Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The 10 Minute Sale and Chinatown


I wouldn't dare begin to count the number of times I am asked to name "one classic film you haven't seen" in a year. Yet, as per custom would dictate, I always give an answer. But I have to admit, I'm very seldom 100% honest with it. Yes, the movies I name are classics, and they are ones I haven't seen. So in that regard I'm golden. However, I'm not answering the question with the utmost regard to its original intention. That being, the desired "name one movie that just about everyone who is anyone has seen that you haven't so I can go 'wow, you haven't seen that!?'" Trust me on this, experience dictates that's the flow of that conversation about 90% of the time. The other 10% being on the rare 'me neither' reply scenarios.

What often transpires after these conversational setups are what I call the '10 minute sale.' Following your admission on a classic you have failed to see, most bloggers will begin telling you all the reasons you should see it, followed by their opinion on the film, and if you're unlucky a handful of spoilers tossed into the mix. If you're lucky you get a sound 'I'm not going to say anything, just go see it now' reply.

The problem is, like many bloggers I fall into the former category. It's no fun typing 'just see it' over and over again until your head begins to spin and your hands start doing it on autopilot. "How was your day?" "Just see it" conversations take hold and your family and (social network) pals begin to look at you funny. So, we go into detail and try to amp up the film in the hope of building up their desire to see it, in turn controlling their mental viewing queue. It's the side effects we don't often see.

When I first admitted years ago that I hadn't seen Chinatown, I got a speech that would make Rush Limbaugh seem tame and short-winded from a fellow blogging buddy. The movie just so happened to be his all time favorite film, and that's where I went wrong. The depth to which he analyzed, described, and preached the movie to me was a 9 on the Lean-length-scale. It was all incredibly insightful and technical stuff, and at the time I lacked the heart (or courage) to say 'just shut up and let me watch it.' So I've spent the last few years meticulously trying to forget everything (for the most part) that he told me.

I fully understand where he was coming from. You mention you haven't seen a Kurosawa film and I'll whip out the soap box quicker than Charlie Sheen at a 'winner' convention. But in some cases I don't want to get that speech. You'll either have created a level of expectation that in no realistic way the movie could ever live up to, or you'll have given away so much that me watching it will be diluted into me 'waiting for moments' to happen.

Neither of which are conducive to an optimal movie watching experience. However, I don't think the '10 Minute Sale' is necessarily a bad thing. It is human nature to want to express things to which we are passionate about, and so it should come as no surprise that we take an opportunity to do so. Just don't be surprised if I'm not a hundred percent honest because I want to avoid getting it... or even worse, asking you to shut up about it. And of course, don't be afraid to return onto me the same treatment.

7 better thoughts:

Andy Buckle said...

Great idea for an article Univarn. I don't think I am guilty of the 'long speech' to people, but I can rarely just keep my mouth shut and say 'see it!'
I have found myself the subject of embarrassment recently, having not seen a number of films suggested to me, that I really should have made the effort to see by now.

The Mad Hatter said...

I'm suddenly feeling singled out.....

Univarn said...

@Andy Thank you. I think it's OK to have not seen films. It's bad if you think you're better (or worse) because you haven't though.

@Mad You know, about half way through writing this it occurred to me you might think that and I should put in a stipulation that I wasn't referring to any of my current blogging friends in particular. However, it also occurred to me that not a single one of them hasn't done it (myself included - as I mention in the post) and that would be unnecessary 'singling out.' So that feeling, it's all on you :P

JL said...

I've seen several older classics and thoroughly enjoyed them (Hitchcock is one of my favorite directors of all-time and 12 Angry Men is one of my favorite movies of all-time), but I definitely have some that I haven't seen.

In fact, Chinatown is one of them. I have it here on DVD at my house, and I've even started watching it before. Just never got around to finishing it. Though, at some point, I will.

As far as the explanation thing. I'd say I'm actually in the middle. I can't just be like "Go see it", but I won't go into a lengthy response about the greatness of the film. Nor will I go on some diatribe about how one must be an idiot for having not seen the movie before (I hate those elitists and movie "snobs"). I think mine is more like a recommendation with a few key points about what makes the movie so good. All wrapped up in like under a minute (of course if they raise questions about the movie, I'll answer those, but that's it).

Custard said...

I had a conversation like this the other day with a real life (yes I have those) friend about a foreign language film.

I am an uneducated fool and am not great with stepping outside of my comfort zone when it comes to film. I am the first to admit that. But I like to find things at my own pace.

Having a film showed in my face, with a 10 min sales pitch is an instant turn off for me. Stubborn old fool.

(I really need to branch out more in my taste)

C

Univarn said...

@JL I think a lot of people are that way, but it's on those films that we're very passionate about that we falter from our core "go see it and here's a few reasons why" campaign. By no means a rule, but very commonplace.

@Custard I understand that, and I was that way when I first started branching into films. I refused to enjoy classics and thought of foreign films as only 'weird.' I think it takes a 'bridge' film to bring people into an appreciation/enjoyment for those things - even if they never like any of them but that one film.

Fletch said...

I haven't seen a Kurosawa film.

I think I've gotten pretty good at this, and only pull out the "OMG what?!?! You haven't seen X" and the incredulous look on my face when it's a movie that I would really think that this person would have seen by now, like if a friend loved everything James Cameron yet hadn't seen T2 or something.

After all, I know all about how it feels to be on the other end of that speech. And I can tell you from experience being on that end - if you really want to the person to enjoy it, the less said the better. But if you must speak, speak about emotions (how it made you felt, etc.) rather than why it might be the best at this or that or any specifics of the film ("Gloria Swanson was AMAZING in it!!").

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