Posted by: s. night screening | December 3, 2009

snights of the round table – round two

cultural vegetables and blogging

saturday night screening
i know this is somewhat late but it has been on my mind ever since i read it:

eating your cultural vegetables

also related:

blogger syndrome: the pressure to review

i know my personal viewing habit certainly have changed since i started the blog. movies are picked more based on how it fits my blog than movies that i should see. there are movies that i definitely would have wanted to see (tree of life, hugo) but didn’t because i thought i should instead see a movie that i want to see on my blog. i know quite a few of us mostly focus on the direct to video/action/horror/rare type movies. so those movies are what i would pick first. it almost seems like a waste for me to watch movies that i don’t intend to write about.

at the same time, there are movies that i watched that i totally want to write about but feel like i need a second viewing or further research and study before i can write about them. i’m sure i’m not the only one who feels the same way.

the video vacuum
In regards to the New York Times piece; I like the term “cultural vegetables”. I know for sure that I am exposed to more of a “junk food” movie watching diet, but I do try to get SOME veggies in. For instance, I made it a point to see Tree of Life in the theater. Never mind the fact that my track record with Malick is patchy (love Badlands, like Thin Red Line, didn’t “get” Days of Heaven, didn’t like New World), I wanted to see it because A) Well… I wanted to see it. B) Everybody had already had an opinion on it by the time it arrived in my neck of the woods. C) I thought it would be fun to review. Good or bad, I just thought it would be FUN to write about a movie that had dinosaurs and Brad Pitt. (Turns out, I was right.)

Which leads me to the second piece. This really hit home. Big time. Honestly, I was going to make it a point to slow down on writing reviews come the New Year; or at the very least not write a review for every single movie I see. (Which if you all hadn’t already noticed is what I do now.) I’ve even contemplated just boiling down the reviews down into a weekly “Round-Up” with Maltin-sized capsule reviews (which is what I did when I had my fanzine). That said, I WOULD write lengthy reviews for the ones that deserved it. I mean, let’s face it; we’re all doing this because we love to do it. Once we stop loving it; we should probably step away from the table and let someone else have a crack at it. Now, I’m not saying that I’d slow down on reviewing because I love it less. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I love doing what I do so much that I want to give my complete attention to every movie I review. But sometimes there just isn’t a whole lot to say about a movie that’s pretty forgettable to begin with.

Also, there are some movies that are just plain more fun to write about than to watch. Example: I’m currently working on a Travolta triple feature of Taking of Pelham 123, Two of a Kind, and Moment by Moment. Each are spectacularly bad in their own way. Ordinarily, if I were to run into any of them on cable, I’d keep flipping the channel. BUT since I’m blogging obsessively (almost as obsessively as I watch movies) they are the perfect fodder for what I do.

Reading these articles and re-reading what I’ve just wrote (which is a bit rambling but oh well), I’ve pretty much decided to grin and bear it and stick to the same movie-watching/blogging schedule I’ve kept. (50+ reviews a month.) Not only because I love it, but also because of all the positive feedback I’ve gotten over the years. In addition to other bloggers (many of whom are on this roundtable), I’ve gotten nice comments from some of the actors and directors, who’ve all encouraged me and my writing; even though what I’ve said about their movies was shall we say, less than encouraging. Heck, even the nasty comments from some of the filmmakers (Yes, I’m talking to you G.E. Furst, director of Lake Placid 3) encourage me to do what I do and make me strive to be the best blogger I can be.

And in regards to SNS’s comments; my movie-watching habits are thus: In the wintertime, I have more time on my hands because my primary job is seasonal, so I can watch a lot more movies then. This time of year, I’m mostly a stay-at-home dad, so my movie watching schedule revolves around my daughter’s routine. I’ll usually watch a movie in the AM before she gets up (about 8), then I can usually squeeze in a movie during her nap (around 2 PM). Once my wife gets home we’ll sometimes watch a film from Netflix together (she has a lot more of those cultural vegetables on her queue than I do) at night. Once everyone goes to be (around 8 or 9 PM) I’ll stay up an hour or two to write reviews, answer comments, or anything blog-related. Sometimes I take notes while watching the films (my new laptop makes this super easy), but when a movie is really good (or in some cases, really bad); notes aren’t necessary. Sometimes I hold Movie Nights with friends and we’ll talk about the flicks afterwards; which is a good way to keep the flick fresh in your head too. And my friends will often have interesting views on the films that I may or may not incorporate into the reviews later.

