So You Want to Try Your Hand at Blogging
So you want to try your hand at blogging or, if you're currently a "Film Theory & Criticism" student at the University of Colorado Denver, you've been instructed to ("if this is your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight")! Fret not. If you haven't already explored the world of blogging about film, I think you'll find that it's filled with fascinating writers and ideas, and that it is a great medium for amateur film critics (ahem... that would be you!) to stretch their legs, explore writing, and become part of a community of people that share your passions for movies. This is exactly where this site, Movies in 203, comes into play.
Movies in 203 was created just for you: students at the University of Colorado Denver. It is a place where you can both read the writing of your peers and dip your toes into the world of blogging without the commitment and overhead of starting up your own blog. Now you "Film Theory & Criticism" students are getting a slight nudge into those waters, but I hope that some of you come away from the experience with the desire to do more! Since a lot of your are completely new to the idea of blogging about film, let me direct you to a few examples of different types of writing from some of our best-known film blogs as well as my own. Just click the links embedded below to launch the articles in a new browser window or tab.
As students of film, most of you likely know David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson as the authors of the brilliant textbook, Film Art: An Introduction. Perhaps you are also aware that they produce some of the most amazing and technical film essays you'll ever read over in their blog, Observations on Film Art. Their highly analytical (but surprisingly clear) approach to writing about film is a marvel to behold and I urge each of you to not only check out Bordwell's piece on shooting and editing action sequences, "Bond vs. Chan: Jackie Shows How It's Done", but pretty much every other article on their site as well. Bordwell and Thompson are as good as it gets.
Jim Emerson's article, "Inception: Has Christopher Nolan forgotten how to dream?", over at his Scanners blog is a fantastic example of how one can write about a film from a relatively high level and still keep it from being a review. Why is that important? Because there are dozens (hundreds?) of professional critics that already write movie reviews for all the current releases. As a reader, I look for bloggers who take a different approach to writing about film (i.e., the need for reviews of current releases is more than satisfied already, thankyouverymuch). Emerson is usually more interested in deep explorations of his subjects, but he's such a fantastic writer (and critical thinker) that even in this short piece he is able to deliver a lot to chew on. And with over 200 comments from readers (and responses to them from Emerson himself), this post led to what is likely the largest discussion that's ever occurred on his site (as I've said before, film criticism is a community). But another reason I've chosen this piece is because it led to this one: "On liking and not liking (Part Deux)". This is not only a great post about critical thinking, critical writing, and the idea that "a movie critic's opinion is worthless unless it's supported by evidence from the movie," but a great example of the benefits of the blog as a medium for writing. With a blog, a writer need not comprise his/her thoughts on a film in their entirety for a single article like you might with a paper for class. Instead, the blogger may focus their attention on one aspect of a film in one post and follow up with another aspect of the same film in a subsequent post. Often times, as in this example, the writing of one post (or the reaction to it) may lead the writer down another path of thought and interest that they hadn't previously considered writing about. At Scanners, you'll often find Emerson ruminating on the same film in post after post, exploring how he sees that film based on his original experience and in reaction to the writing of others.
Like Bordwell, Thompson, and Emerson, I tend to take an analytical approach when writing about movies as well. The title of my blog, Reel 3—a reference to Tyler Durden's "work" on individual frames of film in Fight Club—reflects the sensibility of looking at movies as not only visual stories but as constructions made from the individual frames (each one designed, staged, and organized around an aesthetic conceit) that often lend more to what the film is about than anything found in the plot. Start picking apart the frames (and the framing) and you'll unearth so much more about not only what the movie is about, but how it is about it. One of my goals at Reel 3 is to make full use of the medium that is the blog to turn film criticism into more of a multimedia experience. With the blog as my medium, I can include images to illustrate what I've written about (and clicking on them will blow them up to a larger size). Take a look at my essay, "Violence as Fetish in Zach Snyder's Watchmen"—especially the double-page spread from the Watchmen comic book where you can click on any of its seven panels to enlarge them individually—to see how the medium of the blog can be used to enhance essays you've written for school. I originally wrote this one as my final paper for my "From Lit to Film" class, but it never really felt complete until I took it online and incorporated the images into it.
Another approach to blogging about film is to editorialize and write from and about personal experience. Take a look at this post by the Self Styled Siren titled "Intimacy at the Movies." In it, the Siren explores her "old-movie habit" and the idea that most movie watchers feel a "casual-intimacy" with the movies made in their lifetime. The Siren, however, believes that what makes her different from most is that she feels this "casual-intimacy" with older films. It's an interesting piece on how we watch movies and the barriers that we often feel when considering a movie that is out of our comfort zone. It's also a great example of how you can write about the movies without feeling like you have to write about a specific film.
I loved Dennis Cozzalio's recent article, "For Rice Cakes, Blanche," over at his blog, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. For his topic, Cozzalio didn't write about a movie at all so much as he wrote about how network TV utilizes dubbing to censor language. His piece conjures up the nostalgia of watching movies on TV as a kid (over a three-hour period once you tack on all those commercials!) and having the vague notion that something wasn't quite right with the voices and the bizarre catch phrases that could only exist in some alien vernacular. Still, at least you were watching a movie (and it was likely one that your parents wouldn't have let you see otherwise)! Writing about film doesn't always mean that you have to write film criticism.
While we're on the topic of the editorial, you'll definitely want to read the piece that your own instructor, Dr. Tiel Lundy, posted on Movies in 203 just this morning about how film studies has forever changed the way she watches movies. Her "Meditations on movie-watching..." is relevant, engaging, and steeped with that precious thing we call "voice." She also pulls it all off with an economy of words. If you plan to write about personal experience, Tiel's post should be a real inspiration.
If you like these articles and want to find more of the great writing about film that exists online you'll want to check out Paul Brunick's article, "The Top Film Criticism Sites: An Annotated Blog Roll", where he links to even more great film blogs that are worthy of your time.
When thinking about your own blog post, consider the above links as just some examples of what is possible. With a blog post, you can really write about anything. The key is to pick something that you feel passionate about, something that excites you. Writing online is about sharing your ideas and your work and, in the best scenario, involving others in the discussion. If you enjoy writing it, we'll probably enjoy reading it! Have fun!