Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Marking It 8 (or any other number between 1 and 10)

As I mentioned in this blog’s inaugural post, Mark It 8, Dude is my return to blogging about movies.  However, I neglected to mention what brought this sudden urge to pick up this hobby once again.  The answer to that mystery stems from my latest addiction.  While working diligently in my cubicle, I have begun searching the Internet for good podcasts to help the day go by and the one podcast taking precedence over all else is Filmspotting (big thanks to my brother, Nick, for the suggestion).  This podcast has really struck a chord with me because it involves two regular guys, Adam Kempenaar and Matty Robinson (who has since left the show and been replaced by Josh Larson), discussing film on both its artistic merits and entertainment value.  Seamlessly blending the highbrow art house scene with the average Joe popcorn scene, Adam and Matty’s intellectual and interesting yet always entertaining discussions are exactly what I seek in film criticism.  They are people whom I continue to relate to as I move from episode to episode, and the way they challenge film to be moving artistically while not being entirely above just having a fun time at the multiplex is how I also like to view the art form.

But just enjoying a podcast does not exactly explain what led me to starting this blog.  The urge to begin Mark It 8 started to grow inside me when I listened to Matty Robinson’s last Filmspotting episode.  In Matty’s farewell speech he gave advice to all the amateur critics listening (which all film buffs are deep down inside), “the Internet is turning the world into one big peer review, so find your voice in that conversation.  Writing snarky things to try and top other people is not adding to the conversation.  Be earnest.  Cut down on the clever.”  One-sentence statuses on Facebook to express my reactions to films no longer sated my appetite, though my appetite for that expression did not diminish.  The next logical step for me was to start my own blog to do my small part in earnestly adding to the online conversation.

Finding one’s voice was another aspect of Matty’s farewell that especially stuck with me.  My days of 20 page papers for school are behind me, but the skill of writing is a lifelong value.  A need to continue to improve my skills as a writer will be integral in whatever career path I venture, so I might as well hone that craft and find my voice while writing about something so enjoyable:  movies.  I believe that good writing is good writing no matter the subject, and the subject that I will be practicing on will remain film.

The structure of Mark It 8, Dude will therefore focus on reviews of the films I see, but may develop organically to cover other random thoughts and topics about film, and perhaps television (Mad Men is returning next month after all).  Therefore, I will try to refrain from examining my opinions on music, sports, food, people, places, and the news, or deep investigations of my inner thoughts and feelings, even though the well for those topics may be immense.  There may be another time and place for those discussions, but to prevent sprawling and rambling, it will not be at Mark It 8.

Finally, we are getting to the blog itself.  As many of you may know (of course the photo gives it away), Mark It 8, Dude refers a hilarious scene in one of the greatest films ever made, the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski.  Smokey, the gray-haired conscientious objector, may have crossed the line when striking down 8 pins to which John Goodman’s Walter Sobchek famously pointed out.  When naming my blog, I could have gone with Walter’s more well known desire to “Mark It Zero!” but I have too much of the Dude in me to side with Walter.  For each film I review, I will “mark it” with a number, my rating system.  I am an optimistic filmgoer, so it felt more appropriate to want to mark things 8 rather than zero.  In fact, this bowling metaphor will include bumpers, so “marks” will range from 1 to 10.

I want to warn people that marks of 9 and 10 will be reserved for special cases, as will the 1s and 2s in the other direction.  Another word of warning, I tend to do my homework when picking out movies to see (I devour and trust reviews), so there will probably be more marks in the upper half of the scale.    Here are some quick, and somewhat vague, one or two word definitions to help give meaning to each “mark.”

     Mark it 10:  PERFECTION            
     Mark it 9:  Near Classic   
     Mark it 8:  Excellent       
     Mark it 7:  Great          
     Mark it 6:  Good                
     Mark it 5:   Average
     Mark it 4:   Not Good
     Mark it 3:   Bad
     Mark it 2:   Awful
     Mark it 1:   All-Time Low

Of course, stamping a number on a movie and calling it a review is insufficient, and I hope my posts will be able to examine each film much more deeply.  However, these reviews will just be based on my personal reactions to the film, and not on any superior knowledge I possess (because, frankly, a claim like that is complete bullshit).  I encourage people to disagree just as readily as they agree and hope that Mark It 8, Dude can be a place for thoughtful peer reviews rather than a devolution into the cleverly snarky.

My goal is that this blog will become a hobby with staying power (even if I’m the only one reading it).  To keep interest piqued, I seek to add three posts monthly, with the majority being reviews of a specific film.  It is not realistic to think that I will be able to write an in depth review for every film I watch.  In that case I may occasionally include a quick rundown of movies (with their “mark” and a one or two sentence synopsis), so my readers can know to seek or avoid certain movies (if they trust my tastes, of course) even if I choose not to review them.  I am hopeful that the first review in my personal movie blog revival will be posted very soon.

Lastly, I encourage all film buffs to check out www.filmspotting.net.  It is my favorite podcast at the moment, as I discussed in depth earlier, and a great place to hear thoughtful and entertaining film discussion.  Also, it will provide you with a wealth of film suggestions that could keep you busy for years on end.  My Netflix queue grows and grows with each episode I listen to.

And for the record, The Big Lebowski (1998) – Mark it 10, Dude.

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