Reflecting on the end of my film review journey

January 28, 2024

 

I'll loosely paraphrase Henry Hill from GOODFELLAS by saying that "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a film critic." 

And I have done so...for nearly the past 20 years. 

For a majority of my life, I have eaten, drunk, breathed, and slept movies.  I'm as passionate of a cinephile as they come.  I grew up watching Siskel & Ebert on a weekly basis, which was instrumental in helping me evolve as a mature filmgoer with broad tastes.  I then worked at video stores for half a decade during my late teens and early twenties, which exposed me to even more films that - gasp! - I could take home for free for marathon binge-watches before that was even a thing with the advent of streaming.  That's probably when my real cinematic education began.  During that time, I had access to the best that was available on Laser Disc and then DVD at the stores I worked at.  It was better than film school.  And no need to pay tuition or attend classes daily.  That's also when the physical media collecting bug hit me.  When DVD launched in 1997, I bought two titles - ROB ROY and THE PEACEMAKER - and at that time I doubted that I would ever seriously buy anything else or build up any kind of physical media library.    

Flash-forward 25 years later, and I now have a collection that dwarfs the inventory at the last video store I worked at.  

Go figure, eh.  

I modestly dabbled in film criticism with my high school newspaper, but those reviews were not especially well written, nor did they really adequately display my voice.  When I started going to the movies in a much more consistent way in the late 1990s and early 2000s, that's when I decided to take a crack at film criticism.  I started this site in very meager and archaic form back in the summer of 2004 (its overall look remains archaic, mostly because I'm no expert when it comes to web design and publishing).  I made a promise to myself then to see as many films as I could and write full-length reviews of them, akin to the same type of reviews that Ebert used to write and compile in his yearly movie companion books (those were like Bibles to me).  Initially, I never took my site or my early reviews quite seriously.  I thought that if I could hit, say, 100 reviews then I would probably call it quits.  

As of today, I've reviewed 2328 films.

That's an awful lot of time spent in darkened cinemas with complete strangers. 

My first published review here was for the fact-based sports drama MIRACLEMy very last published review (as of the date of this article) was for THE HOLDOVERS

Post-2004, I pushed myself ever harder and seemed bound and determined to not just review 100 films, but try to review well over 100 films every year for the foreseeable future.  I was relatively prolific in this regard, and at my peak I was seeing roughly 130-140 films a year.  This eventually caught the eyes of my local CTV station here, and by mid-2012 I was given an opportunity to appear on-screen as a film critic.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be falling in the footsteps of Siskel & Ebert by reviewing films on TV, but I did just that - off and on - for nearly a decade.  I found that experience to be extremely humbling, to say the least.  I think that's where I truly found my voice.  

As the 2010s wore on, I started to question just how long I could keep this site and my review schedule up.  Could I make it ten years?  Twenty years?  I had come a long way from my initial journey to write and post 100 reviews and then call it a day, but the years were starting to take their toll.  When I began this site, I was in my late twenties.  Now, I'm one year away from being 50.  Any amount of youthful energy and passion that I once had for this as a twentysomething started to dwindle as a fortysomething.  Then the COVID pandemic reared its ugly head, and for a year-plus I barely even entered a cinema.  The prospect of mass gatherings was a less than exciting one for me.  Obviously, things have returned to a place of semi-normalcy since then as far as regular filmgoing is concerned, but by early 2022, I was getting more than a bit fatigued regularly screening and reviewing films.  And, to be brutally honest, my drive for doing it was simply not there anymore.  I was growing lethargic and unmotivated.  

I convinced myself that I would end things for good by the end of 2024 (which would mark twenty years for my site), but as 2023 progressed, I found that - for the first time in an awfully long time - I had to work mental overtime to get to the cinema on a regular basis.  Doing what I have been doing on this site felt more like arduous work than ever before.  In short, my heart just wasn't in it anymore.  I think that was as good of a warning sign as any to simply retire from film criticism.  It's with great sadness that I leave this all behind me.  This site and my reviews have been something that has defined a better part of my life, and it will be tough for me to say good-bye to it.  Alas, it's time for me to move on.  That doesn't mean that I'm retiring from seeing movies (that would be impossible).  I'll be a regular and driven filmgoer for the remainder of my years.  That much is certain.  But as for committing myself to writing full reviews of everything I see and posting them here...it's over for me.  

I've also witnessed a lot of seismic changes to the industry since the mid-2000s.  I was around for the large scale (and polarizing) switch from celluloid to digital projection.  I remember when 3D made a big comeback (and then fizzled back into obscurity).  I experienced movie palaces that I grew up with closing and being torn down (that was a crushing blow).  I mournfully saw video stores as a whole die a very slow death with the advent of streaming (considering my background, that was a larger dagger to the proverbial heart, seeing as there will be an entire generation of kids that will never know the simple pleasures of going out to the video store with friends and spending an hour scanning through their inventory and picking a title to watch).  I've been through a physical media format war (albeit short) between Blu-ray and HD-DVD (when HD physical media hit, that was just mind-blowing to me...we've come a long way from VHS and Laser Disc).  When I started my site, my main TV was wider than my ever-expanding girthy frame and just as heavy.  Now, I have a near-80 inch flat panel that's as thin as a piece of cardboard (complimented with a full Dolby Atmos home theater system) and this comes as close to duplicating the cinematic experience at home (decades earlier, this all felt unattainably futuristic).  

Most importantly, my love of movies has remained.  That much is certain.  As Orson Welles once eloquently put, "To the movies, to good movies, to every possible kind!"  I have seen a lot of films since 2004, and I'm mostly proud of how many I've seen and reviewed since then.  My eyes have been continually opened up to the limitless possibilities that cinema has to offer.  Many films astounded me and elicited a sense of childlike awe and wonder, whereas others made me question why the hell I was at the cinema in the first place.  I'm not trying to put myself on a pedestal, but I have two thousand-plus reviews here that encapsulate not only their respective time of release, but also my evolving critical voice (and...uh huh...nearly half of my life).  If anything, what I leave behind will serve as a time capsule to show how crazily dedicated I was to my greatest passion.  I also sincerely appreciate everyone that has supported my work, in one form or another, since this site's humble beginnings.  I've made many new connections and friendships as a result of my work here, which is something I will forever cherish.  Even though my film reviews are ending, I will forever be a part of the film discourse.  

As for what I'm going to do now?  

I dunno.  Probably see a movie or two...and then enjoy the rest of my day.  

And maybe hang out with my cat more.  He's been really supportive in all of this.

 

 

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