The B+ Movie Blog Tenth Anniversary
We’ve finally (somehow) hit ten years on this site. Technically this is year ten, but still… it’s been a decade. By the time we hit 1/1/21, it will be ten years to the day that I posted for the first time on this site. Which is insane.
Ten years is a long time to do anything. For the first like, five, things were going up pretty consistently every day. If we’re really getting technical, something has been posted on this site every day since it was created. Granted, a lot of them, especially in recent years, have been a Pic of the Day and nothing else. But in the early days, I think I went from 2011 into early 2013 before I officially took a day off and had nothing written go up. The point is, there’s been a lot of content here over the years, and there’s always three months straight of content every year between November and February.
I felt like now would be a good idea to go in and just sort of recap all the big things I accomplished with this site over the past ten years. This is really for no one else but me, but that’s most things on this site. Sure, a lot of stuff does end up being for other people should they want it, but largely it’s for me. Otherwise I’d have abandoned this place a long time ago.
I’m basically just gonna go over the ten years of this site and reminisce a bit. I used to post updates like this all the time back in the early days. I bet if you went back and compared what this is going to be versus what those are, you’ll see a definite change in tone and maturity. I mean, I’m still a piece of shit, but now I’m just an older piece of shit.
Anyway, let’s reminisce.
I had the idea for the site end of 2010. Probably around October/November. (Note: I checked. I found an email to friends in October where it was clear I was headed toward actually doing it.) It was borne out of my obsession with the Oscars, and really when you get down to it that does remain its core. I was in the middle of the Oscar Quest (which, for the uninitiated, is something I started as soon as I graduated college. I decided to watch every movie ever nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and the four acting categories), and I thought to myself, “If I’m doing all this, I should really document it somewhere.”
It was just meant to be for myself, a place to write down my thoughts on all these movies, and what I thought should have won each category. It was never really meant for other people, even though it kind of had to be. Think about it — writing up a giant document detailing my thoughts on something as meaningless as the Oscars and keeping it on my desktop for no one but myself: weird. Writing it up and putting it on the internet where theoretically other people could find it and chime in or maybe get something from it: slightly less weird. I mean, it’s still one of those things where you go, “Why would you ever do that?” But at least the notion of putting it online makes it seem like less of a pointless exercise. Plus, the internet is filled with pointless stuff, so it fits right in.
Aside from all that, though, I think the real idea was to document this period of my life and what I (theoretically) accomplished during it. I also remember thinking, “If I’m ever going to start a blog, having my first post be on 1/1/11 would be pretty awesome.” And if I’m being perfectly candid here, it’s really that completely random fact that ultimately got me to do it. Which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about me. The only reason that this site exists is because the idea of starting it on 1/1/11 was too good to pass up. Honestly, if it weren’t for that, I might not have even done it.
So I start on 1/1/11 and the first thing I posted was my Top Ten List for 2010. And then on 1/2/11, I posted the first Unforgivables List. Which, as is the case with most things in my life, happened totally by chance. I literally just got pissed at a movie I was watching one day and sent a long diatribe to a group chat with friends about it. And that eventually became the Unforgivables List. That’s how things happen with me.
I also did my first Release Calendar right at the top. Which, I didn’t think was something I started during until 2012. I like knowing that I had that in mind right as I started, guessing how I’d rate all the movies I was gonna watch that year and then seeing how accurate I was at the end of the year. That’s one of the core staples of this site. I could post nothing between March and November, but you can bet your ass I’ll give you a Year in Reviews in December. (It should also be noted how much I love being able to use the pun “year in reviews”. Hopefully the admission of the true motivating factors in my life should eventually prove to everyone just how little respect I ought to command as a human being.)
Though now that I think about it, I do remember in the months leading up to the initial date brainstorming ideas for things I could do. Since I knew it wasn’t just gonna be Oscar stuff. I also had already locked myself into a start date that was months away. So all that in-between time was filled with me going, “What the hell else do I want to talk about?”
It’s interesting, going back and seeing those first two months of the site. Because I’m still clearly figuring out what to do on here. At first I just was posting random joke articles and other nonsense. I haven’t even read that stuff since I wrote it. (Though if I’m being honest, I haven’t read most of the stuff I wrote on here. I’m not really one for deep introspection. I just sort of do the thing, hope it works, and then move on to the next thing.)
Looking back, it almost feels like if I went back to read the scripts I wrote in high school and college. You just start to cringe because you think, “I had no idea what I was doing and I was just looking for people to say, ‘Isn’t he cute?‘” The first stuff you do is always looking for external validation as you find your voice. Eventually, you’re just doing it for you. Or, at least, I think that’s what the goal is. You want to get to a point where you’re doing it for you, and then hopefully other people also like it. (Which honestly, is probably good advice for anything in life.)
I do like looking back and seeing the kernels of what would eventually become the staples of this site. (I almost mistyped and wrote ‘shite’ there, which is also accurate.) That first year, I had a very barebones version of what is now my Oscar coverage. I wrote my preferred nominees and guessed what I thought would be nominated. It’s cool, seeing that stuff as it was then and how it is now. Because the initial goal was just to write up the Oscar Quest, but you can see me being interested in all this other stuff, and it’s all that other stuff that would keep this site going for ten years.
