I know, I know. You didn’t see as many movies this year as you wanted to. Midterms, exec meetings, rehearsals, internships; whatever it was, you couldn’t make the trek over to Maple Street nearly enough times in 2011 and there are some gaps in your cinematic knowledge. The Golden Globes ceremony is airing this Sunday and you still don’t know Bridesmaids from Billy Beane (the protagonist from Moneyball, keep up!).
But do not fear. Before you catch up with these awards contenders to make your own judgments, in the meantime, sounding like a true film snob isn't nearly as hard as it sounds. Use this easy guide to sound like you’ve seen this year’s crop when your film major roommate from freshman year (seriously, why do you still talk to him?) tries to one up you with his knowledge of the major contenders this Sunday.
Expressing your film snob opinion about The Artist (a black and white, mostly silent film about Hollywood’s transition to sound) is a task worthy of acting goddess Meryl Streep. Inwardly, you must deeply adore the film. Outwardly, you must be highly critical. Say things like “It’s just a gimmick” and “It’s just a black and white remake of Singin’ in the Rain.” Note that every other film snob will be aware of your mutual love for the film, but even hinting at your common admiration is verboten.
Bonus points: Huffily point out that Uggie the dog (playing the heroic dog of a silent film star) turned in a more charismatic performance than plenty of human actors this year. (Taylor Lautner, we’re looking at you.)
Alexander Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt) made it, so naturally, you think it’s brilliant. To you, this Hawaii-set dramedy is a touching, heartfelt exploration of the human condition (no one understands this phrase, so don’t worry, no one will call you on it). You think Clooney has never been better and, with a straight face, you can say that The Secret Life of the American Teenager star Shailene Woodley is “revelatory” as his elder daughter. You shed several gentle tears when Clooney’s unfaithful wife finally died, and might choke up thinking about it. (Film snobs have hearts too.)
Bonus points: Show your indie cred by pointing out that hard-working bit actress Judy Greer is fantastic in a tiny role.
Are you kidding? No self-respecting film buff saw this gooey adaptation of the best-selling novel. You were repulsed by the trailer and thus refused to see this undoubtedly exploitative and almost-certainly racist melodrama about some Southern white girl helping some black maids find their voice through publishing a book about their life experiences. Or something. When in doubt, scoff.
Bonus points: “The what? Never heard of it.”
The Tree of Life
No, renowned auteur Terrence Malick’s critical darling isn’t nominated for any Golden Globes, but in emulating a film snob, you’d be remiss to ignore this dreamy art film that covers the challenges of raising a family in 1950s America. Oh, it also spans the creation of the universe, where you go when you die and, in a spectacular cameo appearance, freaking’ dinosaurs. Basically, this film is all kinds of pretentious, nature-sodden arty awesomeness, so gush with adjectives like “spiritual,” “timeless” and “essential.”
Bonus points: To get at the one gnawing criticism of the film, ask “Why was Sean Penn even in the movie?” The much-maligned “Sean Penn parts” involve Penn (as one of the 1950s children all grown up) gazing out windows, talking on his cell phone and ambling down beaches, and they don’t make sense to even to the most ardent Malick fans.
The key to talking about War Horse is peddling your knowledge of film history. Compare Spielberg’s World War I beast-of-burden drama and its gorgeous European landscapes to a John Ford movie like The Searchers or How Green Was My Valley. Calling the movie “emotionally manipulative” is a good start, too, but be aware that that’s not necessarily a negative. Spielberg is known for his sentimental directorial flourishes, and War Horse is a two-hour-plus film full of them. True movie buffs can appreciate when their heartstrings are being pulled by a revered master like Spielberg, so join all of the movie characters in praising the horse’s superior athleticism and its magical abilities to withstand the greatest of wartime atrocities and, apparently, cure blindness. (Seriously, you loved that part.)
Bonus points: Say that you loved War Horse but that it’s not even Spielberg’s best of the year, which is The Adventures of Tintin, an animated adaptation of a European comic book that received a collective shrug from American audiences.