Friday, January 22, 2010

Advice, Entertainment, Jack Nicholson In Leopard Print & More!

Just cause...
Recommending films can be tricky territory, particularly when your cinematic love is on the line.

So you overhear your coworker talking about a horror movie they watched last night. Some darkly lit ghost story about cell phones stealing the souls of pretty college students, with the dude from Lost acting all broody and Kristen Bell looking cute. They can’t seem to express just how awful it was, as all the words that come out seem to be “It sucked” and “stupid” and “it’s a f*cking cell phone!”\


Naturally, you feel the need to intervene. To cross cubicle walls and spread the word of just why the American remake of Pulse was so awful. The lack of location, bland visuals, neutered violence and simple fact that it took one of the less interesting aspects of its namesake--the basic plot--and juiced it for all the glossy PG13 J-by-way-of-USA-horror it could. 

You do one better. At the stroke of 6, you return home to your shiny pile of DVDs and wake up the next morning fully pleased with the good deed you’re about to do. You step into the office and casually lend Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo to that guy in accounting, accepting his thanks and nodding knowingly. “I’ll watch it this weekend!” he gratefully enthuses. You smile and start to picture the poetically haunting nightmares he’ll have after.

Come Monday, there’s that familiar shadow-filled case on your desk, classlessly decorated with a Post-It that says “Thanks.” You cruise to the water cooler expecting some wide-eyed recap about some Internet-plus-masking-tape inspired nightmare. Your co-worker refills his paper cup without making eye contact.

“Yeah, it was okay. Kinda slow.” 

Fool! You shout with coffee breath. How blind, how foolish, how utterly mistaken this disgusting acquaintance has proven himself to be. You can’t possibly put your name on the same lunch order or ever again borrow the pencil sharpener from a man with such poor taste.

Sadly you both have job security and the office isn’t getting any bigger. Shunning proves to be far more difficult than Dwight Schrute ever let on, so where do you go from here? End all conversations that don’t involve memos, or take up the challenge to make him a better man?

It’s never too late to save a cinematic soul, but it’s also way too easy to blow your chance at DVD redemption. Just because a casual acquaintance enjoyed Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead does not necessarily mean he’ll worship George Romero’s original

I know, I know. This man in question is an idiot and/or possible agent of Satan, but just because you and I may have grown up fighting over who got to play Peter (so what if you happened to be female and white; that’s why it’s called make-believe) does not mean that deservedly beloved classic will instantly register with someone still virginal in the sensuous ways of the undead. Modern viewers are not just bored by what seems like long stretches of actionless shopping or stiff acting; they’re sometimes baffled by why and how a two-hour opus about a handful of nobodies playing dress-up and occasionally shooting blue-hued zombies is considered your favorite movie of all time.

Taste is one thing, but every person--particularly a film lover--is fairly near-sighted when it comes to personal picks. It’s far too easy to alienate friends by forcing the wrong movies on them at the wrong time, especially when you genuinely want to introduce them to a particular genre. There are a few--okay, a lot--considerations one must take when sharing a video catalog. A few examples:

1. Sexual content
Obviously, you want to be wary of lending your officemate I Spit On Your Grave for fear of sexual harassment charges, but even milder films can rub some viewers the wrong way as soon as certain taboos take over the screen. At this point, there’s little David Cronenberg can really do to knock the monocle out of your eye, but someone who grew up blushing at Sharon Stone’s Basic Instinct leg crossover might be utterly speechless at the sight of Marilyn Chambers’ flashing her armpit vagina in Rabid. Baby steps is sometimes the key, so work your subject’s way up from tamer fare like eXistenZ. One day, medieval gynecological instruments and Jeremy Irons kinkiness might not be so shocking. Until then, save Dead Ringers for the identical twin within yourself.

2. Subtitles
Even the true cinemaniac needs to be in the proper mindset to sit through two hours of small, sometimes foggy font. At the same time, even the most book burning couch potato might forget the fact that he’s reading once those uzis start blasting away teenagers in Battle Royale. When recommending a foreign film to someone not accustomed to subtitles, some consideration is necessary. Let the Right One In may have topped international critics’ lists, but put the DVD on in an ambivalent viewer’s comfy apartment and don’t be terribly shocked to hear snores from the other side of the couch. 

3. Overhype
I still find it adorable that Frankenstein was to my mother’s nightmares what Pet Semetary was to mine. I also remember thinking anybody that called The Exorcist the scariest film of all time had clearly never seen Child’s Play. I know, what an insolent youth I was, but this is what happens when you force your love and fear upon someone not yet versed or invested in the same film canon. 

One day, I hope to assemble an epic guide to initiate the willing into the magical world that is horror, cult, and general genre cinema that I know and love. Then again, my taste is more questionable than how to pronounce Ellen Burstyn’s last name so who am I to judge what the world needs to see? 

Someone with a lot of DVDs, that’s who. 

So how do you approach recommendations regarding lesser known and more controversial films? Any tips or tidbits that beat the lesson I learned from my “hey! I’ll bring a scary movie to my friend’s teenage slumber party. Here’s an old VHS called Mother’s Day!” story of my eighth grade memories?


  1. Can't wait to listen! I have to say though, Gangs of New York is pretty meh.

  2. Thank you! Good to know there will be at least one listener not polishing his gun when I attempt to explain my thoughts on 21st century Scorsese.