What do you talk about with a woman you just met either online or in a bar that doesn’t have to do with what either your or she does, what school you went to, where you went on vacation, or how well your favorite sports team is doing? Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, mentions that, on first dates, we most often default to the boring questions about hobbies, etc. in an effort to rock the boat. In the Manosphere, we’ve heard about asking a woman emotional questions to get her into a state that doesn’t default to a fucking interview. I won’t repeat this here. Suffice to say, this is basic stuff.
So, here’s something I’ve done before with women: ask them to name the top five movies they’ve seen that have affect them strongly in one way or another. Not only is this a good topic to get the ball rolling, but it helps to shed some light on what might be important to the woman. Bonus points if she likes films that make you think and if she doesn’t watch the average, sappy romcom but once in a great while.
And, with that, I give you my list of movies that have affected me. I’ve done this only once or twice with women, and I’ve usually gotten blank stares. Oh, well . . .
1. AMADEUS (1984)
I’m a fan of classical music. I have been since around 17 years old, and a little before. (Thanks, “Hooked on Classics”.) This movie went on to win several Academy Awards, and it’s still talked about in the canon of movie history. Roger Ebert wrote two reviews on it.
Of course, the movie is about music — Mozart’s music. But, it’s not about Mozart. It’s about Salieri. In particular, Salieri’s vanity and envy. His envy struck a chord with me because envy is something that I struggled with when I was a younger man. Why? Well, if you have no good mentors, then I think envy springs up eventually, especially when you think that someone else is living the “good life” when it could be far from the case.
Effect on me: it helped me put my early classical music in context. It also taught me how poisonous envy could be. Most of us weren’t born a genius, but have had to work at it a lot through our lives.
2. BLADE RUNNER (1982)
Probably a common favorite among some Manospherians. Classic for cyberpunk and for the intersection of cyberpunk and film noir, and it merits more than one viewing to see all that there is to see. If you’ve ever read the Philip K. Dick novel on which it’s based, there are stark differences. Again, since this is a movie, it’s heavy on visuals. Thanks to Syd Mead for this.
I first saw part of this movie while seeing another one (Blue Thunder, I think) back in 1982. It was in an old drive-in with two screens. Runner was playing on the other screen, and I stole some backwards glances while in the backseat of my parents’ car. I thought the movie was strange-looking, to be honest. Then, I saw the whole thing in 1990 and was transfixed. Just the opening scene itself was enough to strike terror in me. I knew I didn’t want to live in a world like that. But, the funny thing is that I think we’re headed that way. November 2019 is still on the horizon. Will we see Replicants then? Will an android like Rachel exist? Would she be real enough to replace real women, thereby enabling men to avoid the typical woman’s bullshit?
We still have Vangelis, too, whose soundtrack is probably one of the most well-known ambient soundtracks from the 80s. “Memories of Green” is a classic track.
Effect on me: one of my first visions of a scary, but beautiful, dystopian world. It stimulated my thinking about memories, the self, the intersection of the memories and the self, and the meaning of life.
3. THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1987)
I was raised Catholic, so the content resonated with me at the time and resonates with me still, a long time after I became officially agnostic. Those of you around my age probably remember how this movie caused quite the furor when it was released, with religious protesters outside of movie theaters calling for blood. Nutty fervor at its finest.
What was the crux of the furor, you say? Jesus having sex with Mary Magdalene. Um, yes, I can see how this might be taken as offensive, but the protestors were missing the point. They missed the broader context. Reading the novel is better for the context.
The “temptation” in the movie is how Jesus was almost swayed from having a normal life. Kazantzakis meant to focus more on how Jesus was human, and not paying much attention to his supposed divinity. Jesus kind of knew what he was supposed to do from the beginning, when he heard the first of the voices in his head. But, he, like so many of us, didn’t trust himself and didn’t listen to find out what his mission was. Having a mission is very important to men. This isn’t a brand new topic in the Manosphere. If men don’t have a mission, then they feel lost and miserable. Eventually, Jesus finds his mission, culminating in “It is accomplished.”
