the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Esse Quam Videri -- To be, rather than to appear

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Film Tasting

Recently, one of my wife’s co-workers had us over to their apartment, along with several other couples, for a wine tasting party. It was a sumptuous affair, with numerous varieties of reds all from all across France’s rich Bordeaux region.

We participated in three tastings (each with three vintages), the first of which was done blind to ensure our impartiality. The reason for the objectivity was clear as soon as we took our first sips. Of the three glasses, one was clearly a humble table wine, one a middling quality entry, and the other an exquisite, expensive vintage.

I’ve attended wine tastings before, mostly in Italy, but never with checklists recording our impressions of the Five Ss (See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, and Savor). By the time we were done, we had several pages worth of marked boxes and scribbled notes.

What impressed me, was that out of the dozen or so tasters, most of whom had never participated in a tasting before or knew anything about wine, all but two people correctly assessed the quality of the vintages and with the tools given them, were able to articulate exactly why.

And it got me thinking...

What if we substituted film for wine? What if, instead of ingesting everything that came down the theatrical pike without a second’s thought regarding its quality, we actually applied some discriminating taste? If we gave viewers the proper tools for understanding inherent levels of excellence within cinema, could even the most uneducated film viewer come away knowing the difference between Michael Bay and Ingmar Bergman and be able to explain why? The exercise with the wine proved that even the most ignorant tongues can appreciate and distinguish between base, average and the truly extraordinary.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a reason the French drink the table wine each night with dinner. It is cheap and agreeable, a satisfactory if uninspired compliment to their meal that does not require anything in the way of reflection or meditation. But when they sit down to an opulent banquet, only the finest wine with the most exquisite balance, bouquet, and flavor will suffice. No matter what they hold in their glasses, they are fundamentally aware of the content and the context within which each is appropriate and esteemed.

Should we not have the same attitude toward cinema?


Anonymous Calvin Wulf said...

Hmmm... Film snob or connoisseur'? I lean toward connoisseur'. But as for sniff, there are some films that really stink!


8:34 AM  
Anonymous Joseph said...

ould even the most uneducated film viewer come away knowing the difference between Michael Bay and Ingmar Bergman and be able to explain why?

I like to think so. Excellent post.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Would such an education help me to like (i)Little Miss Sunshine(/i) or merely appreciate it more? (Hope the italics worked for the title.)

Film ignoramus,

Agreed, good post, 2 thumbs up.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous nate said...

Yes, Brandon. Yes. I could go on and on about what it means to appreciate better movies and why. I won't bore you or your readers.
Well, maybe I will, but a bit later. One quick point: I think it's a bit of a fallacy, or at least invites some sort of populist criticism, to place Bergman and Bay on opposite ends of the same scale. Bay, obviously, is going for something completely different than Bergman, but he fails at even that, his chosen pursuit, and that's why I hate him.
It might be more appropriate to compare Bay's movies with, say, the latest Bourne movie, or the original Die Hard, etc., etc.
And Bergman, of course, can be compared to countless contemporary art house hacks who think they have something to say but really don't.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous nate said...

I should have said "contrasted" rather than "compared," but I think you get me.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Brandon--An interesting question (whether people would know the difference). They may perceive a difference, but not like the best wine...which is what I think happens all the time with movies.

Also, some of us desire wine (and films) with all the aesthetic qualities you mention, AND, that it be free of sulfite compounds and artificial flavors, that it come from grapes grown in an environmentally-sustainable fashion, etc. We may also feel great concern for our neighbors who consume far too much table wine (or too many worthless movies) on a daily basis, thereby engendering vitamin deficiencies, brain-cell loss, and slow corrosion of their toxin-fighting organs (liver)--not to mention greater likelihood of engaging in sundry socially-destructive behaviors while "under the influence."

Maybe we should limit cheap, chemical-laden movies--er, wine?...

DB : )

12:45 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Now THAT is a metaphor with legs (pun intended)! Very nicely done! I couldn't agree more!

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

= )
Thanks, Mr. von Film Snob-Connoisseur. ;-)
Happy writing (always a pleasure to read)!
~Ms. Film Snob-Activist (DB) ;-)

1:36 PM  
Anonymous John said...


You do a nice job here drawing a parallel with wine tasting and film watching. Both take time to think about beneath the surface of, "It's good," or "It's bad." I think it's safe to say, though, that few people think themselves experts on wine, and are in fact intimidated by it, while most believe they know everything about film viewing. That said, perhaps you should have a "film tasting," where you show various movies and force the viewer to think about what they watched, how it made them feel and why. I know I'd attend.


12:01 PM  

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