And now for something completely different. Something on a more personal level. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the following stories are all true …
Can you tell whether the people you date qualify as relationship material based on your movie-going experience with them?
I know, this sounds like a strange or trivial way to determine a good catch. There are more obvious yardsticks you can rely on (like say, if the person has a good job and a solid family background, or looks totally awesome in tight tees). But for the longest time, this helped me size up prospective girlfriends. Which may account for why I am usually single. But there is merit in this method. Allow me to explain.
I’ve noticed that the way people respond to a film reveals a lot about their own worldview, and the way they behave in the cinema betrays their personality traits and idiosyncrasies. It’s sort of like a sneak preview of the entire persona. It hasn’t led to me finding Ms. Right, but it sure has worked as an Early Warning System to filter out the weirdos, the psychos, the bimbos, the social retards, and the “Twilight” fans. Now before you ladies get all riled up over this so-called objectification, please note that my article isn’t meant to be taken seriously. Except by you “Twilight” fans. Perhaps one day you shall realise that proper vampires do not glitter daintily in broad daylight. They merely explode in a ball of screaming hellfire, like all self-respecting vampires do.
Back on track … This Early Warning System of mine has a meter that ranges from the obvious Red Flags, to the more subtle, won’t-know-they’re-wrong-for-you-till-after-several-dates kinda gals. Let’s start with the obvious. As a filmmaker, M. Night Shyamalan is now utterly useless, but his latest films are an excellent way to determine the Red Flag types. I resisted watching “The Last Airbender” in the cinema because I generally don’t like testicular pain. And I was told that watching it is the equivalent of getting repeatedly kicked in the nuts. By a “Twilight” fan.
Recently, I met this girl. Seemed sweet enough on the outside. Our first proper outing would’ve been the standard dinner and a movie. I had booked a number of movies, but she didn’t want to watch any of them. First Red Flag, by the way: people who can’t make up their mind, yet don’t like any of the choices you offer them. She suggested getting some DVDs and watching them at home instead. I chose a few genres that I thought would cover the bases: action, chick-flick, comedy and art film (no, not porn). Again, she didn’t like anything I recommended. The natural response was to let her choose. We stood in the shop for nearly half an hour, while she stared blankly at the rows and rows of DVDs. Finally, she picked one up. Yup, it was “The Last Airbender”. Very diplomatically, I asked if she’d heard any bad word-of-mouth about this movie. She just shrugged and said she liked “kid’s films”.
If by kid’s films she meant the kind of kids who grow up to be serial killers, then yes, this is indeed a kid’s film. Because while/after watching it, you’d very likely be driven to murder lots of people. Preferably the cast and crew of “The Last Airbender”. My date, on the other hand, liked the film. Apparently, it was better than “pretentious” movies like “Inception”. Normally, I’m not one to make up my mind about someone so quickly. But here’s the kicker: she saw the look on my face when the end credits rolled. It was the look of a man who’d had the light of the universe forcibly and violently extracted from his soul (also known as the “got repeatedly kicked in the nuts” look). And she got annoyed at ME. “Why do you have to make fun of what I like?” I hadn’t. I was too busy re-compiling my mental list of “Worst Films Of 2010 & In The History Of Forever”. But she felt that some insult had been thrown at her because my look suggested I didn’t agree that the one film she’d chosen was a good choice. The night ended awkwardly yet (amazingly) on a civil note. And that was that.
I really should’ve known better. After all, through the years I’d encountered quite a number of girls who’d given off warning signals right from the start. There was this really quiet chick who kept staring at me throughout the film instead of the screen. When I asked her why, she just smiled and continued staring, as if the map to the Lost Ark of the Covenant or the Colonel’s Secret Recipe was tattooed on the side of my head. It didn’t help that her long black hair reminded me of Sadako from “The Ring”. I tell you, she scared the crap outta me.
