What We Talk About When We Talk About Movies

As I latched on to the promising venture of freelance film writing, I find that conversing on the topic of cinema to be a mighty challenge. Bear with me, we’re delving into some real first-world problems. But I swear, if you talk to me, you’d think I had never seen a movie before.

“Have you seen (insert random-ass D-level high school movie played by 40 year old teenagers from the 1980s or genre flick buried in the Netflix library)?” asks friend/family member

“No…. I’ve heard about it thought.” I respond, totally pretending that I’ve heard of said film.

“It’s good. I think you’d like it.” graciously says the other person.

My gripes have nothing to do with the people that I interact with in these situations. It is so internal of a problem that it’s claustrophobic. My dread of these exchanges stem from insecurity. Anytime I am with a party that is discussing a movie I haven’t seen, there is this pit in my stomach that cultivates inside me. I’ll change the conversation to the fly that just passed us if I have to. I know no one actually thinks I’m supposed to have seen every single feature film ever produced, but that’s always the feeling that sits with me. Not to turn it against these people, but again, the movies that are recommended to me the most are disposable 80s movies. The decade is often cited as a shallow time for mainstream/blockbuster entertainment, sharing various similarities to the problems of cinema of the 2020s, but in the indie-sphere/arthouse collection of films that were buried under the studio dominance, there are some amazing movies. However, no one ever asks me about After Hours, Blow Out, Lost in America, or The Purple Rose of Cairo. Or, if anything, I would like to be able to have some crossover with movies that others have seen as well. Watching over 1,000 movies ought to prepare to me not feel like an idiot when discussing movies with others. Not to deflect from my own deep-seated insecurities, but the exact exchange written above that I commonly partake is kind of like the “Remember when” game. The “have you seen…” model of interaction wears thin, at least for me.

I am a junky for the Academy Awards. I love the history, the ceremony, the tradition, but this current awards season has made me hate myself for caring about the Oscars. I’m aware the Internet would cease to exist if not for it, but this year is completely demonstrative of people desperately clinging for complaints about the slate of nominations. I’m glad that I don’t have a sports-like relationship with movies. The idea of expressing real outrage over Nope (which I love) getting shut out at the Oscars is baffling to me. It seems like it comes from a place of needy assurance that what they like is deemed of prime quality.

In a surprising twist of fate, maybe I am possessed with this neediness as well? Mirroring the previous passage, there are people in my life that use me as consultants of sorts as to what awards contenders they should watch. “Will I like Everything Everywhere All at Once? Tar?” I know with all my intellectual prowess that there is no ill-will to these benign inquiries, but I just want to grab them by the shoulders and yell “how the hell should I know?” When this person unsurprisingly does not vibe with EEAAO, I for some unforsaken reason feel guilty about it, as if I made them feel obligated to see it. By the way, I’m not even the biggest fan of the film. I like it fine, but nothing to match the level of overwhelming praise it receives from its cult-like online fanbase. Also, more importantly, I did not star in, write, or direct Everything Everywhere All at Once! Why would I have a personal attachment to it and feel uneasy about someone not liking it? The almighty “why?” is the bane of my existence. Perhaps this is because these people will look at me in shame as I have yet to see Three O’Clock High or Biloxi Blues, but will sit through the entirety of a Everything Everywhere. Then, to make myself feel smart, I will share with them that Mike Nichols was the director of Biloxi Blues!

What’s the lesson from this depraved soliloquy? An inferiority complex sucks, and it even cause you to have a sour relationship with cinema.

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