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A landmark date for this site was 1/31/11. That was the day (or rather, the day before was the day) John Barry died. I wrote up a little tribute for him (mainly as a joke), and included in it a screenshot from Goldfinger where Bond slaps Dink on the ass, which was always one of the most ridiculous moments in that entire franchise to me, because it’s just so brazenly misogynist and the movie goes out of its way to include it. But doing that gave me the idea for the Pics of the Day. I had this giant folder with thousands of screenshots in it and thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I put one up each day with a quote from the movie?” I figured it could be a kind of game, since I’d never state the movie by name, even though it would really obvious most of the time, but really it would just be pulling cool images and shouting out a movie each day. And, like everything else with me, “Could be fun” turns into where we are now.
The first Pic of the Day, officially posted on 2/1/11, I could tell your from memory — it’s the shot from The Third Man where they shine the light down the tunnel on Welles near the end of the film, and the quote was the “cuckoo clock” speech. Since that day, a Pic of the Day has gone up every single day on this site without fail. (Also, just to tell you how crazy I am, I have, as of probably 2012 or 2013, figured out what the very last Pic of the Day is going to be, which will eventually be the final (new) thing ever posted on this site. So just know that unlike (probably) your favorite TV show, I knew what the end was gonna be all along.)
It’s also interesting to see the evolution of even that from the early days to now. Because at the beginning, I only had a certain number of screenshots from a very finite number of movies. In the first year or two, the same films just kept getting repeated over and over. But having a Pic of the Day got me to keep getting shots for more movies in order to branch out with the things going up. Because my goal was always to never to repeat a shot and never to repeat a quote. I’m sure I screwed up and there are a handful of repeats somewhere (after all, it’s just me keeping track of all this shit, and I’m an idiot), but I doubt anyone would remember it. I took great effort to make sure it was something new and different every time, and in certain cases, exercised great restraint to not use the most famous image and quote of a movie right at the beginning and prevent myself from ever using it again.
I also, pretty much from the beginning, experimented with different Pic of the Day ‘theme months’. The one I always remember was in that first year, I did one of just customized studio logos that were specific to the films. The obvious one is like, the Warner Bros. logo for The Matrix being in green with the gray clouds behind it to mimic the color palette of the film. Or Blazing Saddles, where the logo burns away. I did months of horror movies. I did westerns, noirs, musicals. I did famous opening lines, famous final lines. I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting. The big ones that I still do every year are Christmas movies in December and then Oscar winners from the day after Christmas through Oscar night/February.
In 2015, I did a 100th Anniversary shot for Birth of a Nation, which I think was the first official ‘anniversary’ shot I ever did. Then in 2016, I did one for Intolerance turning 100. That year I also did ones to mark The Good, the Bad and the Ugly turning 50 and Terminator 2 turning 25. By 2017, I’d taken a bunch of big anniversary years (75, 50, 40, 25, etc) and did a week for each one. Seven shots from seven movies all celebrating that anniversary. 2018, I did that again, but added a handful of films that were 90 or 100 years old. Last year, I made it so every shot posted between March and Thanksgiving was a film celebrating some sort of anniversary (save like, a dozen or so that were just to commemorate a film coming out that day that was either a sequel or remake or part of some larger franchise).
I’m really liking doing that, because it’s allowing me to branch out my choices and have all sorts of new things that I might not have otherwise had if I was just dipping into the existing pool of shots. Plus, it makes it so that I’m not really repeating anything all that often. Unless it’s a special circumstance, theoretically this way a movie really is only gonna get repeated once every five years (unless it’s an Oscar movie). So I think that’s something that’s gonna be sticking around going forward. But I do think it is cool that you can see the progression of all that happening over the years.
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One thing I noticed in looking over those early days of the site was that in the first couple of years, I did a thing that I called the Box Office Report. Every Friday morning, I would talk about all the movies that were set to come out that weekend and guessed how much money I thought they’d make. That was pretty short-lived. I think I got through 2012 with it, but I don’t think it continued much past that. I get why I did it at first. I was looking for content and I had fun guessing box office figures in college (slash, won an actual contest doing it as part of a class my senior year). But I lost interest pretty quickly and eventually stopped caring entirely what anything made. That’s an example of one of those things on the site that just faded away.
I bring it up because it’s interesting to see all the things I tried over the years that just either didn’t work or just ceased to be something I wanted to do. That’s what I love about this — you try stuff, some works, some doesn’t. Things organically grow on their own or they don’t. In those first six months on the site, I tried a few different things. Because I think I knew, just writing Oscar Quest articles was going to get really boring for me. They’re all the same format. Try writing something with the same basic format over and over and over in a very short amount of time. You’re gonna lose your mind. So I broke it up with other things. A lot of it was just for me or just to have something go up. Because for the first year or so, I really cared about making sure something went up every day. It was really important to me that there was always new content, no matter what it was. So I tried different things. Only one of them really is worth noting, because it’s something I’m still mostly proud of, which is How to Read a Hollywood Release.
I still am kinda torn over the whole thing, because in my mind what I was doing was insanely obvious. Basically, the point of the articles was that, whether you realize it or not, you can actually quantify figuring out the quality of a movie/what you’re gonna think of it into a formula. Because Hollywood isn’t clever. If a certain type of movie works during a certain weekend, they’ll keep putting similar ones there for the next couple of years. As long as you know the patterns and what types of movies come out when, and generally how good those movies tend to be/whether or not you can enjoy them, it’s really not hard to know how good something’s gonna be. I go through a broad version of that checklist in my head every January when I guess my ratings, and anyone who’s seen my year-end articles will know I’m pretty damn good at it. It’s one of those things I’m not sure anyone needed, but I am proud of having done it. I even went back and updated it in 2014. I thought about doing another update for this year, but in the era of Netflix and streamers, it’s just way too complicated to think about. It could be done, but I’m just not interested in trying to do it right now. I think it’s there, and if anyone wants to use any or all of it for whatever the hell they’re going to use it for, more power to you.
