Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Rant of the Day: Blogs

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I know it has been a point of contention that every Tom, Dick, and Harry with an opinion has a blog now, but not always the qualification to run it. And as the blogosphere grows, it becomes more and more clogged with voices who basically just don't know what they're talking about. Or just annoy the hell out of me.

As far as movie blogs go, the gold standard for me will always be Jeff Wells' Hollywood-Elsewhere. He is the model by which I try to pattern myself, and the stick by which I measure all other blogs. I've always loved Hollywood-Elsewhere, because love Jeff or hate him, he is always worth reading. And he sparks discussion. I have become more and more exasperated lately with blogs that are nothing more than giant circle jerks where all the commenters pat themselves on the back about what great taste they have and how no one else gets it. Bashing Jeff Wells may be in vogue, but he has enjoyed more success than any of these other wannabes has, and often I find those who have nothing constructive to say about him other than petty insults to be completely exasperating.

I have no desire to participate in the kind of touch-feely blog where there is no form of discussion or disagreement. Everyone agreeing is boring, and for some reason when there is a black sheep that does disagree, they are soundly ignored for fear of rocking the boat. That's not discussion, it's a group jerk-off.

Congratulations, you have wonderful taste, thanks for showing the world how much you know. I would much rather participate in a forum like Hollywood-Elsewhere. Sure people can get nasty there and it always irks me when they do, but I don't always agree with Wells, and I tell him when I don't. But he inspires discussion, not fawning admiration or complete agreement. That is boring and not worth my time, especially when other posters don't seem to be interested in debate or friendly disagreement. They want a forum where everybody thinks exactly like they do.

That kind of homogeneous insulation is what frustrates me about the blogosphere, especially the film blogosphere.

What qualifies half these people to have a blog about film? Are they just fans? Fine. Are they pimply fanboys bitching about the latest comic book movie adaptation from their mothers basement? Are they insufferable know-it-alls who feel the need to declare to the world how their tastes in film are better than everyone else's? Sadly, this is often the case.

I started this blog nearly two years ago as an extension of my work for The Dispatch, so I could have a place to write about things that interested me about film that there wasn't room to print in the paper. Since then it has steadily grown. During that time I have seen many blogs come and go, and most of the ones I see really have no reason for existing. And all too many of them have that touchy-feely "let's just all get along" attitude that pisses me off to no end. There are the gold standards of course, AwardsDaily, GoldDerby, InContention, And the Winner Is, Deadline Hollywood Daily, and fine up-and-comers like Fataculture and Joe's Movie Corner where fresh young voices are being fostered to be the next generation of film writers.

Sadly, much of the rest is just noise.

7 comments:

Rick Olson said...

Just so I get this straight -- and I don't mean to be unfriendly, here -- but what qualifies you to have a blog about film?

I'm just curious, because I'd like to get qualified, you know? And I didn't know there was a qualifying board or anything.

A post like this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If bloggers keep eating their own, there won't be much left.

Craig Kennedy said...

Do you honestly think Wells cares that some of us are sick of what he serves up? Why should you?

Matthew Lucas said...

As I said in the post, I am a print critic who started this blog as an extension of my work for the paper.

There are plenty of blogs out there from people who have no real experience or degree in film or anything that are excellent. But most are utter crap. It's just white noise after a while. It fosters misinformation and rumors.

Of course Wells doesn't care. Nor should he. It's one of the things I respect most about him. He doesn't give a shit what anyone thinks of him.

nick plowman said...

I get this, I so get it, you know I get it.

I have no idea why I started blogging - boredom maybe - and have no idea what keeps me going. If I have nothing to say, and do not feel like posting that day - it is fine, it is my blog, right? But when people have nothing else to say and post every single story they can find from some news source or another, or post something that is completely contradictory to the norm and it is clear that the blogger only cares about hits, that pisses me off. Sometimes, Wells annoys me, sometimes he takes the words right outta my mouth - but look how far he has gotten, I mean those blurbs at the top of his blog next to his enormous head - I would like that kind of recognition too.

