How do you write about film?
This is a question I get asked the most frequently. I’ve never been one to open up about my process, but 100 posts in, it’s past time for me to pass some things along. Blogging has given me so much. I’d like to give back. This feels like a good place to start.
This might come as a shock, but I never set to writing about a movie or a topic straightaway. I read about it first. I think and I read. I obsess. I gauge other opinions and see what people have noticed, and more importantly, what they haven’t. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of entertainment news sites that inform and enlighten me on the movies I love. If you’re looking to start a film blog, maybe need some sources to refer back to, or just want to see where I steal my ideas from, you’re in luck. I’ve narrowed down five film websites that keep me obsessed daily. Film is an addiction and these sites make it worse in the best possible way.
I discovered Collider through RottenTomatoes. It pains me to give thanks to RT considering what it’s become, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Granted, this was when RT was just an easy-access pool of reviews (and long before movies were valued based on their Tomato-meter score). I saw where RT was getting their information and I haven’t gone back since. You know how sports fans keep updated on their favorite players’ stats and trades? Film is my football and Collider helps me keep track of my favorite actors, directors, screenwriters, cinematographers, etc. What’s Tom Hardy doing after the Venom movie? Who’s Roger Deakins gonna work with next? Is David Fincher gonna do World War Z 2 or no? That’s only the surface of what is indisputably my go-to film site (I’m on the thing more often than Facebook). Their year-end best film lists inspired me to create my own. But it’s their essays and editorials that keep me coming back. This 2014 critique on shared cinematic universes reminded me how important it is to challenge the status quo from time to time. It’s the kind of film reporting I’ve only recently dabbled in. Collider does it best.
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If Collider is my film resource, then Vulture keeps me updated on the current light-speed era of television. They had me checking out shows like Big Little Lies and Mindhunter. Even if I had planned on seeing these shows, Vulture made me eager to move them up in my queue. Their episode recaps and series reviews function like essays, analyses so in-depth and thought-provoking without overstaying their welcome. And when they do go long-form, it’s endlessly engrossing. This piece on the state of the DCEU is so damn fascinating that even at 4,000 words, I wanted more. They do film, television, AND music with all kinds of articles and profiles that you’ll be wondering why you don’t have them bookmarked already. If Collider isn’t careful, Vulture might become my main entertainment news resource down the road.
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Indiewire established its brand as an indie film news hub and that’s what I love about it. Independent cinema is kind of where the magic is at. Directors get more control over the material, and a lower budget means they have to get creative in their problem-solving – an ideal environment for filmmakers who want to hone in on their craft. All too often these films pass under the radar because of their indie status, which is what’s so reassuring about Indiewire’s mission statement. They alone have introduced me to many an indie gem. Films like Ruby Sparks and Short Term 12, both of whom have carved a safe space in my heart. If it weren’t for Indiewire, I would never have heard of Kogonada or his spellbinding debut, Columbus. Their coverage of film festivals like Tribeca, South by Southwest, and Sundance is unparalleled. Independent films are the true underdogs in the current cine-scape and sites like Indiewire keep the fight alive.
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Vox, Atlantic, and The New York Times do some truly stellar film reporting, but they are news publications first and foremost. Den of Geek is similar to Collider; all about film and consistently posting engaging, often illuminating articles (they helped me process my own complicated thoughts on Blade Runner 2049). What caught my eye was their ability to objectively address film criticism. Den of Geek was among the few who tackled the massive divide between fan and critical reaction towards The Last Jedi. They’re so level-headed in their approach that even when they get self-righteous, they come across as passionate rather than defensive. It’s not about fighting fire with fire. It’s about being constructive, thoughtful. That’s something I try to maintain when I get self-righteous on a topic. Den of Geek is a haven for people who want to understand movies and our response to them rather than give in to the vitriol. In this day and age of outrage, that’s no small feat.
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I’m not trying to get a shout out from my peers (though if you’re here, holla at ya boi). If I’m not perusing the sites mentioned above, I’m scrolling through WordPress’ bottomless well of content for hours. These opinions are far more helpful than a critic review-bite on RottenTomatoes. Eighty-percent of the blogs I follow are dedicated to film. I have my share of favorites. Jade at The Ü kills it every month. I post rather infrequently, so whenever I see her pop up on my feed it’s like a kick in the ass to get writing. Mettel Ray does a variety of segments so inventive that it’s encouraged me to mix up my own flow of content. Elsewhere on Blogger, A Film a Day’s commitment to generating daily posts is nothing short of inspiring, and Cinematic Corner’s endless stream of consciousness is so fun and engaging I’ve often forgotten where I was and what I was working on. Blogging may be a platform, but it’s also a community. Some of the best opinions can be found right here. These voices and opinions keep me in check. Above all, they keep me inspired.
This sounds counterintuitive, but the only way to write about film is to read about film. Get to know the language. Adopt it. Immerse yourself in it. Soon, you’ll realize saying stuff like “This movie’s good” or “That movie sucks” hardly says anything. Art warrants meaningful discussion. It’s the stuff we live for. You don’t have to run a film blog to appreciate a movie, but you owe it to yourself as a film-goer to be able to articulate why you like or don’t like a film. These sites have been instrumental for me in that regard. Check them out. Who knows, you might find your own film obsession runs deeper than you think.