Monday, October 28, 2013

The Congealed Effect

When film blogging first took off (I'm thinking 2005 or so) it seemed like a boundless horizon of opportunity was just ahead. Not opportunity to make money, nor find fame, but to discuss ideas, argue fine points and celebrate the joy of the movies with the like-minded. That meant going from one blog to another, engaging in multiple comment threads (I used to be a serial commenter back in the day) and making discoveries about new writers, movies, websites and blogs every day. But like everything else in the world, film criticism congealed. Individual blogs died off as multi-writer blogs took over. Now it feels like two or three blogs have 90 percent of the writers.



I'm not complaining. In fact, I'm a part of the problem (if, indeed, it is a problem). My own blog, the one you're reading right now, used to be a moderately raised voice in the discussion. Moderately. It wasn't dominant or influential, mind you, but when a post here was popular it took in over 20,000 views. Now, a popular post here might take in two or three thousand, maybe. Most post see hits in the hundreds. What happened? Simple: I stopped paying attention to this blog because someone else, Turner Classic Movies, decided to pay me to write for them. And not just blog posts but programming articles, research pieces for The Essentials, and reviews. Enough to make it more than easy to put Cinema Styles on the back burner.

But here's why I still keep Cinema Styles going: Because with TCM, I'm obligated to promote their schedule.  With TCM, I'm obligated to discuss classic movies. With TCM, I'm obligated to engage their readers in the kind of engagement they expect. And I don't disagree with that or mind it at all. But when I want to discuss the use of historical backdrops in fiction films, spurred by the release of Django Unchained, I feel more comfortable doing it here.

What's the point? This (I think): It's great that TCM and RogerEbert.com and Criticwire and MUBI all exist and offer a wide variety of viewpoints from a great pool of writers on film.  Really, it is.  But I worry, thanks to my own experiences, that there will be more "I think this piece would work well at Ebert.com" and less "fuck it, this is the piece I'm writing." More mechanized writing to reach a particular audience and less uninhibited "ha, ha, I've got my own blog to say what I want!" Of course, we all still have our own blogs, but if everyone's going to the one-stop shops, who's going to read them?

Beyond that I have nothing to say, really. This isn't some rant or rave or even a cleverly nuanced condemnation of groupthink because, one, I'm not cleverly nuanced now nor have I ever been and, two, I'm not actually against pooling everyone together to make it easier to find great pieces on film without having to search a hundred different sites. It's just a thought I had and since I have my own blog, I thought, fuck it, this is the piece I'm writing.