Sunday, March 8, 2009

Am I that blowhard in the row behind me?

A couple weeks ago, I was at the movies waiting for things to start up. And I heard something we've all heard before: a guy pontificating in the row behind me.

The guy was talking about the history of zombie movies. I no longer recall the particulars of what he was saying, but it had to do with the evolution of the form from George Romero through today's examples (which still include George Romero).

Now, I should say, I'm calling him a blowhard not because this guy in particular was so bad. He was actually more of a geek than a blowhard proper. I don't remember what he looked like either, but I think it was rather geekish. Not that a geek can't be a blowhard, but a geek's blowhardish qualities are usually rendered a bit more precious and cute by the lack of self-awareness involved in being a geek.

No, I'm calling him a blowhard more because he made me think of all the other times I've heard someone prattling on about cinema to his (it's usually a he) friends before a movie starts.

For some reason, this scenario always agitates me. I feel like I either want the guy to shut up, or I want to jump in. Of course, I'm never going to jump in, so usually I just want him to shut up. Either he's getting his information wrong, which makes me want to correct it, or he's sounding like a pompous ass.

The thing is, I have probably been that guy before.

And it made me wonder: Do I sound like a pompous ass when I pontificate about film?

Of course, I love discussing movies. But often, discussing movies leads to bouts of regret and social shame. You see, when I get going talking about movies, I get going. Someone might ask me an innocent question or for a simple recommendation, and I'll produce a long string of segues and mental associations that'll lead me to the other films I really love or the other films I really hate.

When I get going on these jaunts, it all spews out. It's like I've been just waiting for a good film discussion, and I open the floodgates. My wife and I do of course also have these conversations, since she also loves film. But because we see each other so much, our bedrock theories on film have already been discussed. There's always new places to go in that discussion, of course, but my old fallbacks -- like how much I love Children of Men, or how much I hate Sexy Beast -- have long ago been established.

When I get going, I develop this momentum and tendency toward extermism. Everything is "one of my favorite movies" or "one of my least favorite movies." I'm like the proud parent with no social filters who you've made the mistake of asking about his children.

Now before you really worry about me, I should say that I don't inflict this on just anybody. Usually it's old friends, or if it's somebody I've met at a party, I've first gotten the indication that they're open to it. (And if it's old friends, that may be a greater worry, because I may actually be repeating myself). In this state, it's not that I become socially clueless. I'm always extremely aware of someone's eyes glazing over, or them starting to shift their gaze elsewhere, no matter what I'm discussing, and film is no exception.

No, the situations that really cause eventual regret are when someone has indulged me, without any apparent boredom, disinterest or subtle digs at my sudden tunnel vision. Later on, I wonder if I dominated the conversation, or created a bad impression. I become paranoid after the fact. I worry that I lost control of the give-and-take of the conversation. Yeah, I listened to what they had to say, but how often was I just waiting to tell them about the next movie I either really loved or really hated? How often did I let their conribution lead the conversation onto a different logical branch, as I should? Or did I just trample over them with my own conversational agenda?

If you're a film buff, it's hard to figure out how to disseminate your knowledge to the world. This is, as you may guess, one of the reasons I started this blog. It allows me to talk at you as long as I feel like (and usually at least a third longer than you'd really like). And ultimately, it goes without saying, I believe you are somehow nourished by what I'm saying.

So maybe my conclusion is that I should give that blowhard in the row behind me a break. I've been that guy before. And for someone who's usually as socially self-aware as I like to think I am, I should realize that my great love of film sometimes causes that to break down.


Anonymous said...

D -

I've always wanted to broach this subject with you, but...


Vancetastic said...

Don't you mean V?

No one knows my secret identity! (ha ha)