Also that month, I put up a Top Tens of the Decades list. That came out of me saying, “I’ve seen a lot of movies, and I can recommend a lot of movies. So I should do that.” What I did was put up a list, every three months, always in the middle of the month, of my top ten list for every year of a given decade, along with some other recommendations. Usually it ended up being a top ten, 11-20 and then some other assortment of recommendations around a particular theme that I came up with based on the decade. I put one up every three months between March 2011 and December 2012. Those would, of course, set the stage for me eventually just writing up Top Ten Lists, since posting lists without explanation does little good. Who wants to sit there and look up dozens of movies based on title alone? Really, you combine those Decades lists along with my annual year-end Top Ten lists and you can see a through line for those. And also for what’s about to happen starting tomorrow (he teased).
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Another thing I posted in those early months was a series of articles about Tron: Legacy. Mostly it was just me voicing some my movie pet peeves and how the movie incorporates some of them to annoying effect. (A Movie Pet Peeves list is also one of those things I’ve always thought about doing, even though I never quite figured out just how to do it properly.)
Wanna know what a movie pet peeve is? First, let me say that it’s one of those things that most people don’t ever notice or pick up on. But for someone like me, whose ears are completely honed to them, the minute one of them happens on screen, it’s like a dog whistle. It completely takes me out of the movie and it takes me a good minute or two to get back into it. It’s like motion smoothing on a TV. Most people have it on and have no idea what it is or what it does. But when I’m somewhere and see it on, it drives me insane.
Here’s an example of a Movie Pet Peeve: A guy’s brother comes to visit him and goes, “You ready for the bachelor party this weekend?” And the guy says, “I don’t know if I can go. You know, Sarah, my wife, she hates when I’m out late drinking.” Now, most people would just roll over that sentence without a moment’s thought. But for me, I hear that line and immediately I’m up a fucking wall. Because, logically, sure, what they’re doing is establishing that the guy has a wife and she’s named Sarah. But also, he’s talking TO HIS BROTHER. Of course his brother is going to know what his wife’s name is! That line exists purely for the audience without any regard to how it plays within the reality of the scene. And all I see is lazy writing, because all it takes a is a bare minimum of effort to properly establish the same thing. And that’s just a simple example. There’s an entire minefield of things that I hear all the time.
Another thing that’s a buzz word for me is the phrase, “So what about you?” If you ever hear that phrase spoken in a movie, know that it’s the laziest set up ever for exposition. And very often, you’re gonna get the big moment where the character opens up about their hopes and dreams to guide you as to what their character arc is gonna be for the rest of the film. (Example: “So what about you?” “You know, I’ve had this dream about one day, getting in my car and just going. Leaving this town forever and going somewhere else. Go to some island, where it’s nice all the time. And I’d open my own cafe and just live without a care in the world.”) Or another one, while we’re here — any time a movie has the scene of soldiers (or whoever) sitting around a fire, talking about what they’re gonna do when they’re back “home.” See what I mean? For most people these things are minor or unnoticed, but for me, it’s like being a chef who specializes in French cuisine and standing around the kitchen at a high school as they prepare lunches. “Qu’est-ce que c’est, Jamaican Patty?”
Oh, but Tron: Legacy. Right. (See, a lot of things changed over the past decade, but my propensity for meandering detours is not one of them.) So I posted articles about Tron, mostly to rail on some annoying things that detracted from what was otherwise a really great movie. When I look back at it, it’s clearly a forbearer to Fun with Franchises. Because it was me gathering screenshots and writing jokes and just sort of fucking around with something just because it amused me. We don’t have Fun with Franchises without that article.
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Two more things to note about the first half of 2011. First is that I did write up movie reviews throughout the year as I do now. So that was something I started from the beginning. The other big thing that happened that year was that I moved to Los Angeles. I graduated college Memorial Day weekend 2010. And, having been in school for essentially 18 straight years, I decided I was gonna take a year off. Just sort of enjoy life before having to go into the real world and get a job and all that. Plus, also a lot of my best friends from college were a year or two younger than me, so I wanted to be able to go back and visit them and maintain the college lifestyle without having to go to any of the classes. So that was part of it too.
But also, even though I set it up as a sort of “vacation” for myself… I can’t not be doing something. Even if it’s not work or whatever, leave me alone for a month and I’ll find some sort of project to be working on. Which, in that case, was the Oscar Quest. But then, a year later, at the end of June 2011, I moved out to LA. And the rest of that summer, while Oscar Quest articles were going up on this site and I was finishing the Quest itself, I was setting up a life from scratch on the other side of the country. I moved out to LA with a backpack, a carry-on and one checked suitcase. And my carry-on was full of nothing but binders containing all of my DVDs. Most of my clothes were shipped in a box a few weeks later. I rented an apartment sight unseen and the only things in it that I had shipped ahead were a shower curtain and an air mattress. I had to furnish an entire apartment. I had no job, no car. All of that was going on that first year of the site alongside all these articles and things.
