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Under the Fold:

With a Vengeance


A lot has happened to the site in the past year.  In the past month, in fact, as you've surely noticed.  And the progress is exciting.  Still, I'm left with the distinct feeling that there's much more to do.  Why?  Well, simply put, there's much more to do.

But I'm not just talking about the site design, the new and improved features and what not.  I've been sensing an identity crisis for the site, as of late.  I think, despite the cornerstone of the two-scale system, we reviewers have been missing a philosophical foundation for quite some time.  Upon thinking about it, I wonder if we ever had one to begin with.  Looking back at some of our older reviews and even some of my own recent reviews, there's been a deficit in quality from time to time.  On the other hand, in recent times, the site and many of the reviews have lacked a strong, personable voice.

This is the conflict I find myself in... One of the primary reasons I created this site was out of frustration of the highly unprofessional "critics" that populate the Internet.  I was sick of the perception from outside this realm that all net critics are ranting fanboys.  I was equally frustrated on having to rely upon some of these very havens as supposed "news sources".  Portrait of Harry - Artwork by Zac PensolThe pinnacle of my frustrations:  Ain't It Cool News.

At the time, I was on a "street team" of news gatherers over at Comics2Film.com.  I had assigned sites I was to check on a daily basis, and as my luck would suggest, AICN was part of my assignment.  Day in, day out, I had to scour that eyesore of a site and sift through Harry's endless commentary to find anything that might be construed as legitimate news.  Each day I grew more and more aggrivated by the site, and especially by Harry's presumptuous behavior--not only boring us with details such as his mode of transporation to the screenings he attends, but by prefixing other staff members' reviews and articles with his own opinions, qualifications and dissent.

When I was blessed with the revelatory idea of the two-scale grading system, I took the opportunity laid before me.  I vowed to create a movie review website that would transcend the fanboyishness, the self-gratification, the rants, and the neanderthalic talkbackers that result.  I set up shop on another, now-defunct site of mine while I mustered the cash for a new domain, and Smart-Popcorn.com was born.

But what have I really accomplished with the site?  I've spent hundreds of dollars keeping it hosted over the past two years, and I managed to recruit a handful of online friends that--while I'll be eternally grateful for their efforts and encouragement--expressed little interest in pursuing film critique to professional levels.  Even I have only now met a quality of writing I'm satisfied in with my own reviews, and it's never been something I'm wild about doing.  Reviewing efforts slowed down, and the idle chatter that remained sadly began to resemble the works of those whiny unprofessional types we sought to disassociate from.  At some point I halted efforts on the site, committed simply to preserving its concept for a time of greater realization.

I thought that realization came with the arrival of Mac and Reel Monkey.  Here, I'd found two people who devised a two-scale system very similar to my own, and people with the passion to review and rate movies.  Gotta be the ticket, right?  Sure, and the site has definitely picked up steam again since they've joined.  Ideologically, though, I think the current staff is still meandering about without any coordination.  We've got two two-scale systems, essentially the same, but we're interpreting them in very different ways.  Neither system is more correct than the other, but when two reviews contradict, or when an old staff member revisits and takes issue with the opinions of a new staffer, there is conflict.  I think the unresolved lack of an ideology has also made it more difficult for us to attract new blood.

I'm thinking of calling a "town meeting" of sorts.  Old staff and new staff alike, I'm going to invite anyone who still has an interest in contributing to get together and discuss the "group ideology" of the Review Team.  The main issues we have to deal with are finding a means to balance our accepted differences of opinion, our "agree to disagree" policy, with our professional standards (or lack thereof), and also finding what we can do to ensure that the site remains both intelligent and fun.  In the end, I'll make the decision with Mac and Monkey, and the result will probably be some lengthy-but-informative Mission Statement. Sounds really boring, I suppose, but I think it's crucial to get ourselves and others excited about the site again.

In the meantime, I'm going to do my part to keep from being another Harry-type.  I'm going to cut down on the personal info in the introductions to my reviews, and keep it here in its designated spot: an Op/Ed column.  Reviews...  separate from editorials.  Amazing concept, isn't it?

Author: Thom Stricklin 848 Words Published: 13 July 2004
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