Okay, let's get started with an admission: I took a whole bunch of film classes in college. I have spent hours of my life in front of a screen that I cannot count. I worked in a video store. I sat at the foot of my parents' bed watching old movies long after they had fallen asleep. I would say that if you were to follow Malcolm Gladwell's ten thousand hour rule, I probably have a couple expert levels to my name when it comes to film.
And there are still things I do not know. For example, I do not know what that character just said in the movie my wife and I were watching. Try as I might, I miss a few things. Like Swedish cinema. I've seen a few Bergman films, but I don't fully grasp the appeal. Thoughtful, somber, and often remade by Woody Allen. Check. This does not make me anything but a snob, I know. Like experimental, non-narrative films that I watched for two entire semesters at the University of Colorado. When it came time for me to create one of my own, I could not help myself. There was a story in all those flashing lights and colors. I know that there is expression going on out there without the burden of linear structure, but it holds little appeal to me.
No, most of what I learned has turned out to be the stuff that makes me really good at Trivial Pursuit. You remember Trivial Pursuit, don't you? A board game that was created by like-minded individuals to me and those friends who gathered around to see who could fill up their pie with wedges before everyone lost interest. It also got me a seat on a Trivia Bowl team, something I may have aspired to long before I was ever selected. Movie trailer tossup questions were my forte. Knowing the title of Burt Reynolds' 1975 musical directed by Peter Bogdonavich from a still projected on a screen at the back of the Glenn Miller Ballroom is a personal triumph that continues to warm my heart decades later. At Long Last Love, if you're keeping score at home.
After Al Gore invented the Internet, lugging around this kind of encyclopedic knowledge turned out to be less than useful. Now it seems more like a burden. If only I had used all those synapses for learning a trade or remembering where I filed my Social Security Card.
Still, there are some happy bits about all that minutiae. I can walk into a room, glance at the TV and come up with the title of a movie showing on cable within just a few frames. I am a pop culture repository, for better or worse. The better would be the discussions I get to have with my mother, who has her own tens of thousands of hours watching to her credit. And then there is the ever-present potential for me to go on and on about the details of a forgotten eighties flick that I happened to experience in a loop during slow afternoons at the video store. I suppose it would be more interesting to wax rhapsodic about Wild Strawberries, instead of repeating lines from Making The Grade. But maybe not as much fun.