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Getting back into the Oscar Quest, what’s interesting to me is that I updated my progress every couple of weeks. I guess I knew that future me would appreciate knowing where I was during specific moments in time. So, in April of 2011 (11 months into the Quest), I had 274 movies left to watch. By mid-June I had 150 left. I was down to 100 by the end of June. And on July 31st, I posted my final update, which contained the final 33 films I had left (many of which I bought from some now-defunct website of a guy who was burning DVDs of movies for what I’m sure was like $5-10 each. But at that point I was thrilled to be able to get my hands on them). That’s the part that interests me the most of all this, seeing what movies were ‘impossible’ for me to get a hold of. Because knowing what I know now and having the resources I have now, I wonder (as I often do about things in the past in relation to the internet)… did things just get easier to find, did I just get better, or were they always there and I just didn’t know what I know now? Since I grew up in the 90s. The internet now isn’t the internet I grew up with. Hell, I grew up without internet for the first eight years of my life.) So I’m constantly asking myself that question. But also, back in 2010/2011, movies weren’t just available to rent on Youtube. I couldn’t go that deep on tracker sites to find the stuff that’s long since out of print. I had to sit there and spend hours download four different zip files from Rapidshare and combining them all and hoping it would turn into a real file and not some bullshit corrupt file that won’t open.
Skipping ahead a bit, just to wrap up the Oscar Quest for the moment — I finished that initial list of six categories in 13 months. Then I went on to other things, but the completist in me kept bringing me back. Making me think, “Well what about all the other categories?” And I’d sort of look into it to see how easy it would be to add all the other categories, like Score and Production Design and all that. And eventually that would solidify into what I called the Complete Oscar Quest. Which was me adding the rest of the categories except Documentary, Foreign Language and the Shorts (and yes, I’m aware that doesn’t really make it complete). I think I wanted to wait until it felt doable and I knew I was actually gonna do it. And, I am currently 229 movies away from being finished with that.
And in the interest of candor — anyone knows me knows immediately where this is going — I was comfortable leaving off those five categories and saying that I’ve basically seen every movie nominated for an Academy Award. But then, as I got down to the last 300 of the “Complete” list, I thought, “Well, Animated Short would be fun and easy to watch. I wonder if I can find them all…” and then cut to a week later and I’ve managed to get all but three of them. And I thought, “Okay, 20 is a good, round number of categories, that’ll suffice.” And then a few months after that I got bored and thought, “A lot of the Foreign Language nominees crossover. I wonder how many that would leave me if I ever did want to go watch those too…”, which was quickly followed by, “Oh, that’s not so bad. But I wonder if I could find most of those…” Then we cut to about ten days after that and I’ve gotten all but 13 of those. I’m not automatically watching them, but they’re there, you know? And then a few months ago, I thought, “What about those Documentary Features? Those have to be impossible to find…” And now I’ve got all but 74 of those.
I haven’t officially said I’m gonna watch those yet (I’d announce it on the site to hold myself accountable if I were gonna do that). But I was okay not even bothering with those last five categories, and here I am, having compiled basically three of them. The other two, I’m not that excited about and don’t plan to try to find, but I didn’t plan the other three, so who knows with me.
The final point to make after all that is: the Oscar Quest started as just six categories (technically it was just Best Picture winners when I initially set out to do it), and now a decade later I’m getting pretty damn close to having seen every single Oscar nominee ever.
Oh, and I also am working on all the Golden Globe winners and nominees (because I can and because after a certain point it’s not that much of an imposition, given the crossover from the Oscars) and the National Board of Review nominees as well. So that’s how the Oscar Quest has evolved. There will be hopefully be another stage of that evolution happening later this year. But that’s for a later date.
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In August of 2011, I wrote my Character Actor articles. I loved doing that and I think it’s fantastic they exist. It’s not necessarily helpful at all/anymore, because Google is so specific now that you can find who anyone is just by a quick search. But the idea was having one place where you can scroll through and go “Oh, that guy!” and then see all the movies they were in and maybe remember a few you didn’t know they were in or find some others you haven’t seen. A way to find movies and stop and appreciate some of these people for a moment. At one point I thought about making a separate site where I could make pages for all the character actors and have it out there for people to go to, but it was gonna be way too much work to pull off and really not have been all that different from IMDB unless I specifically wrote up a lot for each entry. That just wasn’t something I had the time or the energy to do, so in the end, that list ended up being something I did that just went away into the ether. I still think that would be a great site to exist, though.
Also that August, I posted the first of the early Oscar lists. The first ones were the Rankings list and the Viewer’s Guide (a completely unwieldy, color-coded guide that basically told you how much I liked the nominees). The idea being, you could go in and see, “Oh, that one’s in red, which means he loves it. I’ll watch that one.” It was fun to do, but definitely not a long-term solution for helping people find movies. It took me a while to figure out what the proper evolution of that was, but I think I’ve figured it out and hopefully pretty soon I’ll get to show you what it is.
By October of that year, I was still writing up Oscar categories, but there was one post that month that caught my eye. It was one of the update posts where I discussed what I was gonna do now that the Oscar Quest was ‘over’. I mentioned putting up a big article of my favorite movies. Not just my Favorite Films, but lists of all types (favorite Miyazaki movies, favorite Pixar movies. Ranking the Powell and Loy films, the Fred and Ginger movies, etc). I also said that I’d make a list of favorite films by director. (You can see where this is going.) If, by October of 2011, I said I already had 150 names on the list, that means I had to have started looking into doing it sometime over the summer. Which makes sense. I finished watching all the Quest stuff in early July, so July and August had to be when I sat down and figured out what I was gonna do next. But, at that point, there were 150 directors and 500 movies to watch before it got posted. My… how that snowballed. But it would still be a year before I posted that, so let’s keep going in this chronology we have going.
