Category Archives: Site Business

2014 in review

Apparently people were most interested in Domino’s Specialty Chicken.  Which makes sense, because that chicken is pretty good.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 50 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Looking for feedback on my blog

I’ve had my blog going for a little over a month now, and I would be interested in feedback from my readers.

1. What do you think about the length of posts in the Movies We Still Care About series? 1986 A-M was 1250 words and 10 embedded videos. 1986 N-Z was 825 words and 6 videos. Which length do you prefer? In general, do you wish posts were longer, shorter, or about the same? (That’s actually two separate questions, now that I think about it.  Do you want me to write more or less about each year, and do you want each year broken up into more or less individual posts?)

2. How do you visit the blog? Checking the site periodically, an RSS feed, through my Facebook automatic links, or some other means?

3. Do you have a preference for what time posts should appear? I usually write the MWSCA posts ahead of time and schedule them for the next morning, so I can easily start scheduling them for a specific time if my readers prefer it.

4. Do you have any suggestions for improving the layout and formatting? I’m not very happy with these, but I’m not sure how to improve them. Note that complaints like “The layout is stupid, it’s hard to find old posts, and you should choose a different layout” are less helpful than suggestions like “Switch to the XXXX layout” or “You should add an navigation bar, which is an option that you can find in such and such a WordPress menu.” Even if you don’t know enough about WordPress to tell me *how* to make an improvement, suggesting specific improvements to make would be more helpful than vague complaints.

5. Are there any other suggestions or opportunities for improvement that you would like to bring up?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to respond to this.

Some Changes to the Movies We Still Care About Posts

As my Movies We Still Care About project has progressed into the mid-80s, there have been more and more movies per year that fit the category.

This is partially because it’s easier for a film to stand the test of a shorter period of time.  But mainly, this is a period where the craft of filmmaking was advancing, so movies were legitimately getting better.

Certainly a plethora of excellent movies is a good thing.  But it does make my task of cataloging them to be more difficult.  So I’m going to make the following changes:

1. I will start breaking up years into multiple posts.  This will help keep them at a reasonable length for you to read.  It will also keep them at a reasonable length for me to write, and allow me to post more often.  I will be breaking up my discussion of movies alphabetically, though I will keep the full lists on each post.

2. I will start including a section called “Other Fond Memories.”  This is for movies that fit the category of Movies We Still Care About, but for which I personally can’t think of anything interesting to say.  Please don’t consider a movie being placed into this category to be me passing judgement on it.  It’s simply that if I force myself to come up with commentary for everything, that will turn this project into a chore rather than something I enjoy.  And such forced commentary would inevitably be lower quality, making this blog less interesting for you to read.

This “Other Fond Memories” category is distinct from the “Other Notable Movies” category.  That is for films which don’t quite fit the topic of “Movies we still care about,” but for which I do have something interesting to say.

As readers, you are always invited to post your own thoughts regarding the films discussed, listed, or omitted in the comments.

Update to Movies We Still Care About – 1981

I updated the 1981 entry of Movies We Still Care About, to talk more about Raiders of the Lost Ark’s role in the development of the Fun Action Movie sub-genre, and to include Stripes in the Other Notable Movies section.

So if you read that entry when I initially posted it, you might want to revisit it.

Movies We Still Care About – Introduction

How do we define what makes a good movie?

Sure, there are movies that *I* like.  Perhaps that defines what makes a good movie *to me*.  But you don’t necessarily have the same tastes as I do.  Just as you don’t necessarily have the same taste as any particular critic.

The Academy Awards are supposed to list the best movies of the year.  But these are generally limited to dramas.  Comedies and action movies get short shrift when it comes to award season.

