Becoming a Well Done Film Buff: Part Two


Becoming a Well Done Film Buff: Part Twobat

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 Two: Don’t get hung up on who a film is “for.”

The main ideas behind pretty much all of the seven steps are to be as open-minded as possible and to always look for and appreciate the moments that film alone among all the arts can create. In the words of the Professor Brothers: “Yes in-fucking-deed, the magic of cinema!” Are these moments only to be found in “guy flicks?” Or course not.

Now tell me if this sounds familiar.

When I was in high school I went through a bunch of musical phases: hip-hop, alternative, grunge, punk rock, and hardcore. During each phase I would become exclusive to that particular genre and everything else was crap. It affected the way I acted and of course the way I dressed: suede Pumas in outlandish colors, flannels, Doc Martens, bomber jackets, and more band t-shirts than any reasonable human being should own.

This musical fetishism led me to do many embarrassing things: stagediving, stealing a cassette copy of “What’s the Story Morning Glory” so I’d have something to talk about with a girl who liked Oasis (didn’t pay off), wearing chain wallets past my knees, the entire tough-guy hardcore phase, etc. None of these things was more embarrassing in hindsight (except maybe the stagediving) than the fact that I was depriving myself of so much great music by being so narrow minded. Actually, it’s probably for the best that I didn’t get into Morrissey until later in life, but I digress.

Going about one’s taste in music like that is obviously childish, so why do the same thing to yourself with films as a grown-ass man? Why ignore so much great movie making simply because you perceive some films as being made “for women” or “for children?” Have you seen The Princess Bride lately? It’s still fucking awesome! We need to figure out how to break away from these preconceived notions.
One thing you should do is revisit the films that thrilled you as a kid. There could be something there beyond nostalgia. For example, as a child I would comb through the TV Guide every week looking for Godzilla flicks on TBS. Even back then I could tell that the special effect were shoddy and the actors were sweating to death in those rubber suits. Somewhere in my subconscious, however, resided the “what if.” I remember holding up the neighborhood stickball games because Ghidrah the Three Headed Monster was on again, wondering, “What if this was real? What if there really were giant monsters crawling out of the sea to stomp the shit out of the world? We’d be screwed!”

Of course that childlike sense of wonder faded away, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t appreciate Godzilla movies on their own merits as I got older. The first film, with or without Raymond Burr, is a deadly serious meditation on the horrors of nuclear war, which was definitely lost on me as a kid. While the rest of the Godzilla canon certainly varies in quality, all of the films deliver on what counts: giant monsters fighting and wrecking shit. This is where the “magic of cinema” comes in. What other medium could adequately convey the absurd majesty of Godzilla rising from the sea to wreak havoc on Tokyo?960

It certainly doesn’t have to be Godzilla that gets you to lighten up about films geared towards the young. Whatever enchanted you when you were a kid should do the trick. Or try movies such as The (aforementioned) Princess Bride, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Neverending Story have all held up well. You needn’t even go back to the past – try something by Studio Ghibli. Or if you haven’t seen Up, and it’s heart-wrenching opening sequence, correct that post-haste.

Now let’s turn towards films that are perceived as being geared towards women. I’ll admit that I know very little about the modern day “chick flick.” The various romantic misadventures of Kate Hudson do nothing for me. One has to be careful, however, about taking romantic films that don’t deserve to be lumped in with such lightweight fare and, well, lumping them in with such lightweight fare.

There is a simple, fool-proof way to break through your resistance to what you see as the softer side of cinema: Audrey Hepburn. Now, my favorite genre is horror. I have willingly watched Last House On the Left and Cannibal Holocaust, but if you are not moved by the sight of Audrey Hepburn on the screen, we have very little to talk about. No reasonable human being could be immune to her charms.

Start with the obvious: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (just skip over any scene with Mickey Rooney’s legendarily offensive performance). If you have an actual human heart, which hey, I don’t know your medical history, Hepburn’s turn as Holly Golightly will captivate you. Good next steps would be Sabrina and Roman Holiday.

For all the sentient robots, mortuary assistants, and fledgling serial killers out there who cannot get into Audrey Hepburn, perhaps try a romance that’s a little off-kilter, like Amelie. If you want to get really weird, go with Harold and Maude. If you can’t stray far from the comfort of a particular genre, then try a genre film with romantic elements. If you must have blood and guts, try Italy’s last great zombie film: Michele Soavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore (aka Cemetery Man). Can’t get through a film without fight sequences? Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Once you get comfortable with romantic films, maybe the next time you have to take a bullet on a movie date it won’t be so bad.

One more tip. When you realize you’ve overcome your aversion to “children’s” or “women’s” films, own it. Don’t try to talk your way around it. I teach, and I once had a brony in a class. If that kid could walk into the merciless shark tank of high school with a My Little goddamned Pony shirt on, you can admit to liking Audrey Hepburn.

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.

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