The Movie Lovers Club: How to Start Your Own Film Group

The Movie Lovers Club: How to Start Your Own Film Group

by Cathleen Rountree

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Large screen TVs and full-line DVD services have liberated movie lovers from fear of parking and stale popcorn. Across the country, movie lovers are staying in and creating their own version of book clubs — but without the homework. The Movie Lovers’ Club — the only guide for movie nights with friends — motivates readers to form their own…  See more details below


Large screen TVs and full-line DVD services have liberated movie lovers from fear of parking and stale popcorn. Across the country, movie lovers are staying in and creating their own version of book clubs — but without the homework. The Movie Lovers’ Club — the only guide for movie nights with friends — motivates readers to form their own Lovers’ Club clubs to explore the more than 100 excellent film suggestions, summaries, critical reviews, and insider anecdotes. Author Cathleen Rountree offers a year’s worth of must-see classic, contemporary, independent, and foreign films and provocative discussion questions to keep the cinematic conversation lively. With everything readers need to know to start a Movie Lovers’ Club, the book’s selections run the gamut and include powerful films such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Henry and June, and Real Women Have Curves. Whether you need advice for a political group, a girls’ night out party, or a band of indie film devotees, movie watching reaches new depths with ideas on where, when, and how to launch a film group.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A novel approach to viewing movies with friends is via a movie club. In this manual, Rountree (The Writer's Mentor: A Guide to Putting Passion on Paper) shows how to set up and maintain such a group and discusses its benefits. She provides tips on how to select members, movie themes, and meeting locations and even suggests snacks to complement the film. Part 2 offers recommendations for four movies a month-classic, contemporary, independent, and foreign-over the course of a year. Summaries, settings, a behind-the-scenes look, and discussion questions are included for each film (their analytical and structured nature, however, may send people home early). This book, though well intentioned, is not likely to inspire one to start or join a movie club; Rountree chooses critically acclaimed movies like Hotel Rwanda and About Schmidt that were not box-office hits. It may be useful to teachers for student groups or to libraries that want to have movie discussions, but most movie fans would have more fun grabbing Roger Ebert's The Great Movies, some friends, and a big bag of popcorn. A minimal purchase at best.-Rosalind Dayen, Broward Cty. South Regional Lib., FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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The Movie Lovers' Club

How to Start Your Own Film Group

By Cathleen Rountree

Inner Ocean Publishing

Copyright © 2006 Cathleen Rountree
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57731-997-9


Welcome to The Movie Lovers' Club

This book is for every movie lover who values compelling films, good friends, and engaging conversations. If you enjoy occasionally inviting friends over for hot fudge brownie sundaes and a movie, creating a movie club that uses this book as your group's guide will heighten your movie-viewing experience. For starters, after the closing credits roll, you'll have an abundance of thought-provoking and entertaining discussion questions to choose from, smoothly navigating you past the same-old "I liked it/didn't like it" post-movie conversation. By the end of each delightful evening, you'll have a deeper understanding of the film, yourself, and your film-watching friends.

In addition, The Movie Lovers' Club also gives you the inside scoop about the films you're watching: pithy quotes from actors, directors, and critics; social and cultural background that directly informs the film; and behind-the-scenes insider information. You'll learn scores of insightful movie facts; for instance, Annie Hall was originally titled Anhedonia, which means the inability to enjoy anything — a fair description of the misanthropic protagonist Alvy Singer, but perhaps not as catchy on a marquee. All of these tidbits will enhance your movie-watching experience and illuminate your after-film discussions.

The Movie Lovers' Club is your ultimate companion and guide, providing everything you need to know to set up and sustain your movie club for years, including tips on selecting members, movies, and munchies.

There's more to be gained from participating in a movie club than just a pleasant diversion (though fun is certainly part of the equation). Movies help us connect and empathize with others, both fellow viewers and movie characters alike. Watching movies together can provide a sense of connection that may be missing from our lives, by presenting shared cultural touchstones. For instance, just the mention of a particular movie, such as Breakfast at Tiffany's, evokes the notion of "small town girl makes good in the big city." And anyone who has seen the film will instantly understand what you're getting at if you say, "I felt like Holly Golightly floating down Fifth Avenue."

During the past 100 years the cinema has both mirrored and shaped our internal and external lives: what we think and feel, how we dress, the cars we drive, to whom we are sexually attracted, and so on. The movies we love and identify with throughout our lives have real power to shape who we are and who we aspire to become. Because films have such a capability to transform us, it's inherently and deeply satisfying to talk with friends and family about how the movies we watch relate to our lives.


Discovering and Enjoying the Multiple Benefits of a Movie Lovers' Club

I started my first movie club in 1994 during a time when I was watching one or two films a day as part of my research for a series of books I was writing about women's lives. I found these films to be a source of inspiration in my work and of enrichment in my life. Although I belonged to two book clubs at the time, I knew of no movie clubs. On a whim, I invited several girlfriends to join me in watching movies about women in various life stages, and within a couple of weeks a dozen of us, ages ranging between 30 and 65, began to meet biweekly. I was immediately able to share my insights with others and benefit from theirs.

