Sunday, April 10, 2016

Day 1593 - "Movie Freak" and why I have to keep writing

I've been writing movie reviews ever since The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (***1/2) came out.  There have been times when I was prolific (college and MySpace) and times when I have been less so (post-college and Facebook-era).  But the need to write about what I've seen and tell others whether I thought it was good or bad has consistently been strong.

In the last few months there have been a things that have brought my inner critic into much sharper focus.  The Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself was one of those.  Two friends, separately, have given me a ton of advice and encouragement, and that really re-energized me.  But I also just read Owen Gleiberman's autobiography Movie Freak, and that really crystallized a lot of things for me.

While there were a number of movies that Gleiberman talks about where we couldn't be on the more opposite end of the spectrum, based on his upbringing and worldview, I understand where he's coming from (even if I don't agree with him.).  My own upbringing has definitely influenced my own tastes.  My parents both love movies, especially old ones.  So I spent a lot of time in the early days of videotape watching movies starring Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Cagney, and Bette Davis.  And of course, there were Saturday afternoons with Superhost, Cleveland's own movie host who showed all the classic Universal and Hammer horror films.  In college, I had fellow resident assistant Zach, who was a horror film freak and he passed on movies that he thought I should see - good, bad, or interesting.  Post-college I had, and still have, the Cleveland Cinematheque.  Every weekend there is like a mini film festival.  It also helped that I read about movies non-stop.  All those monster movies?  I would read about how they made them, what their influences were, and their sequels.  If I liked a director or movie I would read all about them.  And I read a lot (a lot!) of film criticism simply so I could know what was supposed to be good.  I may not have always agreed with the popular opinion, but at least I knew what was being discussed.

The lesson I really came away from his book with was this - write what you really feel.  Don't compromise.  If you don't like a movie, don't temper that dislike.  If you like a movie, try and express why that is.  I immerse myself in so many reviews and other people's thoughts that I sometimes let that influence my own opinions.   Usually it's on movies that I have mixed feelings on.  When I have a strong opinion, it's hard to get me to change my mind (I still don't like Vertigo or Skyfall regardless of how great people say they are), but on something recent, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I can find my initial thoughts being tempered by the people who legitimately love it, even if they can't express why that's so. 

If Gleiberman's book taught me anything, it's to be proud of what I think about a movie.  Certainly there will be times when my initial thoughts might be wrong, or outside influences will affect my initial thoughts.  Grandma's Boy and Crank would be two of those movies that immediately come to mind.  I initially disliked both those movies the first time I saw them, and I changed my opinion on them because when I first saw them, I saw them by myself.  The second time I watched them, I watched them with a group of people.  There really is nothing like the communal reaction to a movie to change your thoughts about its entertainment value.

So, I have been writing more often.  I've got a review of American Ultra (the Jesse Eisenberg/Kristen Stewart stoner assassin movie) halfway written, and I really liked this movie.  It bombed horribly at the box office and that made me sad.  As I rewatched it, I still liked it, but I was tempering myself because so many people seemed down on it.  But I know the joy and surprise of my initial reaction was the right reaction.  I just need to see if I can capture that in words. But I'm enjoying writing again.  Would I appreciate an audience?  Of course.  But for those of you who do read this, I really do thank you.  I've been writing in a vacuum for most of my life, and I'll keep doing it.  But it's definitely nice to know, for myself, that I should keep doing this.

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