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Be a Film-Buff Poseur

A guide by Matthew Heffernan
(REAL NAME)   

Products sampled from this guide:
With the invention of the Internet (thanks, Al Gore!), international communication is at an all-time high. Amidst this free-wheeling discourse, there is much talk about film: the cinema, motion pictures, flicks, pics, good ol' movies. Perhaps you have found yourself at various critical websites, like FilmHead.com, or discussion groups on Yahoo, or even that venerable newsgroup rec.arts.movies. Have you been afraid to express your opinions, or even intimidated by others' apparent knowledge? Well, fear no longer. Most of these film buffs out there are mere poseurs, and now you can be one of them. What I will present you is a list of items that you can buy (or rent) so that you can share your half-baked notions in no time.

First, to be a contemporary Film-Buff Poseur (FBP), you have to own a DVD player. You may be reluctant to buy into this technology because of your rational fear that it will become obsolete. Well, the first thing you need to learn is to shed your rationality and just buy one. The top-selling DVD player on Amazon is the Philips DVP642 DivX-Certified Progressive-Scan DVD Player because it has all the features you need and it's pretty cheap. Trust me, you'll be spending more than that in DVDs soon.


You have the tool, now let's use it...

With your rationality buried, you must now free yourself of shame. It's not your fault that you haven't seen Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition). You've only had your whole life to see The Greatest Film Ever Made. It's not like they show it on Comedy Central between reruns of Saturday Night Live. Now you'll own it -- only lightweights rent it.

You'll probably notice that it comes with two discs. Well, all important DVDs have been shipped with an extra disc of "Special Features" since Fight Club (Two-Disc Collector's Edition). It is very important that you watch all these documentaries, featurettes, and production-note slides so that you can have all the behind-the-scenes chestnuts that FBPs regularly spit out.

Now that you've seen and learned all about The Greatest Film Ever Made, you can start throwing around terms like "deep focus", "carte blanche", and "final cut".

But the most important term you must add to your arsenal is "auteur". It's another French word, and you'll soon have to use a lot of French just to express your most basic thoughts. This is because, as an FBP, you must worship Francois Truffaut. You probably know him as the French scientist guy in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Two-Disc Collector's Edition), but he was also one of the most important film critics and directors of the 20th Century. He formulated the Auteur Theory as a critic, along with his French colleagues, based on the fact that the best directors are the real authors of their films and that even a bad film by a good director has some worth. This is based on people like "Kane" director Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo (Collector's Edition)), and Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion (The Criterion Collection)). Then Truffaut put his money where his mouth was and made The 400 Blows. As an FBP, this is the only French film you need to see.

Then there's Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (The Criterion Collection). This is the only other European film you need to see, as all the other languages are spoken in it, and it encompasses all that self-conscious surrealism that's in all those great European films of the Mid-20th Century. You won't need to worry about any European films made after 1968, but you will need to dabble in...


The Asian Cinema

As far as any FBP is concerned, there are only two directors in the history of Asian Cinema. The first is the dead Japanese one: Akira Kurosawa. There are only two Kurosawa films that you need to see. The first is Rashomon (The Criterion Collection). It's one of the first films that shows the same event from different biased perspectives, which has become quite common. Now when you see a film like Courage Under Fire, you can say, "That was so Rashomon". After that, you only need to see Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (Criterion Collection Spine #2), which is long enough to make up for not seeing any more of his films. You'll now be fully qualified to say that all Western directors steal from him, specifically George Lucas.

The other Asian director you need to worry about is the living Chinese one: John Woo. You've probably seen some of his American films, like Face/Off and Mission: Impossible 2 (Widescreen Edition), but soon you'll be able to scoff at them, saying they're over-budgeted and lack the soul of his Hong Kong films. This stance will be based entirely on seeing one film: Hard Boiled (The Criterion Collection).

Now that you're all caught up with the international scene and The Greatest Film Ever Made, you're ready to explore the most important area of FBP expertise:


Contemporary American Film

It is important to recognize the holy trinity of Martin Scorsese films: Taxi Driver (Collector's Edition), Raging Bull, and GoodFellas. You must insist that Scorsese is The Greatest Living Director, now that Stanley Kubrick (2001 - A Space Odyssey) is dead. To back this up, you need to mention Scorsese's first important film, Mean Streets, but it's not important to actually see it.

You must lament the fact that Francis Ford Coppola stopped making great films after Apocalypse Now, that there were no good American films made in the 1980s (despite the fact that it's the era from which you've seen the most films), and you must take a stance on Steven Spielberg.

Yes, Spielberg, the most successful director of our time. Privately, of course, you love all of his films, but you have to decide what you say in public -- either that he's the Bard of our time, giving us sensitive portrayals of humanity (Schindler's List (Widescreen Edition) [VHS]), or that he's single-handedly destroying Western culture (Hook). A true FBP cannot have an opinion that is not extreme. Other FBPs will doubt you if you appear balanced.