The group met at my place, which was small enough that some of us had to sit on the floor on cushions. Still, I had a state-of-the-art (for that time) Sony Trinitron, and as a former pastry chef, I happily provided dessert. The other women alternately supplied refreshments, and we took our treats seriously, deriving great delight in serving a spicy mango tea with a fresh boysenberry tart. Once I even prepared homemade espresso ice cream with chocolate-rum truffles. I know, this sounds like a cross between Big Night and Babette's Feast, but, just as often, I'd serve a cheese board or slices of succulent melon or, the old reliable, hot-buttered popcorn and Cokes. The food, after all, was secondary to the featured event: watching a film with friends. After a few weeks, we began to share recipes and became excited about designing a meal or snack that would perfectly complement the genre, country, or theme of our future films.

We were a sundry assortment of married and single, employed and retired, gay and straight. A few of us still had children at home, and we all shared a combined passion for travel and movies. We called our movie club "In Full Flower: A Closer Look at Women in the Movies," and we met regularly that year. Occasionally a fresh face joined the group and one of them, Katherine, soon became my new best friend.

I compiled a rather exhaustive list of possible film choices, and at each meeting we selected our next feature. The movies spanned from the campy but depressing classic Sunset Boulevard, to the madcap The Summer House, starring, with palpable panache, the éternele Jeanne Moreau. Our first film was the playful Shirley Valentine, about a middle-aged, middle-class British housewife who is so far gone she's begun to talk to walls. But Shirley regains her Aphroditic sensuality on a trip (sans husband) to Greece, where she declares, "Sex for breakfast, sex for dinner, sex for tea, and sex for supper." Now, that's my kind of woman. A few months later, with Shirley in mind, we each created our own dream vacation.

By the end of the year, several of us resolved to continue our movie club, but this time we decided to focus on movies about marriage and committed relationships. Those of us who had existing liaisons invited our partners to join the group. Our motto was based on a line from a Marianne Moore poem: "I wonder what Adam and Eve think of it now?" It was de rigueur to watch Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, but we balanced the torturous with the hilarious by including films like the Tracy/Hepburn gem Adam's Rib, in which Spence and Kate play married lawyers who find themselves on opposite sides of a criminal trial and nearly divorce each other as a result (see July: Independent Spirits). Luckily, love triumphed, and, like the film's characters, we all went home happy that night. During our gatherings, the opportunity to hear the male perspective on issues of gender, marriage, and men's and women's concerns proved fascinating and often enlightening. One newcomer, Brad, the fiancé of my friend Lori, was especially grateful to be part of the movie club because, as he said, "In addition to providing Lori and me a chance to discuss some topics that were important, I also got to meet and make friends with Lori's buddies, and I got to see and appreciate her through their eyes." Needless to say, we were all invited to Brad and Lori's wedding later that year.

This group met at one couple's house, which provided more comfortable accommodations, but, alas, an inferior television, once again proving you don't need the perfect setup to watch quality films. Shifting the theme and the membership revivified our movie club and introduced an entirely new set of benefits: refreshed curiosity and attentiveness, and novel points of view. Although our group dynamics had been transformed, we continued to learn from one another and the films, and to have a grand time in the process.

Since the days of those early movie clubs, I've started or participated in perhaps a dozen others. And I've loved each of them. Several friends who participated in that first one have gone on to organize their own clubs. One even relocated to Paris, where she started a movie club for American expatriates! Movies are the great equalizer, and all anybody needs to start a movie club are twin passions for good movies and conversation with friends.


Building a Momentous and Close-Knit Community

There's something especially rewarding about watching movies with someone and having a quality conversation afterward. A movie club provides more than simple entertainment, it offers a unique venue for starting, building, or strengthening your relationships, along with a chance to get to know yourself and others better.

A Movie Lovers' Club can consist of as few as two people or as many as your living room or community hall will hold. A couple may decide to create a "club" that is really just an excuse for a weekly movie date. Someone visiting family members or friends may decide to take along this book, watch a few of the movies it highlights, and take advantage of the subsequent conversation as an opportunity to reconnect.

You may want to form your Movie Lovers' Club as a way of connecting with a certain demographic. It's fine to limit your group to single people over 50, or women of all ages, or couples in committed relationships — especially if there's a lack of such connections in your life. This is your group, and you can use it to build the type of community you crave most. Some common types of groups are women-only or men-only, singles, couples, or extended families; parents (including new parents); students; teachers; therapists and counselors; religious leaders and congregants; coworkers; sports groups or recreational center members; environmental or political groups; retirement communities; hospitals or health care groups; recovery, hospice, or grief counseling centers; and prison, alcohol, or drug rehab centers.

The purpose of a group is to bring family and friends together or extend your community by making connections with new people. Think in terms of commonalities of interests. There might be people you know through your hobbies, work, congregation, or volunteering, with whom you have tried to get together, but lacked the appropriate occasion. Movie Lovers' Clubs can help fill specific unmet social needs for conversation about relevant issues and simultaneously enhance your developing community. Movie Clubs are also useful models for youth and the elderly — two demographics for whom movies are a natural enticement for engaging in conversation.

