Christopher Maher: Hey Sam. Hope you’re enjoying our very October Summer. About a year ago when October was the appropriate temperature (I think, I don’t remember honestly) we started this blog.
Samuel Russell: If my memory serves correct last year around this time New York was also a disgusting armpit of humidity and unseasonable heat. It is shocking that we have been doing this thing for an entire years. This past year and a half has felt the fastest of any year I’ve experienced thus far.
CM: Wow oh wow. What a ride it’s been. Guess it’s time for some retrospection/introspection. Was that opening too clunky?
Anyway, I want to discuss favorite articles and moments shortly but I think I’m going to start with some surprises. First off, I always thought I was a movie goer but it turns out I was wrong. Seeing a movie nearly every weekend is kind of challenging, even just from a scheduling standpoint. That wasn’t something I thought about going in, but you have to give up a certain amount of time. I cribbed a little with Netflix new releases, but it’s still tough man. Especially if there’s nothing out you want to see – which led to some happy surprises and to probably the worst movie I saw in theaters in the last year.
SR: The challenge of seeing a movie and writing about it every week is one that I have yet to conquer, to be perfectly honest. Setting aside 2 hours (plus the extra hour trapped in Governor Cuomo’s sick dystopic excuse for a subway system) and 15 bucks every week is near-impossible (yes, non-NYC people, a standard movie ticket costs 15 dollars here, and it’s terrible). So impossible that I straight-up haven’t done it. I often don’t make time to see movies, and I find it even harder to make time to write about them. It’s a challenge I am constantly self-flagellating about, constantly trying to improve, and this will surely be a focus for me going into Blog Year Two.
CM: The second surprise challenge came when we started to have guest writers which was “developing a house style”. How much plot can you give away in a review (we generally play by the “act 1 is allowed and after that keep it vague” but even that is tough and not a hard rule)? What does a grab bag article have to be? Can it be about a festival, instead of a movie, for example? (Yes). What makes our site different? To me the answer to the final one was that we wanted to mix in a bit of personal essay (the first article we ever wrote was something you wrote about how The Graduate really spoke to you the first summer post-college and though it was never published or finished I guess it was the spark of what we wanted to do). It’s something I’d like to lean even further into in the future. The articles I get most excited about are the personal ones (or, obviously, if a movie is just out of this world good).
SR: Film is of course very subjective, so if we’re gonna criticize them I think it’d be unfair not to include a little context. Who are we, and where are we coming to this movie from? What is our past relationship to a given director, series, genre, etc? We haven’t written as many explicitly “personal essay” style articles as I expected we would. However I think we’ve done a decent job at including ourselves in our reviews. I always try to share something about my past relationship with a given film when writing about it. Looking forward I think it would be a good idea double down on this idea. It is unique to us (it can’t not be, if we’re truly writing about ourselves) and I like it! It’s easier to write about a movie as though it exists in a vacuum, but that’s not true to how we experience them.
CM: The final surprise wasn’t really surprising, but it’s just how business-like it becomes eventually. I have to write one or two articles a week and see one movie, and that’s just part of my life. It doesn’t feel like a chore at all (because you know, we can stop whenever it’s not like there’s money or lives or anything on the line) but it doesn’t exactly feel like something I choose to do either. It’s just a job. I still get excited about individual articles, but the whole enterprise is just part of my life. Which is good! It’s how it should be.
SR: This is where we differ. If you’re reading this and don’t know us personally: Chris is an incredibly disciplined writer, where I am not. Honestly, when I see a movie on a Sunday evening, and I get home and remember I need to structure my thoughts and feelings into writing, it absolutely feels like a chore. If it weren’t for Chris keeping the fire burning, this blog would probably be more bi-monthly rather than bi-weekly.
So Chris, now that we’ve reflected on our year of blogging in a more general sense, why don’t we look at some of the specific pieces we’ve written?
If I had to pick a favorite piece that I wrote, one that jumps out at me is “Actions Speak Louder than Plots in Bob’s Burgers.” This was something I knew I loved about Bob’s Burger, but I had never been able to articulate it. Writing this “grab bag” article really made me process what it was I appreciated so much about Bob’s Burgers, and actually made me respect the show that much more.
In our joint review of Moonlight we had a genuine argument about the “coming of age” genre. Real conflict makes for interesting discussion. It’s also kinda comical how much we disagree in a review where we largely agreed about our general opinion of the film.
Your article about falling action in Legend of Korra and Breaking Bad was really insightful, I thought. It’s an idea that really stuck with me. I never really thought about falling action, but now it’s something I consider in almost everything I watch, and with narrative projects I write.
What do you think? Do you have any favorites? Should we talk about things that performed really well/didn’t and/or things we expected/didn’t expect to resonate with people and stuff.
CM: Yeah, discovering something as you write an article is pretty much the best possible outcome. It happened as recently as my Rick & Morty article where I thought I was sort of souring on the show and then after considering the finale I decided maybe I was wrong.
Two types of articles really jumped out at me. The we’ve already discussed: maybe we didn’t really do “personal essay” too much, but I think pieces where we discuss things we’ve struggled with in media are good, and my recent piece about Bojack Horseman and The Office was a piece that had me discussing the toxic things media teaches us about “true love”, which is definitely something in my own real life. My article about The Incredibles also faced me with something I loved on screen but had problems with in the real world.
The second type of article I really loved were the discussions, and that’s something I think we realized pretty early on. The more opinions we have, and the more angles from which we approach a film, the better. In particular I loved writing about Dunkirk, as friends Brandon Woodruff and Conor Bell bring significantly different backgrounds to film than I do. I also enjoyed facing off against Brian Russell when it came to Rogue One, though I regret the way we wrote that one didn’t necessarily have a back and forth, just because he wrote his review first instead of at the same time. Of course, as I have since admitted, he ended up being the victor.
As for engagement, I guess I’m just a little sad when our artier film reviews don’t get many clicks. It makes sense to me, because people want to read reviews for films they are considering seeing, but it means some real gems slip through the cracks. I don’t really care if people see It or not, though I did enjoy it. But I know we care if people see Lost City of Z, and Certain Women, and A Ghost Story. Those are the films we’d like to champion, but we simply don’t have the readership for it yet.
Anyway, cheers to another year!