And if I’ve already reviewed a movie, I tend not to go back and reassess the review; even if my thoughts have radically changed over time. I will say after cracking into my Star Wars Blu Rays, I may go back and review them all again; but that’s only because I’m a die hard Star Wars fanatic.

OK… This is WAY too long. Thanks for reading this. I’m interested in hearing what y’all have to say…

direct to video connoisseur
It’s funny, the movies themselves are never a problem. I watch DTV and low-budget flicks for my blogger blog, and then high end classics from directors like Ozu on my Tumblr blog, and that keeps a good mix on my plate; but really it’s about my love of movies and having a personal interest in watching the movies I do, and the blog comes second. In fact it’s not review fatigue that made me take a hiatus from the DTVC in 2010, but rather the constant demands I was getting in the comments sections to review this or that. I think when we all start our blogs, we love the idea of being interactive and are so appreciative to any readers we have, that we start to cater to them “oh, I love your site, you should review this or that”, and the next thing you know, you’re writing for someone else. That’s the hardest thing, finding that balance between putting out content that you know people will enjoy and giving back to them for their support, while at the same time keeping the blog yours.

If I ever hit a point where watching movies isn’t fun anymore, that will be the point that I stop writing for my blog, because otherwise what am I doing this for, right?

ticker talks film
I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie for my blog. Now, maybe this is because my blog is just a project for me. I Plan to carry on with it, but it’s something I do only because I love to write, for now. Then, I get bored too. So that’s why I have a travel and photography blog and I switch between them depending on my mood.

Having said that, I haven’t reached the level Matthew (direct to video connoisseur) mentioned where readers request me to review a specific movie. When it happens, just like he said, I’ll be tempted to do it. It’s an ego boost to say the least.

But, like I mentioned in my article, the moment my film viewing becomes a chore (and this is just my personal thought and I’m not judging anyone who does this for financial or any other reason) I plan to stop blogging.

For me movies have always been an escape from my life, so to speak. 2 or in case of Indian films 3 hours of immersing myself into the lives and stories of others. Time to forget everything that is going on in my real life and focus on reel life. So, if my real life seeps in to this escape of mine, even in the form of thinking about reviews I write, it will defy the purpose of my movie watching.

exploding helicopter
I had a lot of understanding for the points raised in these articles.

I have been blogging for the best part of 10 years on a variety of different projects. I love writing, but I’ve always found times when it has become a chore. Trying to fit it in round work, family and social life can be really difficult. And then sometimes I’m simply not inspired by whatever my subject is. Sometimes I’ve taken a break, other times I’ve forced myself to write inspired by a sort of Jack London credo of a thousands words a day.

I know that a successful blog relies on regularly updated content, but equally I’m not prepared to be some SEO chasing content farm. There is enough rubbish in the world without knowingly contributing to it. I know there’s this pressure to keep writing, but I think it needs to be resisted.

My blog has changed what I watch. Perhaps it’s the particular niche I’ve chosen to work, but I wouldn’t watch a lot of the films I do if I didn’t know or suspect they had an exploding helicopter in. It means I watch a lot of films I wish I didn’t have too, but equally I’ve seen films I’d never have bothered with that have turned out to be good experiences. I don’t see this as detrimental to my experience of films and cinema.

However, I wouldn’t say it is blogging which has changed my film tastes. What I am trying to do here is distinguish between what I watch for the purposes of my blog and what I watch purely to satisfy my own interests in the art form. In that regard I would say that it is a more a process of getting older. When I was in my teens 20 something years ago, I would out of intellectual curiosity and, yes, intellectual snobbery watch all manner of foreign, high brow, challenging, obscure, call it what you will cinema.

Now, these types of films form only a very small part of my viewing habits. I watched a lot of Ingmar Bergman films back then and those require effort. I get home from a crappy day in the office late, rustle something up in the kitchen and sit down to watch something on TV. Am I really going to put Through A Glass Darkly On? Or am I going to Predator again?

I’ve only got so much stamina these days. I might tackle something like that at the weekend or when I’m on holiday, but I am going to need to be in the right mood.

