Love Affairs

I love movies. For a long time now. So much so that I am one of those really annoying people who don’t say movies. I say "film."

I love film.

Film was and always will be my first love. Since that April night when I lost my virginity to film – sitting on a camping chair in the bed of my father’s pickup truck at the Frontier drive-in in Arizona… watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

For the next twenty years film would consume me. It was the love of my life. The love I lost my virginity to. The love I tried exotic new positions with. Explored things I’d previously never imagined. Years later, I would get into television just so I could always be near film. Be at the same parties, in the same room. But film never loved me like I loved it. And in the back of my mind I always knew it. But you know how when you’re in the most erotic, passionate, intense relationship of your life, you tend to overlook things like… common sense?

Eventually, as in most all relationships that have nothing but raw passion as their foundation, I started to want less flash and more depth. My love of film, while pure ecstasy at times, became… I don’t know, tiring. Sometimes I’d have a headache. Or want to talk. Or just not be in the mood. Or when I was in the mood, film wouldn’t return my call. It was always on film’s schedule.

Then I met books.

Books I could talk to. Books I could sit in a coffee house with for hours and just chill. I could be in bed, on the can, even driving, and books were always there. Anytime I wanted them and regardless of my mood, books were the Holly Hunter to film’s Angelina Jolie. It’s not like it was with film, but it’s solid, fun, honest, and every so often we get freaky.

So, I’ve been in this monogamous relationship with books for a while, and then the other night, totally unexpectedly, film shows up in my living room in the form of Brick.


Brick is a film made for just under $500,000 by a passionate USC grad named Rian Johnson. The film is classic noir; an American private eye story, containing all the elements – the smoky and at times ironic score (which I’ve already added to my iTunes), the beautifully noir cinematography, a story almost too complex at times, and a screenplay worthy of Hammett, Mamet, and the Coen brothers.

And it’s set in high school.

Yes, that’s right. The entire story takes place in and around a high school. In fact, I think there’s maybe two characters over thirty in the whole thing. But this film is so good it could have been set in pre-school or anywhere else for that matter.

Now, this is not a perfect film, but what is? And I’d wager most criticisms come from jealous film wannabes who are pissed they didn’t think of the idea. There are few films made in today’s world that one can’t find flaw with. And it being a subjective medium, well, there you go.

Brick is simply an incredibly wonderful way to spend an hour and fifty minutes. For anyone, but especially for those of us who dearly love the genre.

I rented the dvd from Netflix, and it sat in my house for two weeks. I wasn’t in the mood. Literally. Then one night, I was about to go to bed, and I was thinking that I really wanted to see the next dvd in my Netflix queue (a blues documentary). But I needed to send back that Brick film. I couldn’t even remember why I’d rented it. Oh, yeah, it was a detective story or something. I decided to put it in and fall asleep to it, then I’d be able to send it back in the morning…

I stayed up until after midnight, completely consumed from the opening frame. And then I watched it again, listening to the commentary.

Film was back in my life. Now, I know it was a one-night stand, but Good Christ… for that one night, film and me, we did things Jenna Jameson’s never tried. 

The great thing is that books understand. Books forgive. Books will always take me back, even when I don’t deserve it. And there will be another night, another lonely, rainy night when there’s a knock at my door, and I’ll open it to find film standing there… wearing black thigh highs and Christian Louboutins, a cigarette dangling from its bee-stung lips. And I’ll stand aside and let film enter.


This week’s If I Picked Characters’ Watches:

SJ Rozan’s Bill Smith would wear a 1961 Omega Seamaster…



37 thoughts on “Love Affairs

  1. JDRhoades

    BRICK is indeed amazing, although it does require a bit more than the usual suspension of disbelief (my wife commented that it apparently takes place on a planet where most of the adults–and every single cop–have died of a mysterious and unnamed plague). But for plotting, dialogue, characters, acting, cinematography…it’s a must see.

  2. G. T. Karber

    The best part of Brick are the little references to their childhood restrictions. “I’ll see if I can borrow my mother’s care,” and when the Crime Boss of the Entire Town is fed cookies by his over-bearing mother.

    Amazing movie.

  3. Alex Sokoloff

    This is one I keep meaning to pick up – thanks for reminding me.

