Friday, January 9, 2009

And Never the Twain Shall Meet


I had a post on film-criticism from print sources and online sources ready to go but I've pushed it to the back-burner for now since a recent post covered most of it in the comments. Instead, I'd like to devote this short post today, a thoroughly abridged version of the film-criticism post, to identifying a non-cinephile.

My blog comes up on occasion in conversation at social gatherings where a friend may mention it or ask about something on it. Someone else hears this and asks what it's about. "Movies," of course. And then the division is clear. The division between the cinephile and the non-cinephile. Last year David Bordwell wrote a piece entitled Games Cinephiles Play that made the rounds in a few blog discussions. While it defined a cinephile as one who "loves the idea of film" and then presented faux conversational sparring among fictional cinephiles, it did not provide a handy guide book as to how to tell a cinephile from a non-cinephile. As Bordwell says, we all love movies, which is why he separates the cinephile by placing their love in the abstract. But I've noticed several easy signposts to read that help one discern the cinephile from the non-cinephile in casual conversation. The non-cinephile, upon hearing that you blog about movies, asks a predictable set of questions, quickly and easily giving themselves away as amateurs in the world of film. Here are the top three I get:


Question number one: Who's your favorite director?


Question number two: What's your favorite movie of all time?


Question number three: What new movies do you like?


Dead giveaways you are talking to a non-cinephile. A cinephile would never be so pedestrian or obvious. I don't know what they would ask but it would probably have something to do with an older film, a controversial one in film circles or a new box set finally available for someone like F.W. Murnau. But "What's your favorite movie of all time?" Never. At least not in my experience. Like most cinephiles, I don't have a favorite movie of all time. I have hundreds. And they change, daily. I don't have a favorite director of all time, but I have a short list (we probably all do). And even if I did, a cinephile wouldn't need to ask because over the course of the conversation it would probably become clear anyway. And "what new movies do I like?" Please. Ask my kids, not me. They see everything, I don't. I'm in no rush to see every movie out there nor am I in any rush to see every movie ever made. I'll never see them all anyway so why rush it? Why break my butt to see a current movie in release when there are thousands from decades past that have had a much bigger impact on film history, or at least on filmmakers and cinephiles, that are still to be seen? When you still haven't seen The Earrings of Madame De... (playing in February at the AFI as part of a Max Ophuls series - I already have my tickets) Frost/Nixon can wait. Besides, I'd rather keep my theater experiences to the classics anyway. It feels right, somehow, to see Ophuls on the big screen in a lush movie palace and see Howard on DVD at home. So that's what I'm going to do, and keep doing and when a non-cinephile asks me about my blog I'm going to keep using my pat answer: "No, actually I don't blog. I don't even like movies. So what do you do for a living?"


*****Post Scriptum*****


Recently I was tagged by Fox for a resolution meme started by Adam, the kid with panache, DVD Panache, and I doubt I'll ever get around to it but I like Fox and Adam so let's all pretend this is the resolution meme post okay? And I've linked to both Fox and Adam. Finally, I tag that guy I saw in the grocery store the other day, the one who was humming "Up Where We Belong" to himself as he pondered the Hostess Cupcake selection. Whoever you are sir, consider yourself tagged!

75 comments:

Ed Howard said...

In my experience, a true non-cinephile would NEVER ask who your favorite director is. Non-cinephiles just don't think that way. I've spoken to people who are simply baffled when I express enthusiasm for seeing movies I know little about because I admire the director. This is not how most people choose the movies they're going to see. Asking who your favorite director is might be silly (even if I do have one) but it's a sign that the person asking at least understands the concept of the director, which is more than most people.

The real non-cinephile, when they hear that you like movies, asks if you saw Four Christmases yet.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Ed, I've gotten the director question a lot. Those top three of mine aren't made up, they're for real. I think it's the non-cinephiles attempt to connect which most people try to do in small talk. The smarter ones at least know about directors. The answer for them is usually Spielberg, Scorsese or Hitchcock, the only three directors most non-cinephiles know AND they fully expect your answer to be one of those three. Any other answer is unacceptable. "Who's that?" they ask, if you name someone else.

Pat said...

At a recent rehearsal for the community choir I sing with, I let slip to a friend that I write a movie blog, and suddenly that info was all over the alto section. Then I got besieged with people telling how much they hated "No Country for Old Men" or how much they enjoyed "Made of Honor" (or some other crap romantic comedy - can't remember which) and asking what I'd seen lately that I liked. (My enthusiastic recommendation of "Happy Go Lucky" met with some confused, slightly vacant looks.)

