Today’s post was inspired by something I overheard Amir Soltani say at the bar about a week ago. Unfortunately I was on the other side of the room, so I couldn’t weigh in on the conversation, but it touches on something I have thought about often lately.
Amir asked a question – he wondered if the movie geeks gathered ever had trouble keeping conversation with people away from film. The question was specifically about new people you meet, or people you only know in passing. Do you ever find yourself struggling for things to talk about when you can’t default to film? Or do you ever have trouble not geeking out about movies with any new person that drifts into your orbit?
When I think about conversation continually coming back to any one thing, I think about details that are most prevelent in a person’s life at any one moment. Anyone who has been friends with a bride-to-be knows how much wedding plans can become a constant point-of-order. I’ll never forget reuniting with my high school friends on convocation weekend (homecoming, for my American friends), and hearing all about life at their various university residences. Perhaps at the top of the list is anyone who knows new parents. From the moment that little bundle of joy comes into the world, that kid is (of course) the main topic of discussion.
Now, I’m hardly comparing any of these key life moments to one’s opinion on the latest Scorsese flick. I’m just bringing them up to get you into the headspace.
Obviously, I love to discuss film. I’ve made it a healthy quotient of my online presence. I believe there are things we can learn about people by the films they watch, and their reactions to them, and I never tire of discussing the subject and learning new things about it.
However, in my day-to-day life, I try to keep things in check. It’s bad enough that I’m known by many people as “the movie guy”. I don’t need to fan the flames of that image by constantly bringing it up. Sometimes though, it becomes hard. I might overhear a conversation at a party about a film I’ve seen and want to weigh in on, but how to I shim myself into the conversation without seeming like the hardcore film nerd? Or what about when someone starts speaking about how much they enjoyed a film I dislike? I mean, it’s nice to know they thought that THE HANGOVER 2 was funny as hell; how do I shrug it off as repetitive tripe without seeming like a pretentious dick? Maybe by not using the word “tripe”?
Hopefully, I’m not alone in this. Hopefully some of you too have specifically said to yourself “I’m not talking about movies today”. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Where it becomes key for me is when I spend time with people I don’t see often enough. I’m thinking of family and close friends that have started running in different circles if not moved clear out of town. After weeks or months – even years sometimes – passing in between cups of coffee, the last thing I want to do is drag them in to a discussion about why Jeff Nichols is underrated. I want to know what’s happening in their lives, how they are feeling about these things. In fact most of these moments I want to listen more than I want to speak.
But sometimes it’s hard not to take the bait. I’ll hear them mention something that reminds me of a scene, or a shot, or a line, and I can feel the corner of my mouth turn up with a smile.
Non-film talk with new folk can be hard; non-film talk with old friends can be even harder. When you become so passionate about something it can become ingrained into your identity. Maybe that’s why some of the biggest critics relish times they can spend discussing anything else.
Perhaps the trick is listening, and not, as one David Fincher film put it, “just waiting for our turn to talk”. Perhaps I am capable of being polite and even engaging if I make a bit of effort. It’s possible that movies have become my blue blanket, and I need to put it down once in a while and have an adult conversation.
I do hope I’m not alone. I hope that whether it’s football, or vegan diet, or parenting, or politics, that we all have these topics that we cling to…and that others out there have trouble not bringing them up.
But enough about that, lem