I do think the blogoshere is cluttered to the point that it has become {a minor} joke. But, for me, like in the real world there are always people who love the sound of their own voice and post SHIT about SHIT - and sometimes it is infuriating and sometimes I just laugh.

I am FAR from being qualified - but at least I know when to shut up, and I know how to separate fact from opinion, something many people do not know.

And the end of the day, Matt, I agree with you *and I am by no means trying to participate in a group jerk off with you* but I get what you are saying. In addition, I think it is good that you have no shame about saying something that affects you personally - I mean it is YOUR blog and it is not created to serve others. A blog is an extension of one's self and identity and the moment that identity becomes clouded or the egos get too big, that is where the mess comes into the picture.

Talk about long winded, but thanks for mentioning me as up and coming, it means a lot.

Rick Olson said...

Matthew --

Sorry about the sarcasm last night ... it was late, or actually early this morning.

Here's my point: From the Front Row is on my feedreader (as is Fataculture, Nick) because I value your writing, not because you are published in a dying medium, which print journalism surely is. If you don't believe me, just read all about the major critics dropping like flies, or all the outlets consolidating their output, or all the dinosaurs like Armond White lashing out in despair.

I think writing for this old, dying medium no more qualifies you to be a blogger than my years editing an international journal qualifies me to be one.

Of course, my past print publishing experience did do one thing: it helped teach me to write. And that's the caveat to my argument: these kinds of things do make us better writers.

But I'd no more say that my print out put "qualifies" me to write in the completely different medium of blogs than it does in the oral medium of preaching for which I also write every week. Print, blogging and oral speech are three very different media.

Look at it another way: I think it's great that you're a freelance film critic for The Dispatch, but I've spent some time in Davidson County, and it's pretty sparsely populated. Your blog has the potential to reach many more readers than the Dispatch's circulation; if it doesn't do it now, then maybe soon. Which begs the question: maybe writing From the Front Row "qualifies" you for writing in the Dispatch, not vice versa.

Anyway, with two such different media in such different forms, and one of them clearly on the way out, in my (not-so-humble) opinion it's just wrong to talk about experience in one qualifying you to work in another. It's divisive, and takes away from what we should be doing -- reading and learning from each other's writing.

Matthew Lucas said...

Rick, I agree with most of what you say. I think my rant is more directed at specific blogs that have been irking me lately.

Yes my blog reaches a wider readership than my print work does. And it's more immediate...reviews are published in The Dispatch a week after the film is released, even though I see many of them before they open. I started work in print 2 years before I started the blog, and I was doing amateur work on my own and for my high school long before that.

I understand print criticism is dying. And in many ways, From the Front Row has grown to the point that my print work is an extension of my internet work.

I like to think I'm more qualified than the average fanboy due to my experience and the fact that I just finished up a minor in Film Studies. BUT that does not mean there are people out there without degrees who are just as capable of running a movie blog. There are quite a few out there whose only qualification is an overwhelming love of film, and I respect them for that.

It's just that there are SO many amateur blogs out there with no accountability that give blogs a bad name. It has become trendy to have a movie blog, yet often nothing new or original or worth reading comes out of them.

It just gives people like Dave Poland ammunition against the blogopshere as a whole (yet he has a blog of his own...go figure).

Anyway, the main point of my rant isn't qualification so much as blogosphere climate and how people interact with each other. Places that foster universal agreement where people post to pat each other on the back about what great taste they have I honestly think are useless as far as dialogue is concerned. Give me somewhere where people can disgaree civilly about the things they are most passionate about. That is where we learn the most, I think.

Curiousityloko said...

I know this post is a few days old, but this article was featured on imdb.com and I thought you might find it interesting.

http://ftl.nypress.com/21/17/news&columns/feature3.cfm

I fear often that my tiny little blog is not only not very good, but also patently absurd. That perhaps I too am just more of that "noise." I think it is unfortunate that my most popular blog was one I wrote too quickly and without thought about something that I later had to amend. Oh well. I hope I am not one of those blogs you were talking about, but if so I apologize. And in the spirit of ending the "circle jerk mentality" let me know. I do have a degree in film and a passion for cinema. Hopefully with time, my blog will only get better.