Expanding Taste to Connect: Conversations to Build Relationships

Still of “Harvey” from the year 1950. Image courtesy of Turner Classic Movies.
Morgan Graham, Contributing Writer

I talked with my grandma on the phone recently. I try to call every so often, but I am an awful planner and even worse when I need to follow through on them. Usually, it takes my father reminding me to call for it to actually happen, but it is always a joy when I do. I’ve made the effort, in recent years, to try to bridge the gaps between my grandma and I without conceding my own values. This can be troublesome though when she tells me about her worries for the future of the gas car, when I would be more than happy to see them vanish entirely (not that electric, in its current state, is much better, we still need to invest in clean energy, but this is an article about my grandma and movies). Still, the effort is beyond worth it to hear about her experiences with growing up on a farm in rural Illinois. 

While on the phone, I thought to ask her about some movies I’ve had to watch for a class I am taking, Film Noir in the English department. As a genre, noir was most popular during my grandma’s youth, so I was curious to see if we shared any knowledge or if she had any personal insight. I was disappointed when my first question, “Mamie (her grandma name), have you ever heard of film noir?” was answered with a negative. Thankfully I didn’t give up on the subject and proceeded to list the movies and actors I’d seen, “they’ve been mostly made around the 40s and 50s with actors like Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Lauren Bacall…” She responded, “I know those names!” I was surprised and continued to name some others, “Kirk Douglas, Barbara Stanwyck,” along with some of the movies, “‘The Maltese Falcon,’ ‘The Big Sleep,’ ‘Out of the Past,’” the last of which I loved and so I recounted my favorite part of the film, which we enjoyed. 

Our conversation culminated with us planning to watch the 1950 film “Harvey.” The film, according to the two synopses I have read online, is an odd one. It is based on a play of a different name and details the story of a wealthy drunk who meets an imaginary rabbit who together proceed to help people see life differently. It came up because we had been talking about Jimmy Stewart and how much I enjoyed his performance in “Vertigo.” She then remembered the film with the rabbit and, because I had seen it on occasion when browsing Letterboxd, I suggested we watch it when I return home for spring break. 

I write this simply to tell about how expanding my taste has allowed me to connect with my family and others on levels previously unachievable had I limited my movie viewing to my personal taste. While some of the old movies I’ve seen have been stinkers, despite being held as classics, it is still something I can hold an opinion on and discuss with those who also have them. One doesn’t need to enjoy the art itself in order to enjoy art. 

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