THE FILM BUFF SCALE

by Lovell Mahan-Moutaw
and Mark Ashley

BUFF LEVEL 0 (Better known as "Pseudo-Buff")

Thinks Armageddon is "cool" and uses such words to describe it (also possible: "awesome"). Armageddon is only movie Buff Level 0 saw that year. These are not mutually exclusive. There is no and/or. Knows only that Bruce Willis is in it and "that guy who went to rehab."

Other scenarios include: Scenario 1: Thought Happy Gilmore was comedic brilliance. "That guy from SNL is COOL!" Scenario 2: Thought Patch Adams was a delight. "Robin Williams is THE BEST dramatic actor!" Scenario 3: Thought Kate & Leopold was the best romantic comedy in years. "Meg Ryan is SOOO cute." Again, only one film seen in a 12-month period. Naturally does not watch films on television or movie channels as would possibly interfere with episodes of Friends (both first and re-run) or sporting events. Nevertheless, films they like, they watch (on video) over and over and over again until they can quote them.

Thinks Tom Hanks is some highbrow actor, thinks Michael J. Fox is some sitcom star, although hasn't been for quite some time. Thinks Steven Seagal is God; has never heard of George Lucas. Pervs on Pamela Anderson or Jean-Claude Van Damme. Quote factor gives them the false sense that they have reached a Buff Level, but really have not. Bores people quoting Adam Sandler. Goes to big cinema in gangs of no less than ten; the most important factor is Pepsi vs.Coke. Analysis Level = 0, as they see movie, make comment, and then move on.

BUFF LEVEL 1

Casual Film Watcher, and also watches films on television (but not HBO, Showtime and the like) and thinks they're not missing anything with editing. Feels they have seen "the real thing," or cares little of what "the real thing" is. Goes to theater three to five times a year - only mega-multi-plex that is close to home. They have no idea of the existence of any other theaters. May: Talk during movies; slurp beverage or unwrap candies during movies; put their feet on back of occupied chair in front of them; the like. Real Buffs (Levels 4 through 10) hate Buff Level 1 and think they are worse than Pseudo-Buffs (Real Buffs actually have no problems with Pseudo-Buffs).

Cares little, if nothing, for sound quality, theater size or general comfort of theater. Thinks Tom Hanks was great in Bachelor Party, thinks Michael J Fox was great in Teen Wolf. Thinks Jim Carrey is God, has heard of George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg but gets them mixed up. Pervs on Katie Holmes and Keanu Reeves. Bores people quoting Forrest Gump. Goes to big cinema in gangs of no less than five, realizes that Coke causes visits to bathroom, and judges cinema based on the popcorn. Analysis Level = 0, as they see movie and then tend to get in fight with neighbor in theater who takes the opportunity after the film to tell them how rude they were.

BUFF LEVEL 2

Goes to theater five to seven times a year. Rents at least twice a year, if not more. May talk, etc., during film, but will shut up without a fight when someone tells them to "Shut your fucking trap." Says things like, "Hey, let's go see a movie," as if that isn't the first thing they would think of to occupy time (any time, not just open time). Also devotees to local multi-mega-plex; may or may not know of existence of other theaters. Cares little or nothing for sound quality, theater size or general comfort of theater.

Thinks Hanks was great in Forrest Gump, Fox good in Stuart Little. Thinks Lucas is God, loves Jim Carrey, and is vaguely aware of the Farrelly brothers. Pervs on Meg Ryan or Brendan Fraser. Bores people quoting Star Wars. Goes to big cinema in couples; most important factor is seating. Analysis Level = 1, as may have some comparative theories and even some interest deepening their understanding.

BUFF LEVEL 3

Goes to theater seven to eight times a year. Rents at least three films, if not more. Tends to be the most annoying Buff Level, as they feel they know everything about movies and can talk about them forever (but nothing substantive, instead saying things such as, "Did you get a load of Kate Winslet's breasts [snigger]?" or falsities such as "Wasn't Dustin Hoffman great as Michael Corleone? I think he nailed it.") In other words, knows enough to be dangerous, but not enough to know anything really. May know the location of more than one theater. Still only goes to the mega-plexes. Cares a great deal about sound quality, theater size or general comfort, as it has a Complaint Possibility Factor of 12.