Hopefully when we reconvene next week, most of them will have forgotten all about it.

And, Jonathan, I find comfort in the way you put into perspective the vast number of films out there and that there is no need to rush to see them all. I've been feeling tremendous, self-induced pressure to get out there and see all the end-of-year, award-worthy stuff, but weather and back injuries (just suffered another, horrible one on Wednesday) are keeping me away from the mulitplexes. Probabl just as well - I have a whole, backed-up queue of stuff to watch on the DVR.

Flickhead said...

Two common questions non-cinephiles ask me upon discovering I have a film website and blog:

1) "Do you make any money doing that?"

2) "What exactly is a blog, anyway? I know I should know, but I'm really not sure."

Jonathan Lapper said...

Hopefully when we reconvene next week, most of them will have forgotten all about it.

Pat, exactly. That's what I hope for: Don't anyone remember I like movies, please.

At the end of December, Tom ran this ultra-short post at his blog and it immediately made me think of those encounters. Especially with recent movies I couldn't stand. When that comes up I just start lying. "I'll have to check that out," usually works well enough.

And Pat, I hope you feel better. I know you've had back injuries before and I know how painful they can be. Take care of yourself.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Flickhead - The money thing! I should've mentioned that. Because I do get that one, constantly! It absolutely, utterly, totally, and completely perplexes people that I would do this out of love. Surely, SURELY, I must be making money at it, right? A friend of mine sent my e-mail to a person he knew who gave lectures to businesses on improving employee morale or something. Anyway, he gave her my name and she e-mailed me about researching movie clips to use for her lectures for a fee. The guy who did this, a friend and a good one but he simply doesn't understand the arts or blogging out of love or passion for something, thought he was doing me a tremendous favor: Finally, you'll start making some business connections with this little blogging thing. I was pretty pissed and e-mailed her back saying there had been a misunderstanding and that's not what I did. I'm sure it confused the living hell out of my friend.

bill r. said...

Only two people outside of my family know that I have a blog, but a lot of people know that I love movies. However, in most cases, I keep the depth of that love under wraps, so that I can avoid as many awkward encounters as possible. That's not always possible, and for a while there, No Country for Old Men made things very difficult for me, but generally, since there are plenty of popular movies that I like or love, I'm able to keep such encounters at that level.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill, why do so many of us (or is just you and me) keep the fact that we have a blog secret? I don't tell anyone either. I think it's just a hassle to explain it all. And there are always popular films that are also good that you can discuss with people, which is what I usually do too.

bill r. said...

Bill, why do so many of us (or is just you and me) keep the fact that we have a blog secret?... I think it's just a hassle to explain it all.

Yeah, it's a hassle. Plus, I wouldn't want to answer questions about the half-naked chicks, or all the swearing, or any of that. One of the friends (who is very much not a cinephile) I did tell asked me what my blog was called, and I answered her VERY sheepishly. She laughed really hard, however, so I feel like I did at least one thing right.

Peter Nellhaus said...

I've told a few co-workers about my blog. A couple have looked at it and know that my interest is not mainstream most of the time. Otherwise, I don't talk about movies with them, and quietly observe other peoples conversations. Probably after the Golden Globes, a couple of people might decide to see that Slumdog Millionaire movie I mentioned last November.

By the way, have a good time with Madame D. I bought the British DVD a couple of years ago. I have seen most of the latter Ophuls on the big screen though.

I'm in no rush to see Frost/Nixon either. I didn't even see the original interviews. Someone should get the satirical news show he was on, "That was the Week that Was" on DVD. That was something of a prototype for "The Daily Show".

Moviezzz said...

I try to keep my blog quiet, in the real world I guess you can say, but when it does leak out, I get questions like "Oh, wasn't MAMMA MIA wonderful?". That's why I keep it quiet.

I WISH I would get questions about directors, but most people in my area don't seem to take movies all that seriously.

And the money question comes up as well.

Marilyn said...

A lot of people know I have a movie blog. They really don't care. After the initial reveal, I usually get "What films playing now would you recommend?" and then nothing ever again. Recently, I got "What's your favorite film era?" That was an interesting twist from a high schooler who's learn about film.

