Becoming a Well Done Film Buff: Part One

How to Become a Well Done Film Buff: Part One

Becoming a Well Done Film Buff: Part Onefilm camera

A man’s taste in films and his attitude toward his taste in films tell his peers everything they need to know about him. So how can one’s Blu-Rays and ticket stubs send a favorable message about one’s interests, personality, or view of the world? Here’s how: seven steps to becoming a Well Done Film Buff.


Part One: Becoming an open-minded, well-rounded omnivore.

Everyone has their tried and true favorites that always deliver. There are movies that stop the remote control in its tracks and postpone the day’s plans. Some of us have worn out a title on VHS, replaced it with the DVD, and then ponied up for the Blu-Ray. This kind of relationship with a film is, of course, wonderful. The best part of a film that you grow to love deeply is its reliability, the knowledge that it will provide the same experience every time. But just like any kind of comfort this can lead to complacency, and we need to branch out.

Now I’m not suggesting that anyone should make their Netflix selections with a blindfold on or go to any extremes, like replacing Olivier Megaton with Andrei Tarkovsky. That will more likely than not send you scurrying back to what’s familiar and safe. Let’s take some baby steps first.

Perhaps you’re into certain directors, actors, or actresses. Their filmographies are probably far more varied than you might expect, and may provide you access points for genres you’ve previously avoided. Let’s take a popular example: Martin Scorsese. Most of us have surely seen The Departed, Good Fellas, The Wolf of Wall Street, Raging Bull, and maybe even Mean Streets (go watch Mean Streets and come back, I won’t say anything). These testosterone-fueled classics are the first Scorsese films that come to mind for most people, but the casual fan may not realize that his body of work is quite varied, including a musical (New York, New York), a children’s movie (Hugo), a religious epic (The Last Temptation of Christ), as well as comedies and concert films.


Scarlett Johansson in Ghost World.

If directors aren’t your thing, see what happens when you delve into the work of a favorite actor or actress. Have you enjoyed Scarlett Johansson in the Marvel Universe? Why not watch her in some older, less explody films like Ghost World, Lost In Translation, or her movies for Woody Allen? Like watching Jason Statham kick ass? Well why not watch him, um, actually, never mind. All he does is kick ass. But the point is why not let Marty or Scarlett or someone else you trust hold your hand while you explore different genres that you’re not used to, and that may ease the transition.

Don’t let Jason Statham hold your hand. He’ll probably use it to flip you on your ass before he shatters every bone in it.

So now that we’re watching and appreciating films of all genres, we need to work on the whens and wheres, and work in some honest-to-goodness art while we’re at it. We’re not quite ready for total autonomy yet, so we’re going to turn to a great source to help us diversify: The Criterion Collection. Basically a film studies course disguised as a home video company, The Criterion Collection has quite literally everything you need to become a true cinephile: art films of all stripes as well as pulpy genre classics from all over the world. Poke around their website long enough and you’ll be sure to find something that catches your eye, a gateway that will broaden your film horizons considerably.

One way to go about this stage of our transformation into a Well Done Film Buff would be to start off with something light (well, relatively light I guess) like Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor, Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly, or Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter (a personal favorite). Then move on to films like Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders or Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, works by masters that don’t feel like serious art. With films like those under your belt you’ll be prepared for the heavy hitters like Ingmar Bergman or Federico Fellini. Along the way you’ll have acquired the confidence to boldly experiment with films you may never have dreamed of watching before.

Now that you’re well on your way to becoming cinematically omnivorous you may have noticed something about those relationships with your favorite films. No, you haven’t forgotten them. You still need them as much as ever. But now they’ll never become so familiar that they could become stale. Go watch a few documentaries, or an animated film. Watch a horror movie from South Korea. Become an aficionado of Italian Neorealism. It’s OK. Heat will be on TV again.

Brendan O'Brien

Brendan O'Brien

When Brendan O'Brien was 17 he was sure he was going to be a rock star. At 37 he teaches English. Married with a daughter, in his spare time he's a film buff, a basketball junkie, and a cemetery enthusiast.

More Posts