So you have a crush and you've been on a couple of dates and things are going pretty well! Hurray! But don't pop the bubbly just yet. There's still one ritual left before you can do cute stuff like bake surprise cakes for each other or go to yoga together: the viewing of the "gauge" film. You know, that lazy afternoon when you make your new love watch something really important to you, partly because you want to share things that you love with them, but mostly because you need to judge whether they're worth your time by their reaction to it. We asked our writers to share their deal-breaker films. What follows is their answers:
Laura Schadler: Il Deserto Rosso and The Fast and The Furious
The aesthetic sensibilities of potential suitors has always been high on my list when determining compatibility. By no means does someone need to share my exact tastes (I prefer they don’t), but they need to demonstrate a level of coolness, intelligence, obscurity and nuance which leads me to, at times, suspect they might be cooler, smarter or more obscure and nuanced than me. That way talking to them is fun, unexpected and inspiring. I’ve had many a debate about this, with those who suggest that true love doesn’t necessarily have to do with what music/movies/books someone likes. But I kind of think it does. Those things are indicators of how someone sees, interacts with and contemplates the world around them. It’s actually a profound gauge of who they are and what they value, not just a superficial judgment of what they like.
That being said, a mix of high/low is most important for me. I don’t want to be with someone who is all artsy snob or all trashy idiocy, but am hopelessly drawn to someone who is an eclectic combo of snobby and trashy. And a middle of the road guy is definitely a deal breaker.
My true love is someone who likes both Antonioni’s Il Deserto Rosso and the Fast and the Furious franchise, who wants to talk about Jonas Mekas and Jason Bourne. My dream boy is unpredictable, irreverent, informed and engaged. Bonus points if we both don’t like something that everyone else seems to like a lot (ex: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Beasts of the Southern Wild) because it’s nice to sit on the couch and make fun of things together.
Emmanuel Hapsis: The Sound of Music
There are areas in your life where compromise is important. Choosing the person you want to kiss up on is not one of them. My deal breakers come in many forms. For example: Is Sporty Spice his favorite? Swoon. Is he a Virgo? Get away from me. You know, rational markers like that. This qualification process extends to movies too. While it's important for my soul mate to be able to quote lines from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Grey Gardens and Clueless, the movie that really gets to the heart of the matter is The Sound of Music. Several tests lie within. Here are some of them:
Must know at least 85% of the words.
Must indulge me in ranking the Von Trapp children in order of preference (Brigitta must be first or second, Louisa must be last).
Must be offended by the most anti-feminist song to ever exist, "16 Going on 17."
Must look up the shooting location and seriously consider taking me there.
Must consider making tanks and cut-offs out of curtains for at least 30 seconds.
Must not complain about how long the movie is.
Must complain about how short the movie is.
Note: one may fail one or two of these tests, if he resembles River Phoenix or Kurt Cobain in any way.
Lizzy Acker: 10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things I Hate About You is not generally considered high art or the kind of thing you would use to judge the quality of a human being. It is, of course, a hilarious and ridiculous comedy based on SHAKESPEARE, set in the Pacific Northwest (my homeland) and starring the man of my dreams, Heath Ledger (RIP), which are all things a person I plan on getting naked with should value but isn’t necessarily required to love. However, there are two reasons any potential partner of mine should appreciate this movie.
One: anyone who “doesn’t get it” or pretends to think it’s stupid is either way too serious or way too old for me. Both are deal breakers I might be blind to if a person is cute or complimentary enough, without the help of this movie. Two: at a crucial moment, someone says to Heath, about his true love and what he must do to win her back: “You embarrassed the girl. Sacrifice yourself on the altar of dignity and even the score.”
I have embarrassed myself for love over and over again and I am still waiting for someone to get up on the bleachers and sing me a classic love song and even the score. Anyone who wants to marry me (because, let’s face it, I am too much of a romantic to go on useless dates; it’s either true love or nothing at all) has to be ready to absolutely humiliate themselves to prove they care, at least once and preferably to music.