One of my coworkers who's an enthusiast but not a film geek normally talks to me about actors and, sometimes, directors. We had a nice conversation about Tarantino once, and I was relieved we felt the same way about him. That can be a mess to get into with film geeks.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill - The few times my blog comes up always seems to be THE WRONG TIME for someone to go check it. The last time it came up was right at the start of October Kill Fest. I had five people surrounding me asking what I had done today on the blog and the last three posts were two photoshopped pics of the stars and a joke post using screengrabs from Lust for a Vampire. I just know a couple of them thought, "Wow, so his blog is worthless."

Jonathan Lapper said...

Peter, my wife and I are really looking forward to Ophuls month at the AFI. He is one of our blind spots in the ranks of cinephiles but thanks to the AFI, that will be corrected. And I'll get to say I've seen them all on the bigscreen.

Re: the Golden Globes - ugh.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Moviezzz - I hate to say it, but thanks to my daughter one of the few 2008 movies I saw was Mamma Mia. I wouldn't waste a pixel of space in a post on it so let me just get it off my chest here in the comments: It. Was. An. Atrocity. I've rarely been so shocked by the awfulness of a movie.

Marilyn said...

See? Not even Jonathan cares to comment on the fact that I have a film blog. I'm invisible...

Jonathan Lapper said...

Marilyn, I remember years ago (around 97 or 98) getting into a conversation with some idiot at work who was on high on himself as a movie afficionado. He said, "One of the first things I ask people is, 'Do you like Tarantino' because if they don't, they don't know movies."

So, my ire up, I started asking him about... oh... pretty much everything in film history before 1950 of which, as I suspected, he knew nothing of. I told him there was a lot more to film history than Pulp Fiction. He was amazed at my film knowledge so he wasn't upset or annoyed by my annoyance at him. After that we talked more about movies and I like to think in my swollen head moments that I put him on the track to true cinephilia.

BTW, ire or not, Pulp Fiction has provided me with a favorite banner I created a few months back. I'll have to put it up soon.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Marilyn, patience. I was typing away. Look at the post times on my comments. I was simply taking them in order.

Jonathan Lapper said...

And if I didn't say so before, you are not, and could never be, invisible in my eyes.

Flickhead said...

Faster, Jonathan, FASTER!!!

bill r. said...

I like Tarantino, but I would have probably punched that guy. And Pulp Fiction hasn't aged very well, anyway.

bill r. said...

And if I didn't say so before, you are not, and could never be, invisible in my eyes.

Yeesh...

Jonathan Lapper said...

Flickhead, I feel like a pussycat now. Someone tell me to Kill! Kill!

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill, this was right after the cult of QT had begun and guys like my co-worker thought film history's year zero was 1994. I don't mind QT either but the statement was ridiculous. I watched Pulp Fiction a couple of months ago again and thought it held up well actually.

And hey, just because I know how to treat a lady doesn't mean you have to get all jealous.

Adam Ross said...

"Finally, I tag that guy I saw in the grocery store the other day, the one who was humming "Up Where We Belong" to himself as he pondered the Hostess Cupcake selection."

I like the guy already! I wonder if he has a blog?

I'm also a secret blogger. Part of it comes from the fact that I'll never know how to tell someone I have a blog ("Hey, you should check out my blog," "Have you ever read my blog?" "Do you want to be a guest blogger on my blog?").

I've also learned like other commenters to be a secret cinephile. Last year I was introduced to my cousin's girlfriend, who later revealed that her friends' nickname for her was "The Human Movie Database," and I spent the rest of the night imagining how I could crash this database ("So, Jean Peters or Sheree North?" to quote SLIFR). I don't want to be that guy.

bill r. said...

Well, I don't dislike Pulp Fiction now. I still enjoy it, but I just think it's a bit less gripping now, the dialogue winks a bit too often...that kind of thing. Give me Jackie Brown or both Kill Bills any day.

And I know how to treat women! You're supposed to look in their eyes when you talk to them, or some retarded shit like that, right?

Marilyn said...

Put a cork in it, Bill. Fawning works for me.

bill r. said...

I'm also a secret blogger. Part of it comes from the fact that I'll never know how to tell someone I have a blog

Exactly. When I told my friends, I think I opened with, "I've been debating whether or not to tell you this...", as though I was about to inform them I was getting a divorce, or suing them, or something. It was just stupid.

bill r. said...

[Looks Marilyn right in her eyes]

I'm sorry, Marilyn, were you talking to me?

[Marilyn swoons]

Marilyn said...

[Marilyn swoons from all the cocktails she had to drink to bear the sight of the kind of face she hates.]

Jonathan Lapper said...