Just as we named one of my movie clubs for women the Femme Film Club, you might want to create a fitting name for yours. Deciding on a name for your group may also help maintain cohesion among the members, as well as help decide on which demographic your club will exemplify. You may find just the right adaptation for your club among the following suggestions, but feel free to devise your own. A natural title for a couples gathering, Scenes from Marriages, is, of course, a twist on the Ingmar Bergman film. Or use another movie-related title, such as Single, Multicultural, Female or You Go, Girl: Chutzpah Unlimited, to represent a club for single women. A cluster of therapists could call themselves The Analyze These Bunch. Or The Mall Alternative Crowd could describe a club for teens. The Mentors as Models Club would suit a team of teachers, while one called Mommies Without "Me" Morning, could bring a much-needed few hours of adult companionship to new mothers, as it deflects or alleviates postpartum depression.


Coming Together for Memorable Movie Moments

One reason we watch certain films repeatedly is because they have unforgettable "movie moments" that cause us to hold our breath, laugh aloud, or shed sympathetic tears — reawakening personal recollections and animating our connection to others. For example, no matter how many times we might watch Casablanca, the moment Bogey altruistically sends Bergman to safety on a flight with the husband she doesn't love, we can't help but urgently ask the question, Is he making the right decision or is true love just as worthy of fighting for as world democracy?

Regardless of our answer (and often our answer will change depending on our age and life condition at that particular viewing), we still feel something when he reminds her, "We'll always have Paris." Because so will we. The movies we watch become part of our lives and our memories.

Think I'm overstating the power of these movie moments? Just consider how you feel when you recall some of these most memorable scenes:

* Rhett Butler racing up a double staircase to sweep an unyielding Scarlett O'Hara into his bracing arms.

* The glance between Thelma and Louise on the brink of the Grand Canyon — and the threshold of eternity.

* The inimitable Bette Davis in All About Eve, telling everyone within earshot at her party to "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

* A youthful Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in Goddard's A bout de soufflé/Breathless driving their boat of an American convertible to an inevitable disaster.

* Carrie, the prom queen, dripping with pig's blood and ready to inflict carnage on her classmates in the high school gym.

* Russell Crowe in the middle of the gladiators' coliseum: "Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained?" (Uh, yeah.)

* Elevator sex in Fatal Attraction.

* Juliette Binoche, in the English Patient, swaying on a suspended rope as she views, by the light of lit flares, Renaissance frescoes on the ceiling of a Tuscan church.

* Fireworks on the Riviera coinciding with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant's first kiss in To Catch a Thief.

As intoxicating as these movie moments are when you're watching them alone, there's nothing like sharing these unforgettable scenes with others, especially when you go over them in delicious detail after the closing credits. A postmovie conversation, particularly with a group of intriguing people, can be alternately dynamic, heated, provocative, and illuminating.

A Movie Lovers' Club is the perfect setup for pure pleasure: watching terrific films in the company of other film lovers and eating delicious food. You get to enjoy rich and lively conversations that probe the puzzles of plot, even as you connect cinematic characters' experiences to your own. You get a unique opportunity to go deeper into the meaning of movies, learning about life while having a great time socializing. Pauline Kael, arguably the greatest film critic of all time, appreciated the fact that sharing the "giddy, high excitement you feel" about movies is all you need to create and cement friendships. Which is why you may want to consider starting a movie club of your own, ASAP.


Starting Your First (or Fifth) Movie Lovers' Club

Choosing the Theme

With increasing frequency movie groups are forming, in large cities or provincial towns and villages. One such group decided to focus on American films of the 1970s. Their list included, Klute, with Jane Fonda; Coppola's Apocalypse Now; Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw in The Getaway; Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein; and one of the very first Hollywood blockbusters, Star Wars. Another movie club consisting of a group of women have been meeting monthly for five years and focus their group solely on documentary films — from Surfing for Life to Waco: The Rules of Engagement to The Life and Times of Harvey Milk.

The Movie Lovers' Club offers various ways to approach the theme of your own film group: by category (choosing to watch only classic, contemporary, independent, or foreign films every month for a year), by monthly theme (selecting one of the four films that interests you most that month, regardless of category), or simply by whichever of the four dozen films highlighted in this book suits your fancy for each particular gathering.

Whatever time of year you start your club or however you choose to use the films in this book, there are abundant film suggestions waiting for you. Depending on how often your group meets (monthly, biweekly, or weekly), there are enough movies and discussion topics for one to four years. However you approach it, your movie group is bound to be a hugely entertaining and enlightening experience.

Choosing Members

So how do you go about finding members? First, decide what you are looking for in terms of tone: Do you want light, fun evenings that focus just as much on the food as the movies? Do you want to intellectually delve into the political, social, or psychological aspects of the film? Do you want to come together with others who use movies as a venue for self-reflection and personal growth? Being clear about what you want will help immensely when inviting or screening potential members.


Excerpted from The Movie Lovers' Club by Cathleen Rountree. Copyright © 2006 Cathleen Rountree. Excerpted by permission of Inner Ocean Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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