Then there was this gorgeous, leggy model who complained about everything. She hated the seats we’d gotten because she only liked to sit right at the back, then she whined about the popcorn being stale, and after the movie she accused me of not having explained the “complicated” plot to her — during the movie. Then again, even if I wanted to, it wouldn’t have been possible because she spent the entire running time texting her hairdresser and her make-up artist. I knew this because she spent the whole dinner afterwards talking about nothing except her hairdresser and her make-up artist. Being the gullible (and shallow) guy that I once was, I nodded politely at her monologue, in an attempt to “get to know her better” if you know what I mean. I did not succeed.
Let’s turn back the clock a few more years. Now, this girl was pleasant, good-natured and cheerful. Maybe a little TOO cheerful. I can’t fault someone for having the sunny disposition of a Labrador puppy. The thing is, this girl liked to giggle at the movies. A lot. In fact, she laughed at pretty much everything on screen. Every. Single. Thing. I kid you not. Like the Ministry of Health’s community service message about the dangers of Swine Flu. The people in the ad were shown cocooned in giant red bubbles, presumably because being cocooned in a giant red bubble is among the symptoms of Swine Flu infection. She found this hilarious. Now, while I do concede that some Government ads are unintentionally funny, this one was just lame. I wrote it off as her being in a good mood.
Then the film started. And the giggles resumed. Followed by full-on laughter. That would be perfectly commonplace if we were watching a breezy rom-com. But we were watching “Behind Enemy Lines”, a dour action flick starring a terribly miscast Owen Wilson as a navy pilot shot down over war-torn Bosnia. I’m sure there are exceptions but in general, Serbian killing fields aren’t exactly considered comedy gold. Imagine watching “Schindler’s List” with a bunch of Holocaust survivors, and when the Nazis start herding terrified prisoners into the poison gas chamber … your movie companion starts chuckling at “ze wacky Germans”. To be fair, she wasn’t actually sniggering at the pile of dead bodies in the mass grave, but at the sight of Owen Wilson falling face-first into the pile of dead bodies in the mass grave. In hindsight, there is a difference. But at that moment, it felt a wee bit inappropriate.
I purposely avoided the cinema for our next few outings. Her giggling fits didn’t seem so pronounced during regular conversation. So I assumed that it was a one-off incident and the coast was clear. Boy, was I wrong. Ever wondered what the Joker would sound like if he inhaled too much laughing gas? Then you should take this girl to watch a Stephen Chow comedy. I called it quits after that, with some degree of guilt. I mean, as annoying as it was, it really wasn’t her fault. But this was a quirk that I simply could not get past. I knew this would be one of those things that would escalate if we ever got serious. At least I didn’t lose a friend. As a matter of fact, we’re still good friends and she knows full well that she’s featured in this article. She’s actually proud. Now THAT’S funny.
I’ve said a lot about the movie dates that were dead ends. Fortunately, there have been a few that weren’t. They were memorable in all the right ways. Everyone has their respective relationship milestones. First date, first kiss, first time holding hands, and so on. Mine is the first movie we watch as a couple. That’s how immersed I am in the celluloid world. And when I get involved with someone, I invite her to share my passion, to walk with me in my world.
To this day, I have only ever found one woman like that. Someone I not only enjoyed going to the movies with, but a person I could also discuss, dissect, debate those movies at length and on equal terms with. I always found her opinions fascinating and refreshing. It wasn’t limited to films either. Beyond our common passion, I saw so much more in her. And we became much more than just movie companions. A wise person once told me that the best life-partner is one you never ever get tired of talking to. That’s exactly what I had. Yeah, you could say she was special.
We’re no longer together now. Maybe I didn’t make her feel special enough, or perhaps we just weren’t meant to be. But that’s not the point. Ultimately, I believe it is entirely possible to discover the one you’ve been looking for, through those magic moments when the lights go down and the silver screen comes to life.
For now however, I’ll stick to movie outings with the guys.
Storyteller by trade and dreamer by nature, Wai has been deeply nuts about the celluloid world since the first time he discovered he could watch a story instead of reading it. But he likes writing about it. Wai goes by a single name because he likes to avoid any “Imperial entanglements” (a.k.a. “conflict of interest with the powers that be” for those of you who don’t speak Star Wars) in his employment. Plus, cool people use one-word names.