Pajiba's Guide to Third-Date Flicks -- 2009 Edition
Never underestimate the importance of third dates, folks. Third dates are where long-term determinations are made, where a relationship crystallizes, where you find out if the guy with perfectly mussed hair and a slobber-free kissing ability actually has something under the hood. While first dates test physical attraction, and second dates allow you, in varying degrees, to act upon that attraction -- despite the prevalence of Social Media -- it is still the third date where actual personalities are revealed, where you get to really know one another beyond Facebook and Twitter updates. While first and second dates generally take place in public -- restaurants, bars, movie theaters, or (for the luckier) park benches after last call -- third dates tend to take shape on living-room couches, accompanied by light spirits, take-out, and DVDs.
Indeed, in many relationships, the figurative "third date" is where each partner presents his or her defining movie, the one film that epitomizes your personality -- the piece of pop culture you put out there to reveal your essence, man. Back in the '60s and '70s, I suspect these dates took place in front of a record player, where songs were traded back and forth and couples quickly learned that Bob Dylan and Donna Summer could not co-exist. Today, in a technological world replete with rewind, pause, and DVD bonus features, it is the couch (or futon) where these defining moments are made, and where Michael Bay can ruin a relationship or Michel Gondry can make it.
So, here I offer you a handy-dandy guide to third-date movies, and what they mean to the future of your relationships.
The Rain on My Car is a Baptism, the New Me, Ice Man, Power Lloyd, My Assault on the World Begins Now: A guy can almost never go wrong with pre-2001 John Cusack -- Say Anything or High Fidelity says sensitive yet masculine, culturally aware yet unpretentious, and Fidelity's credit-rolling Stevie Wonder number, "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" provides the ideal segue from love seat to fold-out couch. Grosse Pointe Blanke also offers a subversive twist to the Cusack canon, suggesting all of the above, but with some added baggage: He's cool, musically inclined, but his relationships inexplicably fall apart under the weight of his past. If he offers you Shakabuku, however, politely decline and make your excuses. Also, be wary of any man who chooses any of Cusack's post High Fidelity movies -- it means he's never seen a movie before 2001, and doesn't know any better. While he's checking FB updates on his iPhone, slip out the back.
What if Andy Gets Another Dinosaur? I Don't Think I Can Take that Kind of Rejection: If she presents anything animated (Pixar or Disney 2-D), you're looking for a world of hurt; you may as well resolve now to condom-littered doormat status. A woman who offers up Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Toy Story, or Ratatouille is either hopelessly naïve or more likely disguising her true nymphomaniacal nature, and she's probably going to end up sleeping with your best friend, your roommate, and the guy down the street before your relationship ultimately crumbles while the two of you are stuck in the same apartment trying to screw your way through all of your acquaintances. It's an ugly scene, folks. And if you go through it, Lady and the Tramp will never be the same. There is one exception: Iron Giant. If she pops that into the DVD player, attempt to reschedule for another night, go home and watch it four times, and get all the tears out of your system before seeing her again. Sobbing over a cartoon with voice work by Jennifer Aniston and Vin Diesel doesn't necessarily create the best impression.
You Rush a Miracle Man, You Get Rotten Miracles: Conversely, if your potential girlfriend pops in Sleepless with Seattle, You've Got Mail, The Princess Bride, or He's Just Not that Into You, she's not only kind of bland, but she's angling for a ring. Not only does she have a hankering for a long-term commitment, but she's got ridiculously high hopes for your relationship, and you may as well give it up now, man, cause all the Cusackian affectations in the world won't live up to her lofty expectations. Still, all is not lost -- if Sally from JDate hooks up with a Capra Guy (discussed below), there is hope yet.
I am the Muffin: If either partner sticks in Truffaut, David Lynch, Von Trier, Bertolucci, Malick, Warner Herzog, or anyone else of their ilk, someone is already trying too hard to impress -- if he/she is actually an intellectual heavyweight, there is no need to bother with Le Crime de Monsieur Lange unless he/she is out to prove something or he/she is an asshole movie critic (or film student) and, trust me, you don't want to go there. Roman Polanski, Jean-Luc Godard, foreign films, and documentaries might suggest a high level of intelligence, but they're not good third-date choices unless you're trying to scare away your Ashton Kutcher types or sleep with one of your grad students, who feign interest to procure an A in your class. Don't get me wrong: There is something to be said for a cerebral mate, but anyone who discusses auteur theories on a third date probably doesn't wash his or her hair very often and will likely end up trying to talk you into an "open relationship" at some point. If that's your bag, more power to you.
I am Iron Man: If he brings over Iron Man, The Dark Knight or one of the Bourne flicks, he's probably not going to be a keeper, ladies. He's got solid taste in action films, but he's not looking for anything serious. However, he probably is good for a quick fuck or three -- any man with enough confidence to sit through two hours of Robert Downey, Jr. Matt Damon, or Christian Bale and still think he's going to get laid is a man with one giant doughnut dick. Jump on that and ride it for all it's worth.
