Dating? Damn right. We cover the entire gamut here. I think Sewer Chewer Mike Skerritt’s in-depth look at the ins and outs of relationships via movies is something both comical and even a bit insightful.
I myself will be in Las Vegas this time tomorrow. Will Mike’s dating guide prove useful? Possibly. Unless the women I’ll be cavorting with are already well versed in the nuances of Poke ‘er, then probably not…
Anyway, for the rest of you fine folks, here’s part one. Enjoy!
The Cinephile’s Guide to Dating
By Mike Skerritt (Johanthan Banks is my hero)
Member since 5/15/03
Legal Researcher in Washington, DC
cin·e·phile: A film or movie enthusiast.
cin·e·phobe: A word I made up to describe the complete opposite of a cinephile.
A wise sage, Voltaire I think, or maybe Paula Abdul, once wrote that opposites attract. It ain’t fiction. You know it’s a fact. In less lyrical terms, it’s simply inevitable. The growing population of cinephiles are out there, and despite popular opinion, they’re dating. Because cinephobes make up the deep end of the opposite sex pool, it stands to reason that intermingling will occur between the two sides. A cinephobe might even be dating your sister as we speak. Lock your windows.
As a gallivanting cinephile about town, I’ve had my share of these kinds of relationships, eventually settling down with a beautiful—yep—cinephobe we’ll call the “Girlfriend.” (She’s from Niagara Falls. You wouldn’t know her.) Through my experiences I’ve learned that any attempt to make sense of the relational gap between the cinephile and the cinephobe would make Sysiphus chuckle. But the gap is there, it’s very real, and any romantic relationship between the two sides must somehow push toward understanding one another. If you’ve made the leap, congratulations. You’ve pushed a Brando-sized boulder up a mountain and left it behind. But if you’ve just met a girl and she has yet to ask you what your favorite movie is (thus blowing open the proverbial can o’ worms), you might be sitting there wondering how you’ll go about answering that question. If you’ve met a new guy and you’ve just asked that question, you might be wondering what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into. Fear not, friends. I have seen the top of the mountain, and it is good. I’m here to help.
Over many trials by fire, I’ve developed a simple guidebook of rules and tips for cinephiles and cinephobes to follow as they go about the dating ritual together, which I am happy now to broadcast to the world. Relationships are difficult enough to foster without obsessive movie habits getting in the way. By following this guide, cinephiles and cinephobes can hope to sidestep any pitfalls on their road to bliss. But before I start, a couple of ground rules:
• I realize women have a capacity equal to men in obsessing about movies, but for the sake of this guide, “cinephile” will be played by a man, and “cinephobe” will be played by a woman, partially because I’m writing the article and I am, in fact, a man (I have pictures to prove it), and partially because I think we can all agree that when you hear the word “cinephile,” you’re more likely to think of a man than a woman. An ugly, ugly man. Understand, however, that with most of these rules, gender is interchangeable.
• This guide is meant for burgeoning relationships, before any kind of unconditional bond has formed and the cinephobe girlfriend is still trying to overcome the trauma of stumbling upon her boyfriend’s shrine to Kevin McCarthy.
With those in mind, and without further adieu, I present to you…
Rules for the Cinephile
First up, we dive into the dating waters of the cinephile. Let’s hope the seas are calm and George Clooney has us safely pointed home. Oh, wait…
12.) The Further Explanation Rule of Comedy. The best way to a woman’s heart is through her funny bone. It’s been that way throughout human history (it has been written that Eve first shacked up with Adam because she loved his “You know you have one less rib when …” routine). But realize that in order for your date to find you funny, she must understand your jokes. If she’s forced to ask you to further explain your jokes or references, she’s bound to, first, miss that knee jerk reaction that makes a joke funny in the first place, and, second, think she’s stupid for asking. Then she’s bound for the door. For example, let’s say you suggest watching Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, resisting the urge, of course, to force her to sit through every minute of the supplemental material. While you’re watching the movie, during a particularly rousing note of Ed Shearmur’s score, you say, “John Williams must be rolling over in his grave.” For this to register as funny, your date must 1) realize it’s an obscure Simpsons reference, 2) know that John Williams is not only a film composer, but that he’s very much alive, and 3) recognize that Williams is known for his particularly rousing notes. If she asks you to further explain, you’ve lost the momentum gained from getting her into your living room. If similarly cryptic jokes follow, you’ve lost her completely.