One thing I posted around that time was one of my favorite early articles: A Pictorial Analysis of the Sex Scene in the Lion King (appropriately titled “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”). That clearly was a forerunner for Fun with Franchises. The Tron articles were patient zero. There’s no denying that. I posted those and noticed a lot of people kept linking to the site from all the pictures I posted. Which started getting me into the mindset of, “Oh, screenshots = views.” The Lion King article was basically me making jokes, but it was me using the shots specifically for jokes in the way that would eventually become the norm with Fun with Franchises. You can so clearly see the foundation being laid when you look at it. It’s fascinating.
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I wrapped up 2011/began 2012 by doing year-end articles and covering Oscar season, though nowhere near as in-depth as I do now. But you can see a progression from year to year as I started developing all of the different articles that comprise the December-February stretch nowadays. Put it this way: 2011’s wrap-up was four days and started on December 26th. It’s gotten more elaborate. And looking at those Oscar articles, you can definitely see me getting my sea legs and figuring out how best to do it all.
I also, in the empty days during those months, started posted Oscar Quest wrap-up articles. Which are kind of like the year-end lists I make now (underrated, hidden gems, etc). I also ranked all the winners in each of the categories, which is something I would never do now. Those articles were the bane of my (website) existence for a while, just because people would find them three years after the fact and go, “What is wrong with you? (So and so) ranked 48 is a travesty!” They were just something I did to fill time and because I thought it would be amusing. I’ll never take them down, because it is a snapshot of where my head was while I was 24, but yeah, I’m glad that was not something I continued doing. Though it does make me happy knowing that my giant Oscar trivia article was originally written in 2012. That is one of the things I am most proud of on this site.
2012 is also when I started doing the “Favorite Moments in the Best Picture nominees” articles the day before the Oscars. Which I love, because it reminds me to never get that invested in winners and losers, since really what it’s about is the product itself. I also, in March, posted articles about Hugo and how it educates the viewer on film history and really celebrates movies in a way that just is gleeful. Mostly I just wanted to geek out about Méliès and early film history, but also it was an excuse to post more screenshots and get views. That was another step forward toward Fun with Franchises.
I officially finished all the Oscar Quest articles on the 4th of July 2012. That, I remember very well. Because of what we’re about to get to. I always remembered saying that I was going to finish everything on July 4th, and then on July 5th, I’d take a day off. The first day off I’d take in the history of the site. Of course, when I went back to check July 5th, I did post an update article that day so, so much for that. Turns out the first ‘proper’ day off I’d take (I’m pretty sure, unless I missed one, which is entirely probable) wouldn’t be until March of 2013. That’s insane.
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After the Oscar Quest articles were done, I spent a few weeks going over all the Best Original Song nominees, I guess because it was easy to do and because it’s fun. After that, I took the next major step toward Fun with Franchises, the Ranking Disney articles. Those 100% came from me seeing how many views the Tron, Lion King and Hugo articles were getting and thinking, “I bet people will search for Disney way more than they’d search for those things.”
What I did was spend two months ranking the (then) 51 Disney movies from my least favorite to my favorite. But really, when you go back and look at them, it was clear that’s where Fun with Franchises started. I was basically writing comedy essays for each movie. What I did was watch each movie, write out a loose synopsis for them while also making jokes along the way and taking screenshots that would work with my jokes. There’s no way you can look at those and not see Fun with Franchises all over them. I just didn’t know what I had yet. That was me before I learned how to harness all that energy into something.
I do appreciate that, in all those Disney articles, I pointed out all their visual tropes. Like ‘Disney framing’ and all the cool things they did like negative coloring. I like that I got to get film nerdy in there, which allows me to not fully see them as incomplete, now knowing what I could do with that same set up. Because I do remember finding a lot of visual language that overlapped between all the movies. It was almost like doing research for a dissertation. A dissertation that I ended up not writing and instead used to do standup comedy and make dick jokes about the Lion King. But hey, they were fun.
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After that, I did some more Oscar articles. Specifically the articles I have the single most regrets about in the history of this site. The other ones I regret just because they were throwaway lists that people would later keep finding and think reflected my everlasting opinions. These I regret because they just shouldn’t have happened when they did. They were articles covering what I would have nominated at each of the Oscar ceremonies in the big six categories. So, from 1927/1928 through the then-present, I was basically saying, “This is what my Best Supporting Actress category would look like.”
I’ve never gone back to look at them, but I just know… they’re based mostly around what was nominated, and then I just swapped out like one or two nominees each year for ones from films I really liked. Or actors I really liked and wanted to see get nominated. I hadn’t seen nearly enough movies to properly write those up. Now, I think I could do it. But the fact that I did it then is just a joke. But also, back then, I was just looking to post stuff. Now I look at this site more as an opportunity to legitimately expose people to cool movies. So the fact that I have those there feels like… it’s like when a singer has that one bullshit pop song that they hate that somehow could be the only thing a group of people know them for. You just kind of hope that’s not the thing people stumble on over everything else.
Those lists are something I hope to eventually remedy in the future. But I’ve got a bunch of other things I need to do before I even think about starting to look into that. Hopefully one day I can write those up in proper and redeem myself, but for the immediate future it’s going to stay on the list things I plan to eventually do… but not yet.
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The next step toward Fun with Franchises happened in October of 2012, with the Ranking Bond articles. I had so much fun with Disney and was really excited for Skyfall to come out that I decided to spend the 22 days leading up to it (because Skyfall was the 23rd Bond movie) ranking all the Bond movies like I did Disney. Which led to me bring in Colin, both as a Bond expert and car expert, but more importantly as a friend who I knew could engage in a lot of fun banter with me and make the articles more enjoyable. If all that previous stuff was the foundation for Fun with Franchises, this was the test run. It’s so clear in those articles. The first article probably had like 40-50 screenshots. By the time we got to #1, there were easily over 500. You could see us getting comfortable with the rhythms of it all and figuring out all the stuff that would make the Fun with Franchise articles so great.
