Thursday, September 4, 2008
About TRUST MOVIES -- and the guy who's asking you to trust 'em
................photo immediately above by Joel WeberBTI@nyc.rr.com
From their beginning, movies have shown us ourselves and the world -- as we are, were and might be -- in ways simple and increasingly complex and effects-ridden. So why not trust movies? They're certainly as reliable as your government, boss, spouse, friends -- and that fellow or gal you face each morning in your mirror. We're all fallible hypocrites.
Not that you should trust all movies, certainly. Nor even all of a single movie. Perfection is out of reach, but human beings do keep trying, particularly moviemakers. Documentarians, bless 'em, aim for truth, but seasoned moviegoers understand that, no matter how many "facts" one is able to marshal, truth remains just out of reach. Narrative filmmakers take a different route toward the same goal and sometimes, in their way, come rather close.
TrustMovies wants to put you in touch with films from around the world that are worth a watch, along with some that aren't. I'll be your guide. "I" being James van Maanen, who, for the past several years, has been reviewing DVD's, festivals, current theatrically-released movies and interviewing actors and directors -- all at the very comprehensive movie site GreenCine
Because I am starting the TrustMovies blog at "day one," if you wish to see any of my previous writing you'll have to go to GreenCine's Guru Reviews, its Daily Blog, or (under my moniker of "talltale") at various individual GC movie sites. I can also be found on Netflix member reviews under the name of talltale
To my recent surprise, many of my Greencine postings have been gathered at the Wikio site.
I'm a gay man, and if this sends you running for the hills, so be it. I think it's best to place information such as this on the table in plain view. At the very least, it will explain why I choose to cover certain films and fests and will perhaps will prevent you from wasting time wondering if I might be, you know, that way. Gay is nowhere near the extent of my identity, however, nor does it begin to cover the range of my film interest.
Enough gossip fodder.
Now, about me and film....
I've been going to movies since I was two years old, maybe even earlier. I began learning to read from movie marquees, and when I was 2-1/2, I announced to my parents that I was toddling off to a "picture show." They imagined I was joking and waved goodbye. Hah! I then walked to the corner where I took a bus to downtown Pasadena and saw... what? I've never been able to remember which Disney it was, but I'm sure it was one of Walt's works. (Yes, I was always very tall for my age, and this allowed me to board buses and get away with other fun things.) Eventually that day I ended up in a police station eating an ice cream cone. Rockwell Americana come to life.
My mom died later that same year and my dad immediately joined the army -- this was during WWII -- to assuage his grief or guilt or both. I was then shuffled from relative to relative for several unhappy years, during which movies helped keep me going. I've always been grateful, so maybe this blog is a "thank you."
I'll be writing more for movie-goers than for other critics, since I hope to reach those who love films and want to see as many as possible but need a little help separating the wheat from the chaff. I do realize that I constitute just one more opinion (out of thousands). But since I enjoy nearly all kind of films -- mainstream to foreign language, independent to documentary, classic to current -- and can express myself relatively well, I believe I make a pretty fair guide.
My standards? They're lower -- well, different -- from those of other critics. I enjoy many more films than I dislike -- or at least I enjoy parts of those films: a concept here, an idea there, performances, and so forth. I believe that style is important but content more so.
Genre, theme, acting, direction, writing: I'll try to cover 'em all. But not plot. You don't need to be told the plot. What you really crave is the surprise that comes from seeing each film fresh and first-hand. Critics/reviewers seem to have forgotten (audiences, too, I sometimes fear) that surprise is a prime ingredient for making narrative art (even documentaries) interesting. Surprise also helps keep viewers on their toes. Too many critics ruin too many movies by giving away too much information. If you can't discuss the film properly without spoiling it, find another job. Or at least learn to use the phrase "spoiler ahead."
Generally, I will keep my reviews brief. I tend to watch two films per day -- of late, more on DVD than in theatres -- and will hope to post notices of these, while occasionally tackling a longer article that weaves together films, their country of origin, and the themes they might have in common. I'll also give you tips on lesser-known films you might especially enjoy. But don't expect me to bother with "blockbusters." They've been done to death already and need nobody's help to make money and further erode our brains and hearts.
All of the above will be concurrent, however, with my handling a PR business in the home furnishings industry. So I must promise this with perhaps more hope than reality. We shall see....
Addendum to the above: It is now three years later, and I have completely retired my PR career to spend my full time covering movies. No money being made, and so when my savings run out, so will I. But till then, I am in heaven. Imagine being invited to free screenings and being sent free screeners, then writing about what you see to keep your mind as fit as possible. I feel as though I have finally died and gone to heaven. Which turns out to simply be: more movies than I will ever be able to watch and cover.
According to Google Analytics, which tracks information such as this, my blog began with three hits on day one and has progressed to as high as 600 hits per day (300-400 is more likely) and around 15,000 pages views per month -- from all over the world, So thank you all for coming along with me. I will keep this up as long as I can.