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!