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Sir Reginald Von Ross, III Esq.

In a social setting the other afternoon, I was introduced to someone as a “film historian”. I was taken a little aback by it, not because I was offended by the term, but because no one has ever used that term in referring to my palpable love of movies. When being introduced in a social setting to people, not everyone feels a need to comment on my love of film. If they do, it's usually something like “Andy's a big movie lover” or the variation of “Andy's really passionate about movies”. Sometimes it's not quite as nicely put as that, “Andy's invested way too much time and money into a home video library that no one gives a damn about” or “Andy's spends a lot of time watching movies, because trying to have a conversation with a woman causes him to curl up into a ball, much like an armadillo.” Yet, they wonder why I never came back to any of their parties.

If it even comes up at all in polite conversation, I'll happily refer to myself as a “movie geek”. That's a term I'm completely comfortable with. Though flattering to be called a “film historian”, I don't think that really applies to me. A very dear friend of mine is a legit historian. As in, going after her PhD in American History historian. Compared to her, I'm like a guy in the stands at a junior league football game saying “I tell you what. That Hitchcock fellow sure made some purdy pictures!” I'm a movie lover, and I spend a lot of time watching, reading, and just enjoying movies. I don't like every movie, and I have certain styles of film I'm more fond of, but I don't believe any of this necessarily makes me a “film historian”.

To say that I'm a “film historian” makes it sound like I've written a 300 page essay on the works of Ingmar Bergman, while holding vigil beside the original negative of Gone With The Wind down in the Kansas salt mine it is stored in. I do think you can totally over analyze a movie, and in the process invent all kinds of crazy ideas about how the film was shot that way. “Film Historian” Ross would most likely spend a great deal of time sitting around a park bench thinking to himself “But why shoot the movie in color? Why so bright a color? Why an apple pie?” and thus my slow dicent into madness would begin.

Sometimes a shot in a movie is just done because the director though it would look nice. A shot of a big, bright moon behind a bridge over a small river isn't symbolic of our quest to reach the stars. It's just there because someone most likely remarked “Boy, the moon sure does look nice over the river like that, let's get it on film!” But what if I am a film historian, and I just don't know it because my ideas of what a film historian are may be more stuffy than they have to be? I'd consider TCM host Robert Osborne to be a film historian, and no one has chronicled the history of the Academy Awards better. Yet he isn't stuffy at all.

Maybe we're all historians about something, and we just don't realize it. To be a historian means you love that subject, and are passionate about sharing it with others. Which is just the same as geekdom, really. One of my oldest friends in the world knows more about cars, and the American auto industry than I ever will. Does that make him a car historian? But I suppose we use the term historian because, let's face it, it sounds better than saying “car geek”. You'd never be watching a Ken Burns documentary on PBS, and see them interviewing someone labeled as “civil war nerd”, would you?

“Andy Ross: Film Historian”? Maybe, for the time I'll just keep calling myself a movie geek, and start giving a master class on Hitchcock behind the Pal's near ETSU. Maybe you geek out/historian out on something of your own? There's nice spots behind the Wendy's near ETSU for a class or two.


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