Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Blinded by The Top 5.

I've just returned from a gorgeous sojourn in Perth, which is something I'm sure I'll get around to blagging about in the very near future. Suffice to say, it was a superb weekend away in the sunshine, swimming in a sea of happiness and good times and tasty springtime beverages.

I'm sure it goes without saying that when I'm in the company of dearest Mitchell Mitts Kitton Mittons, talk inevitably turns to the wonderful world of the cinema. And as always is the case when I meet new people over a glass of wine or a cocktail or a beer, while in Perth I found myself very quickly turning to one of my all-time favourite conversation topics: Top 5 Films.

Does "The Movies" constitute my entire conversational repertoire? Sometimes I fear that it does. Hell, that conundrum in itself is probably worthy of a post. Certainly, I know I can always rely on that question (or demand, depending on my sobriety) to launch a conversation to a realm in which I know I'll be comfortable.

"What are your top five favourite films? Go. Now." 

At any rate, in recent times I've come to realise with some amusement that aside from relying on the Top Five to make conversation, I am also more often than not completely blinded the answer I receive. How? I am prone to judging a person ruthlessly, often unfairly, on their Top Five. It's a bad move, I know. I mean, what if someone just doesn't really watch that many films? What if they're an incredible person but they enjoy films that I despise? What the hell constitutes a Good Top Five anyway? Fucked if I know.

I do know this though however:

  • In my travels, films most often placed in Top Fives are Schindler's List, Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, Inception and Fight Club
  • Film students always take an extra minute to curate the list in their mind. 
  • Top Five does not mean "the films you think are the best", it means "the films you would choose to watch over and over". 
  • The quicker you answer, the better.
  • Not giving an answer is worse than giving a shitty list.
  • I find collecting lists of Top Fives are fascinating, in that I feel it gives a bit of an insight into a person's mind. 
  • My Top Five-induced blindness means that more often than not I become infatuated with often awkward, usually dorky-looking nerds.
The one on the left, please.
  • It also means that I have a propensity for dismissing those whose Top Five is laden with mediocrity. 

Here's just one example of my unjust rulings on those I meet. One night in Berlin I met a rather nice lad. Turned out he was from Melbourne, turned out he was studying film. Well, sweet! Conversation was rollicking along well, so I asked him for his list. His response was Blade Runner, Pulp Fiction, Pearl Harbour, The Matrix and one of the Lord of the Rings films. 

My face when.

Verdict: boring. For someone studying film, his list was ... Unimaginative! Underwhelming! Uninspired! His time was up. Sorry, pal. I wandered back to the bar, back to the crew I'd arrived with. Hell, he might have been a swell find! We'll never know though, thanks to my stupid standards when it comes to requisite good taste in Things. 

As soon as I say that though, I know that it's not a matter of "good taste" per se which decides who stays and who goes, but of a list that strikes me as Interesting. Yes, that's it. Interesting is what I look for, what the person being grilled must aim for. A girl I ended up traveling with for some time admitted to having a limited knowledge of film, but after she named five films she'd gladly be stuck on a desert island with, I only wanted to hang out with her more. Her list was entirely made up of animated films.

Take Dom, whom I met in Santiago. A well-spoken and intelligent guy, he very quickly proved to be most excellent conversation. We spoke about a myriad of things, so much so that it only occurred to me to ask him for hist list hours and hours after meeting him. He didn't disappoint. And here's the funny thing: amongst Goodbye Lenin!, Schindler's List and something old and French, was Love, Actually. In fact, I think he might've excitedly yelled "LOVE ACTUALLY!" immediately after I raised the question. Or take Sam, who ended up being my travel buddy through Bolivia. We met on the bus, and I asked him the all-important question. The first thing out of his mouth was The Mask, followed by something like Goodfellas. I instantly decided that I'd ask him if he was heading to Uyuni. He was. I'd go with him.

Falling victim to the lure of a good Top Five has led me to victory, a number of times. Hell, it brought Mitch to my attention (in 2008 his included A Boy and His Dog, something by Wes Anderson, and Casablanca) all those years ago. Quizzing Colin on our first day at school in Peru meant that I discovered his love of Star Wars and thus began a most enjoyable South American romantic escapade. 

But still, I know that this conundrum needs addressing. Sure, it provides a hell of a lot of amusement for those friends who are lucky enough to hear these stories of woe but I'll tell you this much for free; there's a lot of face-palming involved. A mention of Gregory Peck love and I'll pursue an otherwise incredibly uninteresting person for weeks. You read Shadows of the Empire? You just try to stop me from eating your face. I once dated a guy for couple of months before I saw past his fondness for Moon and Studio Ghibli to the fact that he excruciatingly dull and the most socially awkward person to ever grace the earth. 
"Yeah, Reb. He was a dud. We were wondering when you'd notice" was Dave's verdict.

Whilst in La Paz I met a lad, who had the best Top Five of anyone I'd met in South America so far. We spoke about anti-heroes, about the Golden Age of Hollywood, we talked about a script he was about to write, we talked of Robert Altman and screwball comedies. Then he told me he was 18. 

I related this all to Mitts, while he threw his head back and laughed at my misfortune and almost sitcom-esque self-induced fails. Even as I spoke however, I couldn't help but notice the tattoo on his friend's arm that bore a quote from The Big Lebowski. I later couldn't help but notice how he mentioned a love of Fern Gully. Intrigued? Check. Similarly, I instantly decided I liked Mitch's red-haired "Replacement Reb" after speaking to her about a shared hatred for romantic comedies, and a shared love of Casablanca and When Harry Met Sally

But shit, don't think for a moment that a Good Top Five is synonymous with They Like the Same Shit as I Do. Not at all. I hate Love, Actually. I didn't actually think Planet Terror was that good. I fell asleep during Seven Samurai. I think Titanic is awful, but its presence in a Top Five has meant instant approval in at least one list. A list entirely made up by the films I mentioned earlier that are always picked will make for a boring list. I want to know your quirks! I may have my snobbish moments, but hell, Star Wars and What's Up Doc? are in MY Top Five! Why don't you tell me how much you like The Omen or Jurassic Park or Withnail & I? Frankly, telling me how much you like The Princess Bride will get you more points than Citizen Kane

Anyway. That's my rant for the day. I'll go and do something constructive now.

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