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When we movie-lovers are useful

jeff-who-lives-at-home

This past Monday night, me and two friends – let’s call them Harvey and Wayne – hung out at my place and streamed Jeff Who Lives at Home. We all enjoyed it. Harvey mentioned something about how he had been meaning to watch Adaptation for a long time, but had never gotten around to buying it. Since I own the DVD, I lent it to him instead. I then let my eyes wander over my DVD shelves to scan for more stuff he might like. I knew he’s interested in the way people talk and interact with one another, so I picked out Roger Dodger for him – a movie all about a cynic trying to teach his nephew how to pick up women.

Last night, Harvey wrote on my Facebook wall about how much he had enjoyed all three films. Three films in three days that he in one way or another saw through me. It was very gratifying. A real spirit-booster, in fact. I was happy for him having seen great films, of course, but there was more to it than that. After thinking about it a while, it hit me just why this made me so glad.

It’s the one way my love of film benefits others.

Think about it. Many hobbies or pastimes can be applied for the purpose of helping people. My brother, for instance, is into computer stuff. Whenever our parents have some problem with their computers or router or something, they call him. His computer hobby is thus beneficial. Another friend of mine loves to tinker with cars, so he’s the one to talk to if one has automobile trouble. Others love pumping weights at the gym; they’re way more useful than I am when you need help moving. As far as hobbies go, being into movies is something that doesn’t offer much to others.

Through these three films, however, I served three different helpful roles: Scout, Curator, and Oracle.

SCOUT. We movie-lovers are always on the look-out for new things to see. We forge ahead into the unknown, keeping our eyes and ears open to find out what’s going to hit theaters in the future, what new projects have been green-lit, and what underappreciated gems have just hit Netflix or the DVD and Blu-ray market. Plenty of my fellow online film fanatics had had good things to say about Jeff Who Lives at Home, so it had been on my radar for a while. Flipping through Netflix trying to find something for us to watch, I highlighted that film and said I had heard good things about it. Bam, settled! We hit play. As a Scout, I had spotted that film. And it was good, said Harvey.

CURATOR. I may only have been into movies in a big way for 5 years, but in that time span, I have collected a fair amount of films on DVD and Blu-ray. Sometimes I worry that I’m collecting for the sake of filling out my shelves, but that’s not really the case. The reason I buy movies is so that I know they will be available if there is a need for them. Whenever I get the urge to see Lost in Translation, I need to have it at my beckoning. I don’t want to have to rely on Netflix to have it available on that particular month, or worry about the local rental store having gone out of business. I have movies available for my own needs, but also for others. If someone knows a film they want to see, I might have it and can lend it to them. If someone gets the idea to fill in some gaps on the IMDB Top 250 list, I can help them out by letting them borrow DVDs from me. As a Curator, I had put Adaptation in my collection so that Harvey could borrow it. And it was good, said Harvey.

ORACLE. Assuming this role is to dabble with the art of film recommendations. Strictly from the viewpoint as a movie fan, this is the most difficult role we serve as, because it requires knowledge not tied to movies: knowledge of what the person we’re recommending to likes and dislikes. What goes into a succesful movie recommendation could fill an entire blog post of its own, but suffice to say that it’s a tricky business. We do what we can with the information available to us. As an Oracle, I predicted that Roger Dodger would be to my friend’s liking. And it was good, said Harvey.

We don’t always fully succeed in playing these roles, of course. That Monday night I performed further tasks as an Oracle, for instance, and the results are still up in the air. To Harvey, I recommended and lent ensemble dramedy Beautiful Girls, on the basis of it having a similar feel to other films I know he likes. I don’t think he has watched it yet. To the other friend, Wayne, both me and Harvey recommended Before Sunrise. This is a risky pick as romance isn’t his preferred genre, but one of the key elements he enjoys in film is dialogue, and there’s certainly plenty of that in Before Sunrise. I also lent him Jack Goes Boating, which he had been meaning to see for some time – here I put on my Curator hat again – and Being John Malkovich, which was a combination of “not having seen but should have” and “you’re gonna dig it”. We can fill two roles at the same time occasionally.

Hopefully, both Harvey and Wayne like all the films they went home with. If they do, I’ll be at least as happy as them. I’ll be happy about having leveraged my “selfish” hobby into being of benefit to others, and happy about having done a good job in my roles.

 
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Posted by on 10 January, 2013 in Misc.

 

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15 great movies from the 2000’s you probably haven’t seen

If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the lookout for more films to add to your already-too-large list of movies to watch. However, if you’re anything like me, you’re also very active in your pursuit. You read forum threads, blogs, critics lists of great films and so on. You’re already aware of most of the big blockbusters, most of the year’s critical darlings and everything inbetween. Finding new stuff gets harder and harder. Everybody knows of The Dark Knight. All but the most casual moviewatchers know of Memento. And while the average Joe might not be the slightest bit aware of foreign films like Oldboy or American indies like Winter’s Bone, a movie nut like you already saw them a long time ago. Twice. They’re hardly obscure among film fanatics.

But then there are the films that nobody ever talks about. The casual movie watcher never heard of them. The movie nuts skimmed them over. The critics reviewed them and forgot about them a month later. They rarely if ever pop up in online discussions, or blog posts, or anywhere.

And yet they’re movies I found myself really enjoying for various reasons. So if you’re looking for more movies to add to your watch list, you could do a hell of a lot worse than these 15 films from the past decade.

CASHBACK (Sean Ellis, 2006)

After a bad break-up, art student Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) suffers from insomnia. Not knowing what to do with all his extra free-time, he takes a nightshift job at a supermarket where he discovers he can freeze time at will.

Cashback is a delightfully funny British comedy. Ben’s new co-workers is a colorful bunch that all get their shots at providing laughs, whether it’s his overbearing boss, the kung fu expert or the juvenile slackers. The time-stopping thing mentioned above is not a gimmick the movie uses to base all its jokes and plot around. Rather, it provides time for Ben to reflect on how he views the world, his situation and the women around him. There’s plenty of monologues and flashbacks to flesh out his character, which makes for a nice counterpoint to the movie’s more humorous side. Also featured is a fairly touching romance developing between him and co-worker Sharon (Emilia Fox), as well as plenty of gratuitous nudity. So there’s something for everyone!

THE RULES OF ATTRACTION (Roger Avary, 2002)

Here’s another comedy, but one very different from the humor Cashback provides. The Rules of Attraction follows a couple of college students as they embark on various short-lived romances. Bisexual Paul (Ian Somerhalder) is attracted to bad boy Sean (James Van Der Beek), who’s pursuing the virgin Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon), who’s saving herself for Victor (Kip Pardue), who’s on a crazy vacation to Europe, and so on. But while there’s plenty of sex and partying going on, this is not your typical college sex comedy. This is comedy of the black kind, where every joke is punctuated with the despair and lack of direction that’s plaguing its protagonists’ generation. The characters are not likeable, but then they were never meant to be. It’s the second part of that sentence that differs The Rules of Attraction from most post-American Pie films in its genre.

The film is based on a novel of the same name, penned by American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis. The book (featuring a very rambling and at times incohorent tone and multiple narrators, none of them reliable)  is one that you’d never think could work as a movie when you read it. Director Roger Avary (co-writer of Pulp Fiction) magically pulls it off, though. Highlighting the comedy yet never losing sight of the darkness, he comes up with plenty of clever and unusual solutions on how to present the haphazardly compiled events of the plot. It’s a captivating and isolated world we get to visit, one that will probably make you laugh as much as it makes you feel filthy.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 7 August, 2011 in Lists

 

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