Thank you Marilyn.

Adam, his blog is called "An Officer and a Cupcake" and it's all about his military experience and cupcake eating habits. I expect his resolution post will be mesmerizing.

And don't you think it would be just a little bit fun to trash that database? You could be that guy for just a minute or two, and then apologize or say something like, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have treated you like that but I've been stoked up on coke all day. It's a problem." And then everything would be okay.

Jonathan Lapper said...

By the way, I was thanking Marilyn for telling you to put a cork in it, and then I saw that ultimate BURN!!!!

Warning to everyone who trifles: Marilyn is not to be trifled with.

bill r. said...

[Marilyn swoons from all the cocktails she had to drink to bear the sight of the kind of face she hates.]

[Which, by the way, belongs to Jonathan.]

bill r. said...

[Oh, and also, later, Marilyn tries to follow Bill home, but he's all, "Sorry, Toots, I'm married. She's devestated, but what can you do?]

Jonathan Lapper said...

Exactly. When I told my friends, I think I opened with, "I've been debating whether or not to tell you this...", as though I was about to inform them I was getting a divorce, or suing them, or something. It was just stupid.

Bill, this is a true story. I told a long-distance friend about my blog via e-mail last year and he never responded and hasn't written me since. We e-mailed each other about once every couple of months and talked on the phone around twice a year. It was like I had offended him by starting up a blog. It remains one of the strangest things I have ever had happen. He just stopped communicating with me entirely. I mean, it's just so goddamned weird.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Oh and I forgot to add: Fuck him!

bill r. said...

Jonathan - That is...odd. Not to worry you, but are you sure he's okay?

Jonathan Lapper said...

Oh yeah, I know where he works and the day after I sent the e-mail I kept checking my sitemeter. Sure enough, his work I.P. popped up and came from a link in google e-mail. He looked at a few pages and never replied. He's fine, trust me.

It's like I betrayed him or something. I really think that's how he took it. Like he found out I had been having all these wonderful conversations online instead of e-mailing him. WTF?

Marilyn said...

That was my thought, too, though people do tend to drop each other suddenly and without explanation. Like I'm dropping Bill.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bye Bill, if Marilyn's dropping you I have to as well. I pretty much follow her around like a lap dog.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Or should I say, "Lapper dog."

Marilyn said...

That's a GOOD doggie!

bill r. said...

So long, everybody. It's been real. However, I've suddenly come to the realization that you're all a bunch of no-good, know-nothing jerk-asses.

Especially Marilyn. Marilyn is Queen Jerk-Ass.

Marilyn said...

Speaking of Jerk Asses, they finally impeached that S.O.B.! And everything we knew about Roland Burris but the rest of the country didn't:

http://www.beachwoodreporter.com/

Jason Bellamy said...

Well, per usual, the conversation has moved on from what I wanted to comment on. But oh well ...

I identify with your post in many ways, but I'd be careful about suggesting that seeing new movies disqualifies someone from the cinephile ranks. I mean, your third question is right on. That's what people would ask. But some of the biggest cinephiles I know manage to see everything -- and by that I mean current movies (including trash) and old ones. So maybe a better way of putting it is that cinephiles don't ONLY see current films. Because you can't have old movies without new movies.

Jonathan Lapper said...

No, no I meant the other Bill R. You know, the guy with that blog, "The Kind of Hook you Bait."

Not you Bill! You're the best! Come back Bill. Come back.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Jason, I agree, I wasn't intending to say that. A few years ago I saw everything that came out. Many cinephiles, like Fox or Rick, see a lot of the new releases. And you as well. But I suck at it. Hard.

Arboghost! said...

I liked MAMA MIA.

Fox said...

The thing that struck me about watching Madame De... and Le Ronde and Le Plasir (in that box set that came out) is that Ophuls THEN was a more sophisticated filmmaker than someone like a Ron Howard is NOW.

I'm not saying that everyone must progress from a point of achievement and move off from that, but if the establishment today is considering a film like Frost/Nixon and a director like Ron Howard to be among our best, then we've got a problem.

Jonathan Lapper said...

I liked MAMA MIA.

You did not.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Fox, Ron Howard has always been tepid as a director and while the Hollywood establishment may exhalt him, they've always exhalted the mediocrities so I don't think it's that much different today. Hollywood always finds mediocre more engaging than something truly challenging.

bill r. said...

I'm not saying that everyone must progress from a point of achievement and move off from that, but if the establishment today is considering a film like Frost/Nixon and a director like Ron Howard to be among our best, then we've got a problem.

