“Movies have a lot to teach us about each other. They enable us all be Cinematic Tourists—walking in the shoes of other people to see what life looks like from other points of view in different times and different places. That’s one of the great joys of going to the movies. It’s a joy that men and women can easily share, when they choose movies that have something special for busy couples.”
Jan Lisa Huttner, Co-Creator of Films for Two
CHICAGO — Ten years ago, like many hard-working couples, Jan Lisa Huttner and Richard Bayard Miller enjoyed spending some of their free time at the movies. Also, like many couples, they often made their film choices based on newspaper, radio, and TV reviews. But choosing the movie was only one part of their experience. The second part was going somewhere afterwards to eat and argue. Jan, who holds two Master’s degrees in Psychology, and Rich, who has a PhD in Philosophy and an MBA in Accounting, noticed that their opinions about the plots, the characters, the scripts, and even the costumes and cinematography often differed.
As a John Ford fan for many years, Rich leaned more towards movies that were “exciting,” movies like Mission Impossible, The Man who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Matrix. In his words: “Movies that are more like watching a sporting event.” Jan focused on narrative – how the individual elements of a film serve the narrative. Her view is, “If the narrative is weak, then no matter how great the cinematography is, the film itself is a failure.”
Rich understood Jan’s point of view, recognizing from his philosophy background that how people process a reasonably complex piece of information depends on their history. While he still enjoys the excitement of an on-screen adventure, he also looks at films using his intellectual background, with an educated eye.
It was fun to hash it all out, and Jan and Rich began sharing their experiences with friends – who started asking this team of two for recommendations.
One thing lead to another – and on Valentine’s Day in 2002, Rich and Jan launched Films for Two – The Online Guide for Busy Couples (FF2).
Their primary focus is to speak to both men and women, to help couples make their own choices about what to watch together. The private arguments about what Jan and Rich each liked and didn’t like about film are crafted into 50-word summaries of which films this team thought were worthwhile: Not necessarily romantic (although some of them are), and not necessarily action-packed (although some of them are). Rich and Jan recommend films for adults, films that they believe both men and women will find worthy of their time and attention.
Rich describes their process this way: “There are good movies in every genre that all people, men and women, should see. Then there are genres where a guy might enjoy the average film more, just as there are films that might be enjoyed more by a woman. While I am better at predicting which films my guy friends will like better – my academic background in philosophy has also made me more astute about which films might also appeal to women.”
Jan says, “Women also like action, but the action movies that succeed best with women also have interesting relationship components. Many men seem to enjoy intense ‘special effects’ for their own sake, but most women look for stories that also have strong character arcs.”
Jan and Rich watch about 300 movies a year (in theaters and at home on DVD, cable TV, or streaming video) and provide mini-reviews – 50-word summaries or “haikus” (like little Japanese poems). Every FF2 Haiku represents the male and female, viewpoints from the perspectives of both Jan and Rich. Remember: Films for Two is “The Online Guide for Busy Couples.”
Every year, Jan and Rich also announce their individual choices for “Best Films” – and when films appear on both lists, they receive an honorary cyberaward from FF2 called a “Twozie.” Approximately 30% of the films on each list receive a “Twozie” every year.
“FF2 is distinct because it represents both of our voices” Jan and Rich explain. “It’s not just Rich’s male point of view, nor Jan’s feminist point of view. It is a joint point of view designed to identify films that couples can enjoy together. That’s why we call it Films for Two, with emphasis on the TWO.”
Photos © Bob Dowey (46th Annual Chicago International Film Festival)
Top Photo: CIFF Opening Night (10/7/10 at the Hotel Wit)
Bottom Photo: CIFF Awards Night (10/16/10 at “Kup’s Table” in the Pump Room at the Ambassador East)
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