This movie also put Willem Dafoe on the map. Peter Gabriel wrote the soundtrack.
Effect on me: taking the core story of my Catholic upbringing and turning it on its head. Focus on the mission, and a nudge to remember to try to do something extraordinary at least once in your life. I tell people that it’s one of those movies you watch late at night alone, when it’s quiet, to let the story and the atmosphere wash over you.
4. RAN (1985)
“ran” = chaos, disorder, rebellion
Some hail this as Kurosawa’s masterpiece. (But others will say Seven Samurai is better.) The conditions under which Kurosawa labored to make the movie (death of his wife, nearly blind, many problems with securing funding) are sufficient enough to put it in his top three. Visually, it’s stunning, helped along by the minimalist and Japanese-influenced score of Toru Takemitsu.
Knowing the “King Lear” story helps in understanding Ran’s story. King Lear transforms into a feudal lord, and Lear’s daughters become the lord’s sons. Jealousy and treachery lead to violence, and it’s hard to have sympathy with the lord in the beginning because he got where he was through cruelty and violence. Karma is a bitch. Yet, as with Lear and witnessing his breakdown through the course of Shakespeare’s play, we feel some sympathy towards the lord. At least one of the sons manages to separate himself from the cycle of violence. Yet, in the end it consumes him.
The movie is bleak, yet it’s one of those movies that I never get tired of watching for nothing else than the cinematography.
Effect on me: visuals, haunting images, the score.
5. THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1985)
The movie version of the novel of the same name, written by Umberto Eco. Eco’s novel is more in the form of a puzzle and a display of his erudition as a medieval historian, while the movie is more on the visuals. (Aren’t they usually?) I wasn’t taken with it when I first saw it on videocassette back when I was in high school, so I had to watch it more than once.
I’ve been a fan of Sean Connery since I first started watching the old James Bond flicks. I think Connery does a good job in this movie, though some might have panned his performance. At least he was doing something more productive with his time in the 80s than things like Zardoz. Yikes . . .
Effect on me: the relationship between William and Adso, which is a classic mentorship role between master and novice. The older man taking responsibility for the young man under his wing, who left his father to become a monk. One sees that William is a quality man, so Adso has a good mentor. This kind of model is what I wanted when I was a younger man. My father could only provide so much, and what he did provide was lacking.
You’ll notice that all of these movies are from the 80s. That was my formative decade — the time when I was moving from childhood to my pre-teens and then young adulthood. Not to say that there haven’t been other movies I’ve seen since the 80s that aren’t equally compelling or impactful, but these are the ones that always stick out in my mind. I watch them occasionally.
Effect on me: mentorship, older man guiding a younger man who needs it.
Honorable mention: IKIRU (1952)
The word ikiru is a verb, meaning “to live.” The movie is one of Kurosawa’s earliest, and maybe the most poignant and haunting one to watch. As Ran is bleak and violent, Ikiru is somewhat bleak and not at all violent.
It’s bleak in the sense that the main character has been a cipher for nearly all of his life and now he finds himself on the precipice of death without having done anything worthwhile in his life. Throughout the movie, he tries to find what could give his life meaning. Nightlife? Nah. Something else, maybe. He commits and then breaks through with working against the bureaucracy to do a selfless act: create a park for kids in the middle of a city cesspool. He’s successful, then passes quietly away.
It’s not the man’s impending death that’s haunting; it’s the fact that he did nothing with his life until that point. But, some could argue that, since he did that one selfless act, it might validate all of his life before his death. Even more haunting, though, is how his son and the others realize that they could do the same, but then fall back into listlessness, not choosing to do anything.
Effect on me: classic existentialist, and the awareness of the passage of time. The older I get and the more time I see passing behind me, the more aware I am of acting and finding meaning in everyday acts, or at least weekly acts. Also, that you eventually outgrow the nightclub culture because it doesn’t really add to your life in any substantial way.