2018 Film Essays

Vague Visages Is FilmStruck: Marshall Shaffer on Valentine’s Day and a FilmStruck Wedding

Valentine’s Day, or, as many of us know it, Singles Awareness Day, has arrived again. It’s a great opportunity to throw yourself in front of a movie screen because any phone or computer is probably going to display sappy, saccharine pictures of doting couples. Some people have found their life partner in another human being; others, in a streaming service (but I’ll get to that in a bit). This single guy can’t be too bitter when at least a part of my day will be spent with my true love, the movies, because of my #FilmStruckFebruary commitment to watch at least one piece of content on the streaming service FilmStruck every day this month.

For the holiday, I did want to offer some brief thoughts on the link between singleness and the affinity for film. I don’t have data to back this up (sorry to my sociology professors!), but I can imagine that if you polled people and asked how they envisioned a stereotypical movie lover, that person probably is not involved in a serious relationship. I found a certain modicum of truth in a quote from the narrator of Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity: “Maybe we all live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as a consequence we can never feel merely content: we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heels happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship.”

That character, Rob Fleming, is talking primarily about music, but the peculiarities of film as a medium lend additional dimensions to his observation. Cinema is a durational art, strapping in those who partake in it for hours upon hours at a time while primarily demanding all of our attention. It’s not a particularly social art, either. For those who view film for film’s sake, it can often represent a solitary task. Yet we ironically receive a simulated human connection from those pixels, so rarely does life feel lacking in humanity. At least from my own observations of (an admittedly privileged and well-educated cross-section of) my generation, we like the approximation of intimacy movies can provide, their brief dashes of intense passion, while all the complications of actually connecting with another person are removed.

Many people associate the obsession with movies and the avoidance of life. For a long time, I internalized that, too. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I (and many others) really began my true cinematic education in middle school when tentative romantic and social encounters were swiftly rebuffed. The movies were always there, and they didn’t ask questions of me. They just provided, giving of themselves insight, wisdom and empathy while I just consumed. The love of cinema is a one-sided relationship. They can never reject us, but then again, they really can’t show us that they appreciate us either.

Well … at least until recently when FilmStruck pulled a genius move of customer appreciation. This is probably the only story where an errant tweet rooted in hyperbolic emotion resulted in everyone smiling. One of their users, Peter Putzel, tweeted that were he not already married with kids, he would enter into matrimony with FilmStruck. (Clearly, he busts my aforementioned generalization.) Fast forward to an average day at work … and FilmStruck appears to take him up on the offer with a full ceremony and all. It’s a fun, touching stunt that serves as a wonderful reminder of the everlasting bond between man and movie. No offense to the snarky, glib person tweeting as Netflix in the U.S., but this is the way to go.

And just for the record, FilmStruck, or any film service, is more than welcome to throw me a surprise anything, I love surprises. You can find me on Valentine’s Day at some rep theater in New York City enjoying a movie and noshing on some delicacy I snuck in.

Follow Marshall Shaffer on Twitter (@media_marshall).

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