And now, we must look toward the future...


Hangin' at the Art House

If you have gone to the mall to see a film since the release of Pulp Fiction (Two-Disc Collector's Edition), you cannot let anybody know. The only films you see now must be exclusively screened in art houses with bad sound systems and an espresso bar. One of your best friends should be a projectionist at one of these art houses, and then you must boast that you no longer pay to see films.

You will now tout the work of Todd Solondz (Storytelling) and Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream (Director's Cut)) as some of the few people who make interesting films now. You will insist on only seeing their films in the form of unrated Director's Cuts and complain about the MPAA's unfair double standard when it comes to art films. You will no longer see anything produced by a major studio unless Philip Seymour Hoffman is in the cast (Almost Famous).

Now you are ready to unleash your new-found status on the world. Start your own website. Post snarky comments on discussion groups. Invade chatrooms and dominate the conversation with your own pontification. Drive by your local Blockbuster and sneer at the unwashed masses inside while you're on the way to your local independent video store. In fact, you should submit an application to that video store. Maybe, one day, you could be the next Quentin Tarantino.

Products mentioned include:
1.  Philips DVP642 DivX-Certified Progressive-Scan DVD Player  by Philips
Used & New from: $28.95
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You have the tool, now let's use it...
2.  Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition) [Black & White] [Closed-captioned] [Dolby] [Subtitled] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Orson Welles
$31.36 Used & New from: $3.95
4.1 out of 5 stars   (1,231) | 11 customer discussions
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3.  Fight Club (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) [Anamorphic] [Closed-captioned] [Collector's Edition] [Dubbed] [NTSC] [Subtitled] [THX]  DVD ~ Brad Pitt
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4.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) [Closed-captioned] [Collector's Edition] [Color] [Dolby] [DTS Surround Sound] [Dubbed] [Subtitled] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Richard Dreyfuss
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5.  Vertigo (Collector's Edition) [AC-3] [Closed-captioned] [Collector's Edition] [Color] [Dolby] [Letterboxed] [NTSC] [Special Edition] [Subtitled] [Widescreen]  DVD ~ James Stewart
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6.  Grand Illusion (The Criterion Collection) [Black & White] [Special Edition] [Subtitled] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Jean Gabin
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4.5 out of 5 stars   (109) | 1 customer discussion
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7.  The 400 Blows [Black & White] [Dolby] [Letterboxed] [Live] [Subtitled] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Jean-Pierre Léaud
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8.  8 1/2 (The Criterion Collection) [Multiple Formats] [Anamorphic] [Black & White] [NTSC] [Subtitled] [Widescreen]  DVD ~ Bruno Agostini
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The Asian Cinema
9.  Rashomon (The Criterion Collection) [Multiple Formats] [Black & White] [NTSC] [Special Edition] [Subtitled]  DVD ~ Toshirô Mifune
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4.5 out of 5 stars   (237) | 1 customer discussion
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10.  Courage Under Fire [Anamorphic] [Closed-captioned] [Color] [Dolby] [DTS Surround Sound] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Denzel Washington
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12.  Face/Off [AC-3] [Anamorphic] [Closed-captioned] [Color] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ John Travolta
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14.  Hard Boiled (The Criterion Collection) [Color] [Letterboxed] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Yun-Fat Chow
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Contemporary American Film
15.  Taxi Driver (Collector's Edition) [Anamorphic] [Closed-captioned] [Collector's Edition] [Color] [Dolby] [Subtitled] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Robert De Niro
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16.  Raging Bull [Multiple Formats] [Black & White] [Closed-captioned] [Color] [Dolby] [Full Screen] [Letterboxed] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Robert De Niro
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17.  GoodFellas [Closed-captioned] [Color] [Dolby] [Letterboxed] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Robert De Niro
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18.  2001 - A Space Odyssey [Multiple Formats] [Anamorphic] [Closed-captioned] [Color] [Dolby] [Original recording remastered] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Keir Dullea
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19.  Mean Streets [Multiple Formats] [Closed-captioned] [Color] [Full Screen] [HiFi Sound] [Letterboxed] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Robert De Niro
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21.  Schindler's List (Widescreen Edition) [VHS] [Black & White] [Closed-captioned] [Letterboxed] [Original recording reissued] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  VHS Liam Neeson
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Hangin' at the Art House
23.  Pulp Fiction (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) [Multiple Formats] [Anamorphic] [Closed-captioned] [Collector's Edition] [Color] [Dolby] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ John Travolta
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24.  Storytelling [Closed-captioned] [Color] [NTSC] [Widescreen]  DVD ~ Noah Fleiss
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25.  Requiem for a Dream (Director's Cut) [Multiple Formats] [Anamorphic] [Closed-captioned] [Color] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Ellen Burstyn
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