I have to say I’ve been working on this birthday post for far too long, so long actually that had this been a Hallmark card, to be snail-mailed card, the price of stamps would have risen in the nexus. I didn’t get it together soon enough to actually be on or around the official date of celebrating. Above The Line’s actual birthday was May 18th – so HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY!!! [queue birthday song, hold the lyrics please] Above The Line: Practical Movie Reviews is very grateful to you, my reader, whether this is your first visit or one of many, blogs are only as successful and dare I say useful as we find them, share them and trust them. In the movie business we’re often inundated with salesman at every corner, and awards shows are often no real help in determining what to watch and why. At every turn we’re faced with ad campaigns and target assignments with “best” this and “award earner” that, the next great thing making room for what is already right in front of us – yesterdays hits making a slow, sure slide into tomorrow. Often blogs fall victim to the push to get it right, to summarize and tidy up short quips about the best and the worst in order to keep us moving to the box office and rental queues for product. These days it’s getting harder and harder to cater to the least common denominator – that is shorter is better when it is shortest – but truth be known I made that choice some time ago to write what I write and let length be determined by how passionate I am about the film, filmmaker, art and artist. I’m not the longest winded blogger out there or the best (ahem, back slapping aside, I do abide) or the most concise but I’m honest and I’m a filmmaker and I offer that to you every time I sit down to a review. I’ll keep writing as long as you keep reading. Thanks for dropping by, half a slice of virtual birthday cake, leave me a word or two on what you think, I always reply.
If you’re wondering how or why I didn’t post this sooner, well, I didn’t forget so much as I got behind and then stuff happened, like it always does and May turned into July, night for day then September snowballed into the last day of summer and now there are pumpkins everywhere to contend with. What started off somewhere around December last year went the way of all good intentions and wayward resolutions, calendar pages turning making you forget more than you can remember. Well, lets just say I’ve had a few bumps in the road and all those reasons aside, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do so why not make up a day for your celebrating like Christmas for Halloween, Easter in the Winter, Louis Riel Day in November, Dragon Boat Festival all day in April – like Above The Line’s May birthday in October. Besides, there’s only six months until we do it all again anyway!
It was May 18th, 2010 when I posted my first review of Sin City. I have no idea why I picked that movie but there it is, my most humble beginnings. I also write OP-EDs and editorials, essays on art and film, formal criticism and features on artists I know (like my wife, Melissa) and others, like my friend James and other celebrities, like Tom Hardy and Joan Rivers. My bread and butter, so to speak are the reviews which also appear in other forms, formats and publications (thankfully). I’ve had some pretty great things happen along the way, joining forces to provide a feature column of sorts for the online entertainment network and portal Actors and Crew, frequent appearances and shared articles for Rodney over at Fernby Films, various publications for Yahoo’s Contributor Network, contributing writer for the national movie news and reviews site Movie-Vault.com, one being earlier this year when Warner Bros. Home Entertainment chose me among the many, many movie bloggers out there to write Blu-ray movie reviews for them. Another cool thing happened on August 7th when I posted Batman: America’s James Bond and reached my 200th blog post. You know that feeling you get when you’re sliding down a hillside on a sled made out of a cardboard box and you’re finally going pretty fast and the wind is in your hair and your hearts beating a mile a minute and all you want is for it to last forever and those seconds, those moments of disconnect from the planets gravitational pull give you wings and you’re a kid and you can do anything…writing a blog isn’t anything like that but it’s a whole other kind of fulfillment. Writing gives me my every kind of reason to believe in doing it all over again, and again so here we go, lets begin.
I’m not sure what I was thinking when I first cooked this idea up, having no way of knowing exactly how much work was going to be involved. I didn’t know what the format was going to be but I knew I didn’t want to use the gimmicks that are often overused, like stars and thumbs and popcorn tubs. I thought the best plan would be to try to look at reviews from the inside out, to capitalize on my experiences as a filmmaker to make reviews more practical, less plot point analysis and more about the experience of the movies. I used to think there weren’t that many people doing it until I found lists to the contrary, plenty of people with big ideas and opinions and at first that made me feel like what could I contribute? Then I realized there aren’t a lot of filmmakers who write reviews – thus Above The Line was born. Once I got over opening Pandora’s box and accepting the fact there was no way of putting it back, I bit down hard, braced for the inevitable collision, and hung on for dear life! I’ve been stumbling ever since to be quite honest but it’s been truly rewarding (mostly) and almost always (very often) exciting. More than anything I want to help people kinda like the way old football greats trade in their helmets and athletic supporters for desks and microphones, sideline quarterbacks and studio commentators. A lot of these guys have real staying power because they’ve been down there in the muck and the mire and when they start talking about it, writing about it, explaining it, you want to trust them – or maybe they just have a funny way of being there again and you can connect in a way that’s different from other guys who’ve never even walked onto a set, much less been involved in making a movie come to life. They say writer’s write and filmmakers make movies and sometimes they blog about the collision of the two.