You can look at box office numbers, which is a reasonable measure of how many people wanted to see the movie.  But that doesn’t tell you how glad the audience was that they saw it.  Plus there are often a lot of weird factors at work in box office numbers that don’t relate to the quality of the film.  For example, what are you feelings on Shrek 2?  You probably think that at best it was reasonably entertaining, though a step down from the original.  Yet Shrek 2 is the highest grossing animated movie of all time, and the eighth highest grossing movie of all time (US box office).  It outgrossed the original Shrek, any classic Disney animation, any Pixar movie, E.T., Jurassic Park, any Harry Potter movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back, and countless other movies that any sane person would agree were greatly superior to Shrek 2.  So box office numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Rotten Tomatoes is a bit better.  This measures what percentage of the audience likes a movie.  But that has its own drawbacks.  It’s limited to people who bother to go to the site and vote, and is further limited by people who actually chose to see a movie.  For example, as I’m writing this I looked at the Rotten Tomatoes home page.  Two of the top three ranked movies opening this weekend are ones I’ve never heard of, and the third is a biblical epic that appeals to church groups but won’t have any interest to secular audiences.

So how do I define what makes a good movie?  I say that a movie is good if it makes the audience care about it.  This definition applies equally well to action, comedy, and drama.  It takes into account whether a large audience wanted to see the movie – if people don’t see a movie, they can’t care about it.  But it doesn’t use box office numbers as the sole judge of quality.

And the best movies are those that we still care about when we look back at them years later.

This series of posts will be looking back at the best pictures of each year by this criteria.  I’ll identify what movies that I think a significant percentage of people still care about.  I’ll start this process with 1977, which is when the modern era of film began, and end it with 2009.  (I think five years is a reasonable minimum for looking back.)

For comparison I’ll also be listing the best picture nominees, top ten grossing movies at the box office, and the top movies on Rotten Tomatoes.  (The Rotten Tomatoes listing will start with 1980, as they don’t have yearly rankings prior to then.)  It will be interesting to see how much overlap there is between these different lists.

For the movies we still care about, I’ll offer a brief analysis as to why we still hold these movies in our hearts.  I’ll also have some brief commentary of other notable movies from that year which don’t quite fit the category of films we still care about, but are worth discussing for some reason.

I hope that you’ll enjoy this journey, as we reflect back on what makes movies great.

(Other posts in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to Cinema Badger

I’m a struggling screenwriter with an MFA from USC.  In the years since I’ve graduated, I’ve had some gigs writing dialogue and trivia for video games, and have had a few near-misses in terms of selling my scripts.  But I certainly can’t be said to have “made it.”  I have to work a day job and do my writing on the side.  But I still regularly write, and I believe that through practice my writing is continually improving.

 I have a love for the craft of storytelling and how it can be done most effectively.  This love leaves me feeling personally hurt and offended when a story fails to live up to its potential.  My attitude toward movies can be summed up by Anton Ego in the film Ratatouille.  When he is told “You’re thin for someone who likes food,” he responds with, “I don’t like food, I love it.  If I don’t love it, I don’t swallow.”

Many years ago, I had a somewhat popular LiveJournal where I frequently blogged about movies from a cranky and snarky perspective.  Sometimes I would give a detailed analysis of exactly where a movie went wrong and how it could have been done better.  But more often, I would give an off-the-cuff mockery and dismissal of a film.  “From the writer of [some comically terrible movie] and the director of [some other comically terrible movie], comes a yet another blatant rip off of [some movie that keeps getting ripped off.]”  Or “The Emperor has no clothes and [some critically acclaimed but pretentious director] can’t direct his way out of a paper bag.”  Things like that.

While these posts were popular with my readers, I eventually realized I needed to quit doing this.  I felt that relentlessly focusing on the negative was hurting me, both in terms of my writing and as a person.  I had to protect my anonymity for fear of alienating someone that might be hiring me in the future.  And I just got burned out on hate in general.  I used to claim that even though almost all of my reviews are scathing, I’d much rather write a positive one, because that means that I got to see an excellent movie.  Perhaps that was true, but I certainly didn’t act like it was true.

But I did enjoy blogging, and since I quit I’ve missed having that creative outlet for critical analysis.  I can write essays on Facebook that will be seen by some of my friends, but that’s not the same.  So I’m starting this new blog, with a more positive focus.

Which is not to say that everything I write will be roses and sunshine.  I can’t highlight the positive without contrasting that against where things fall short.  But I will endeavor to direct this blog toward what’s great about movies, rather than what’s wrong with them.