Annie Hall yet. Also, your preference to have your last musical experience be on the stage is a consideration that I find interesting. Thanks for your response, Hannah!

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  6. I still haven't seen that, either! I hear good stuff, though, and this kind of endorsement is certainly compelling enough that I'll bump it up on my To See list. Thanks for your input, Jon!

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  7. After about two minutes worth of contemaplating, I've decided on Amelie. WIth the caveat that it's the movie I would watch right now if I were told I would never be able to watch another film again. If the scenario instead would be "what movie would you see while on your deathbed at 95 years of age", I might come up with something different. Amelie right now, though. Because I love that film, I've only seen it twice, and it's been way too long since the last time.

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  8. A lovely choice, Emil! I finally saw Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain earlier this year and fell in love with it on that first viewing. I know there are detractors out there, and I am convinced they need an exorcism because only possession by The Dark One could justify animosity toward that film. It was an absolute delight.

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  9. My movie would be Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks, it brings out the horror, syfy and comedy 

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  10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    It only took me maybe 30 seconds to decide. I love what that film has to say about relationships and memory. It's funny, touching, hopeful, and depressing all at once.

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  11. I actually think I'd just refer to my watch-list & see something new. I did decide on that before reading the rest of your blog & finding out most probably want to watch something familiar & comforting - I guess I'm a slave to my lists! So if I were to choose my last ever film to watch right now it would be The Apartment (leaving Evil, Rebel Without a Cause & Silent Running on the shelf).

    I think the reasons you give are really poetic & considering it's 'Batman' the choice has a slightly surreal edge to it. I'm also so glad you didn't say Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. ;)

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  12. The cop-out answer:

    an unedited, raw footage continuous screening of any and all home video/film footage of my family.

    The hypothetical answer:
    since I'll die once the film has ended, logic dictates choosing the longest film ever made: Modern Times Forever 
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Times_Forever_(Stora_Enso_Building,_Helsinki)

    The answer expected:
    my #1 film, The Empire Strikes Back

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  13. Alas, that's another that's still on my To See list!

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  14. Thanks for reading, and for your response, Becki. I still haven't seen that, but it, too, is on my shameful To See list.

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  15. ...And that's one in the "see one last new movie" column! If you poke your head around this blog, you'll find I've written extensively about my love for Batman.

    Oh, and while Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was a bloated, convoluted mess...I still rank that forest battle as one of the best action scenes I've ever seen.

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  16. Well, as I recall, Nathan, when I casually brought this up among Flickcharters, you elected to request an idealized screening of The Empire Strikes Back with cast and crew in a private theater. ;-)

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  17. Nigel Druitt1/04/2012 6:59 AM

    I have to admit, I thought about this overnight. Though I will tell you that my answer is the same as my initial gut reaction. (You'll just have to trust me on that one.)


    It is a question of timing. Being the year that it is, if we were near either release date, I would choose to watch The Dark Knight Rises or The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, simply because I look forward to both films so much.

    However, at any other time, I would sit down with my #1 film on Flickchart, The Lord of the Rings. Preferably, the entire trilogy as a marathon, because I've never done that (and not just because it would prolong the experience). If I had to pick one third of my favorite movie, though, I'd choose The Fellowship of the Ring. I have actually not watched any of LOTR in about five years, which pains me, because they are so long, and since having kids, my movie-watching time is so much more limited.

    Going back to read the rest now...

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  18. Nigel, I think what your response demonstrates is that you are not depressed. Congratulations! :P

    I haven't sat down to revisit any of The Lord of the Rings movies myself since The Return of the King opened. I was just recently talking with a friend of mine about wanting to re-watch those movies.

    Oh, and...

    Yo, Fellowship, I'm real happy for you and Imma let you finish, but The Two Towers was the best Lord of the Rings movie. ;-)

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