It also (by necessity) introduced us to the element that, for me at least, made the whole thing so much better, which is the fact that we watched the movies totally separately and then combined our thoughts after the fact. It may not necessarily show in the articles, but nothing was better for me than putting the articles together… oh, you know what? Let me stop right there and go on a tangent about the articles.
As awesome as those Fun with Franchises articles are, let me tell you how much of a grind it is putting them together. First, you’re watching the movie. And for me, I’m watching the movie, writing it up and taking screenshots at the same time. Which means I’m constantly stopping every couple of seconds to write down thoughts and take potentially frame-by-frame screenshots of a scene to fit in with what I’m writing. I could spend four hours on it in a night and still only get through like twelve minutes of actual film. Then, once the film is done and I’ve got a 50 page Word document and 2,500 screenshots, I then have to go in and import 500+ screenshots per article, format all of that (which, given how this new posting system works, is a bitch), then go in and take what I wrote up (often weeks or months earlier, in a lot of cases) and match it up to specific shots and hope I got it right. Then, I go in and take what Colin sent me, which is like a 30 page Word document, and match that up with the screenshots, only without the element of context. I at least sort of know what I was going for with certain jokes and things and can use the flow of the screenshots to match up where things should go. With Colin, I just have text. And I’m just guessing some of the time where it was supposed to go. (Which, now’s a good time to mention, we did all those articles in different countries. I was in LA, he was in Tokyo. And he had the luxury of being able to watch the films much later than I did. So there was no overlap whatsoever, apart from our years of friendship and general knowledge of each other’s sense of humor.) So I’m doing that for five articles per film, and then for however many films that are in that franchise, plus x-number of other franchise we did in each run. So yeah. That’s what goes into every Fun with Franchise article. And it was just me doing all of that. Anyway, back to Bond.
What I learned from doing those articles, and my favorite part about the whole thing, was getting to see what Colin wrote, not knowing any of it ahead of time. After a while I could sort of guess where he’d going and preemptively play off that, but a lot of the time it was so much fun to see him write the exact same thing I did at certain points. Or it was fun just guessing where a completely random statement was supposed to fit, and then having him say, “That is the exact shot that was supposed to go.” The amount of times that we perfectly played off of one another completely by chance is the kind of thing that made those articles even better for me.
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The Bond articles were so much fun for us that it gave me the ultimate idea. “Imagine what we did this with stuff we could talk endlessly about.” Bond is one thing. You talk about the franchise and the actors and the cars and stuff. But Harry Potter, Star Wars… those are universes. We could sit there for hours (and did. In college. Totally sober, mind you, most of the time) just going, “You think they had a spell for birth control?”; “You think someone fucked a house elf when their spouse was out of town? They are bound to the house and can’t say anything…” So the idea of us doing what we did for Bond for movies like that? We couldn’t do it fast enough. So in November 2012, I started formulating my plan.
As I did that, I spent that month writing up Hidden Gems Lists. I don’t have anything to link to, because it never really became a thing. I did 20 years/articles, but stopped after that. Partially because I hadn’t seen enough things at the time and because I didn’t have a good idea of what they should be. The failure of those really was what planted the seed for a lot of the stuff I’ve done/am doing now, with all my lists and things.
What’s most important about November 2012, though, is that it was when I first posted the Films I’ve Watched Since Graduation list. That was when me deciding I should properly be keeping track of everything that I watch. Because… it’s a lot. At the time I posted it, I had 2,307 films on it. Which, considering it was posted 2½ years to the day from when I graduated college, is fucking insane. That was an average of over 900 movies a year. Granted, I spent 13 months at home before I moved to LA, and spent basically the first year in LA without steady employment, so really I had all the free time in the world to watch those movies. Arguably it’s more fucked up that, between October 2017 and December 2018, I watched 1,000 movies. Since, that was around a full time job. But that’s always been me. I’m gonna do what I do regardless, and eventually will find a way to have that work around whatever else I have going on. Also, I guess now is a good time to point out – November 23, 2012, I was at 2,307 films. I am currently about 250 films away from hitting 7,000. And we’re three months shy of my ten year college reunion. So yeah.
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Fun with Franchises officially became a reality in January 2013. I started working on them then to try to give us a head start and have a bunch of stuff banked once they started getting posted in April. They are still by far my favorite thing I’ve done on this site. I still go back and read the Harry Potter ones a bunch. I always want to go back and update them with better jokes and get rid of the more dated elements, and every time I start trying, I always get stalled after like, the first movie because there’s just never enough time. Maybe one day I’ll get through all of them.
But man… those articles. Colin and I watched Twilight for the first time while doing those! That was a magical experience. Because we knew nothing about those movies before we watched them. We literally (just like the characters) went in cold. I remember putting those articles together, feeling giddy as I sat down to look at whatever Colin wrote to see how it would all match up. My god, was that fun.
I’ve held out hope that one day we’d go back and do another round. But the amount of work required is just insane, and I’d need to really be in the mindset to do it again, and Colin would also need to be able to do it. Since he’s not invested to this bullshit as I am. It is funny though, because the thought of doing it again comes up exactly the same way sequels to movies come up. People make a movie together, have a great time making it and audiences end up really liking it. Then they see each other at a social function and go, “Man, we should do another one.” And they get excited about it for a minute and talk about all the possibilities for what they could do that next time and leave hoping it could work out with all the schedules and commitments and everything else. Because, you know, you just wanna do right by it and not screw it up. And then time passes and nothing happens. And maybe it never does, or maybe it comes back. You never know.
