Swans are not dead.
Category Archives: Meta
This post has been a long time coming. I keep putting it off, and the more I do, the more obvious its necessity.
I have been a media critic, in some form or other, for just over thirty years; I started writing music reviews for my high school paper in autumn 1984. Starting sometime in the mid-nineties, I began to make an effort to review everything I read, watched, and heard. And for a time–a pretty darned long time, considering how much media I consume–I managed it. I dropped reviewing all of the music that entered my collection sometime in the early 2000s and focused on books and film, and things kept going well for a while.
The first major drop in frequency here, back in early April, was my second inpatient trip to the hospital, for two unrelated issues, in three years. They were something of a wake-up call. (Perhaps not enough of one to really make me kill myself, but enough to get me started trying to take better care of my body.) In the ensuing seven months, I have rearranged a number of my priorities, and things that were previously central in my life have been forced to fall by the wayside because of time constraints. My list of unreviewed books and movies, already over a hundred pages long, blossomed. I now have over eight hundred blank headers in the movie section of that document, some of them going back two and a half years.
In short: I’m hanging it up. (Semi-) retiring. After thirty years, I think there’s a gold watch or something.
I have two more (I believe) solicited reviews to finish and publish. I will, of course, publish all the finished reviews that are waiting for publication, and I am planning on finishing up a few I’m in the middle of. And I will throw out a review here and there as time goes on, and the best-of-the-year lists will keep on coming. And I will always be working on think pieces that won’t have anywhere to live other than here, because no one else cares, really. But the idea of getting through all eight hundred plus of those blank movie reviews, plus the uncounted book headers? Simply clearing those out, I think, is going to be a profoundly liberating experience. I’m going to go back to being a fan.
Not that I ever wasn’t. And being a media critic taught me more than actually being in the book business about the ways books are published and what to look for. It put me into contact with hundreds of amazing people I would have never met otherwise. It taught me how to hone the art of seeking out the obscure and overlooked, and that one must sometimes wade through acres of swine, but that those few pearls you uncover are oh so worth it. And that turned me into even more of a fan than I already was, because looking at things with a critical eye, despite the popular conception, makes you appreciate the good stuff even more.
But with the shedding of this role comes the shedding of the pressure to try and find something to say about every single movie I watch. I can think of a dozen movies I’ve watched in the past two weeks for which I could probably write the same review and change the names. They’re not bad movies, but there’s nothing to distinguish them from the rest of the pack. And, finally, I’m saying: why bother?
But I’ll still be out here reading everything I can get my hands on, watching awful movies (along with a few really good ones), and listening to acres of music. Some of it may even be worth commenting on. And this I guarantee: I will never turn down popcorn for breakfast.
…but the laptop I was using to write reviews while I finished watching 1997’s Aberration (you’ve seen it a hundred times before) and 2010’s Das Letzte Schweiger (which is amazing and you should watch it right now if you have Netflix Instant) was responding so slowly that I couldn’t actually get to the New Post screen in order to drop a note that I couldn’t post anything because the response time on the laptop was so slow.
There has been no gap–I haven’t made any changes to the list since the last time one of these got posted.
Frozen (Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, 2013) 158
The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (Ray Muller, 1994) 334
Dirt (Chel White, 1998) 337
10/65: Self-Mutilation (Kurt Kren, 1965) 557
Snowpiercer (Joon-ho Bong, 2013) 702
Jug Face (Chad Crawford Kinkle, 2013) 883
Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971) 908
Thale (Alekander Nordaas, 2012) 981
The Doctor and the Devils (Freddie Francis, 1985)
Dead Silence (James Wan, 2007)
Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, 2010)
Hakuja Den (Kazuhiko Okabe, 1958)
Payback (Brian Helgeland, 1998)
Monsters (Gareth Edwards, 2010)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black, 2005)
Vincent: The Junkie Chronicles (Michael Failla, 2000)
Lordy, even I’m not sure how far behind I am at this point. I have so many blank headers on that bloody document with nothing attached to them that it’s kind of intimidating. And one of these days I actually will get around to writing some of the reviews. Until then, once work calms down or I get myself a new video card, I’ll start trying to catch up on the vault reviews.
I’m not gone. Writer’s block and hardware failures.
The saga of the dead video card at home continues, and is exacerbated by the last couple of weeks having piled stress on stress, to the point where I’ve kind of lost sight of my schedule. I’m going to try and figure out exactly how far I’m behind and get caught up Monday, assuming I don’t have another avalanche of work like I did this week.
Thanks to my video card finally frying on me over the weekend, I haven’t been able to post anything from home (the screen on my wife’s laptop is way too small for all the stuff I do before a post). I was off work for vacation Monday and Tuesday–yesterday’s post should have been a book report from CWRU’s annual Box Day sale, but a sick baby put the kibosh on that–and so, obviously, nothing got posted. I was hoping I would be able to catch up today at work, but for once, I had to actually catch up on work. Thus, you shall be subjected to a veritable flood of posts bright and early tomorrow.
I also moved the capsule reviews day for the month back a week to compensate (so you only get eight posts tomorrow instead of twenty-six). Your monthly dose of one-paragraph-at-a-time bitterness will surface next Monday, June 9. Tomorrow, you should, barring any major crises at work, be seeing the following:
Not of This Earth, Abro ne Bayie, Carriers, The Return (all movies)
Harm’s Way, Privileged Information, Fitzcarraldo, Blow-Up (the first two are Stephen White novels, the last two are movies)