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Scorsese Wins the Oscar

Scorsese Wins the Oscar - On Saturday night I went to the engagement party of my cousin, R, and we were sitting around the pool in her apartment complex celebrating that. A bunch of my other cousins, who I hadn't seen for fifteen years, were there, as a brief aside for those of you who keep up with that sort of thing. That's not really up for discussion here in public, however, but the guy who lived in the apartment block, and who with his girlfriend and friend, came down and sat in the spa, are, though. Because this guy was what many of you will be able to recognise as a Film Geek: he professed to own over a thousand DVDs, and have them catalogued on his computer, and organised into genre on his shelves. He was a good looking, rich film geek of a guy, with a good looking girlfriend, and I'm sure, somewhere in his apartment, were files for the scripts he wrote, and cameras for the short films he made.

At one stage my cousins and him were discussing Al Pacino and someone (I forget who now) wanted to know what films he was in. The Film Geek rattled off a few, and I added Dog Day Afternoon, which made him turn to me and say, 'You must be a bit of a film buff, huh?'

'I like films.'

'To reference Dog Day Afternoon, though, you gotta fancy films a bit.'

I just shrugged. It's an old film, made before Pacino started chewing on the scenery, and not a bad one at that, but it hardly rocks my world. If anything, I like the title more than I like the actual film, and if I could, I'd steal it.

'So what's your favourite film then?' he asks. 'I got a theory that everyone's favourite film says something about them.'

'I dunno, I like a lot of films--I don't really go for that favourite thing.'

'You must have one.'

I hate those kinds of questions--there's more to the world than one kind of film, and more than one kind of opinion, and I always struggle to find a way to explain without coming across like an arrogant shit. Eventually, I said, 'I like Jim Jarmusch films.'

'The black and white one with Johnny Depp?"

'Yeah, but Mystery Train and Ghost Dog are the ones I like the most.'

'That French speaking shit in Ghost Dog sucked--that film sucked.'

'So what's your favourite film?'

I figured he had an answer and he did, real quick: 'Fight Club.'

The first word in my head was 'dilettante', so I suppose he was right about his theory that favourite films say something about you.

Comments

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lokilokust
Feb. 27th, 2007 03:06 am (UTC)
almost anyone who responds with 'fight club' to that question, you can simply dismiss as an asshole out of hand and go about your day.
angriest
Feb. 27th, 2007 04:22 am (UTC)
And, of course, anyone who dismisses someone as an asshole out of hand because of what their favourite film is can simultaneously be dismissed themselves as an egotistical and elitist wanker...
lokilokust
Feb. 27th, 2007 04:48 am (UTC)
and, of course, someone who dismisses someone as an egotistical and elitist wanker for making a joke can be dismissed out of hand as a dipshit.
(no subject) - angriest - Feb. 27th, 2007 04:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lokilokust - Feb. 27th, 2007 04:53 am (UTC) - Expand
jack_ryder
Feb. 27th, 2007 03:15 am (UTC)
And I bet you all those DVDs are in English, sound and colour.
benpeek
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:01 am (UTC)
i'm thinking they might be, yeah.
ataxi
Feb. 27th, 2007 03:16 am (UTC)
"I figured he had an answer and he did, real quick: 'Fight Club.'"
Interesting. I used to have a theory about guys whose stated favourite movie is Fight Club. The theory was more or less that they liked to call it their favourite movie because they thought that made them look:
  • smart (because they thought it was complex, or even, in the words of one guy about whom I had this theory, "the biggest mindfuck of a film ever made")
  • coolly desensitised (becauses it pushes lots of the right buttons in terms of violence / transgression)
  • knowledgeable (because by an entry-level standard it is even slightly offbeat/obscure
That is Fight Club, somewhat like, say, books by Ballard or Nabokov, or films by David Lynch, is art you can say you like of which the saying-so reflects well on your masculinity.

But now, a bona fide hipster wannabe who has already had this insight tends to reject any of the potential positive connotations of such obvious material, so enthusiastically liking Fight Club was (for the nascent hipster wannabe inside me at the time) almost entirely a negative since in my view the film was not particularly complex, not particularly transgressive or violent, and not particularly offbeat. Another rung up on the hipster ladder going along almost exactly the same axis as Fight Club would be to say you were an enthusiastic fan of Oldboy ... but then the true hipster wannabe would probably also reject that as too obvious.