Now that I've Met You, Would You Object to Never Seeing Me Again?: Anything written or directed by Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, Rian Johnson, David O. Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson, or Charlie Kaufman are risky propositions, with equal powers to alienate or ingratiate. Indeed, I would suggest that all of the above filmmakers provide an easy means to screen out potential mates. If you pop in Magnolia and your date is still curled up next to you after frogs have fallen from the sky, you've found your soul mate. If, however, your date fell asleep halfway through The Royal Tenenbaums or Brick, I'd suggest gnawing off your arm and making for the door before he/she wakes up hoping to watch a Eddie Murphy or Katherine Heigl flick.
Wow! You're Much Prettier than Me!: If he brings over any of the Apatow films -- 40-Year Old Virgin, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad or, especially, Knocked Up -- then what he's basically saying is this: "Accept me from what I am. I am never going to improve myself; I am always going to wear T-shirts with swear words on them; I will smoke pot with our child; and I hope you don't mind supporting my career, which basically amounts to sitting in my underwear and surfing the Internet." In other words, forget compromise in the relationship. You're going to have to move toward his direction, which will mean washing dishes and checking to ensure the toilet seat is up. And no: He will not shave.
Wow. Look at Me. I'm Not Even Listening to a Word You're Saying: If you spend your weekends playing role-playing games or attending comic conventions, let's just be honest, OK: You probably don't actually have a date. But let's say, by some unforeseen miracle, you're lucky enough -- with some persistence -- to trick Shelly in accounting into coming over to watch a few films with you so long as you promise to sit across the room. OK. First of all: Take a shower. Second, don't pull out the obvious. The Lord of the Rings and Matrix trilogies are only going to perpetuate the stereotype, and nine hours of hobbits isn't going to will your date into submission. If you must present that side of yourself, at least rent American Splendor or Ghost World, which suggest a certain amount of geeky self-awareness that can be attractive to the right gal. And listen. OK. Listen hard. Do not, under any circumstances, stick Crumb into your DVD player. That ain't cool, man. Not cool.
Neo-Maxie-Zoom-Dweebie: The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Willow, or Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Awwwww. Your date is sick and you're taking care. That's sweet.
My mouth's bleeding, Burt! My mouth's bleeding!: There is a lot to be said for Frank Capra flicks -- and you could do a helluva lot worse than a guy who presents It's a Wonderful Life or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on the third date (I'd argue that To Kill a Mockingbird and, more recently, The Majestic also falls into this category). These films suggest a sweet, relatively intelligent guy with his head on his shoulders who works in middle management and will make a helluva Dad someday. But beyond that silver lining is a cloud that's about to burst wide open -- this fella is a weeper, ladies, and that shoulder of yours is gonna get a lot of company in the near future. A Capra guy is thin-skinned as hell; and while a man who cries occasionally -- when a child is born, while he's offering up his vows, or when the Red Sox win the World Series -- makes an ideal husband or boyfriend, if he cries at the "beauty of it all," or every time Jeff Buckley comes on the goddamn radio, you've got yourself a Dickens character.
Well, color me happy! There's a sofa in here for two!: If she drags out anything starring Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Aniston, or Kate Hudson, and he counters with Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, or Will Ferrell -- God bless the two of you, you'll be obliviously happy together for the rest of your lives and neither one of you will ever have to worry your pretty little head about what's playing at the local indie theater.
You Got to Go through a Lot of Sex to be Ready for Anti-Sex: If she inserts any of the following movies into the DVD player on a third date, you'd best beat a path to a well-lit public place, because you've got yourself a lady with some deep-seated anger-issues that probably have nothing to do with you: The First Wives Club, Fatal Attraction, I Shot Andy Warhol, Sleeping with the Enemy, Single White Female, Thelma and Louise, Kill Bill, or any other film in which the female protagonist wields a butcher knife. If you decide to stick around, however, do note that -- if you can take it -- the sex is going to blow your mind.
She's Either a Complete Wack Job or The Woman of Your Dreams: Annie Hall.
I'm Sorry, but I Take Little Pleasure in a Ball: If, on a third date, your girlfriend pulls out anything from Merchant Ivory Productions (Howard's End, The Remains of the Day), anything adapted from a Jane Austen novel, or almost any movie starring Colin Firth, there is probably nothing wrong with her. She's smart, independent, and literate. In fact, if she's hot enough, spare her feelings and try to stay awake for God's sake. If, on the other hand, you're a guy who actually finds yourself enjoying any of the aforementioned films, you might consider reexamining your heterosexuality and think twice before popping in Definitely, Maybe.
Shut Up and Deal: If you both show up carrying a copy of Billy Wilder's The Apartment, you'll never have to endure a third date again.
I mean, sooner or later, you gotta find out what it's really like to be black. If he brings out Crash, Babel, Shakespeare in Love or any other of a number of films with intersecting plotlines, then he's worse than even a dumbass. A great dumbass will own his stupidity. This guy is a dumbass who wants you to think he's intelligent. He's trying really hard, but unless you can get past the fact that he frequently uses words that he doesn't know the meaning to and the fact that he will never admit he's wrong, then you need to move on along. ,
It's Not Personal, Sonny. It's Strictly Business: There is no sense in dragging out anything directed by Spielberg, Zemeckis, Coppola, Scorsese, Ron Howard, Hitchcock, or Tarantino -- they've all made decent films, but even their best work is largely impersonal. They can make great sixth- or seventh-date films but, on a third date, these just don't push the relationship forward in any meaningful way. In dating terms, they're like a great Valentine's Cards without an inscription. It's tantamount to saying, "I like long walks with my dog on the beach" -- that may be true, but seriously, who cares?