Two and a half years later, 205 blog entries and counting, some 55,000 visitors pushing 100K with all that other traffic – I’ve written somewhere around a quarter of a million words for this blog. That’s crazy talk – but here it is – the good, the bad and the something. I’ve written reviews and editorials, covered films, filmmakers and the in between, covered stand up comedians, art shows, artists and filmmakers, walked the red carpet and dined al fresco with the Oscars. Exploring the myths and legends of Hollywood and the immortal movie screens of our lives is as rewarding as it has been daunting, catching up the hiccups and high art of our greatest entertainers and curious spirits. It takes tens of hundreds of hours to do it all, this, thousands probably and I’ve seen my work picked up by Warner Bros. Entertainment, syndicated for a Los Angeles entertainment network magazine, featured in publications online and in print all over the world from my home in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve met amazing artists and writers, joined the ranks of bloggers everywhere, finally, after years seeing my poetry and prose published by print markets of small presses and magazines before all this great wide open Internet white space everything. Do you remember before the internet? Do you remember writing the old-fashioned way? Typing? Keyboarding? Black type writer ribbon ink and carbon paper crinkly sheets? The funny thing is, just when I’m just beginning to break into a stride it seems it all hangs so preciously on going on forever or ending tomorrow. But I just keep on keeping on because I need it now more than ever and I gotta keep reaching out into the void to see what I touch and what touches me back.
I hit my busiest day recently, on July 29th with 555 unique visitors to my blog, somewhere between The Dark Knight review, Christopher Nolan Master & Commander of Cinema, and Batman: America’s James Bond I started averaging 300 people a day and it’s been steadily climbing since. I have big plans and hope to keep all this up but anyone who maintains a regular blog or writes for a living can tell you, it’s all one post away from the next or nothing. I hit an all time high month in August with 9770 visitors and if all things go well I’ll end this year doubled what I had last year and maintain the momentum of doubling each year and so on and so on until I reach my goal of a world-wide audience. I keep juggling my other writing as well, a memoir that I’ve spent too many years talking about and the film scripts that continue to change, stay the same, mature and refine. Mostly I keep going for the same reason I got started, to challenge the notions of what movie reviews can be and should be, if not always then more times than anything.
Above The Line: Practical Movie Reviews has quite a diverse audience with traffic coming in from all over the place. Of course my biggest audience is right here in the good old USA, which makes sense I guess, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, India and Turkey. The Philippines, Australia (thanks Rodney, Fernby Films), Germany (Peter), Mexico (GR?), Greece, Hong Kong and Brazil (Pauola?). Poland, Netherlands, Egypt, Singapore and Hungary all tie, plus Argentina, Sweden, Malaysia, Taiwan and Israel are plenty close. The Russian Federation sounds so novel, have to throw a shot out to Portugal for all my people, the places I’ve been and need to go; there’s Georgia (not that one) and Serbia, a bunch of others tied for just barely coming by, then Italy of course and France (Pat), New Zealand (is that you?) and way down there, almost not at all, it’s Latvia, Estonia, Moldova, Costa Rica, Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Kyrgyzstan – and actually, almost a hundred others. I have to put this birthday back slapping to rest now so I can get on with my next movie review. Recently it’s been The Hunger Games and the Indie character flick Loosies, the other day it was the late Tony Scott’s The Hunger for old times sake, Days of Thunder with Tom Cruise, the yucky Five Year Engagement that I don’t recommend, and a hapless return to the three-picture atrocities of George Lucas before scurrying around the find something, anything to erase the memory. Up next is anyone’s guess and most of all my doing. For now I still rent from a little movie shack down the road, a place for lost souls and cinephiles, everyday people caught between grocery shopping and pharmacy visits and chain store secret shopping trips.
Movies remind us of the magic of escapism and high adventure, of getting away and reminiscing, of the child we are and used to be gathered in the dark for the next go at dreaming and pretending and imagining what dreams may come when last we look up into the sky and ask ourselves where will we go this time? I’ll be here, man, because well, the dude abides writing about my high-colored times, low ones too, marveling at the movies and you. See you soon.