Yeah, but NO ONE actually believes that Ron Howard is among our best. Have you ever heard anyone say those words?

Fox said...

Oh yeah... I forgot!:

Question number one: Who's your favorite director? Michael Powell.

Question number two: What's your favorite movie of all time? Stairway to Heaven (aka A Matter of Life and Death)

Question number three: What new movies do you like? I saw Ghost Town on Tuesday night and liked it. Bedtime Stories wasn't that bad (seriously).

OK, now that the small talk is over, who's ready to make out???

Jonathan Lapper said...

I just lost my appetite.

Fox said...

You guys obviously DON'T like Mamma Mia! b/c you keep spelling it wrong! JERKS!

I mean I'm sorry, Arbo, that Mamma Mia! doesn't have any ghosts in it, but you could still show it some respect!!!

Fox said...

Yeah, but NO ONE actually believes that Ron Howard is among our best. Have you ever heard anyone say those words?

I bet Ebert has. Definitely the chick from US Weekly.

Arboghost! said...

I really liked Mamma Mia.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Okie dokie.

PIPER said...

So um Lapper just in case I run into you at a cocktail party... who's your favorite director of all time? I'll give you some time to think about it.

I'm from the Midwest so I usually apologize for having a blog if I bring it up. And then I tell anyone it's stupid and I do a lot of eye-rolling about it. You know, I really sell it because after all, I'm in marketing.

And btw, I love Mammary Mia.

Marilyn said...

Mamma Mia has the ghost of Meryl Streep's youth in it.

bill r. said...

I think Meryl Streep's best performance is in A Prairie Home Companion.

I haven't seen Mamma Mia!?$%&#.

Fox said...

I'm gonna make a gay porn sequel to Mamma Mia! call Aye Papi!.

Fox said...

Where did Arbo go??...

Do you think he got sad that we didn't ask him about his affinity for Mamma Mia!after he was brave enough to declare it?

He's probably at his desk in his ABBA shirt cuttin'-n-pastin' together a collage of his favorite moments from the movie.

I kinda feel bad now.

Arboghost! said...

During the summer, my wife and I took our not-yet-3 year-old daughter to another kid's birthday party. It was a beautiful day and all the kids were running around, so we didn't notice we hadn't seen our daughter in a while. We went outside to look for her and found her sitting alone, in a pink dress, with a little purse held in her lap, and no one playing with her.

I feel like that now.

bill r. said...

Arbo, why did you just tell us that story? It's heartbreaking.

PIPER said...

thanks Arbo. I'm in an airport crying my eyes out.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Arbo, did I mention how much I loved Mamma Mia. I mean, really, I loved it. It was fan-riffic! That stuff earlier, I was just saying that to be cool. And then I realized, "Hey wait a minute. I'm cool no matter what." So now I can be honest and talk about how great it was. When Brosnan does that S.O.S. number, oh my, I just wept.

Fox said...

I'm in an airport crying my eyes out.

Even your LAZY eye??? HAHAHAHA! I'm so funny!!

Yeah... Arbo played his trump card alright. I guess we've all learned our lesson then, right? And that's one to grow on!

Krauthammer said...

I usually answer "what's your favorite movie" with Fargo because I do love it, but other people may be actually likely to as well.

And damn AFI for having an Ophuls marathon right after I leave Silver Spring. DAMN THEM!

Jonathan Lapper said...

Krauthammer, they called me before scheduling it to make sure you were gone. They've really got it out for you.

Larry Aydlette said...

J-man: I believe it was you Meryl Streep was referring to when she recently described those who didn't like the movie:

"...when the bad reviews came out, the blogosphere just exploded with women empowered to say, 'These people are crazy! What's the matter with you? Life-hating, life-sucking, desiccated old farts.' "

You can't hear the drums, Lapperando.

Hugs and kisses, LA

Jonathan Lapper said...

Poor Meryl, reduced to saying that basically people who have watched and loved movies their whole life let personal bias keep them from giving Mamma Mia a good review, rather than saying, "Yeah, it was no great shakes but I had a good time doing it." It's sad when the ability to honestly reflect on one's own experiences leaves a person. Oh well.

Rick Olson said...

So. What have y'all been talking about? I want you to catch me up with every point of the conversation so I can make an intelligent comment.

Rick Olson said...

btw. I hated Mama Mia, or however you spell it.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Rick, the whole consversation is summed up here. Hope that helps.