the future of this blog

This was supposed to be a review of Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight, but after reading over my Letterboxd review, adding a couple of sentences, downloading some screenshots and previewing it, I suddenly was faced with an existential crisis — one of those “why am I doing this?” moments. Not one thing I was about to present here wasn’t already available online somehow or another, which was one reason I was having trouble motivating myself to bother. There was no insight to add, no great truth to uncover. It wasn’t fun or interesting anymore.

Last year I heavily streamlined and simplified the process by which I review music. When I started both that outlet and this one I was still in my twenties and greatly overestimated my continued ability to reasonably manage my time in such a way that I’d be able to post up to six lengthy essays about popular culture in a given week — unpaid and sometimes unread.

I’ve never been more interested in movies or in pop music, nor more interested in writing about them, but in a very practical sense it’s become hard. And not being able to maintain a pace I set for myself three years ago just discourages me from working when I actually can. That becomes a big problem when I’m reminded of the existence of films I wanted to see ten or more years ago that I still haven’t because I’m always trying to catch up on these essays. I don’t think anyone is asking for excuses, but: I am getting married in the near future and also moving to an actual house, I have a full-time job that commands a very large part of my dedication and attention, and I actually finally have some semblance of a healthy social life. In past years, I felt a constant need to prove my worthiness via writing and now I’d rather do it simply because I want to.

It also should be addressed that, in 2012 when I started this thing Letterboxd was not yet all the way off the ground. If it had been, it’s likely I would have used that as an outlet and never started this WordPress account. With that said, I like this blog, and I appreciate and enjoy the surprisingly positive reception it’s gotten from those who have seen and read it. It’s not going away. For one thing, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of relying on a third-party company — one that runs mostly on donations — for the continued presence of my movie writing online. And also, this is 100% my territory, where I make the rules, and I like that a lot. No star ratings is only one positive outgrowth.

When we started out here, it was important to me that this was a very visually strong blog, and I think my biggest disappointment was when I lost the ability to make my own screencaps, even though it was a lot of work. Publicity shots and PR screencaps just don’t have the same appeal for me. With that in mind, I do have to wonder what can make this in any way superior to my short Letterboxd writeups. To date, the difference has been that I impose more thought and formalism on how I write here; I’ve also required that reviews posted here were at least a certain length, which now seems arbitrary to me, hence my discomfort with the Magic piece I was about to bring here. It felt padded, and frankly so have some of the things that did get posted in this space.

The solution, I think, is something similar to the format at The Only Engine, which I tested out last summer and has made me really happy so far. The regular Letterboxd commentary will continue, and then once a month those reviews will be condensed down and summarized in a set of new capsules to be posted here and then added to the Movie Guide. But if I have a lot to say and the desire to self-edit and dwell on something — more than a couple of paragraphs’ worth, say — it will be posted here instead (with a link from LB). I have no intention of cutting off full-length writing about anything I care about, ever; it’s something I have to do and something I love to do. But luckily, at 31 I seem to have finally left behind the need to impose such behavior for everything to which I must respond. (Ironically, I came to this conclusion last time I was writing regularly about movies as well, around seven years ago. I guess when I reentered the field it was with those rosy specs everybody’s always wearing.)

The good news for You, the Reader (and for me, honestly) is that this will allow me to pick up the pace substantially on seeing films. Also: all of the projects that are going on or were planned will continue unabated. In the last six months the speed and rate of posting here has been wildly unstructured and that’s alas probably our destiny — I often won’t know when the next post is going up here until I’m writing it, with the exception of the monthly capsule additions. I would imagine we’ll be looking at between two and six full-length reviews in a given month but it’s hard to know for sure until this is all in practice.

Now, some housecleaning has to go down. There’s a ginormous backlog of Letterboxd writeups, most of which will now become capsules and a few of which are lengthy and will thus be modestly illustrated and turned into full reviews here. The first half of the capsules will be up in the next day or two, with the rest to follow soon thereafter. I also have a large number of complete reviews I wrote as backups or that just didn’t quite get finished or that I just never had occasion to post. In the interest of starting up with a clean slate, those will go up starting almost immediately and will carry us through all of February and a bit of March. Just don’t get used to that quantity of blather from me!

Because it worked so immensely well at my other blog, I’m very excited about this change and I think it will improve the quality of work here significantly, not to mention my desire and enthusiasm toward movie criticism. Please comment or email me if you have any questions or remarks about any of this. Thanks again for reading!

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