POSTED March 4 2013

Some things I’ve learned at the movies

Audrey Hepburn ponders how to properly crack an egg in "Sabrina"

Audrey Hepburn ponders how to properly crack an egg in “Sabrina”

Who says movies aren’t educational? I’ve learned a lot, frivolous and otherwise, while watching the big screen:

1) That everyone should have his/her own theme music (Dr. Zhivago, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka)

2) How to brown mushrooms, (do not crowd skillet), brown meat (pat it dry first) and chop onions (Julie & Julia)

3) How to crack an egg (decisive wrist action) (Sabrina)

4) How to make gnocchi (The Godfather, Part III)

5) How best to slice garlic (with a razor blade) ( GoodFellas)

6) How to modernize a frock by ripping off frou-frou (A Letter to Three Wives, Bells Are Ringing)

7) How to apply lipstick (Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?Bonjour, Tristesse, Lost in Translation)

8) The erotic value of backlighting (every Marlene Dietrich/Joseph von Sternberg film,  particularly Blonde Venus)

9) How to kiss (Notorious, Roman Holiday, Rear Window, The Year of Living Dangerously)

10) That the wisecrack is fundamental to flirtation (The Lady Eve, Double Indemnity, The Empire Strikes Back, She’s Gotta Have It)*

* It may be that Barbara Stanwyck is fundamental to flirtation.

What have you learned at the movies? Much as I admire Roger Ebert’s movie glossary, those are tropes, not things that are actually applicable to everyday life.


  1. Carole Horst says:

    How to dress for any occassion! (“Philadelphia Story,” “Sabrina”)

  2. Debbie says:

    Not to die (or therefore to live) with too much anger [Barbarian Invasions]
    That the Masters of the Universe make fools of themselves [Inside Job]
    (Sorry, can’t think of any how-to’s, and pay no attention to cooking!)

  3. Jane says:

    How to make Lamb Curry with Kate and Spence in Adam’s Rib

  4. ratzkywatzky says:

    I learned how to smoke a cigar from either The Great Santini or The Lords of Discipline, I forget which. I was in a play and observed one of those movies closely in order to see how to light, hold, and smoke it naturally.

  5. You’ve captured and illustrated most of the fun stuff. Any number of other films (Paths of Glory, Doctor Strangelove, Barry Lyndon, Full Metal Jacket as well as non-Stanley Kubrick films) have captured grim, war-related information well and provided “teachable moments.” I’m sure there are teachable moments in The Shining also. And obviously Spinal Tap teaches you the essentials of being Spinal Tap.

  6. I’ve never made risotto, and probably never will, but if memory serves, one of my favorite Straub-Huillet films, Operai, Contadini–which has their lushest and loveliest forest landscapes–tells me how.

  7. P.S. It would take me a very long time to explain precisely how and why, but PlayTime taught me how to live in cities–something that no other film has come even close to doing. And, for that matter, one of my other absolute favorites, Gertrud, taught me what you can and should expect out of life if you refuse to compromise.

  8. Nancy C says:

    How to saddle and mount a horse (any Western); how to lace a corset (Gone with the Wind); how you’re supposed to look in a hat (any melodrama or screwball comedy from the 30s, and some in the 40s) even if you can never get it right in real life; how to make flawless Swedish meatballs (“you grind the meat six times,” according to Irene Dunne in I Remember Mama); how to commit painless suicide (leave the car engine running in a closed garage as Audrey Hepburn attempted in Sabrina); how to spy on someone without detection, while in plain sight, by pretending to check your makeup as you observe your “target” in the mirror (Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve–again); how to hitch-hike without using one’s thumb by exposing a sexy leg to an oncoming car (this only works if you have legs like Claudette Colbert’s in It Happened One Night). Then there’s How to Marry a Millionaire; How the West Was One; How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying; The Knack and How to Get It; and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (I wish…). Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Thanks, Carrie–that was fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please prove you\'re not a robot: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.