11.) Subtitles do not equal entertainment. You’re deciding where to go on a date when you say, “Listen, I read about this great Croatian film in Film Comment about a young girl who loses a pet rock in a windstorm and must brave many miles’ worth of minefields to find it.” No doubt there are foreign films that are universally entertaining, but chances are that this is not one of them. Intellectual stimulation is fine in the name of personal enrichment or academic study, but for dates, fart jokes tend to work better. Plus, consider the obvious advantage of a popcorn movie: Two hands may find their way into one bucket. (Note: This rule applies not only to dates but to gift giving as well.)
10.) The only lists that matter are grocery lists. When the ice is still being broken in a new relationship, the ice breaking inevitably turns to the various favorites of each person, most often including—usually starting out with—movies. When this question comes up, and it will come up, remember that most people do not keep a running list of their favorite movies in their heads that they can recall at will in such a conversation, including well detailed explanations of why certain movies are placed in a certain order. More likely, the cinephobe will give you the last few movies she’s seen, with a couple of all-time favorites thrown in. This should not been seen as an unsatisfactory answer. Don’t say you don’t believe she doesn’t have a “better” list. Don’t press her for more. Don’t compare your list with hers. And in all cases, don’t disagree with her choices. She might already be intimidated by unfamiliar names you mention like Kurosawa, Bergman and Kubrick, so don’t make it worse by dissecting what she offers. Just smile, grit your teeth, and move on to a more neutral topic like religion or political affiliation.
9.) She doesn’t care about 5.1 Dolby Digital versus DTS. You may be fascinated by such nuances of theater viewing, but the cinephobe is not. A similar warning also applies to aspect ratios, practical versus CGI effects, and anything involving the ethics of George Lucas. I repeat, she doesn’t care. This warning does not apply, however, to continuity errors, which seem to fascinate cinephobes. If you’re watching Pretty Woman (you know, because she asked nicely and you like the way she smells) and you point out Richard Gere’s disappearing tie, she’ll laugh and tell you that’s the funniest thing she’s ever seen. She may even engage you in a conversation about how such things could happen, whose job it is to watch for such things, why the director didn’t notice it, etc., which would give you an excuse to show off your cinephile muscles. That’s your time to shine. Shine on, brother.
8.) Some people like formulas. Formulas may be the bane of your existence, clichés the pebble in your shoe, but many people like them. They enjoy the comfort offered by predictable plot turns and happy endings. Not unlike fast food, they want to know what they’re getting before they step into the theater. Witness the overwhelming success of the romantic comedy genre. (It’s not a coincidence how many will likely appear in her list of favorite movies.) In a sense it’s the necessary ingredient of escapism to the mass audience. They want to step out of their own lives for 105 minutes, but not into something altogether unfamiliar. Understand this about her and you will avoid unnecessary tension. You think you’re immune? How many slasher movies are in your DVD collection? Right.
7.) The Name Game. Admittedly, this rule may apply only to relationships with some kind of foothold, when you begin to discuss what your future kids’ names might be. This conversation is a potential bear trap for any relationship, but I digress. Up until this point, she’s been thinking your obsession with movies, while pervasive, doesn’t have a long reach into the real world. But when you bring up Akira, Orson, Errol and Alfred as honest to goodness names for your unborn children (read: when you answer, “No, really,” with, “Yes, really”), it hits home for her. It can be tough to cope with such a shock. Realize that this rule is not meant to render your dreams of a miniature you obsolete, but to open the possibility of compromise.
6.) At least people in bad movies are pretty. Say what you will about the Hollywood machine, but they know how to get asses in seats. They won’t make a $140 million movie without someone who’s physically appealing, so if she drags you to one, at least you’ll have eye candy to look at.
