Friday, May 23, 2014

A Love Letter to Book and Movie Blog Reviewers

Dear book and movie review bloggers,

As previously mentioned, I hate book reviews. But I love books. And movies. I find myself searching out movie reviews after watching each random film Netflix or Amazon Prime or my parents' borrowed Comcast Xfinity sucks me into, an observer of conversations that took place long ago.  Some people seem to feel like there's a glut of opinions online, like Rotten Tomatoes' offering of "regular folks" opinions via blog is an unnecessary addition to the professional reviews which precede them. But. If you're watching a random movie from fifteen years ago, the regular media has dumped those links that promise reviews. It's nothing but 404 messages ad infinitum.  

Bloggers aren't constrained by the concerns of the regular media. Their reviews shine brightly years and years after they first appeared. So, by extension, I would like to extend my hand to book reviewers. Although not as subject to turnover as film, the splashing out of opinion about books is a gift to one who wants to listen to a conversation about a book she just finished at 2 a.m. 

What did I do before all this? As a child of the '90s, this constant access to information is something that has bricked over the past. I swim easily in the sea, forgetting how I used to do things. So what was different? I saw more movies with other people. Watching VHS or DVD releases was a thing. It's still a thing, and a much more accessible one, with Redboxes outside every WalMart. 

But in the past, going to the video store was like going to buy a pair of jeans. You couldn't do it just anywhere. You had to sift through all of the available categories, the wall of new releases snaking around the movies shelved by genre. I've worked at a video store and a library, and my take is that people generally spent more time picking out movies. Probably because they had to pay to borrow them! And possibly because the bookstore I worked at had two curtained off closets of porn at the back, arranged alphabetically by genre. People spent a lot of time making their selections in the back rooms. 

Going to the video store was a treat when you were a kid and TV couldn't be paused. You weren't subject to the whims of TV Guide; you could get what you wanted, immediately. I guess one can see the seeds of our current constant access to practically whatever we want to watch, read or listen to in the enthusiasm with which we consumed new releases of all kinds. 

Back then, a hive of conversation happened organically, live and in person. I'd eavesdrop on the opinions of the moviegoers spilling out of a theater at the Harvard Square Loews or the Lexington Flick. I'd listen in on people's takes on the new releases at Videosmith in downtown Lexington. I'd have an actual live conversation with the people I saw the movie with about whether we liked it or not. Now that seems passé.

You needed physical access, back then, to get the new. You could bike or beg a ride or get somebody else's mother or sister to drive you. But there was that effort. I don't know if it's bad or good or just different that we have such immediate access. And even if I did have an opinion, it would inevitably be tainted by nostalgia. Maybe someone who's seen it all, the advent of TV up to the present, is best suited to give an opinion. But then again, maybe they'd just bitch about how much better the radio was.

Thank you, all you individuals posting your thoughts across the world, for letting me listen in on the kind of conversations about a book or movie I liked or hated or was confused by or just wanted to see what other people thought about in immediate abundance. I won't look at your thoughts before, but I definitely crave them post consumption.

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