It’s a moment that can be haunting: You reference something highly specific in a movie that you’ve seen way too many times, and the people around you, even if they’ve watched said movie, stare blankly and have no idea what you’re talking about.
“I’ll just see myself out,” I usually mutter, accidentally walking into a closet.
We all have those movies we watch over and over, to the point that we begin developing a deep knowledge about them where we can answer obscure trivia questions no one’s asking, and could probably recite the entire script if somehow a casting agent asked us to.
I’ve probably seen Goodfellas more than the amount of Baskin-Robbins flavors, The Assassination of Jesse James more than the amount of provinces in Canada, and can likely recite every line of dialogue from Glengarry Glen Ross, while annoyingly mentioning the differences between the original play and the script.
Please, Look Away
Nothing in this brings me a sense of pride. It hasn’t helped with a job or relationship or anything pragmatic. What it has done is caused me to make jokes or references to these movies that only a person who has also watched them in double-digit numbers would ever understand. Since most haven’t, they look at me like I just pooped on the floor.
There’s a line between referencing a movie in a common way that most people get, and then making a deep cut allusion. Let’s take a movie that many people have seen, like The Godfather.
When most people reference Godfather movies, generally it’s something on the surface like “Leave the gun, take the cannoli,” or perhaps “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Some may go with “Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in.” But you shouldn’t be referencing Godfather III. Better to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Because I’ve seen The Godfather too many times, when I’m having a conversation with a friend about someone who’s not there, I’ll jokingly say something like, “Won’t see him no more.” No one ever gets it.
It’s the scene after the cannoli scene when Sonny asks about the guy who was killed, and Clemenza responds, “Won’t see him no more,” then keeps stirring the sauce. If you know the reference, that’s fine, but you shouldn’t.
When the Reference, and the Movie, Is Obscure
Still, the only thing worse than making a way too specific reference to a common movie is when you make an esoteric reference to a movie that’s not mainstream in the slightest.
It happened at work recently. We were discussing viruses and hackers, and I said my favorite hacker is the one Stephen Glass made up in the movie Shattered Glass. No one knew what the hell I was talking about, and they shouldn’t. Few have seen the movie Shattered Glass, and even fewer people have seen it more than once. But it’s good, I swear.
Why do we watch movies over and over again instead of watching a new one? Probably because it feels like getting into a warm bath: the familiarity is comforting, we know what to expect, and there’s little risk of being let down when otherwise taking a chance on a new one.
This is clearly not a better way to live or watch movies. So if you are this type, just understand that you’ll wind up unwittingly making references no one gets and being left out in the cold. Their stares will burn a hole in your heart, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll watch something different later that night.
Probably not, though.
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