Gina Scialabba: The Godfather
If you don’t get The Godfather Part I and Part II, you don’t get me. Literally and figuratively. The tale of the rise and fall of the Corleone crime family has mesmerized audiences for years. More importantly, it has mesmerized me. Any potential partner who wants to get past the third date should study up on the history and lore of this crime drama. Expect a pop quiz.
The story is classic: the rise of a chosen son to save the family. It’s also addictively quotable: “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.” And who can forget, "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." Genius. The acting beats out any modern film: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton and James Caan. (Bonus points to any potential date who has actually read the novel by Mario Puzo). It is a bit long at 175 minutes, but, if you can sit through the movie (over and over again), you possess a rare and valuable character trait: concentration (and stellar taste in movies).
So, if my potential partner has 1.) never seen The Godfather, 2.) never heard of The Godfather, 3.) or dislikes The Godfather, in the words of Michael Corleone to his brother Fredo in Godfather Part II, “You’re nothing to me now."
Natalie Grace Sweet: Cry-Baby
What can I say, I'm a sucker for a classic love story, the weirder the better. Therefore, John Waters' masterpiece Cry-Baby wets my whistle every damn time. While most girls go gaga over Johnny Depp, I prefer to leave my heart with Cry-Baby Walker, the leather-jacket clad bad boy with a heart of gold. This film has everything I need for a rip-roaring good time: '50s rock 'n' roll, young love, vintage cars, threats of Juvenile Delinquency, and Iggy Pop in a washtub. It gets better. It's also a musical.
Cry-Baby delivers a quirky, campy rendition of the "star crossed lover" genre in perfect John Waters fashion. Naturally, it takes place in a romanticized version of the olden days; a time when people still solved their problems through song and flawless choreography, and the bad boy gets the good girl gone bad. I love it when weirdness wins out over squares! Johnny Depp's Elvis-like appearance and sound certainly don't hurt, either. It's all just so romantic. Still not convinced? Traci Lords is in it. So is Rikki Lake, when she's still fat. And there's a character called Hatchet Face. It's awesome. Seriously, it's awesome. But the point is this, I love this movie. If you don't at least like it, I'm not sure I'll ever understand you, nor you me.
Tony Bravo: Boom!
When two boys are dating and they really, really like each other and take all the proper precautions...they should watch Tennessee Williams movies together. For me, the ultimate Tennessee Williams movie is not A Streetcar Named Desire or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: it's Josey's Losey's 1968 art film from beyond Boom! (the exclamation is in the title, seriously) adapted for the screen by Tennessee from his play The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. The man had a way with a title.
How does one introduce Boom! to the non-initiated? It's John Waters' favorite film: so if you're the kind of guy I like to date, that's already a ringing endorsement.
Boom! tells the story of Flora "Sissy" Goforth (Elizabeth Taylor, at the height of her supernatural beauty and the hysterical peak of her talent), the richest woman in the world with the best name EVER. Sissy lives on her own private island (a modernist setting art directed within an inch of its life) where she's perpetually drinking champagne from Borgia goblets, getting injections ("Hot sun, cool breeze, white horse on the sea, and a big shot of vitamin B in me!"), dictating her memoirs, bossing around the little person with a whip she keeps on staff (the great Michael Dunn) and wearing untold millions of dollars worth of jewelry. So, basically, she has my life.
One day, a visitor arrives on the island, Chris Flanders (golden-voiced Richard Burton, Taylor's husband at the time), a.k.a. Angelo della Morte. As you may have guessed from his moniker, he may or may not be the Angel of Death; that's the kind of film we're talking about. Add to the mix Noel Coward as "The Witch of Capri" (the part was originally offered to Katharine Hepburn who refused so, clearly, if you can't get her, by all means, the next logical choice is Noel Coward), some truly unbelievable wardrobe choices (exclusively white 1960s haute couture for Taylor, a Samurai robe and sword for Burton), and some of the strangest and most poetic dialogue ever written.
Like caviar, Oceanic art and Anne Sexton poetry, Boom! is an acquired taste, but it's quite possible that so am I. For a man to get me, he has to get Boom! in all its surreal, elegant, vulgar, brilliant, ambitious glory. As Burton says to Taylor, "Boom! The shock of each moment of still being alive!" Coincidentally, more than one man has said that to me, but never before the third date.