    The thrill has kinda been gone for me with film for a while, too (replaced by a smoking affair with HBO). But the magic came back over Christmas with BABEL and THE QUEEN, and I still haven’t seen some must-sees like PAN’S LABYRINTH.

  4. JT Ellison

    I loved BRICK — it was sharp and quick and so different. Brendan Frye is a perfect anti-hero, and the dialogue is sublime. I spent some time at looking through some of the qoutes they put up there — the delivery can be missed if you aren’t paying attention. It’s really a watch two or three times flick. To be honest, I read through the script that was posted online a while back — amazing. Rian has a way with words..

    Hey G, if you’re going to have an affair, good job picking a classy partner.

  5. Bill Crider

    JT says that “the delivery can be missed if you aren’t paying attention.” I’m not sure that’s the whole answer. I really paid attention, and I still had problems. I think it was the sound. A friend who watched it told me that he turned on the sub-titles or something and had much better luck picking things up than I did. I thought I was going deaf.

  6. Jason Summers

    I got myself Brick for Christmas, and it didn’t disappoint. I also got myself Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which I’d seen before, because it is also a smoking-dark bit of tasty noir, and it takes you to where Film lives, lets you see the moldy vomit stains hiding behind the locked doors of those exclusive canyon houses.

    Slicker than Brick, and it cost more, but hey, it’s set in Hollywood, and even their dark side has to be glitzier, the blood darker and more viscous. Downey and Kilmer own these characters – the smalltime loser and gay PI in LA. The twists are dark, the industry is bleak, and the best guys in the room are crooked. Throw in a femme, not quite fatale, but she’s close.

    KKBB, darkly humorous and brilliant, in a different way than Brick, but also a great watch.

  7. JLW

    I generally avoid film these days. Sure, it claims it loves you, but usually the only thing it’s after is your pocketbook. When it whispers in your ear, it usually tells the same old lies it thinks you want to hear. In the passion of union, I’ve always suspected that film was faking orgasm. And in my heart, I’ve always known that if it can, it will seduce you away from what really matters and then leave you flat when you’ve sacrificed everything you’ve got. I’ve seen it happen, oh yes, many times.

    I’m lucky. I was in love with books long before I met film. I already knew that true beauty was more than dust-cover deep when I met it.

    Not that it didn’t get my attention when it sashayed into my office.

    Celluloid was dangerous but fun. Celluloid knew the right restaurants to be seen in and knew when you were watching it walk. Its hair floated with the grace of a gazelle whenever it turned its head. But it’s utterly incapable of caring about anything or anybody for long. It won’t wait for you at home if you’re late. And more often than not, it will seduce your friends behind your back.

    Still, it’s a lot of fun on a date. I’ll check out “Brick”.

    Bill Smith couldn’t afford a 1961 Omega Seamaster. He wouldn’t really care about how fancy or ornate the movement, either, only how accurately it keeps time (and the Omega fits that criterion, at least). His watch is a Hamilton Electric RR Special.

  8. Elaine Flinn

    I’m not a big metaphor fan – but this one, Guyot – was exquisite. And JLW’s wasn’t too shabby either. 🙂

    Alas, I’m past affairs and flings (not that I’ve had any – I was a young bride, okay? And still true blue)- so even though I grew up with great films (I prefer that label too)- I’m still in love with books.

    And Sundance & Butch? One of the very, very best. And for you video fans – try ‘King of Hearts’ with Alan Bates. Oh, and yes – ‘The Magic Christian’ with Peter Sellars.

  9. Mark Terry

    books were the Holly Hunter to film’s Angelina Jolie

    Ah, pleasure to the ear and pleasure to the eyes. I could listen to Holly Hunter read the phone book. And Elasti-Girl! Be still my beating heart.

  10. Rob Gregory Browne

    I just saw BRICK a couple nights ago. At first I was put off by the language, but as I began to fall into rhythm with it, I found myself completely caught up in the story and the wonderful acting, particularly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

  11. Rob Gregory Browne

    And I suppose I should clarify. By language, I wasn’t talking about swearing or foul language, but the particular language these high schoolers spoke, which didn’t always seem to be english…

  12. David J. Montgomery

    Ah, Brick, Barry Eisler’s favorite film. He twisted my arms for weeks until I finally watched it.

