Doodad Kind of Town

What I’ve Learned by Being a Movie Blogger: A Meme
June 6, 2009, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This week over at Cinema Styles, our good bloggin’ buddy, Greg, posted some highly relatable thoughts under the title “Why Being a Cinephile Matters.”

I always enjoy what Greg writes, but this time especially, I felt like he took the words right out of my mouth.

Take this for example:

“There are times when I think I might as well throw in the towel myself as I wonder what in the hell is there left to write about. But then I remember how much I’ve learned about movies since I started blogging.”

Has anyone among us not felt that way? Especially on one of those days when we post what we think is a brilliant piece of analysis – and almost no readers show up to affirm our genius? (Or at least none that leave a comment anyway.) But we all do keep coming back.

Or this piece of wisdom from his comment thread:

“Once I got into blogging I realized I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did.”

Boy, that hits the nail on the head. Prior to starting a movie blog, I was known among my friends at “the savant” – the ultimate movie geek with a head full of movie trivia who’d seen just about everything. Actually I’m still perceived that way within my own circle of friends, but I’ve spent too much time in the blogosphere over the last couple of years to be under any delusion that I’m something special. I am regularly humbled by the knowledge and erudition of so many fellow film bloggers -and always eager and happy to learn from them.

Greg has challenged us to post our own list of what we’ve learned from movie blogging. I’m happy to share some of mine:

1. I am not alone

I know very few people who are as geeky about film as I am. I often find it difficult to drum up a companion for trips to the arthouse theatres around the city. But in the blogosphere, there’s always someone there who knows who Mathieu Almaric is, who’s seen the latest Guy Maddin or Hsiao-hsien Hou film. Self-help writer Barbara Sher once wrote, without a trace of irony, “The Internet is where you find your tribe.” She was right.

2. On a related note, there are lots of other people in the world who as obsessive about Woody Allen’s films as I am, and they’re all ready to talk about them at the drop of a hat.
Most of my longest comment threads have come about as responses to my posts on Allen. If I post a bad review of his work, I’m likely to get the most vociferous responses.

3. I don’t have to rush out to see the latest blockbuster – or even review it at all – if I don’t want to.
Every blogger has his or her own niche, and some of my favorite writers hardly ever make it to the multiplex at all. Following their example has set me free.

4. If you’re a movie blogger, your friends will perceive you to have an unfair advantage in their annual Oscar party, “predict the winners” contest.
Especially when you take home the Oscar-replica trophy for four consecutive years. Never mind that I claimed that trophy many times in the years before I even knew what a blog was, let alone wrote one. Somehow I’ve become labeled as an “industry insider” in my friends’ eyes. I don’t think they’re going to let me compete next year.

5. No matter how much I think I hate movie talkers, there’s always someone out there who hates them even more!
I’ve only contemplated assaulting those multiplex chatterboxes – Marilyn’s actually swatted one. For this reason, and so many others, Marilyn is one of my role models!

6. There are more great movies out there than I’ll ever be able to see, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

7. Netflix is an amazing service that allows my cinephiliac obsessions to flourish.
I’m old enough to remember the days when the only place you could see movies was in a theatre or on TV; I will never, ever become jaded about the abundance of Netflix titles that are mine to watch with just a few mouse clicks and a couple days of waiting for the mail. I didn’t take advantage of Netflix till I started blogging, and now I can’t imagine how I lived without it. Back in 1975, I never could have dreamed that one day, I’d be able to watch “La Notte” on Monday night, pop it in a mailbox on Tuesday morning, and by Thursday afternoon, have a copy of “Ordet” in my mailbox in its place. (That’s my plan for the coming week, by the way.) It’s miraculous!

8. Next to Netflix, the best thing in the world to have is IFC in Theatres On Demand.
I don’t think I’ll ever part ways with Comcast Digital Cable so long as this service is available. Thanks to On Demand, I get to watch first-run foreign and independent films in the comfort and privacy of my own living room. The most recent title I took advantage of: “Hunger.” Next up: “The Girlfriend Experience.” And coming soon: Lars Von Trier’s “Anti Christ,” a film I’m particularly happy I’ll have the opportunity to watch with access to a fast-forward button.

9. Balancing blogging with the other parts of my life is a delicate balancing act that I’ll never perfectly master.
And I’ve learned to accept that. There’s a very geeky part of me that would love to hibernate for days on end with just Turner Classic Movies, some DVDs, and my laptop -but what kind of life would that be? Sometimes you have to put down the blog and connect with loved ones, make a living, stretch out on a yoga mat or just sit in the sun with a big glass of lemonade. The movies and the blog will still be waiting when you get back.

And most important of all:

10. Respectful disagreements among bloggers are a beautiful thing.
When I first started blogging, I was slightly terrified of starting a controversy or pissing someone off, so I couched a lot of my writing in qualifications and rationalizations. I’m doing that less and less as time goes on. I’ve learned that disagreements – even vehement ones – are healthy and valuable, so long as everyone stays civil. Every time another blogger comes back at one of my posts with a difference of opinion, it forces me to dig deeper and think harder in order to defend my own point of view. It makes my writing sharper and more precise, and challenges me to push past flippancy and hyperbole to make a cogent and well-reasoned case. And isn’t that a great challenge for anyone to receive? If I learned nothing else from movie blogging, just learning to sharpen my critical thinking skills like this should be evidence enough that being a cinephile does indeed matter.

