January 13, 2012

Friday Movie Update

Did you know I seriously considered becoming a film critic?  I even corresponded with Gene Siskel and visited some film schools before deciding to go into education.

Nowadays I don't watch any more films than anyone else.  Probably less.  But there are three things I do to kind of keep my toe in the water.

The first is, I belong to Atlanta's Cinema Club.  The Cinema Club takes place in several cities around the U.S.  You pay up front for a "season" of seven films over the next few months.  There's a fall/winter season and a winter/spring season.  You go in blind, not knowing what you'll see.  You get your card punched, get a flyer about the movie you're about to see, and a little pencil and comment card which the production company will get, I suppose to help them market the film.  Ours is hosted by Matthew Bernstein, the Dept. Chair of Film Studies at Emory.  He's the definition of an affable film-lover.  He gives some brief opening remarks letting us know how the crowd responded to the previous film, then gives us just a few comments about what we're about to see.  After the film he (or a guest speaker) gives us more in depth comments on the film, then opens it up for discussion.  So even if you didn't necessarily like the film, you learn something every time.  Kind of like a book club.  The films are usually smaller, independent or foreign films.  Sometimes we're treated to a guest speaker.  This could be another professor with expertise on the subject (an expert in the Middle East spoke after A Separation), another critic (Bob Mondello comes to mind), or even someone from the film itself (the director from Off the Black came to tell us about being intimidated by Nick Nolte).

Then the biggest thing I do is every week (on Fridays) is check the ranking of critical response to current films on Metacritic.  Another source for this kind of information is Rotten Tomatoes.  This really keeps you up to date on what's out there and what's worth your time and money.  I like them because you can see what's doing well or badly with a bunch of critics without having to read their reviews and thereby getting too many preconceived notions before seeing a movie.  I often go ahead and add anything I'm interested in to my Netflix queue right then.  If I see it in the theater before it comes out on Netflix, I can always drop it, but I sometimes like to see it again anyway.

Then the third thing I like to do is to go back and actually read what the critics say after I've seen the movie and formed my own opinions.  This keeps my critical tools sharpened and I often learn a thing or two.  Of course if you do this you'll definitely get a feel for critics you generally agree with but I have never found a single one I always one hundred percent line up with, and I think that's a good thing.  It means I'm still thinking for myself.

How about you?  Seen any good movies lately?