I’ve always suspected that men and women are actually from two different species. While every woman I’ve ever known speaks English (okay, there was this one girl in Japan that didn’t, but we didn’t date), “speaking” English and “communicating” with English are two vastly different things. Nowhere is this more apparent than when choosing and viewing a movie together.
Keep in mind, I’m not your stereotypical “guy.” I don’t limit myself to action movies, heavy metal, or beer. I appreciate movies with an emphasis on plot and character development, jazz, classical, and folk music, as well as wine and liquor. I’m no metrosexual (ever!), but I’m also not some knuckle-dragging Neanderthal that has no interest in culture.
Having said that, what I look for in a movie is to be entertained. Let me share with you a list of some of my favorite movies, in no particular order:
- Young Frankenstein
- Blazing Saddles
- Arsenic and Old Lace
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
- The Spanish Prisoneer
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- The Incredibles
- Dr. Strangelove
- Citizen Kane
- Oh Brother Where Art Thou
- A Touch of Evil
As you can see, I’m big on comedies, but I also like movies that make you think, satires, and those that push the envelope in ways to tell a story visually.
This leads me to recount one of the worst experiences I ever had in a movie theatre.
Keep in mind, I’ll sometimes watch a bad movie (i.e.: Plan 9 From Outer Space) all the way through, just to revel in it’s badness and to see just how truly bad it really is. (My worst movie of all time? Gas, with a phone-in from a helicopter performance by Jack Bauer’s pater familias.) This wasn’t a BAD movie, per se. It was an art house flick, called Pelle the Conqueror.
I was young (in my 20s), single, and had a thing for intelligent, icy, unapproachable blondes. As luck would have it, there was one such young lady working at my then-company. I courted her. She (at first) showed a complete lack of interest. Eventually, she (let’s call her “Barbara,” for that was her name) transitioned to a kind of disinterested ennui, which was enough for me to get my foot in the door, so to speak. She agreed to let me take her to a screening of said movie at the Inwood, in Dallas.
First warning sign: Subtitles. Now I know that many people hold that the only way to appreciate a movie is to watch it with the original dialogue, reading the subtitles. I disagree. I find subtitles distracting – you can read a book or watch a movie – but not give either your undivided attention. Same with subtitles. I find dubbing to be much less distracting.
Next warning sign: Made in Denmark. Denmark may make fine, mass-produced, souless furniture, but I’m not sold on their film schools. When you can muster more interest in watching paint dry, you’re pacing is a bit slow. Not that any of the experts agree. Pele won the Oscar that year for Best Foreign Film. Consider the source, though. This is the bunch that thought that Milk and Brokeback Mountain deserved awards.
Here’s the synopsis, courtesy of the Internet Movie DataBase:
The end of the 19th century. A boat filled with Swedish emigrants comes to the Danish island of Bornholm. Among them are Lasse and his son Pelle who move to Denmark to find work. They find employment at a large farm, but are treated as the lowest form of life. Pelle starts to speak Danish but is still harassed as a foreigner. But none of them wants to give up their dream of finding a better life than the life they left in Sweden.
Allow me to cut through the art house crap and explain in as few words as possible: It’s a 157-minute snooze-fest.
When you’re not nodding off from the all-but-unbearable grimness of it all, you’re treated to tragegy after tragedy. I mean, these guys make Ingmar Bergman look like Pipi Longstocking on the happiness scale. I was all but ready to open a vein by the end credits. But, thinks me, it will all be worth it, when yon pseudo-intellectual lass falls gratefully into mine arms and gives herself to me, heaving bodice and all.
As we left the theatre, she was still sobbing, quietly, yet inconsolably. Put yourself in my situation. I had just suffered through over 2 1/2 hours of tedium – 2 1/2 hours of my life I’d never get back. I wanted compensation. NOW. But I had to forget that the then-object of my affections was the one who got me into this mess in the first place, and pretend that she was but a mere bystander to the cinematic beat-down we’d both just experienced. What do you say in a situation such as that? “So…did you enjoy the movie?,” I asked, hoping for the best. She shot me a tearful, icy look.
“No! Of course not. It was so sad!,” she replied, sobbing into her kerchief.
I was momentarily taken aback. “Um…it was an art house flick. Doesn’t that come with the territory? I mean, what did you expect? Denmark? Subtitles? Max Von Sydow, for friggin’ sake? What did you expect? Ming the Merciless meets Timmy and Lassie?”
Let’s just say that the date ended as badly as it began. From what I hear, she ran off with some actuarial for an insurance company, and made mad, passionate love among the ledgers. Or not. I forget.
If you’re a guy, my recommendation is to avoid art house flicks like the plague. If your significant other insists, make sure you get your quid pro quo in writing, beforehand. Better still, make the movie a reward for her after the fact. That way, you can always claim you’re too well to attend.