How to Talk About a Movie Without Pissing People OffS

I can't wait to go see Inception this weekend, but all your chatter (thanks, Max) is threatening to ruin it for me. Can we set some rules about how to have a proper discussion about a hotly-anticipated film?

You know how it goes: You avoid the internet and reviews all day because you don't want to have any impression of a movie that you've been excited about for months. Even if it's going to be a total turkey, you'd much rather get there and decide it's wretched for yourself than be swayed one way or the other by the countless voices of critics, your peers, and Hollywood marketing agents. I can't even buy tickets on the New York Times website anymore because that little "Critic's Pick" badges has persuaded me in ways that make me a bit uncomfortable.

Now there is definitely some personal accountability involved here, and anyone really interested in a totally unbiased initial viewing should try to keep as far away from reviews and errant opinions as possible. But here are some tips to make life a bit easier for everyone.

  • Save the Post-Mortem for Outside the Cineplex: The initial reaction to to leave the theater and dissect it to death with your friends, or at the very least offer an "It's good," or "Damn, that blew more than a Hooters waitress in Tiger Woods' hotel room." What you forget about are all the people waiting in line for popcorn, standing out in line, and getting ready to go see the same movie you just walked out of. Don't go talking about plot points and offering your quips before they get there. Stick to facts. For instance: "Did you know Leonardo DiCaprio got naked in the movie Total Eclipse?" Yes, he's in Inception so it's tangentially related to the movie, but talking about that should get you through at least until you get to the car where you can really get into it.

  • Ask Before You Speak: When you're at a social function and want to discuss the movie with a group of people, ask if they have seen it first, especially if it's early in the run. Wait for their response before offering any sort of critique. If they don't want to see it, go ahead and let it rip. If they do want to see it and especially if they are juiced to see it, conclude the conversation with, "I can't wait to hear what you think." That doesn't give anything away, and once they've seen it, you can totally rip the movie apart. And if it's a mixed crowd of people who have seen it/not-seen-it, wait until later in the evening and pull your fellow viewers aside for a discussion. That's just good manners.

  • Don't Give Away the Ending: Never, ever talk about the ending of a movie with someone who hasn't seen it. And don't go with the, "Are you ever going to see it? OK, good, then I'm going to tell you what happens. He sees dead people!" That shit is annoying, because, even though I may never intend to see a movie, you know there will be a point when I wake up on the couch at 1pm in the afternoon and HBO is on and the remote is too far away to change the channel and I'll end up watching it anyway. You just ruined my unintentional viewing. Jerk.

  • Positive Recommendations Are Appreciated: If you really, really like something, feel free to tell people that it's really good, but don't go too far into the plot and get into specifics unless they ask questions. People always want to share things they love and if they have good taste, you should listen. But don't be all, "Oh, don't go see that, it sucks." First, you're probably wrong because everyone knows you have shitty taste in movies. Secondly, don't rain on anyone's parade (as Barbra would say). If they want to see something, let them find out about all the shitty stuff themselves. That's their punishment.

  • Don't Be a Contrarian: This is less about preserving someone's movie-going experience and more about just not being a dick. Please, please, don't be one of those people who hates something because everyone likes it or vice versa. That shit is just annoying, especially if it happens on a consistent basis. Yes, there is no accounting for taste, but we all know (and hate) that one guy who always tries to think he's smarter than everyone else for trashing Citizen Kane or extolling the virtues of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. We are never going to believe that Jar Jar Binks is a symbol for post-colonial society so just shut the hell up. Every movie has its positives and negatives and if you can discuss them rationally, calmly, and with people who have already seen the movie, then we'll get along just fine.

[Image via Bike Rider London/Shutterstock]