August 25, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

Time to really ramble today…

"Blog" is an ugly word. It sounds like something that comes out of the nose when a person is sick with the flu. As I'm sure nearly everyone reading this knows, "blog" is short for "web log." (I prefer the term "online journal.") Initially, it was a noun, but its versatility has been expanded. It became a verb (to blog). Then the verb became a gerund (blogging). So the ugly word has legs and has become an official entry into all comprehensive dictionaries.

By all reasonable definitions, ReelThoughts is a blog, although it's less of a diary than an online journal. As the title implies, it's predominantly concerned with issues that are directly or indirectly related to cinema, but I have been known to stray from the straight-and-narrow, often provoking cries of anguish from the 2000 (or so) faithful readers of this column. Politics represents a sore spot for some, who are of the opinion that film critics should not share their political viewpoints. (By corollary, does that mean that political commentators should not give their opinions of movies?) I also confound those who like to apply labels, since some of my views are liberal and others are conservative. I vilify Democrats and Republicans alike, and think the last great American President was Harry S. Truman. Actually, my views are simple: Modern politics are a cesspool in which politicians frolic. Anyone else who gets too close gets shit all over himself.

I keep a little notepad with ReelThoughts ideas on it. Some topics have lingered there for a while; others get "used up" as soon as I think of them. I put a time limit of 30 minutes on each column - 25 to write, 5 to edit. And reviews always come first. That's the primary reason I don't add a new ReelThought every day. I have to find the time to review all of the latest wonderful entertainment being provided by Hollywood. I write a review as soon as I see a film; posting depends on the release schedule. This week, for example, I'm seeing five movies, but posting only two reviews. That's the way it goes.

The readership of ReelViews is about 250,000 per week. (That's site accesses, not hits - hits number between 500,000 and 600,000 per week.) ReelThoughts is a "specialty" sector of the site, drawing about 1% of the overall readership. That's fine - it's nice to have a smaller group reading these ramblings. It makes for more of a sense of community. 2000 readers is still a lot.

ReelThoughts allows me to do a few things. On some occasions, I can address ideas and themes that go outside of what I can put in a review. On other occasions, I can comment on something that's currently in the news (cinematic or otherwise, although faithful readers will recognize that I have avoided a lot of "hot button" issues and headline-grabbers). And then there are the rants, which are good for mental health reasons. I don't have high blood pressure and I don't need a therapist (that will make Tom Cruise happy), so they must be doing some good.

To a certain extent, blogs reflect their writers, which is as it should be. My wife's is informal, intimate, and intended for a small audience. (I offered to post a link, but she demurred, looking terrified at the thought of someone other than her friends and family reading it.) In principal, mine isn't all that different - I just write with the consideration in mind that a few thousand people will read it.

Possible Future Site Changes: My grandiose plans for this site are not always realized, but here are some ideas I'm tossing around for implementation during the next two years. (Yes, I'm a long-term planner, but those of you who followed the weekly posting of the Top 100 already know that.) The first order of business is to implement an RSS feed, probably next January. I would like to resurrect Video Views and enhance it so that it emphasizes the weekly DVD release market. The Links section will probably be removed. I don't have the time to maintain or update it, so it's probably better to take it down. It has lain virtually untouched for four years. I would also like to implement a theater database that rates theaters across North America (or even the world). (Are the seats comfortable? Do the movies start on time? Are there commercials? How good it the audio/video quality? Are the employees courteous? Ticket price? That sort of thing.) This would require considerable reader input. I tried something similar eight years ago and it was a spectacular failure, but that's when my readership was about 200 per day, not 40,000 per day. Whether or not I update the "look" of the site will depend on whether I can find a graphic designer who proposes something that catches my eye. I'm fine with the current appearance of ReelViews, but I'm one of those people who likes to change every few years just to stay fresh.