5.) Pan & Scan can be your friend. Sacrilege, I know. But before you pick up that knife, let me explain. Many cinephiles, myself included, cannot yet afford the luxury of a widescreen television set, so we must deal with the ubiquitous black bars. For us it’s fine, because we can still appreciate seeing the film how the director meant it to be seen. We know that even though the overall size of the image is smaller, we’re actually seeing more of the picture than we would if the dreaded pan & scan image were filling the entire screen. According to sales at Wal-Mart, cinephobes don’t see it that way. You must be sensitive to this. (Seriously, put the knife down.) If you’re at her house and she pops in a movie, don’t groan when the glow from the Universal logo reaches the top of the monitor. It will be over soon enough. Think of it as an excuse for a makeout session.
4.) Movies only need one soundtrack. Yes, “Excuse us, we’re not Mexicans,” is a funny line, but it’s funny because it’s professionally delivered by Steve Martin, who’s standing in a run down Mexican bar while wearing an Amigos costume that would make Liberace blush. When you’re in your Ikea-clad living room sipping on a Diet Pepsi, somehow the line loses its irony (unless you actually are Mexican, in which case the irony increases tenfold). Much emphasis should be placed on this rule if it’s a movie she’s never seen. Let her enjoy it without forcing the live show on her.
3.) No obscure compliments. A close cousin to the previous rule about staying away from overly obscure jokes, consider this variation to be much more important. It’s one thing to make her feel stupid, but it’s a whole different house of wax to make her feel stupid under the guise of complimenting her. One insecurity at a time, please. If you say, for example, that she looks just like Franka Potente in Run Lola Run—because you’re really into German punk chic—you may have the best intentions, but you may have her running. Not good. Feel free, however, to shower her with Jennifer Lopez comparisons. She’ll eat that shit up.
2.) The “This is just like …” Rule. Look, movies are fiction. Even those that are strictly designed to ape real life have to be concocted by writers, or at least hacks paid to put words together like writers. So to respond to a problem she’s having by saying, “This is just like [that one scene] in [that one John Carpenter movie],” you can see how that might trivialize her feelings. My advice is to stay away from this line of response altogether, unless of course you’re quoting from a documentary that might actually help her. Example: She’s anxious about a job interview and you helpfully offer, “This is just like that kid in Spellbound who was freaking out about spelling cephalalgia but knocked it out of the park.” Just don’t tell her you thought the kid might be autistic.
1.) It’s okay if she doesn’t care. The number one rule on this list, by far the most important, is also by far the simplest. So many of our relational difficulties come from our tendency to project our own interests and desires onto our significant others and hold it against them when they don’t live up. She won’t ever share your obsession with the movies. She may not even understand it fully. The thing to remember is that it’s okay. Her apathy should not be seen as a product of your inability to mold her into your cinephile counterpart. She is who she is. You are who you are. Just be happy you’ve got her.
Hopefully these rules will not prove too difficult to remember in needful times. If you can remember Toshiro Mifune’s birthday, I’m sure you won’t have a problem.
To be continued…
Tom writes: I look forward to King Kong with as much anticipation and confidence as you do. But my confidence is not only in Peter Jackson and WETA. I think that Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens deserve a vote of confidence too. I strongly believe, but can’t prove, that the shots of Ann Darrow’s foot taking a decisive step up the gangplank, and her hand on the railing, are their idea. And that those shots are just a hint of what they contributed to the script.
Leo Lucky says: The reason I wrote the article is that I realized we’re all sitting around thinking the same things about this film and its makers, and wanted to tap into that. You well could be right about Phillipa and Fran — either way it’s certainly the most interesting filmmaker dynamic I’ve seen in a while. Looking at the trailer again, those moments are so key, as is the way PJ deftly gets around using "Mr. Deep Voice Trailer Narrator" by having Black’s character doing that ominous and foreshadowing voiceover. Who knows if it’ll be in the film, and in what context, but dammit if these guys don’t produce not only the best films, but some of the best trailers ever. The trailer for The Two Towers, with that amazing interpolation of the theme from Requiem for a Dream, is my vote for the best of all time. The two minutes we’ve seen here from Kong are an astounding close second. After the reports from ComicCon, where those lucky bastards got to see a glimpse of the V-Rex fight, I started hearing it again — there it is now! That drumbeat… and it’s getting closer…