There's something both comforting and scary about the fact that I'll probably never see all the movies I want to see.
Movies are still a very young form of entertainment - at least compared to music, literature and theatre, which are all several hundred years old at least. It means it's still possible to chart the history of movies, and see almost all of the pictures that helped make cinema what it is today. For instance, one of the very first movies ever made - The Arrival Of A Train At La Coitat Station, made in 1885 by France's Lumiere brothers - is still easy to find online. The same could never be said for the first piece of music ever composed or the first story ever put to paper.
It is quite amazing to have to possibility of seeing the entire history of an art form come together, especially one as most popular as the movies. It means that any cinephile like myself, who writes about movies here and elsewhere, can watch it evolve from the silent era into the talkies, from the Golden era of the studio system into the experimentalism in countries like France, from the serious New Hollywood of the 1970s into the contemporary blockbuster culture. To a large degree I have done this. My own list of favourite films spans from early silent Charlie Chaplin comedies to Pixar's digital animation.
However, this creates a weird challenge for movie lovers. There is so much out there to see that one can't possibly see everything unless they dedicate their lives to watching movies (I actually keep a physical list of everything I want to see, and it's pushing 500 movies). Thus, there are enormous and shameful blank spots in my own film viewing. I'm not just talking about some obscure German silent films that critics or directors hail as the best of all time when I say this; I'm talking about major blockbuster releases that seemingly everyone else I know has seen. I have never watched a Terminator movie, for example. My knowledge of James Bond movies more or less begins with Goldeneye and ends with Skyfall. I have never seen Braveheart, Groundhog Day or Ghostbusters either. But worst of all, I have never seen Jurassic Park.
The last admission feels more shameful than ever with the new release of Jurassic World, a sequel to the 1993 blockbuster executive produced by its original director Steven Spielberg. As friends and family ask when I'm seeing Jurassic World, I have to meekly confess that I've never seen the original. The reaction I'm generally met with makes me think I should be going door-to-door and telling me neighbours who I am and where I live - "you've never seen Jurassic Park? I thought you wrote about films!"
It's not that I don't want to see Jurassic Park or any of these other movies. It's certainly not that I don't think I will enjoy them or they will disappoint me. It's just that there is so many movies I want to watch that I've prioritised other things above them until now. But it's still a valid question: Can I realistically call myself a film buff - someone who not only claims to have a knowledge about film but actively writes about it - until I have seen these big, important, universally acclaimed movies like Jurassic Park? Is that like being a TV critic who has never watched an episode of The Sopranos, or a musician who's never listened to The Beatles?
The answer is 'no'. Jurassic Park is an important benchmark for visual effects and one of the first examples of a contemporary blockbuster, something which opened the doors for spectacle cinema to come. But you don't need to have seen Jurassic Park to actually appreciate this. By this logic, one would have to watch a number of iconic B-movies and old Universal monster movies to appreciate Jurassic Park in the first place.
But most of all, film fandom isn't a science, nor is it race. The amount of 'important' movies you have seen doesn't equate to how much you enjoy, understand or care about movies. You don't have to meet a quota to be a cinephile. Sure, you should have seen the likes of Vertigo, Citizen Kane and The Godfather to truly appreciate how movies have changed and evolved, and perhaps Jurassic Park is a small part of this, but it doesn't hinder your appreciation of movies by any means. To suggest otherwise would be snobbery. You can still call yourself a film lover if you haven't seen Jurassic Park.