I’ve come up with so many ideas over the years for what to do with Fun with Franchises if we ever did it again (including some that aren’t even movies). And it always came down to me wanting to do it but having life shit in the way or other articles I wanted to do first and never getting around to it. Now it seems like they won’t happen again, but I’ll hold out hope that we’ll do it again one day. It’s too much fun to assume it’ll never happen. Trust me, the minute I get time and want to focus a lot of it on this site specifically, that will be the first thing I look to bring back. It’ll be Colin dependent, of course, unless he decides he doesn’t want to do it and I can find a person (or people) who I have a proper rapport with who could make it worthwhile for me to put in that effort. But you know, anything can happen. They’re too much fun for me to rule it out completely.
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2014 was a light year on the site. I was really drained from Fun with Franchises. To put that into further perspective, when I started the first articles… I banked the entire Potter and Star Wars franchises in January/February, and they weren’t going up until April. As those went up, I was working on Lord of the Rings and getting into Twilight. Colin, of course, watched things on his own time, because he didn’t need to do the work I did. He watched the movies, wrote stuff up and sent it to me and then I did the rest. The most he’d do is go in and see my finished draft of an article with both my stuff and his stuff in there, and then he’d riff off of that or make tweaks to where things should be within the article. Then I’d go in, riff on top of that, and boom. So the articles were mostly done weeks in advance, allowing for us to go in and put finishing touches in a day or two before, but nothing that major. Mostly just a final read-through. The only thing we deliberately did week-of was pick our favorite images and write up our final thoughts.
So I was a few franchises ahead at the beginning. Then, somehow, by the time we got to Pirates, not only had the articles caught up to us, they were threatening to get ahead of us. I was finishing an article ten minutes before it was supposed to go up, and even then, the first hour or two after it was posted I’d be going in and finishing comments and things. We always made deadline (which was self-imposed anyway), but man, was that draining. We even had to cut the first season short. I think there was supposed to be one more after Pirates. I think I had two set up, knowing one was almost certainly going to be cut. And by the time Pirates rolled around, I just couldn’t do it. I think we had either The Matrix or Indiana Jones lined up to go next, which is why those two ended up being the first ones we did for season two.
But that’s why 2014 was a light year. I was just so drained and really didn’t have a whole lot I planned on putting up. I posted nothing between March and July. In August, I did a Pictorial History of the Movies. Which was me going year by year through the history of cinema (1895 to the then-present) and picking what I felt was the most important or most representative movie for each year. I think it was my way of letting the film history buff in me take over and remind myself, “Hey, it’s not all just dick jokes. I can actually think and talk seriously about this stuff.” But also, it was an exercise to me. If you had to pick one movie per year to encapsulate that entire year in the history of film, what would it be? And it allowed me to nerd out and talk about things that I never get to talk about, like how each of the Big Five studios came about, and which production companies and theater chains and distributors banded together to form which one, or how the Production Code affected Hollywood. I love that stuff, and that was an excuse to sort of get into it. Plus each article was accompanied with a Pic of the Day from the film, which I enjoyed. Without that, there was really nothing that would have went up that year. Instead, that ran from August through November, which took us into the annual Oscar season and basically into March of 2015. (That’s always the beauty of the site for me. I never have to think about those three months, so as long as I can make it to Thanksgiving, I can always slingshot into the next year and be good until March.)
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2014 was also the year I went full time at my last job. So it also makes sense that it was a light year for the site. I also wrote a script the first half of that year, which also had to have been part of it. The other thing I did, knowing it was going to happen again and wanting to make sure we did it properly, was start banking Fun with Franchises articles. I remember doing the first Matrix articles in May of 2014 in anticipation for them to go up ten months later. We knew immediately from when we finished the first set that we wanted to do it again, and I wanted to make sure that the articles didn’t catch up to us like they did the first time. (Narrator voice: They did.)
So 2015 comes and we went right back into Fun with Franchises. We started with The Matrix and Indy, then we went into the Marvel universe. Mostly because, to me, Marvel + screenshots = views. We only had 10 Marvel movies to cover at the time, but that’s still longer than any other franchise we’d done to that point. And of course, with our job situations and life in general being what it is, the articles caught up to us much quicker than they did the first time, even with me having the ten month head start. It was so tough getting the last of those articles out that I ended up cutting that season short too. Much more so than I anticipated. I was actually two movies into The Hobbit before I realized we just weren’t going to make it. I saw that the energy and the fire just wasn’t there, and I was basically just doing enough to get the articles up and figuring I’d write the jokes later. It just wasn’t the same. So I cut it. I wanted to keep it pure. I wanted it to be something we loved doing, not just something we did to do it. (I think I also had Transformers planned for that season and all the Batman movies (from Adam West through the Nolan ones). But we ended with Marvel, which honestly is a perfect ending if we never go back to them, because Marvel is essentially the death of the franchise as we know it.)
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As I looked back on the history of the site, I was certain the end of the Franchise articles was gonna be the last thing I posted in 2015. But no. 2015 actually had a lot more other stuff in it. Stuff I forgot we even did. The B+ Movie Guide.
The idea for that came about in 2012. It was the day of our school’s graduation. I was watching a live stream in LA and Colin was getting ready to go to sleep in Tokyo. And he sent an email just before bed saying there should be a movie list of things that all “self-respecting film people ought to have seen.” Something he could use to fill in the gaps of what he hadn’t seen by that point. He did this, knowing full well that when he woke up, that list would be in his inbox.
