Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Taste Is Better Than Yours

Or what makes a film snob and how did I become one?

Many months ago I was talking to someone about movies. Comedies actually (my favorite genre). The conversation turned to Laurel & Hardy (my favorite comedy team) to which the person in question said, they didn't like the team very much and hadn't seen all of there films. Without any confrontation or harsh words, I simply stopped talking to that person about films.

In general, I find, I don't like to talk about movies with people. I love movies. I like to think I love all kinds of movies. I watch all different genres; musicals, comedies, horror, drama, romance, foreign...ect. But to actually sit down and talk about movies, with some people, is not something I enjoy. The reason is because I am a "quiet film snob".

You are probably asking yourself what the heck is a quiet film snob? First, lets define snob. According to the 2010 Randon House Dictionary "snob" is defined as such - "A person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field". If you are a film snob, of course, you are of the opinion your taste in films is superior than those of others. In my defense however, I must also point out, everyone I have spoken to, believes they have the best taste. Not just about films but anything; food, clothes, music, books...ect. There's the old saying "everybody's a critic". Everyone has opinions and feels theirs are better than most. But, that still doesn't excuse me.

Yes my dear readers, I think I know more than you. Why? What gives me the right to feel I know more about movies than you? I feel I've seen more than you. Anytime I discuss movies with someone I feel I know more than them. Sometimes, I am willing to concede they might know more about a specific genre, but, overall, it is my opinion I know more about film than most.

But it isn't entirely my fault. When I was in college, I started out as a journalism major. As a result, I mostly associated with other journalism students, none of which shared my love of films. But, in some of my general education classes (math, science), I would meet film majors. At first I took great delight in this. I figured, now finally I'll meet people who share my passion. People who know what I know, or even more! Ladies and gentleman, after I talked with these students it was easily decided I knew more than them. To their astonishment, I wasn't a film major. I slowly began to realize it was pointless to discuss film with people who didn't share my taste. That takes care of the film snob part, but, what about the quiet part?

Most people who are arrogant or conscending might be very vocal about it. They will make sure you understand they are superior to you. I am not like that. In the back of my head I may think I know more than you but I would never say that to a person's face. I'm never confrontational about movies. Some people are. Lets say you are talking about a particular director and say "such and such film" is your favorite. Many people will tell you, you are wrong, that another film is so-and-so's best film. It is just there opinion but they present it as fact. And they mean it! I'm not like that. For example if you think "GoodFellas" (1990) is Martin Scorsese's best film, I don't mind. My personal favorite is "Taxi Driver" (1976) but I'm not going to "correct" you. You can think whatever you want. Just don't tell me I'm wrong to think what I think and I'll return the favor.

That's why I call myself a "quiet film snob". In some ways, people like me are worst. With a vocal snob, you know exactly what they are thinking. With me, you'll never know, because I'll never tell.

But what makes someone a film snob? I can't speak for everyone, but, for me it has to do with a lack of interest in others. When I hear people say "The Sixth Sense" (1999) is the greatest movie they've ever seen or Mike Myers is the funniest man alive, they simply turn me off. I lose respect for that person's opinion. If that is honestly what you think, I feel you simply don't know enough. And if you don't know enough, don't talk to me about movies. The worst offenders are young people. They have such a transparent lack of interest in the history of cinema. So many young people are merely content with only watching movies currently playing in theatres. They have no idea what they are missing. They set-up so many rules. They refuse to watch foreign films because "they don't like to read movies". They won't watch black & white movies simply because they are old. And forget about silent movies. They of course have no sound, and why on Earth would a young person want to watch a movie with no sound?!

Many times I'll hear people say "oh, I love movies". And they if you ask them what movies they like, they will many times only mention movies two or three years old. I don't believe you can call yourself a film lover or movie buff, or whatever, if you only watch comtemporary cinema. I don't care if you saw every movie released in theatres last year, if you don't have an avid interest in the movies of the past, I don't consider you a movie buff. You MUST watch the films of Ingmar Bergman, Rene Clair, D.W. Griffith, Howard Hawks, Leo McCarey, Ernst Lubitsch, Luchino Visconti, Claude Chabrol, Charlie Chaplin and many, many others. I don't care if you've seen every Coen Brothers' movie or all of Quentin Tarantino's films, that doesn't really impress me. But, if you've seen all of Marcel Carne's films or Istvan Szabo's, now, we are getting somewhere. That is the mark of someone who is serious about cinema.

But many times it is not a young person's fault. Many people within my age range (I'm 26) may want to watch classic films but don't know where to start. If you are reading this now, maybe you never heard of a single director I just mentioned, but, this doesn't mean you aren't willing to learn more about them. Good for you! But sadly you are in a minority. People today seem to have no time for the past. No one seems interested in classic cinema. I find this very sad. First of all, because, these movies deserve an audience and secondly because, people have no idea what they are missing. I use to go to out of my way to try and discuss every major filmmaker and movie star on this blog. I have written about Rudolph Valentino, John Barrymore, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Woody Allen, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton, Greta Garbo, Marcel Carne, Preston Sturges, Frank Capra, W.C. Fields and numerous others. If you don't know who these people are, I've just given you a to do list.

With my return to this blog these names will be mentioned again. I'm going to write about all the movies I love. Even though I openly call myself a film snob and despite everything I have said, don't be discourage. If you have a question for me, ask. Want me to tell you a good place to start with a director's work? Or what is the best movie for a particular actor, ask. I'll probably work on lists in the future dealing with these various topics. While I am going to write more about the films I love, I'm writing this blog in hopes of sharing my knowledge with others. I want others to open their minds to all that cinema has to offer and explore these various films. I want to share my passion with you and hope it rubs off and you'll begin to watch these movies and begin to understand that while contemporary cinema has its place nothing is better than watching a classic film. Right now that opinion may upset some young people. But, I hope one day they will agree with me.