It’s a pattern that I’ve noticed in other areas of my life. I used to read all sorts of books about political philosophy or the history of ideas. These days I mostly read crime thrillers.

I do wonder about what these means. Am I less of a person? Am I intellectually lazy now? Was I just a jumped up snob with a chip on my shoulder before? I’ve yet to arrive at answer.

Thanks for inviting me to share my thoughts. It’s another interesting discussion.

a fistful of cult
“I know that a successful blog relies on regularly updated content, but equally I’m not prepared to be some SEO chasing content farm. There is enough rubbish in the world without knowingly contributing to it. I know there’s this pressure to keep writing, but I think it needs to be resisted.”

This.

A hundred times this.

I’m not a professional. I don’t do this for money. I blog for pleasure. It’s fun to write and occasionally it’s a good means of unwinding/relieving stress. I got caught up in the crazy world of everyday blogging once — with my previous blog, which ended up spawning A Fistful of Cult (originally intended as a side project to my ‘A’-blog and nothing more). Churning out new ‘content’ everyday left me feeling hollow and empty and at the end of it all I didn’t write for more than a year because of the burn out. Was anybody actually reading all the crap I wrote? Maybe. But was it any good? By my own standards, no. Not by a long shot.

When I decided to come back to the blogsphere I made a conscious decision to do it on my own terms, meaning I would only write when *I* wanted to, not on some crazy schedule to appease the masses. And so far I’ve been pretty good about keeping to this. I’ve been more prolific than I’ve ever been with my movie blog in the past four months or so, but at the same time, I don’t feel guilty if it take two weeks for me to get out a new review. I’m not always in the greatest of health, sometimes that gets in the way. Other times I’m goofing around with my fiancee, or just taking care of ‘real life’ business. But sometimes I just don’t have the motivation. You can work through this occasionally, but often it’s just not meant to be. Who wants to read your stuff if you’re just half-assing it? That’s usually when I go off to read a book or play a computer game or, heaven forbid, go out and get some fresh air and hopefully recharge my batteries in the process.

Perhaps this means I’ll never be a ‘successful’ blogger with 7,983,447 page views per day, but I don’t really sweat it. I’ve looked at my blog’s stats exactly once since I started, and I don’t intend to get into the habit of obsessively pouring over them any time soon.

As for the other matter on what we’re watching, If anyone ever bothered to read the ‘about’ page on my blog (and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t) I talk about my own experience as a teenager/early 20’s kid and how I also felt somehow pressured into watching ‘proper adult movies’ and exposing myself to ‘high culture’. Looking back, this was probably one of the lowest points of my life, because it turned me into some kind of snob who watched depressing films all the time because they were ‘art’, and that’s not the kind of person I ever aspired to be. In a nutshell, I had the epiphany one night that I’d much rather be spending my time eating up brain candy as opposed to the ‘brain vegetables’ we’ve talked about. I realized that being a fan of low culture entertainment doesn’t necessarily mean one is of low intelligence. Sure, I’ve met my share of knuckleheads in the thrall of Michael Bay films and Call of Duty video games who couldn’t tell you who the current President of the United States is, but I’ve also known plenty of incredibly clever, bright people who simply prefer to get their kicks with Schwarzenegger flicks over pretentious French art house fare. And by the same token, I’ve encountered film snobs and Nietzsche reading ‘intellectuals’ who couldn’t tie their shoelaces without assistance.

direct to video connoisseur
I like a lot of these points here. I guess I’m one of the odd ones, because I love the indie French Art House flick as much as Commando. That’s one of the things I’ve learned immensely as I’ve done this over the past 4 years, that people have all kinds of different tastes. I like movies that challenge me mentally, movies that push the boundaries of what the art form can do, and I also love PM Entertainment flicks that try to flip as many cars over as possible. And I think that’s part of the key for any blog writer in any subject: stay true to yourself, stick with what works for you, and if it starts to not work for you, take a break or switch it up.

I post four times a week, and do my best to stick to that, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Definitely, I know that grows my readership, but I know too that if I try to force a review in without thinking about it in order to make my deadline, that can be detrimental too. I look at my stats as well, only because I learned through my stats that the most popular posts are not always the ones with the most comments. That’s one of the things that brought more horror movies back, because those routinely got the fewest comments.