    It’s good, but despite all claims to the contrary, it didn’t make my hair grow back. I enjoyed it, but it was also a let-down for me. (Part of my problem was that their knowledge of hardboiled storytelling seems to be based almost entirely on film noir and very little on books.)

    I also had the same problem Bill Crider did, which is that too much of the faux-hardboiled dialogue flew right past my ears. I think it was a combination of low budget sound guys and actors who could quite wrap their lips around what was really arch, trying-too-hard lines.

    Still, it gets a lot of points for trying, and there is definitely something intriguing about it. (Once you get past the whole absurdity of the premise. This is one of those stories that seems to have been made because someone thought “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this” but there was really no reason other than that.)

  13. JLW

    Quoth PG: I am one of those really annoying people who don’t say movies. I say “film.”

    Quoth Evil E: films (I prefer that label too).

    I ain’t even in the biz, but even I know that the correct appellation is neither “movie” nor “film”.

    Which term, incidentally, I generally find a little ostentatious and artsy-fartsy, like calling French fries “pommes frites” or pronouncing English words from the French in French instead of in English–you know what I mean–“Pee-CAWN” for “piquant” instead of PEE-kent, “Pray-LOOD” for “prelude” instead of “PREL-yude”, and my least favorite, “lan-zher-AY” for “lingerie”, which doesn’t make any sense at all, because in French it’s “LANZH-ree”, while in English it’s “LANJ-er-ee” or “LANJ-ree”. But I digress. For some reason PG’s post made me think of Frenchwomen’s undergarments.

    Where was I? Oh, yeah.

    The correct term is “motion picture”.

  14. JLW

    Elaine, macushla, a cinema is a PLACE, not an art form. And in English, it’s pronounced “thee-ATE-er”. (Bear me out on this, Julia.)

    The Oscar®s are awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, not the Academy of FILM Arts and Sciences. I rest my case. Although there is something to be said for “kinematograph”, especially if it features French ladies’ unmentionables.

    Actually, I don’t really care. I’m just being difficult. It’s who I am.

  15. Julia

    “And in English, it’s pronounced ‘thee-ATE-er’. (Bear me out on this, Julia.”

    Actually, James, I prefer “Burlesque.” And I suspect, given your frequent mentioning of French ladies’ pantalettes, you do too.

  16. Elaine Flinn

    Not you Julia – JLW!! And who the hell said you’re behind the times in Maine? Just let me know, okay? I won’t have them on OTB.

    Yes, JLW – you ARE being difficult. But maybe that’s why we love you?

  17. Julia

    Well, you see, I don’t really think we’re behind the times up here in the frozen, frozen north. Why, the Odion’s ad cards say next Saturday’s matinee is in VistaVision!

  18. Barry Eisler

    Ah, Murderati… where the writers aren’t afraid to use awesome sexual metaphors!

    David’s right, I LOVED Brick, but reasonable people can differ on these things. The truth is, I’m not terribly familiar with noir conventions, so what to David might have seemed old hat came across to me as original. But in the end, these things are hard to quantify… the whole thing just cohered beautifully for me. Damn, just talking about it is making me want to see it again…

    See y’all in Seattle this weekend?


  19. David J. Montgomery

    One thing I told Barry, and this probably says something about the film, is that I definitely kept thinking about it for quite a while after I saw it — and this discussion has piqued my interest in perhaps watching it again.

    So there’s definitely something there.

    As for film vs. movie vs. talkie… I usually say film, but then again, I started out as a film critic (whereas “movie critic” just sounds weird).

  20. Pearce Hansen

    BRICK was impressive, to be sure.

    the issues noted about the language, the difficulty in comprehension on the part of the average viewer, have a simple explanation: perhaps in homage, Rian deliberately had his 21st Century teens use the dated patter of THE MALTESE FALCON, THE BIG SLEEP — besides the fact that these are linguistic shenaginas from another time, the juxtaposition may have set up some kind of aural illusion in some viewers, rendering it harder for them to understand.

    as for those that find it hard to believe that adults play so small a part in the story? let’s just say I had no problem with believing it 🙂


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