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.

Thanks, gents!

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.


Ed Howard said...

Happy anniversary! And thanks for all the kind words.

The Film Doctor said...

Much thanks for the honor, Jason, and happy anniversary too. You tend to have a better attitude about blogging than I do, and I'm trying to learn from your illustrious example.

Richard Bellamy said...

I hope the Experiment continues for as long as you would like it to. I have learned a lot from you about blogging over the past year and it has introduced me to all sorts of different voices writing about the thing I love most - movies.

Jason Bellamy said...

Thanks, all. And one more thing ...

As I did last year, I'll be live-blogging the Academy Awards. That's right, me, all your friends and your grandma. You'll all have numerous options for live blogs on Oscar night, and many of you will be live-blogging yourself. But if you have time, stop by, give a read and jump into the comments section.

Here's last year's version ...

Daniel said...

Congrats on 1 year, Jason. I'm about six months ahead of you in blogging age and about six years behind you in blogging talent.

Much of what you've said here resonates me as I'm thinking about the direction of my own blog. I'm feeling as if my posting frequency may go down, and with that hopefully the thought and quality of posts will go up. Some people can do both, of course, but I certainly don't think I'm there yet.

And if I'm near a computer I'd love to check in on during the Oscars! I had a running diary myself last year but the experience was too intense, believe it or not - this year I'll focus on the screen. And maybe your screen.

Joshua said...

The Cooler is one of the handful of blogs I check with daily, you do great work. Congrats on the anniversary.

Allison said...

Wow. You and your blog almost have the same birthday!!

Congrats on all of it!!

P.S. I can't watch the Wrestler. I think I will cry the entire time and be reminded of all my daddy issues. What do you think?

Patricia Perry said...

Congratulations on your first year in the blogosphere. You do some very fine work here, and even though I've only just 'discovered' you, I'm sure I'll be back often.

Craig said...

Congrats, Jason, for the anniversary of one of the most consistently engaging blogs out there. From the moment I first saw your 'Cooler King' headmast, I was hooked. And thanks for being a great supporter of my own work, however thin it's been of late. Some real-world developments have intruded recently -- positive things, but consuming of my time. There also haven't been many movies urging me to see them, but I try to fall back on my favorite TV shows when I can. I hope to get back to semi-regular posting soon.

Mark said...

Jason, congratulations on reaching one year at The Cooler. That's a tremendous milestone -- not that you're still here a year later, but that you've maintained such a level of excellence for so long.

I'm honored that you give me a bit of credit for encouraging you to start your blog. I'm not at all surprised that it has been a success, but honestly The Cooler is even better than I expected. You've done a great job of creating and nurturing a community of readers and participants. Harder than it looks.

(Side note to Allison: If you're someone who even mouths the phrase "daddy issues" I'd be careful with "The Wrestler." I loved it, but I had to watch the whole thing between my fingers and felt emotionally wracked for days.)

Jason: continued success! And thanks for the reliable bookmark.

Jason Bellamy said...

Everyone: Thanks for the kind words. A few quick replies ...

Craig: Real life should always come before blog life. That's how I see it. (Of course blog life is a major component of my real life, in a positive way.) So blog only when you feel it, not because anyone thinks you should. Just saying that I'm always happy to see something on your blog.

Daniel: Thanks for the original compliments and these, too. Make blogging what you want it to be. If you enjoy it, I think others will.

Allison: On "The Wrestler," what Mark said. Of course, bawling through a movie can be cathartic, too. But sounds like it's a renter for you at best.

Mark: I'm still determined to have you write a poker-in-the-movies piece for The Cooler. Whenever, or if ever, the mood strikes you ...

Hope to see you all on Oscar night.

Joel Bocko said...

Just to add to the chorus: you're blog is great, so keep it up. I too have been tagged with the Dardos but have held off in passing it along so far. However, I've been planning to follow your approach - pick those who haven't been picked, which will simultaneously save me from making tough decisions and pass the honor along to the deserving who have not yet been awarded.

Fox said...

Happy Anniversary Jason!

The first review I read at The Cooler was for Be Kind Rewind, and I never stoppped coming back. I can't believe it's almost been a year since then. Crazy.

And sincerely, our disagreements have not only served as good markers for how I would like debates on my blog to go down, but they've also helped make my blog better and have given me more hits! I thank you very, very much for that.

Finally, thanks for mentioning our documentary debate again, but you left out one important piece of information... I WON THE DEBATE!

PIPER said...

Happy Anniversary Jason.

I sway on how I feel about blogging. Sometimes it feels like work. Other times it's a wonderful thing. Lately, I've really enjoyed it.

And I guess I need to say ooops. I just tagged you for the Dardo as well.