One thing I like about this round table format, is that everyone contributing has a blog and no matter how different we each approach it, we all can relate to each other. I know when someone who has a blog of their own comments on one of my posts, he or she knows how much work I put into it, because they’re doing the same thing over on their site. I guess the key is finding a way to make sure that work is always fun, and never a chore.

danny from can’t stop the movies
Blogger burnout is something I get week to week. Sometimes I have enough energy that I can get ahead, but life intervenes, and it’s back to square one. It’s all about finding a bit of peace where you can and being able to write something you’re satisfied with; that’s more important than finding good movies to tackle in my opinion.

The New York Times article on ‘Cultural Vegetables’ is interesting to me, because it presumes that people must be forced to do stuff they don’t enjoy on a regular basis. I agree insomuch that remaining permanently within a comfort zone is detrimental to one’s mental appetite, but I also think that chastising others for refusing to leave those boundaries is incredibly condescending. You can’t force curiosity.

Going off of what Will (exploding helicopter) said, I, too, find my tastes changing as I get older. I wish it were headed more towards art house cinema, but I’ve spent so much time entrenched in it for the last decade that seeing something as trite as The Descendents or My Week With Marilyn get accolades simply because they’re independent and nonthreatening to be more than a bit disheartening. Instead I’m having more fun and rewarding experiences at movies that I know are crap but at least are trying to have fun– Three Musketeers and Twilight 4 being the more pleasantly surprising experiences I’ve had in theaters all year, in all of the 50 odd movies I’ve seen there.

I don’t think it’s laziness, but an attuning of taste and a compromise with exhaustion. I still am working through the Criterion Collection and have half of the They Shoot Pictures list to go, but I’m not rushing through it like I was at 22.

I think it’s all inevitable. You get old. Things go slower. There’ll be yet another Friday the 13th movie, and then we get sick and die.

Thanks for the discussion so far, guys, I’m enjoying what I’ve read.

saturday night screening
love the responses, guys. i was going to interject more frequently this time around but my sleeping schedule is kind of messed up so this ends up being one big post again. i’m sure it has something to do with getting older.

and age is certainly a major factor, which is the part that touches me the most in the nyt piece. and i don’t even have kids yet, which makes me more and more amazed at what the video vacuum is doing. as mentioned in the nyt article, and like will (exploding helicopter), matt (fistful of cult), and danny (can’t stop the movies), i was able to go to the theatres at least once a week and had a more balanced cinematic diet. (food-wise, the junk food ratio stays about the same) will’s insertion of watching a bergman film after a day at work nails it.

but now that i think about it, i am still willing to sit through a vegetable, though i don’t do it as much as i used to. it’s just that they are less likely to end up on the blog. i feel more pressure when writing about a well known, critically acclaimed movie. or when my opinion is in the minority, which is kind of ironic since it’s one of our original goals. i also feel the same way writing about a movie still in theatres. somehow i feel there is less scrutiny in writing about a flop, a little known movie or a dtv movie.

like some of you mentioned, there’s a need to put up a new post regularly. i try to have at least 2 or 3 a week. which means that i usually write about a movie a day or two after watching it. it’s helpful if i own the movie or if it’s on netflix instant, then i can go back and look for things in second viewing. something that can’t be done for movies still in theatres. but i tend to overthink everything. e.g. this email. i admire the pros in that regardless the type of movie, they can turn in a review by deadline. and you never hear about them changing their minds after subsequent viewings very often.

but on the other hand, doing what we do have its advantages. i never feel like i have to write about any specific movies, even after i watch one. and if needed, i can take as much time as i want. most of your sites have more visits and comments than i do, so i haven’t run across any requests or filmmakers comments. though i am quite baffled by which posts are more popular (doom and scary movie 2 for some reason). i have no idea if i’m doing good, or if certain posts are better written than others, or if that’s why certain ones are more popular. i had planned on but failed to do shorter posts, but they always turn out about 1000 words.

as much as i love being able to turn this into a full time job, even if it never happens, i just don’t see it turning into a chore.

again, thank you all for participating. it’s always fun and eye opening for me to read and re-read all the responses.

 


Responses

  1. Another great roundtable that I was happy to be a part of.


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