ReelThoughts: August 28, 2012

"FAQ: Addendum"

Commentary by James Berardinelli


Have I have written a FAQ? Yes. If you dig around in the site's attic, you can probably find it. I'm not going to publicize the location since much of the information in it is hopelessly outdated. FAQs used to be common ways of conveying information; they have gone out of fashion somewhat with the advent of social media. At any rate, I thought it might be fun/useful to provide answers to a few questions I repeatedly answer via e-mail and other sources. I'll stay away from some of the really basic ones, however, since I'd find them just as boring to write and you would to read. And this is not intended to be comprehensive.

Q: Why so few ReelThoughts these days?
A: I could use my two-year old son as an excuse, but that wouldn't be telling the whole story. Yes, he absorbs time and energy, but the average ReelThought doesn't take that long to write. However, I have been devoting an increasing amount of time to non-movie related writing projects. I recently completed a novel, the first volume of a planned trilogy and, since then, I have been working on revisions to that book as well as writing the first draft of the second book. More information will be forthcoming as it comes closer to seeing the light of day.

Q: Why are there pop-ups? I remember you once said you would avoid them.
A: I did say something like that, but that was then and this is now. The bottom has fallen out of the on-line ad market and, in order to keep revenue relatively stable (and it's still down about 35% over what it was three years ago), I had to add the pop-up ads. (Technically, pop-unders.) The reason: they pay much better than banner ads or rectangle ads. I dream of the day when I'll generate sufficient revenue from non-website projects and will be able to eliminate all ads from ReelViews, but that day isn't here and may never arrive. Until then, the ads are the cost of keeping ReelViews going. By the way, the "Fictional Frontiers" logo is not an ad - it's a link to a project I'm involved with where my voice can be heard pontificating about movie-related subjects once per month. There's a lot of other good stuff there, so click ahead. No revenue comes my way from a click, but you might enjoy what you find on the other side...

Q: Why no Facebook page?
A: My social media compromise was to obtain a Twitter account, which I use. In addition to notifying followers whenever anything new shows up on the site, I occasionally post random musings and teases. I'm not the most prolific tweeter, but I try to avoid pointless trivia. As for Facebook, I have a pathological aversion to anything that would increase my non-productive workload. Maintaining an RSS link and tweeting absorbs enough time (plus, all updates to the site, no matter how small, are done by yours truly - this is a one-man operation). That being said, it's likely that there will be a Facebook site for the novel when it gets close to publication. My wife, incidentally, is my polar opposite: she has an active Facebook life but ignores Twitter.

Q: In an ideal world, would you still review movies?
A: The dream hypothetical - if money wasn't an issue, what would I do? I would still write movie reviews, but not as many. ReelViews would be transformed into an ad-free zone (anyone reading this will by now have rightfully concluded that I am conflicted about the site's commercialization). I would post one or two new reviews per week - they would be longer and more comprehensive and targeted toward films I *want* to see. I would write fiction for about four hours per day. The day job would go away.

Q: You used to be very good at responding to e-mails, but I sent you something recently and didn't hear back. Why?
A: I don't routinely ignore e-mails, especially if they look like an answer is expected. However, I have my anti-spam filter set very high because I have determined that the SNR for my account is about 25:1 and I don't want to wade through 250 pointless, virus-infected e-mails per day. So if you sent me an e-mail and didn't get the expected response, it probably got caught by the spam filter. I can't offer any great workarounds, although if you tweet me, I'll probably see it.

Q: Romney or Obama?
A: I would never argue that ReelViews is apolitical, but I try to keep politics in the background. Truth be told, my views are all over the place. One central belief, however, is that both major parties are corrupt to the core, ruled over by special interest groups. Their positions are calcified, their methods inflexible. Things happen only when the country teeters on the brink of disaster and there are some who would like it to go over that cliff just to prove a point. The only difference between Democrats and Republicans is who holds the leash (and, in some cases, it's the same groups). This election cycle, we have the Republicans whining about the Democrats using "out of bounds" dirty tactics, which is a reversal of how it was four years ago. Politics used to fascinate me; now they bore and disgust me. I have been deeply disappointed by Obama's first term. Little of note was accomplished (partially as a result of Congressional gridlock) and there was no big push to "reform government," which was a major board in the president's 2008 platform. Romney doesn't impress me at all - here's a man who seemingly will say anything to get elected. Reminds me of Nixon, except Nixon had a spine. Neither Obama nor Romney deserves to lead the country, but one of them will. It's a little like asking which one-star movie I like better. Both stink, so why differentiate?

Q: What do you think of the decision to split The Hobbit into three movies?
A: Supposedly, this is not financially motivated. I don't buy that. Oh, there may be some non-financial explanation, and it may even be partially true, but this has $$ written all over it. If two movies could generate $2B worldwide and three movies might earn $3B, which makes more sense to the bean counters? That's why every hot YA franchise is having its final volume bifurcated: money. The real reason isn't the oft-stated "to give the fans a more full experience" or "to provide the filmmakers with an opportunity to do a complete adaptation." It's because it enriches the studios' coffers. It puts a slam-dunk hit into an environment where risk aversion is a blood sport. Jackson's stated reason for advocating the three movie cycle is so he can incorporate additional material from other sources (mainly the LOTR appendices) and create a six movie series that provides the full epic story. Maybe that's the way things will turn out. I'll reserve judgment until I see the final product. But, at this point, I can't avoid being a little cynical. It's suspicious that this decision was made in the wake of how the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games franchises were handled.


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