Thursday, March 31, 2016

CMBA Blogger Profile: FilmFanatic

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month, on the 1st and the 15th. Today we're toasting Silvia from FilmFanatic.

FilmFanatic has some of the most organized film reviews on the internet. This is because Sylvia's approach to film is orderly and methodical.

"I incorporate a bit of production history (citing sources so readers can go find out more)," she says, "and include relevant stills, link to my own review of an earlier version of the film (as well as other critics’ reviews), and comment on various aspects of what makes the film so great – including cinematography, script, performances, and more."

Sylvia has been reviewing film for ten (!) years, and she's reviewed a lot of terrific movies. One of her favorite posts, though, is her review of George Cukor's A Star is Born (1954).

"It’s not only a personal favorite, but is representative of how I write most of my reviews," she says. "I quote heavily from Peary’s Guide for the Film Fanatic – and other Peary books (like his Alternate Oscars and Cult Movies series) – but add my own commentary and thoughts throughout."

You can read Sylvia's post HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
FilmFanatic: I grew up in the 1970s and watched classic movies on television whenever they would air – yearly favorites were TheWizard of Oz and The Sound of Music. I also found myself drawn to early television shows like The Little Rascals and I Love Lucy, and would watch them in marathon fashion. As a teenager, I found a book at the library by Danny Peary called Guide for the Film Fanatic that fueled my desire to expand the scope of what I’d seen so far. I enjoyed the checklist nature of his book, with 4,300 titles he believes all film lovers should see.

The advent of VCRs and the American Movie Classics channel helped tremendously; I became a serious taper, and had drawers full of movies to pick from. I often did “thematic” marathons and would watch all movies featuring a certain movie star, by a certain director, etc.

As I grew up and learned more about history and the world, I found that classic movies from different countries – i.e., Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali series – helped to ground my understanding of humanity on a broader scale.

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
FilmFanatic: This is a question I grapple with continuously! There’s the whole genre of “cult classics” – like Rocky Horror Picture Show or Pink Flamingos – that wouldn’t fit most people’s criteria for “classic movies”, but I consider these titles must-see for anyone truly interested in the breadth of cinema. There are also lots of classic movies made in other countries and other languages. With that said, “true” classics could be defined as movies that have stood the test of time (let’s say at least ten years) and remain enjoyable to audiences of any era and age. I just showed The Wizard of Oz to my kids (7, 5, and 3) last month and they were all riveted.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
FilmFanatic: I don’t hear that comment very often, since I think I tend to chat mostly with movie lovers! But some guaranteed feel-good classics include The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street. I also like to recommend shorter B-movie classics that keep you glued to your seat – like The Narrow Margin (1952). 

I don’t think I would recommend lengthier and/or more controversial films like Gone With the Wind, because younger viewers who are new to classic movies may be turned off by the overt racism. “Veteran” classic movie lovers tend to gloss over some of the darker, more dubious choices made by Hollywood in previous decades – not to say that we excuse it (because of course most of us don’t!), but we’ve seen so much that we’re able place it in historical context and celebrate the advances that have been made since then. 

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
FilmFanatic: For the same reason they should care about any artistic and cultural legacy, including books, visual art, clothing, etc. Classic films are movies that have stood the test of time and remain worthy viewing years later – either for pure enjoyment, and/or to provide us with a glimpse of a previous era.

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
FilmFanatic: I love getting to articulate my thoughts about a movie through writing. I tend to think while writing, and blogging is the ultimate way to think and reflect! I also love having an archive of my own summaries and opinions about movies, since it’s easy to forget several years later how a particular film impacted you (or not), especially if you’ve watched hundreds of others in the meantime.

I also met my Film Fanatic doppelganger through my site – hi, David Csontos in Lincoln, Nebraska! I never would have “met” David (we still haven’t met in person) if I hadn’t started the site. 

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
FilmFanatic: I’ve faced two primary challenges. One is with spammers: when I first started my blog, I created an accompanying discussion forum, and we had a healthy set of relevant discussions going. It was fun. Then I realized how much time I was wasting each day deleting spam accounts and comments. I’ve experimented with various ways to prevent spamming on my site, but haven’t found a time-efficient one yet, so I’ve limited comments on my blog to people who write to me personally and request permission to become members. This means there aren’t the type of rich discussions on each post that I would ideally like, because people understandably don’t want to go through that hassle.

My other challenge is lack of time, which I know most of us face! I have three young kids, a full-time career (non-film related), and a healthy love for books and watching newer movies that don’t fit the criteria for titles I’ll cover on my blog – all of which means I don’t blog as much as I’d like! I started back in 2006, and am only halfway through reviewing the 4300 titles listed in Peary’s book. It will take at least another ten years before this experiment is complete! At that point, I’ll either go back and re-watch titles to provide an updated perspective, or return to working on my (on-hiatus) site, where I plan to discuss must-see films released after 1986. 

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
FilmFanatic: I have a few pieces of advice. First, as others have suggested already, I highly recommend determining a “niche” for your blog. With so many film-related blogs available to enjoy (and so many movies to watch!), why should a film lover return to yours? Brand it and set discrete goals. Second, set a writing goal for yourself that you can realistically keep, and stick to it – i.e., at least one post per week. You’ll need to deliberately schedule the time for this and make it a priority if you want your blog to thrive and last. Third, take your time with crafting a post before publishing it. The quality of writing and clarity of your ideas is key to luring people in. There are plenty of people on the internet sharing their thoughts about movies, but the ones whose sites are worth visiting have taken the time to do plenty of research and revise their thoughts before making them public.

Thanks for joining us, Sylvia! You can visit her blog by clicking HERE.

1 comment:

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