Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The Experiment Continues
The Cooler is a year old today. For the author of this blog, the anniversary inspires conflicting reactions: “Already?” and “Only a year?” I’ve been writing about movies for a limited but faithful audience for some 12 years now. Over the past four years I’ve written reviews of most of the new releases I’ve seen in the theater. In that respect, publishing my writing on a blog hasn’t been all that significant a life change, and yet the past year of movie writing has been more rewarding than the previous five put together. Easily.
When I launched the blog, I called it an “experiment.” My fear was that I’d lose myself to it. Given my media background, I have a heightened sense of timeliness and deadlines (more heightened, alas, than my attention to grammar), and so in my mind there was a very real risk that starting a blog would mean sentencing myself to a second job, rather than enhancing an adored recreation. I had nightmares about pressuring myself to write reviews the day after a movie opened, and I knew from experience that the Internet is a forum with an insatiable appetite. What if my love affair with film criticism burned out trying to feed the monster?
That hasn’t happened. Cooler buddies Mark and Hokahey, who offered the strongest encouragement (er, nagging) to launch a blog in the first place, suggested that blogging could be what I wanted it to be – as much of a job or recreation as I desired. I wasn’t sure I believed them, but I decided it was time to try. One year later, it’s clear they were right.
The Cooler isn’t the best single-author movie site in the blogosphere. I’m sure of that. But I couldn’t tell you which blog deserves that honor, and that’s the secret to my satisfaction. The wonderful truth is that the blogosphere offers something for everyone. There are movie blogs that post a few times a month, some that post dutifully every day and some that post multiple times a day. Some are thoughtful, some are silly. Some are serious, some are sarcastic. There’s no right way to do it. If it were up to me, I’d post entertaining and thoughtful commentary almost daily, as Ed Howard does at Only The Cinema. But I don’t have the time. In fact, I don’t even have the time to keep up with reading Ed’s daily posts, much as I’d like to. So I comfort myself with the knowledge that while “real life” might cause me to go a week without posting, there must be readers like me for whom that pace is perfect. If the whole point of bringing my writing to the blogosphere is to share it with others, I post at a pace that is conducive to following along. I envy Ed’s output, I do, but I don’t feel compelled to compete with it. I can’t compete. I know that, and I’m totally okay with that. For me, that means I’m doing this thing right. (I didn't start blogging to be competitive.)
Speaking of Ed, I wasn’t familiar with him a year ago or even nine months ago. Now we’re not only fans of one another’s work, we’re collaborators. Last month, our first installment of The Conversations, coauthored give-and-takes on film, debuted at The House Next Door. (The second installment is in the works right now.) Likewise, before I ever traded thoughts with Ed, I debated documentaries with Fox, another blogger whose work I discovered within the year and who graces The Cooler with regular comments. At my blog or his, Fox and I tend to agree on only one thing: that we enjoy disagreeing with one another. Cyberspace is full of vitriol, but Fox and I have had countless passionate debates while fostering mutual respect, rather than forgetting it.
I could go on, but it’s safer to stop here – knowingly leaving out the names of many Cooler regulars and favorites, rather than risking the accidental snubbing of one or two. A year ago I wrote, “I believe this blog will be measured by what my readers bring to it.” I still think that. To all those who have left thoughtful comments and used my writing as the starting point to a larger conversation, thank you! Sincerely. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what it’s all about. It’s somewhat fitting, actually, that this post should follow my review of Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, because in the past year I’ve found that bloggers are a tight-knit, mostly supportive group with a camaraderie that reminds of the locker room scenes in The Wrestler. (That we do all this almost foolishly – for love and not money – only strengthens the comparison. Not to mention that I suspect that many of us do it half-naked, but that’s another story.)
Speaking of blogger camaraderie, an overdue point of blog business:
A few weeks ago Getafilm's Daniel Gatahun honored me with a Dardos Award that, due to a hectic real-world schedule, I have yet to acknowledge. Now, as I see it, there are three ways to respond to such recognition, two of them incorrect: 1) Get cocky and feel overly self-important, failing to realize that the Dardos exercise is more or less a chain e-mail of warm fuzzies; 2) Get cocky and act as if too cool to recognize a genuine compliment because it comes in a chain-esque form; 3) See the Dardos Awards for what they are at best: an opportunity to encourage and thank your peers. I choose No. 3.
On that note, I humbly accept my Dardos Award (more information at the end of this post), and I eagerly look forward to the second part of this exercise, which is bestowing the award on five other bloggers. I’m going to attempt to present the award to five bloggers who I don’t think have received Dardos Awards to this point, or who at least haven’t accepted them on their blogs, as far as I know. So, Dardos go to the following:
Craig of The Man From Porlock, who writes not enough for how much I enjoy him.
Ed Howard of Only The Cinema, who writes too often for how much I enjoy him (I can't keep up).
Fox of Tractor Facts, who is just so constantly wrong about everything, but who I begrudgingly read anyway (I jest).
FilmDr of The Film Doctor, whose daily reports of a two-week student filmmaking course still has me smiling.
Mystery Man of Mystery Man on Film, whose recognition of all the ways Indiana Jones sucks makes up for the fact that he admires the screenplay of Gran Torino.
In the spirit of recognizing others, I’d also like to welcome a new blogger to the neighborhood. More accurately, I'd like to congratulate this blogger on moving out of The Cooler’s basement in order to have a place of his own. Cooler regular Hokahey, who has contributed countless comments and collaborated on a handful of posts here over the past year, is now blogging at Little Worlds!
In recent weeks, Hokahey has been plagued by some of the same concerns I had before launching The Cooler. But now he’s committed. I hope you’ll go over and check him out and leave him a fruit basket or something.
And with that, “the experiment” continues. The coming year is sure to lead to more collaboration, more passionate exchanges, another blog-a-thon and who knows what else? Whatever it is, you can cue up the Sinatra, because I’ll be doing it my way.
A heartfelt thank you to all the readers and commenters who have made an otherwise forgettable movie year so enriching.
-- Jason Bellamy
The Dardos Awards
The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.
Recipients are supposed to do the following:
1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person who has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.