Will kill anyone who says Hanks wasn't superb in Sleepless in Seattle, or Fox the same in Back to the Future. Thinks that Adam Sandler is God; wants to be the Farrelly brothers (because they wish they could have thought up that sperm-in-the-hair joke); never heard of Woody Allen. Pervs on Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller. Bores people quoting Me, Myself and Irene. Goes to big cinema in couples; most important factor is screen size. Analysis Level is off the charts, but mostly crap. Little Known Fact: One eighth of murders are actually Buff Levels 8-10s killing Buff Level 3s.

BUFF LEVEL 4

Begins the levels known as "Real Buffs." Goes to eight to twelve films a year, and rents more than five. Knows etiquette of theater, but will talk on occasion. Has more than one "regular" cinema (this is assuming that Buff Level 4 has more than one theater from which to choose - if not, they are in their video store a lot). Buff Level 4 tends to know a number of actors, and may even know some directors, but not many. They also know what an art house is. They have seen three or more foreign films in their lives. May or may not have seen Citizen Kane. Subconsciously note sound quality, theater size or general comfort.

Hanks appreciation in Apollo 13, Fox in Casualties of War. Thinks the Farrelly brothers are God, has heard of Woody Allen but only because of the scandal, think Hitchcock was famous for Psycho and his TV series. Pervs on Jennifer Anniston or Brad Pitt. Bores people quoting This is Spinal Tap. Goes to big cinema in couples; most important factor is sound - must be ear bleedingly loud. Analysis Level waivers between 1-4 depending on film...however, they DO like to talk about movies after they leave the theater.

BUFF LEVEL 5

Goes to more than twelve films a year and is a regular renter. Understands movie-going etiquette, but will still talk on occasion. Knows most of theaters in city (or town or other towns close by). Has been to an art house, possibly on more than one occasion. Knows most of the actors, and has a proficiency level of 2-3 in Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. Tends to know the more famous directors such as Spielberg, Coppola, Hitchcock and Scorsese, although hasn't seen all of their works (or even close). Sound quality, etc., is a given in importance from Buff Level 5 up. May or may not have seen Citizen Kane. Has seen more than five foreign films and more than five films older than 1960 (not including It's a Wonderful Life).

Feels Hanks did good work in Philadelphia, Fox the same in The Hard Way. Thinks that Kevin Spacey is God, has heard of Woody Allen but gets him confused with Dustin Hoffman, thinks that Hitchcock was Norman Bates in Psycho, as they know of Hitch's penchant for cameos. Pervs on Renee Zellweger or Johnny Depp. Bores people quoting Psycho. Goes to big or medium cinema in couples; factors are screen and sound quality. Analysis level waivers between 2-5 depending on film.

BUFF LEVEL 6

Goes to 15 or more films a year and is a regular renter. Understands theater etiquette, but will still talk on occasion. Considers themselves a "regular" at several theaters, and has more than a general sense of which theaters within the multi-plex that they like. Knows most actors, some directors; may know writers, but only when they are writer/directors. Has at least one video guide in house (mainly to play the drinking game where you read the synopsis and your mates need to guess which movie it is). Has at least one art house they like, but is not a regular art-movie-goer. Has definitely seen Citizen Kane. Has seen a number of foreign and classic films.

Hanks was worthwhile in Saving Private Ryan, Fox kicked ass in The Frighteners. Thinks that Speilberg is God, doesn't like Woody Allen, doesn't get Robert De Niro but liked Meet the Parents. Pervs on Christina Ricci or Wes Bentley. Bores people quoting Apocalypse Now. Goes to medium cinema in couples, most important factor is lack of Level 0 film goers. Analysis level waivers between 3-6 depending on film.

BUFF LEVEL 7

Considered by Pseudo-Buffs up to Level 4 (with the exception of 3s, who know everything) to be the beginning of the "Serious Movie Buff" Levels. Films watched per year beginning to go off the charts. Understands and follows theater etiquette, but may fall off the wagon on occasion. Has enjoyed more than one movie marathon (either of their own making or through another source). Can quote films, but maybe not always correctly. Has more than working knowledge of most actors, directors and writers, and can even identify producers on occasion. Thinks the Oscars are mostly crap, but wouldn't miss them. Thinks Armageddon was crap, but saw it. Saw Citizen Kane and understands why it is considered the best film of all time.