Likewise it's a hipster no-no to suggest that knowing about almost anything (and definitely a mid-level classic like Dog Day Afternoon that pretty much any film student would be familiar with) is surprising or a sign of buffdom.

This is the sort of dynamic that, taken to the extreme, rules those insane LJ ratings communities like fuckyoucrew. At some point the discernment of true hipsterness becomes such a complex reaction of competing factors that the self-appointed authorities of such communities can't explain their ratings even to themselves and begin to deal in vagaries backed up by enthusiastic handwaving.
angriest
Feb. 27th, 2007 04:21 am (UTC)
I think you're seriously underrating Fight Club, which would easily be one of my favourite films because it's a good film rather than because I think it will make me look cooler and more intellectual by saying I like it. I also really enjoyed Old Boy.

Surely the first rung of film fan "hipsterness" though is liking Tarantino - or is he too 1990s now?

ataxi
Feb. 27th, 2007 04:54 am (UTC)
Actually, I really rather like Fight Club although I stand by my description of it as "not particularly complex, not particularly transgressive or violent, and not particularly offbeat". But I agree with your comment that it's good "because it's a good film". Particular strengths include casting (could be argued to be all of the main cast's finest moment, I think, which has to mean something), the Dust Bros soundtrack, and of course the actual story and set-pieces from Palahniuk's book.

My theory of guys who say Fight Club is their favourite movie had more to do with why I thought they were saying that, anyway.

I'd love to see a film of Palahniuk's Diary ...

As far as the rungs of hipsterdom go, wouldn't know except to say that liking Tarantino doesn't impress me! (But nor does dissing him ...) I'm pretty far from being a buff of anything for what it's worth.
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benpeek
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:05 am (UTC)
Surely the first rung of film fan "hipsterness" though is liking Tarantino - or is he too 1990s now?

as tragically uncool as it might be, i like tarantino films.
ashamel
Feb. 27th, 2007 11:49 pm (UTC)
I really like it too. I wonder if people who say it is their favourite (in a shallow way, which seems to be the point we're making) do so because they see it as a celebration of Tyler Durden and his philosophising. It seems to me that is not the case.

I think we have had this conversation before.

What if I liked Kill Bill 1 but not 2 so much? My hips are lop-sided. I must see Old Boy though.
benpeek
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:04 am (UTC)
That is Fight Club, somewhat like, say, books by Ballard or Nabokov, or films by David Lynch, is art you can say you like of which the saying-so reflects well on your masculinity.

nabokov is brilliant man--and totally unlike those others, i think. the ballard i could maybe see, but i think there's authors who fit that more, such as FIGHT CLUB'S author (whose name i can never remember how to spell right).

but i see you've given a bit of time to this theory :)
ataxi
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:11 am (UTC)
Nabokov is godlike, no denying it. I've read Pale Fire and Pnin, and there's only one or two other books I can think of that make my jaw drop to the same extent in sheer admiration of the crystal, spiny, infinite, twisted intellect behind it all. Joyce, Proust or Dostoevsky? Don't go near it. They do bring other things to the table, though.

But saying you like Nabokov is perfectly possibly about defining your personal traits to an audience. If I was in a conversation and I thought my interlocutor was trying to impress how great they were upon me, then them saying "Nabokov is my favourite writer" would tend to confirm that hunch.
(no subject) - benpeek - Feb. 27th, 2007 05:16 am (UTC) - Expand
ataxi
Feb. 27th, 2007 03:29 am (UTC)
To build upon this cosmology of hipsterness, now that I think about it ...
Visualise "hipsterdom" (for want of a better term) as a vortex of concentric circles. In the middle are young minds unpolluted by discretionary media. Outside these are varying levels of hipster. Outside these are varying levels of post-hipster. The young minds spiral out into the circles of jaded buffery like a toilet flushing in reverse.

When you're part of the inner circles of the wannabe hipster/collector/buff vortex, you naturally deride lower-level hipster plays (like praising Fight Club) as a way of asserting your own hipster-status.

Once you've moved to the post-hipster "enlightenment" circle of Heaven, in which you sit around claiming hipsters are lame and "music's good if and only if I think it's good" (a claim that, I would say from my own self-absorbed meta-meta-level, demonstrates a blatant lack of understanding of a huge part of the popular art experience), and you're aware of the transition of noob to hipster and all the attendant mindlessness, these low-level hipster plays seem even more lame.