That list I sent was 500 movies. And he, being a reasonable person who isn’t as insane as I am, worked on it for three years. And in 2015, he finished it. And as I did with the Oscar Quest, he said, “I should document this.” So we broke it up into articles. I posted the list as well as what I originally wrote about each movie as I presented it to him and he wrote up his thoughts from having seen them for the first time or his general thoughts on the movie if he’d already seen it before I sent the list.
Then, because I’m insane, at the end of all those articles, I posted another list of 1,000 movies that I had sent to him after he finished the first list. Last I checked, he’s exactly halfway through that list. Which is about right. Oh, and I also wrote up a list of essential movies of the 2000s (since our list stopped at 1999 and I wanted to put those out there for other people who might want to do what he did). That all ended just before Thanksgiving. So weirdly, 2015 was a very busy year on this site. We had stuff go up almost every single day.
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On Thanksgiving Day 2015, we had a biggie. (I love putting big articles up on Thanksgiving Day. I think it’s part of the notion of being thankful that all these great movies exist and that I am lucky enough to be able to see them and talk about them the way I do.) That’s when I published my Directors List for the first time.
I’d been working on it (properly) since 2012, but 2015 is when it first went live publicly for people to see. There were, at the time, 506 directors on it. I have no idea what the current number is, but I can tell you that it’s significantly more than 506. I did a rough count in November 2018, and we were at 718 directors. I’m guessing we’re closer to 800 now. The point is, the list has grown considerably since it first went up and is now a living, breathing thing that I will likely never finish. Aside from the Oscar Quest itself and Fun with Franchises, the Directors List is the most significant thing I’ve done on this site. The Top Ten Lists are probably fourth, and there are a lot of things jockeying for #5. But those four are really the core of everything I want this site to be and the things that, if I never post again on here, I’ll be happy to have created/accomplished.
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In 2016, five years after I finished the initial Quest, I embarked on the Oscar Quest “Reconsidered,” which was me looking back at all the categories after five years to see how my opinions changed (or didn’t) in between. It was a good thing to do at the time, because I knew there was a very big change from the person who wrote those first articles to the person I was then. Not even necessarily in opinion, in terms of how it was going to be presented. My methodology completely changed and I had grown into someone who was more about describing each movie and leaving to the people to decide if they want to watch it rather than just dismissing a movie I didn’t like without a thought. I still hope to keep going back every handful of years to see how things change. Like those Seven Up documentaries, but for Oscar opinions.
Those articles took all of 2016, and I even managed to get through all four acting categories. I finished Best Picture and Best Director in the first half of 2017. Then, for the rest of 2017, I started posting Top Ten Lists. Those were… significant. That was when I fully started taking the long view on all of this stuff. I’d always just posted to have content (quantity over quality). It was around 2015 when I started to see this site as a resource for people who were looking for movies to watch, and I felt like it would be better to just have one place people could click to get all the information and opinions they want. That’s when the idea of the Top Ten Lists came about. I had posted the Decades lists, but those were just a bunch of titles all thrown at you at once. Here, I was gonna go year by year, and I was gonna talk about everything in some sort of depth. So you could sit there and read and when something struck your fancy, you could jot it down and add it to your list of things to see.
I managed to, in 2017, write Top Ten lists for 1930 through 1969. Then 2018 started and it was a very strange year for me. A lot of personal stuff went down, which really made writing on here not even secondary but even tertiary or quaternary. (When’s the last time you heard someone use the word quaternary?) Though I did manage to get 1970 through 1989 posted. Last year, I managed to get 1999 to 2018 posted, all the while finishing multiple scripts and quitting my job. And now here we are. It’s crazy to think the amount of things that have happened over a full decade. Not even just in film. In life.
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I remember in the early days, I’d look at how many people were viewing the site on a given day or week and how many people had subscribed. I noticed as I was perusing through old posts that in October of 2011, I mentioned having 18 subscribers. Which seemed like a shit ton to me at the time. Now, it’s over 1,350. Which is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but when you consider that I’m just one asshole talking about movies, mostly for himself, it’s insane that number is even a thing. Why did all those people give a shit? Now, I know that almost no one actually reads this site for real. I know there’s a lot of spam or blank numbers in that, and I’ll never be convinced that any of this means anything to any human being that isn’t me, but fucking hell.
I remember when they introduced the ability to see who viewed your site from each country, and I would get excited as I’d get views from new countries. Now, quite literally, the entire map is filled in except North Korea (where they’re not allowed proper internet) and the Central African Republic. Oh, and Svalbard, that archipelago up in the middle of nowhere in the Arctic Ocean. Population just under 2,700. Which is the exact same population of my college. So yeah. Not bad.
I remember the day the site hit 1 million total visitors. It was December 2014. I haven’t paid any real attention since. I think it was at 2.5 million at some point last year. I didn’t even bother to look for it. Whatever the number is, it’s nothing compared to what actual, real websites get. But when you consider it’s literally just me talking about movies, that’s insane.
I guess what I’m saying with all this is, thanks for being around these past ten years, even if it’s just been for five minutes. Hopefully I’ve got more shit to say over the next ten. And if not, hell, there’s enough stuff here to be more than proud of as a legacy. Here’s also hoping you’ve found some cool movies to watch from me, and that more of you will continue finding stuff to watch.
Because as we’ve learned, it may not always be represented on here, but I never fucking stop.
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