25 Years At The Movies
December 11, 2016
A quarter of a century. This is how long I have been doing film reviews for Movie Magazine International. It all started, by accident, 25 years ago in December of 1991. I had a girlfriend at the time that was on the show staff, and due to a conflict, she couldn’t attend the screening of a new movie called The Last Boy Scout. Even though I never became a Boy Scout – I barely survived the Cub Scout phase – I decided to adhere to part of the Scout motto, which is to “do my best,” even though I did not know what I was doing at that time, having never officially critiqued a film before.
But I guess I figured something out, because here I am two and half decades later, still at it!
As you might imagine, there have been quite a few changes over the years from when I wrote and recorded my first review for the show. Back in 1991 – in the pre-Internet Dark Ages – renowned critics Siskel and Ebert were the television and print kings, and newspapers played a huge role in making or breaking a movie. Reviewers like me had to go to screening rooms or theatres to watch a film a few days before it was released. Sometimes – as in my case for my first review – we’d see a movie on a Tuesday, write about it (longhand first, in my case), type it up on a typewriter, and then read it live on the air the next evening with the musical beds being provided by vinyl albums. There was little time to get everything together, less room for error, no possibility of making corrections, and plenty of “uhs” in the finished product. Every reviewer had to show up at the KUSF studio on the USF campus on Wednesday night and take turns giving their reports, and while things could be pretty hectic, the show always came together.
These days things are a bit different, and all mostly for the best. Due to a full-time day job that I have had for the past 22 years, I have a lot less time for doing reviews. But I cannot remember the last time that I had to actually go to a screening room to watch a movie. Now I can either watch a film on a CD provided by a publicist or, better yet, watch a movie on my computer with a special link provided by same. I can hit “pause” and “rewind” any time I need to, and even stop a film, only to return to it later. I then write my reviews on my computer (without having to use Wite-Out!), and the musical beds are found on the web. The show now has a global reach, as it is broadcast via the Internet, and co-producer Steve Rubenstein now comes to my office to record my segments on a mini device. There is no more reel tape to cut and splice, no need for “uhs” and other mistakes, and, best of all, show founder Monica Sullivan is still producing MMI..
By my rough estimate – since I don’t have definitive records – I have recorded around 150 reviews for the show in my 25 years, with the majority of them being done from 1991-94, when I was only working part-time and I had much more freedom to go to theatres to watch movies.
Along the way, as you might imagine, I have seen everything from great works of art to real clunkers – which includes my very first assignment mentioned above. As with everything else in life, you have to take the good with the bad. If nothing else, it has all been great fun, and, hey, I still get to see many movies for free, and then tell the world what I think of them!
My biggest thrill on the show came in 1994 when – not only did I get to interview the director of the documentary High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music – the movie had its world debut here in San Francisco at the Red Vic movie house, and I arranged to have local bluegrass bands play each night of the screenings. I even got to play with one of my bands, something I will always remember.
People have often asked me what my favorite and worst movies were that I’ve reviewed for the show. While I did not cover it for MMI because it came out in 1975, my all-time fave is the Robert Altman classic Nashville. I did, however, do a special report on the flick in 2000 on its 25-year-anniversary. As for the worst film I have seen while reviewing? That would have to be a blood-spattering satire from 1996 called Curdled which featured William Baldwin, one of the lesser-known Baldwin brothers.
25 years is a long time to be doing anything these days, and I feel fortunate to have been part of this show for so long. I still enjoy the process of reviewing and opining, and with any luck, I will still be doing this in another quarter century in 2041 at age 87!
But probably not…
In the meantime, with fond memories of my first review – of The Last Boy Scout – on this date in 1991, I will continue to strive to live up to the first two parts of the last line of the official Boy Scout motto, which is “to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
Hey, two out of three ain’t bad!