There are many things I love about being a former film critic and also a former member of the Online Film Critics Society. For one, I don't spend hours on one movie anymore because I used to watch a movie and then write a review, and that took a while, too.
I don't have to be so plugged into the awards season which is pretty much just the same shit every year. The same hype, the same "serious" themes, the same feeling like I have to watch every single film that's sent to OFCS members lest I feel so out of the loop. It took me three years before I began to question what use this had for me. It doesn't. I enjoyed the occasional camaraderie in that group, but I wasted a lot of time towards the end of the year, time I could have used for myself, time that I am using now as my own writer. However, I'm still waiting for an award-winning film about a one-eyed, one-legged hooker who reads to children and also helps her pimp learn to read. It'd be like Stanley & Iris, but with a lot more sex scenes.
That's not to diminish the pride I felt for the independent films I reviewed. I loved a lot of them. I was quoted on the DVD cases of a few of them. When I started reviewing movies, I wanted to be Ebert. Who wouldn't in that line of writing? But I realized two things: First, I would never be Ebert. There is only one Ebert. After the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times left in 1967, he was there at the right time. But most importantly, he loves movies. I think I was only obsessed with movies. I didn't have that awe-inspiring love he has for them.
Second, there are many film critics who are quote whores. They'll give a fawning review to anything to be in Hollywood's good graces, to get that swag and those interviews, and to feel that they're in the rarefied circle, even for only a few minutes. I never operated like that. When I was quoted on those DVD cases, I was happy that those were films I truly loved and supported, that I hoped would be seen by a lot of people. Funnily enough, the first DVD case I was on was for a documentary called Cinemania, about obsessive movie buffs, moreso than I was at that time in 2003.
When you're young, make sure you get as close as you can to what you want to do. I didn't entirely know at the time, and it's possible you won't either. I was toying with the notion of working in commercial aviation, and that became the hope of working at McCarran International in Las Vegas, on the ramp, next to, and possibly inside, those planes. This was when I was also writing movie reviews. That and aviation were the two major things in my life. And without those movie reviews, I would never have gotten the opportunity to co-write What If They Lived?, because Phil Hall and I wrote for Film Threat (separate reviews and features, but we were there at the same time. He's still there), and we served on the Governing Committee of the Online Film Critics Society at the same time. All those years I spent writing movie reviews from 14 years old on were never a waste, because they led to that book. And it's because of that book that I realized what I want to do: I want to continue being an author. At last count, I have ideas for six books, three of which I'm doing research for right now, and two novels. All I truly seek now is a decent job to pay the bills (and I know I'll enjoy that job, too, as a campus supervisor, because I've got the experience), because I'm doing what I want now and what I love. Every day I get to read about the lives and administrations of these presidents while searching for the information I need for those three books. And it's going to take some time before I'm even ready to write any of those books, because my research has to be solid. I've found now that I love reading a lot more than watching movies, and that's really as it should be, since I started reading when I was 2, and I was 7 when I had an inkling that I might really like movies, when I copied by hand onto a sheet of posterboard a review of Bebe's Kids from the Orlando Sentinel, when we lived in Casselberry. For me, this is as it should be.
Compared to 12 years ago, up until I decided I was done with writing movie reviews when I finished writing What If They Lived?, my movie-viewing goals have become much simpler. I only have one. I want to see every single movie that Maury Chaykin has been in. I've liked him ever since I saw him in Entrapment smoking that long, thin pipe, completely unselfconscious in being bare chested, letting it all hang out. I saw a few episodes of Nero Wolfe, and plan to watch those again along with the rest I haven't seen (It also inspires me to try that series of novels again), but I want to see everything else, every guest-starring role, every supporting role, every major role.
After that, I don't know. I'll probably go back to seeing every opera I can on DVD that has English subtitles.