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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Has there been a person who has powerfully influenced your love of movies or TV?

Salon film critic Matt Zoller Seitz offers a lovely tribute to his wife, Jennifer Dawson, who died five years ago, and powerfully influenced his love of movies (and music). He writes:

She loved books, music, TV and film, and was as important an influence in my development as a critic as any teacher or editor I ever had. As is always the case in long relationships, we had certain songs, films, shows and books in common. These were the things we talked about when we weren’t talking about people we knew.

Some things belonged to both of us from day one: Martin Scorsese, Frank Sinatra, Shakespeare’s tragedies and sonnets, Tom Lehrer, Pauline Kael, Chuck Jones’ classic short “Feed the Kitty,” “Prime Suspect,” Albert Brooks, Public Enemy, Woody Allen, Looney Tunes, Jim Jarmusch, the Beatles.

Sondheim. Kander and Ebb. “Feed the Kitty.” “Deadwood.” In the last few years, to greater or lesser degrees, these things and others have been off-limits.

A song, a poem, a scene from a film triggers memories. You’re startled, moved, shaken. And you’re faced with two options: 1) engage with the work and the memories it calls up, or 2) retreat, postpone, avoid.

Some of Jen’s things, our things, I’ve revisited with gratitude, affection and joy. Others I’ve engaged with reluctantly and emerged on the other side unhappy but unscathed.

Others are radioactive, and I haven’t gone near them because I’m afraid they’ll contaminate an otherwise happy, functioning life.

I can’t see the Disney logo without thinking of Jen, or watch a Jackie Chan film, or attend a musical. The associations don’t destroy any possibility of enjoyment — the acclimation process has gotten easier and quicker with time — but they’re still a psychic speed bumps that I have to get over. Sometimes it’s easy. Other times it’s impossible.

I encourage you to read the whole thing: it’s a beautiful piece of writing about how we grow as lovers of cultural things. It makes me sad to realize that I haven’t had anyone like this in my life. Oh, I’ve had friends who’ve introduced me to music or movies or TV I hadn’t been particularly interested in before. But I couldn’t write a piece like Seitz’s.

Has there been a person who has powerfully influenced your love of movies or TV? Or movies or books?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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