For a while in my early 20s, I thought the way to really snag boys was to become an indie-film critic. After all, what is sexier than a woman who can expound upon Fassbinder's lesser films and hold court on the subject of Hal Hartley's use of Dutch angles in his Henry Fool series? Who scores more than a gal who knows her Tom Tykwer from her Wim Wenders? Who deserves more cunnilingus than the chick who gets the difference between Nicholas Ray and Nicolas Roeg?
If hot tail was the goal, you may ask, then why didn't I become a bottle-service girl at one of Jay Z's elite clubs or act like any fun sporty character played by Cameron Diaz between 1998 and 2010? Because, dear reader, I was after something rather specific: a nerd with an unearned bad attitude and a sofa body. A misanthrope in a cardigan. I liked my men the way I like my dogs — broken, afraid of humanity, and obsessed with me. I wanted someone who ridiculed everyone and everything except my beauty and intellect.
Hence my blogspot, which I tended to like an herb garden: Champagne Wishes and Celluloid Dreams: Lena's Movie Diary. I sat in my freezing Ohio apartment, watching Criterion Collection VHS tapes and recording my thoughts, making my way through the French New Wave, the Czech New Wave, jumping to the British '90s, skipping Japanese film entirely and living to regret it. When our local video store went out of business, I purchased over 200 VHS tapes at 50 cents apiece. I cataloged them by genre, then director, creating a videotape baseboard around my room. The first time I went to third base with my college boyfriend, we were watching the classic lesbian indie The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love. When we broke up, I wept to All the Real Girls for days on end, wishing that David Gordon Green and his fellow graduates of North Carolina School of the Arts would sweep me up and invite me to operate the boom on their next low-budget art-house effort.
I was making movies too, little ones, setting my tripod up and filming myself in a blonde wig with an open bathrobe, like some sad Gena Rowlands impersonator from deepest Long Island. Soon, I set to work on my first "feature film," which clocked in at 59 minutes, barely qualifying as a bloated skit. Shot on shaky digital video in dorm rooms and my parents' bedroom, I was only bold enough to think it could qualify as a movie because of the Cassavetes I was checking out of the school library (and the Andrew Bujalski movies labeled as "mumblecore" that had taught me about Cassavetes in the first place). My father told me you had to choose, critic or artist, but I reminded him that Truffaut and his friends had all begun as critics with their own very important magazine. And anyway, my blog ran almost only rave reviews. I've never been particularly interested in hating things.
I graduated and knew I needed to do something but wasn't sure what. One failed internship tumbled into another as I applied to work, unpaid, at a magazine focused on independent film. I imagined myself in a buzzing open-plan office full of adorably shaggy boys, in heated debate on the relative merits of the newest Polanski. "Don't forget he raped someone!" I'd yell, and they'd act put out but be privately moved by the strength of my convictions. I'd edit my movie by night and write trenchant reviews of Swedish thrillers by day, and by the end of my first week I was sure I'd have a boyfriend — maybe even two, fighting for my love via a mixtape battle.