The other day someone asked me what this “blogging stuff” could lead to professionally. There were actual air quotes involved and my response was a very long pause accessorized by a blank stare.
“I mean, what do you want to do with it? You gonna be, like, Perez Hilton? He’s a blog, right?”
“Um. It doesn’t actually need to do anything, dude. I just read about jobs or things that might get me work. Then I write about shit that I could potentially do for money so I don’t starve or have to move back to New York and live on my mom’s couch. Sometimes people offer me gigs ’cause of it,” I replied.
“Oh, so you want to be a journalist.”
“Not really. I just want to write.”
“Why don’t you become a film critic? They get to say what they think about stuff. And you like movies, right? Didn’t you go to film school?”
Way back when, in a kinder and gentler time known as the late nineties, I interned at an “edgy” and “progressive” weekly rag. I was in college, with an ambitious quest to become The Female Joe Queenan that developed after reading his book Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler . I had decided that I, too, was filled with piss, vinegar, and a general distaste for Merchant Ivory productions and therefore had the right and ability to smear my ink on celluloid. So in my junior year I applied, interviewed, and begged for an internship at this paper. I got the gig, and as I beheld my shiny temporary ID that granted me access to their hallowed halls, I knew that I would be the future of film criticism.
I learned rather quickly that being a film critic requires spectacles, cigarettes, and an overuse of the word “insipid.” You were also given more respect if you wore black turtlenecks and looked as though you only ingested unripe pineapple and cocaine.
The guy who wrote the snarky blind items and gossip column sat two cubicles behind the space allotted for the dregs of the office (oversized mail, dying floral arrangements, interns.) He wore loud shirts, rolled into work at 3PM, and generally seemed to be having one hell of a good time.
Reviewing films for this pulp-based bastion of liberalism seemed to me, a college kid with no journalistic credentials to speak of, to be an exercise in one-upping every viewer in the condescending asshole department. I dreaded my hours under the fluorescent lights, listening to the pressure of deadlines ebb and flow, watching my pasty faced and emaciated bosses look with disdain down the filters of their cigarettes. I decided then that film criticism wasn’t fun and, of course, being the wizened age of twenty, my motto was that work should be fun. (Note to self: Unemployment? Not so fun.) So I left without even attempting to apply for a job, but knowing what the definition of “fin de siècle” was.
For the record, all of my friends who enjoyed their internships went on to have illustrious careers in film and television and when I visit Manhattan they buy me dinner. I’m grateful for internships in general and I do think that they’re useful, especially when they (indirectly) feed me.
The reasons why I could not, and probably should not, bestow my cine-opinions on the world are many. For one, I hate everything. Also, I don’t go out to movies because, at $10.50 a seat and on a freelancer‘s salary, how the hell could I. [Editor’s Note: Here in Portland we have $3.00 movie theaters which are far cheaper than regular movie theaters but are still not as cheap as making out during the commercial breaks when watching Family Guy.]
My taste in current movies, as with music, is commonly regarded as falling in the warm, gushy center between tolerably bad to wholly ridiculous. Most of my favorite film stars are dead. And when I wind up discussing cinema as a whole I am consistently the most pretentious schmuck at the table. Apparently I caught that bug while getting a degree in dramatic writing from an art school and interning alongside acclaimed film critics. Don’t spill coffee on your keyboard in surprise.
So unless I’m hired to critique a film that came out in the 50s, or one that features vampires, lesbians, or lesbian vampires, it would be a review about how I got bored waiting in line at the theater and decided to go and throw Hot Tamales the kids at the Apple store near the food court instead. I’m pretty much only able to successfully give critical disclosure on exactly what’s happening to me at a given moment or things I’m suffering through and know intimately, such as struggling to find work or veganism. I know my strengths. Being a sarcastic and embittered voice of the quarter-life crisis generation is one of them, but directing that vitriol towards something other than putting food in my mouth and trying not to have a breakdown? Probably not a good idea.
Although my internship at that nameless weekly drained all the vim and vigor from my wannabe film critic self, and ultimately didn’t evolve into a job, college wasn’t a complete bust. After all, it was there that I created a Zima-based drinking game during the Bush versus Gore debates, saw Scorsese’s short film “The Big Shave,” and met my future business partner/punching bag.
That “relevant alternative weekly”? Well, let’s just say that blogs have taken it to town.
AinsleyDrew at gmail dot calm
If you donate an angel gets its wings and a diamond-encrusted chihuahua. I, on the other hand, get a bean burrito.