Saturday, April 06, 2013

You Really Do Only Live Once

Two days before he died, Roger Ebert wrote "I'll be able at last to do what I've always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review." As it turns out, he never got to. But I was struck by that bittersweet desire to finally have the freedom to only watch the films one wants to watch. And I realized I wanted that too.

I've been writing professionally as a film critic for nine years, and have been running From the Front Row for nearly seven. During that time, I have written roughly 450 printed reviews for The Dispatch (approximately 225,000 words), and 2,454 blog posts. What started out as a hobby borne out of my love of film has become my life.

While I minored in film studies in college and always dreamed of becoming a film critic, it wasn't my only dream. And what was once something I did for fun has become, well, work. I do get paid for my print work for The Dispatch, but as of yet From the Front Row does not bring in any money, even though I treat it like it does. I have been a one man staff here at my site, and despite a guest post here and there from some of my wonderful correspondents, I have tried to review everything myself. Every screening, every screener, everything that comes across my desk I genuinely try to carve out time to review. And I just can't do that anymore.

As I watched Francois Ozon's In the House tonight, a teacher played by Fabrice Luchini admonishes his students to "make time for books." I want to make time for books. I want to take the time to watch classics I've never had time for. I want to lay in the grass with my girlfriend and read Shakespeare. I want to explore the Criterion Collection. I want to cook. I want to act more. I want to spend time with friends. I want to travel. I want to cut back on writing about other people's art and create my own. And I want to focus on returning to school. In short, I want to take a step back from reviewing.

I've realized I don't have to watch every new release. I don't need to stay on top of every film that gets the slightest bit of acclaim. From now on, I only want to review films I really want to see. Life is too short to waste time on a lot of the drivel I've wasted time on. I will continue my weekly reviews for The Dispatch, and I will continue to cover Blu-ray and DVD releases of old and current films that interest me, but you will see a significant reduction in reviews of new films at From the Front Row. There will be enough new content here to maintain my status with the various critics groups I belong to, but I want to take some time to watch films I don't have to write about later. And if the notion strikes me, I may write about them. Or I may not. The bottom line is I've been stressing out to keep From the Front Row current all by myself for far too long, and the pressure has been completely self inflected. So I'm going to take a step back and live my life away from a screen for a while.

I'm not abandoning my pet project completely. From the Front Row is not dead - far from it. But I want this to become a passion project again, not an obligation. I will be choosier about what I review - and I want to reconnect with why I fell in love with film in the first place. I will still log capsule reviews of every film I watch on my Letterboxd account, so I'll never be too far away. But Ebert's death has reminded that life really is short, and I don't want to miss out on any of it. Thank you all for all of your support over the years, and I hope you'll stick with me as From the Front Row enters this new phase of existence.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a book to read.

1 comment:

Sam Juliano said...

"I've realized I don't have to watch every new release. I don't need to stay on top of every film that gets the slightest bit of acclaim. From now on, I only want to review films I really want to see. Life is too short to waste time on a lot of the drivel I've wasted time on."

How true is this? Couldn't agree with you more, as I basically feel the same way on this point and on many others you bring to the table. By all means branch out and stay clear of the temptation to watch everything. I fall victim to that myself, and it's true life is much too short. Your game plan is a sound one Matthew.