Once you recognise that there is a vortex, perhaps you're prone to finding everything both lame and wonderful all at once, and your faculties of taste have become utterly useless. Anyway.
benpeek
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:07 am (UTC)
Re: To build upon this cosmology of hipsterness, now that I think about it ...
Once you recognise that there is a vortex, perhaps you're prone to finding everything both lame and wonderful all at once, and your faculties of taste have become utterly useless.

or you disappear up your own ass ;)

still, i love how everything you've said casts us all as jaded hipsters, with our own hispster standard. clearly, we all need a t-shirt.
ataxi
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:16 am (UTC)
R. MUTT approves
Actually, when you're located in your own arsehole (and I know this from personal experience, you understand) the faculty of taste is pretty much completely useless :-)

Remembering that under my Grand Unified Theory of the functions of social stratification induced by the individually varying relative experience of Art, the whole crystal-spheres-equivalent of the firmament of hipsterdom resembles a toilet flushing in reverse, I'd say the natural corporate logo for our T-shirt would be an abstracted version of Duchamp's "Fountain".
Re: R. MUTT approves - benpeek - Feb. 27th, 2007 05:25 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: R. MUTT approves - ataxi - Feb. 27th, 2007 05:34 am (UTC) - Expand
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strangedave
Feb. 27th, 2007 04:30 am (UTC)
Ghost Dog is one of my favourites. My other favourite Jarmusch film is Down By Law.
angriest
Feb. 27th, 2007 04:33 am (UTC)
Jarmusch is, as strangedave already knows, a director whom I can appreciate without ever really loving. Ghost Dog irritated me intensely.

Dead Man was pretty cool, though.
benpeek
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:10 am (UTC)
BROKEN FLOWERS is the only one i don't like, i think. i like the end, but i have to admit, as time has gone on, i'm coming down on the other side of it.
(no subject) - angriest - Feb. 27th, 2007 05:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Feb. 27th, 2007 05:13 am (UTC) - Expand
ataxi
Feb. 27th, 2007 04:48 am (UTC)
I also love Ghost Dog, mainly for the disparate elements it brings together.

Granted the samurai / hiphop connection wasn't too much of a stretch after a decade of Wu-Tang material, but the dead seriousness of the protagonist as played by Forest Whitaker, alongside the Hagakure (which the film happily inspired me to read - it's both beautiful and hilarious itself, as a book, IMO) and set against the delightfully unmotivated comic incompetence of Whitaker's gangster employers ... well, it's just a great film. It's the best Jarmusch film I've seen, but I've only seen three.
angriest
Feb. 27th, 2007 04:54 am (UTC)
The camera work annoyed me, to the point where it actually short-circuited my enjoyment of the rest of the film. It's not the grand prize winner for crappy photography ruining a movie (that would be Dancer in the Dark), but it's close.
(no subject) - ataxi - Feb. 27th, 2007 05:01 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - angriest - Feb. 27th, 2007 05:15 am (UTC) - Expand
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benpeek
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:09 am (UTC)
yeah, i liked DOWN BY LAW as well. i really like the roberto bengini part of NIGHT ON EARTH, too, but found a couple of the other parts of that--the opening one with ryder, mainly, to be real patchy.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 27th, 2007 06:31 am (UTC)
Hmmmm...film buff and his favorite film is "Fight Club"?!?! How 'bout some classics..."Lion in Winter" or "Advise and Consent" or "The Stuntman" or "Ninotchka" or...a bazillion foreign films of immesurable quality or how a bout something that, I dunno, pre-dates the 90s? At least he didn't call himself a "cinema buff," the pretentious twat. Course, that was the point you were making wasn't it.

-Paul
(decidely not a film or cinema buff; just someone who can remember farther back than 10 years)
benpeek
Feb. 27th, 2007 06:59 am (UTC)
yeah, pretty much my point :) personally, i probably like more films from the fifties (?) than recently, but i don't go round calling myself a film buff either. i just like films and i know i've not seen enough of the good stuff.
porphyre
Feb. 27th, 2007 09:14 am (UTC)
Nope: Night On Earth, though I haven't seen Mystery Train or Ghost Dog.
benpeek
Feb. 27th, 2007 09:36 am (UTC)
i don't like the first chapter of NIGHT ON EARTH--the american one. winona ryder as a taxi driver didn't really do it for me.
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