Knows what AFI is (as do rest of the Levels). Knows what BAFTA is (as do rest of the Levels). Knows what Cannes, Sundance, Telluride and Toronto are. Has seen a number of foreign films (and even has favorite foreign actors and directors) and classic films. Has working knowledge of cinema-sites on web. Can find a movie they want to see even while traveling between Boulder and Denver at 80 mph and trying to manipulate mobile through 777-FILM, and will desperately ask coffee house baristas where to find unknown and untried theater.

Feels Hanks was decent in television's Bosom Buddies but has not done anything worthwhile since; Fox was only good thing about The American President. Thinks that Coppola is God, quite likes the early Woody Allen, saw that Peter Greenaway film with the changing colors and thought it was "weird," but digs that it freaked out their grandmother. Pervs on everyone. Bores people quoting Woody Allen. Goes to medium to small cinemas in couples; most important factor is film showing. Analysis level waivers between 4-7 depending on how film touched them. Can passionately defend positions even if oftentimes wrong. Better known as Lovell Level.

BUFF LEVEL 8

Films watched per year off the charts. Theater etiquette is somewhat of personal philosophy and strictly adhered to even in own living room. Regularly goes to movie festivals. Belongs to movie club or other film-type society. Can intelligently tell you why (or why not) Citizen Kane is the best film of all time. Can describe what "Film Noir" means and make sense (at least to themselves). Has borderline scary working knowledge of actors, directors, writers, producers, DPs, and knows many costume designers, set designers and the like. Can watch a film montage and say the titles of 90% of the films to a 75% accuracy. Laments the deaths of all those people noted during the Oscars that Buff Levels Pseudo - 5 don't know. Utters names like "Antonioni" and "Fellini" with reverence.

Feels Hanks is an actor for the masses but with no range, gives Fox credit for Blue in the Face. Thinks that Woody Allen is God, Coppolla has lost it, and quite likes Scorsese, has heard of Greenaway but doesn't understand his films. Pervs on Elizabeth Taylor or Paul Newman. Bores people quoting Casablanca. Goes to small art house cinemas in couples; most important factor is the coffee bar next door. Analysis level is 5-8 depending on many aspects of film quality, photography, direction, acting and the like. May tend toward pomposity.

BUFF LEVEL 9

Films watched per year off the charts of the charts. Theater etiquette is now a definite religion. Not only regularly goes to movie festivals, but can tell you who won the Palme D'Or in 1974. Goes to art houses equal amounts to multi-mega-plexes. Can describe with some sense all of the different genres and give you a top ten list for each genre. Knows all of the actors, directors, etc. and can cross-reference them with ease. Owns more than ten books on film or filmmaking and uses them regularly for reference. Has seen Citizen Kane three plus times and can write a dissertation about it. Belongs to more than one film society or club (if available in area). Knows who Edith Head is and can describe her glasses.

Wouldn't piss on Hanks if he were on fire, feels Fox is an actor with surprising range. Thinks that Scorsese is God, loves Hitchcock and Peter Greenaway. Pervs on Ginger Rogers or Cary Grant. Bores people quoting The Godfather. Goes to small art house cinemas in couples; most important factor is the six page hand-out and post-film discussion afterwards. Analysis level is unchartable, as most people don't know what the hell they are talking about.

BUFF LEVEL 10 (Better known as "Film Snob")

Does not acknowledge the existence of Tom Hanks or Michael J Fox. Thinks that Charlie Chaplin is God, Greenaway is pretentious and that no one has made a decent film since 1945. Pervs on Audrey Hepburn or Marlon Brando. Bores people quoting film critics. Goes to small art house cinemas alone; most important factor is the credits at the end of the film. Analysis level unknown, as no one, not even Level 9s, can really make out what they are saying.


©2002 Lovell Mahan-Moutaw & Mark Ashley
CineScene