A Milestone Passed

September 29, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

Festival decompression is over. The major problem with going to a festival is that, after non-stop movie-going and writing for eight days, laziness asserts itself. I need a period of limited movie-going and minimal writing. That period has come to an end. It's time to get back on the horse.

While I was in Toronto, ReelViews achieved a milestone of sorts, although it passed unnoticed. Rather than trumpeting "Now with 3000 Reviews!" on a banner somewhere, I decided to make a quieter announcement to the 10% (or thereabouts) of my loyal readers who stop here once in a while. For anyone wondering, the "official" 3000th review was Just Like Heaven. (Yeah, I wish it had been something with more distinction...)

Having written 3000 reviews does not mean that I have seen 3000 movies. This is a common misconception. Every day, I get at least one e-mail from someone saying, "I checked your site and you don't have a review for ---. I really think you should consider seeing ---." I patiently explain to the writer that I have reviewed about half the movies I have seen. There aren't enough hours in the day to go back and fill in all the blanks.

There are some great movies I would like to get around writing reviews for. The VideoViews section of the site is taking the year off to give me time to concentrate on other things, but I expect it to return next year with a focus on both new DVD releases and older ones. My hope is to have a "new old" review available every other week. That's ambitious, I know, but I think it can be done.

3000 reviews doesn't seem like a lot until I consider the amount of time and effort necesary to write them all. When I first started ReelViews in 1996, I had amassed a collection of Usenet reviews numbering around 800. It took months to convert them to html and upload them. At the time, I thought 800 was a lot.

There aren't too many single-reviewer sites with 3000 full-length reviews. Roger Ebert's has about twice that many, but Roger has been at this for three times as long as I have. Other sites with a massive number of reviews typically have input from multiple reviewers or feature capsules. Early in my on-line experience, I decided that ReelViews would be a one-person gig and only on rare occasions would I write capsules (usually when I'm converting a short paragraph or two from a festival update into a formatted review). I have done my best to stick to that philosophy. (Although I once asked my wife if she wanted to contribute to the website. She declined.)

The next big milestone for the site will be its 10th anniversary. A lot of "old" websites are celebrating ten years on the net around now. Most of them, including this one, looked very different when they first appeared. Of course, the web was a stickier and stranger place back then. Most people used 14.4 and 28.8 modems and downloading graphics (or even large text files) required patience. To this day, I have embraced the philosophy that simple is better. So, except for a few pictures scattered here and there, the concept of the site is the same as it was at its inception: reviews. I like to think that one can have quality without being flashy. That's the idea that has driven this website since I started it, and will continue to drive it until it goes dark.