9 Comments so far
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As expected, a delightful read— well worth the wait. Hope work didn't have you too down this week, Pat.RE # 1: That is the best feeling about blogging, knowing that their are many people out there who love films as much as I do. People like Pat at Doodad Kind of Town. =)RE # 2: I'm always down for chatting about Woody Allen. For a legend and star, he's quite underrated!RE # 5: An anecdote, if you'll allow me one. An older friend of mine was seeing Rich and Famous, George Cukor's last movie. Anyway, he and his friend were the only two people in the theater for the beginning, but later on into the film a couple of what he described as 'caddy' young ladies came in and were causing a disturbance. First, my friend's companion politely told them to be quiet. Then, things escalated, to the point where he bitch-slapped one of the girls clear across the face! He did not see the end of Rich and Famous.RE # 6: Agreed. I'll either see every movie worth seeing in my life, or die trying.RE # 7: There are no words for the awesomeness of Netflix. It makes my weeks brighter, like Christmas in your mail-box.RE # 9: Absolutely. I get my balls busted for disappearing (rightfully so), but I simply can't let any one thing dominate my life, even something I love as much as movies and writing about movies. What good is it if you can't put it in context with everything else?RE # 10: Respectful, civil disagreements are what continually bring me back to discussing films on the internet; both on forums and on blogs. I love getting other people's views and being forced to defend myself. It forces me to think more critically about the work in question, sort out my own feelings, and just makes me a better movie-watcher in general. Of what use are my views if I can't defend them against opposing ones?Again, great read.

Comment by Ryan Kelly

Ryan -Thanks for the kind words.I suspect many of us have learned the same kinds of lessons – all very valuable – from our blogging experiences. As for your friend – wow! I understand the frustration, but I'm assuming those women were doing more than making the usual annoying chit chat. Occasionally, you get those really clueless, really obnoxious people that are just begging to be bitch-slapped,but even the garden variety chit-chatters make me crazy. Just last night, we went to see "My Life in Ruins," the kind of broad-appeal, heartwarming stuff that brings out the middle-aged-and-older folks who don't go to movies regularly – and therefore tend to forget that a movie theatre is NOT their living room. I got so tired of hearing people loudly repeating punch lines and narrating the movie to each other, I was about ready to open my own can of whup-ass and spray it all over them!

Comment by Pat

Beautiful job on this, Pat, and I can relate to so many of these, except I don't subscribe to Netflix because of all the movies I have available at the library and Facets.I'm a little surprised at how many people admire me for an act I'm a little ashamed of. But when one is in the throes of one's movie mania, anything can happen. I've learned to take movie viewing a little less seriously.

Comment by Marilyn

Pat this is great, thanks for taking part. Sorry to be late but these past few months I have stopped all activity on the blogs on the weekend because of so many other things that take up my time. I am in agreement with everything on this list. Concerning number 3 I used to think that I wasn't a full on cinephile because I didn't see many new releases but now I realize that it doesn't matter. I'm a classics cinephile, not a new release cinephile. It wasn't until I started blogging that I even realized there was a difference. In a way, it goes hand in hand with number 6. There are so many great movie to see why stress out about trying to see the latest blockbuster that will leave me cold anyway. And I definitely have a hard time balancing work and blogging and home life. I don't think I'll ever properly figure it out, I just hope no one notices when a week or two go by with nothing but photos and video clips. That means I'm really busy with other things. Thanks again Pat, this really was a terrific list.

Comment by Greg

Very nice piece. I really like Netflix, it's increased my appreciation of film incredibly through simple access to all the films I can't see in the little out of the way places I tend to live.And Marilyn, be proud. Don't be ashamed … I embarrass my wife many times at how curt I can be to movie talkers, and in this college town we get a lot.

Comment by Rick Olson

Marilyn, Greg and Rick -Thanks all. Glad you liked my list.Marilyn – My admiration for your "assault" on a movie talker is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but mostly I'm just relieved to know I'm not alone in my extreme frustration at people who talk out loud at the movies. My friends get mad at me for getting mad at and shushing the talkers around me, but I can't help myself. I remember back in 1976, a group of my high school friends and I went to see "Rocky" and we all started to snap our fingers together along with some musical montage. A manager was in the theatre within seconds admonishing us to stop and telling us "This is not your living room!"Nowadays,when we can watch movies everywhere and anywhere and going to a movie theatre is no longer any big deal, I think people tend to forget that. Living room rules of etiquette have been expanded to apply to public spaces like theatres. And Rick, yeah, Netlfix ROCKS!!!

Comment by Pat

Cracking up! I can just see your friends sitting around bemoaning your unfair advantage at their Oscar Parties. "That Pat and her blog..she thinks she's so cool" . "Mark my words, fellow friends of Pat, that Foscar (faux oscar) will be mine this year…MINE I tell you!!"HA HA HA ! Long Live Doodad!

Comment by Parisjasmal

This was the first year in, well, years that I didn't win my family's Oscar pool. I'm a disgrace to the blogging community. ;)I'll echo the sentiments – an excellent piece, Pat. Though it's hard to disagree with any of them, I think 9 hits the hardest for me. But having a patient, understanding and helpful wife helps out a lot. 6 rings pretty true, too – I always find it a little funny when someone gives me that "What? You haven't seen X?" I could watch a movie a day and not catch up to history. But it's worth trying."Especially on one of those days when we post what we think is a brilliant piece of analysis – and almost no readers show up to affirm our genius?"Don't you just hate that? I've found that sometimes the posts that you put the least work into generate the most comments and vice versa. That's just wrong…

Comment by Fletch

Fletch -Thanks for the comments. I find it funny and reaasuring that so many of us have the same kinds of experiences with blogging. This meme really affirmed for me that our blogging community is, indeed, a community.

Comment by Pat

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