They Will Never Take Our Freedom!: You won't learn a lot about a person's personality if they crack out Braveheart, Shawshank Redemption, or Zodiac, but if you make it through the entire film with your clothes still on, then there's seriously something wrong with your sexual chemistry.
Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!: I know, it's obvious as hell, but if your boyfriend brings to his third date Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, Rudy, The Natural, Miracle, Seabiscuit, Friday Night Lights, or even Rocky, he's probably well-intentioned enough, but a bit thick-headed. Personally, I'm a sucker for all of them, but they're not flicks I'm going to bring along to create an impression about myself. The message they send is clear: "I love you, honey. Just don't go into labor on football Sunday, all right?" Likewise, if your girlfriend offers up Bend it Like Beckham or really any of the above movies, she's delivering a strong response: "I don't care how much you love the fucking Yankees -- our children are going to be Red Sox fans and, if you can't handle that, you'd best look elsewhere."
Damn them! Damn them all to hell!: If he brings The Invasion, Friday the 13th, City of Angels, Prom Night, Planet of the Apes or The Longest Yard, and they're not the original versions, wait until he's eating something, then punch him in the neck and hope he chokes to death. Then wipe away your fingerprints and get the hell out of there.
I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos." : If either he brings either a Mel Brooks, Monty Python, or a Coen Brothers movies (particularly The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, The Holy Grail or Blazing Saddles), you've got yourself someone with a great sense of humor who is, at least, adequate in the bunk. However, you need to be a fairly tolerant person, because he's the kind of guy who quotes movies CONSTANTLY. He works Lebowski references into every other conversation; don't chew gum around her unless you want to be asked if you have enough for everyone; and be prepared: He or she probably has an entire arsenal of "The Simpsons" quotes at the ready.
I am Jack's Smirking Revenge: If he brings over Fight Club, 300 or The Lost Boys, congratulations, you're in a gay male relationship. Now, it's time to decide who's the pitcher and who's the catcher.
It's Cold ... So Cold: Here's a tip for you, guys. If she pulls out Titanic ,Legends of the Fall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or The Notebook, she may fall madly in love with you but, in the end, let's just be honest: you'd be of more use to her dead than alive. She wants a great love story, a passionate romance, and then she wants you to keel over prematurely so she can spend the rest of her days wrapped in Kleenex, reminiscing about the greatest love she's ever known while reading Mary Higgins Clark novels. If you stick around, though, I'd suggest not going off to war or taking any long boat trips. That's all I'm saying.
What's the Point? They're All the Same: Some Stupid Killer Stalking Some Big-Breasted Girl Who Can't Act Who is Always Running Up the Stairs When She Should be Running Out the Front Door: If, on a third date, a guy pops in any horror movie (except maybe Donnie Darko), he only wants to get into your skivvies. Horror movies say absolutely nothing about a man's personality, except that he hopes he can scare the bejesus out of you so he can stay the night and "protect" you from Freddy, Jason, or the Blair Witch. It's stupid. It's insulting. And it wrecks the entire third-date premise. It also implies that you're dating a dumbass who'd presume that you're not only easily frightened but willing to put out under the threat of an axe-murderer barging into your house at any moment.
That ain't no etch-a-sketch. This is one doodle that can't be un-did, homeskillet: If either one of you brings Juno, Garden State or Napoleon Dynamite, you're going to fall madly, passionately in love with each other. Unfortunately, three weeks later, you'll be completely sick of each other. But don't despair: You'll reconnect two years later and ultimately end up together.
I am a Golden God! Since you've indulged me so far, allow me to introduce my personal recommendation. First off, if you're me, and she shows up with Harold and Maude, you're probably going to end up happily married someday, but you're going to have to endure a whole helluva lot of Cat Stevens before the man calls you upstairs to tend to the clouds. And while I might counter with one of the Cusack flicks above, if I see true long-term viability to the relationship, there is no better third-date film than Almost Famous. It's got it all, y'all. It's a slightly tipsy, 2 a.m.-phone-call kind of movie that introduces the best musical moment in cinematic history, the "Tiny Dancer" bus scene that will buckle your knees, make the hair on your arms salute the gods, and then detonate inside you. Almost Famous harkens back to a time when music offered salvation instead of an insipid avenue to that faux-hipster vibe and, if you can't find some sort of romantic symbiosis when Phillip Seymour Hoffmann pronounces that "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone when you're uncool," then you don't belong together. Hell, you may as well go back to watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns with your roommate and discussing the secrets to crushing Schlitz cans into your forehead, because that's where you're going to be until you find a woman that not only loves 27 Dresses but has an unironic fondness for Weekend at Bernie's.