If you want the gravy…

…You've got to get the biscuits!

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2017: The Gravy in Review

The new year having firmly begun, I want to take just a moment to look back on 2017 and the kind of year the blog had – what posts were the most viewed, what posts are now the all-time champs, and so forth. And, of course, to thank you all for your patronage.

Thank you.

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The Big Screen and I, Part I


The movie that changed everything for me. (Source)

In case you didn’t know, I like movies.

And more than that, I like going to the movies. Watching a movie at home, there are all too many distractions. In the theater, your attention is compelled. Distractions are discouraged, even penalized. In the theater, the film rules all. So I go to theater quite a bit.

But it wasn’t always that way. Growing up, going to the movies was a comparatively rare treat. It wasn’t like we couldn’t afford it – once my dad got a DVD player we began amassing a collection which now numbers in the thousands. But we didn’t go to the cinema as a matter of course.

The first film I can definitively remember seeing in the theater was The Pagemaster. I’m sure there were others before it, but I no longer have even a shadow of a memory of them. I saw Titanic at age 8 and said “Eww!” at the sex scene; I saw The Phantom Menace and hated it intensely; we went to the next town over to see Fantasia 2000 because it didn’t play everywhere in its non-IMAX release.

And of course, we saw The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Spider-Man, and so forth – we also saw both the 1998 Godzilla and Godzilla 2000. (I can also claim to have seen Alexander in the theater, for what that’s worth.) But for the most part, we watched movies at home. In 2006 – not, admittedly, a banner year for cinema – I think we only went once, to see The DaVinci Code.

It was the next year – March 9, 2007, at 9:30 p.m., to be exact – that things began to change. I didn’t become a ravenous film-goer overnight, but visit by visit my cinephilia grew, and the end result is this article; a trip down memory lane, and a long lane it is. So join me, if you will, and remember.

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The Terrible Twos Commence

I was reminded (I had actually completely forgotten) that today is the second anniversary of this blog. Time flies, no? Except when it doesn’t.

A few stats for you, because WordPress helpfully keeps track of those:

  • The blog has received 25,481 views from 16,997 visitors (well, “visits” might be more accurate);
  • I’ve published 360 posts to date;
  • My best single day is February 15, 2015 (my father’s birthday, coincidentally), with 644 views;
  • As of this writing, I’ve received 1,174 views this month, 30 of which were today;
  • My most popular day, apparently, is Wednesday (with 16% of all views);
  • My most popular hour–supposedly–is 2:00 PM CST (with 7% of all views).

So where are we at today?

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2016 Rising: Actus Primus

Current mood. (Source)

Current mood. (Source)

Happy New Year!

Another apology for not having gotten some of these promised posts out; first I was too busy with work or too tired to write, but then over the weekend I added being sick to my list of impediments (nothing severe, but…), and aside from seeing The Hateful Eight (which is, shock of shocks, ****), I haven’t caught up on any of the new releases yet. Hopefully I can change that this coming week, but I won’t make any promises.

Let’s take stock of 2015 and what it meant for the blog. In terms of viewership, it was a success–over 15,800 views from almost 10,700 visits, nearly double last year’s 8,500 views (from 5,500 visits). I actually posted less this year, only 113 posts, which comprise about a third of the total posts to date. But the interactive element of my 2014 Film Awards proved a bigger success than I could have ever imagined (thanks again to Brontis Jodorowsky and Arnaud Trouvé (CineCharlie) for their part in making it so), and I hope this year’s awards are similarly exciting.

On the other hand, I fell badly behind this year in terms of my film reviews. I found myself having less to say about the films I saw, and not knowing whether I or the films were to blame. Even now, I haven’t reviewed four of the seven (so far) **** films of the year. I tried to alleviate that with my Movie Journal, but I found it not much easier to keep up with (and the posts themselves were not so popular–only two of them got more than 20 views). I mean to catch up with a series of single and multi-reviews ere I publish my Top 20/Bottom 10 list at the end of January, but I am truly sorry I did not share my thoughts earlier. I will try to be better about this in 2016.

I’m also hoping to get more comment action going on my future posts. Obviously, I’ll need your help, but I know that if you want the gravy…you’ve got to get the biscuits.

And now, for some stats.

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About this time last year, as I recall, I took a break from the blog, citing burnout as the big reason. And while I’ve continued posting, I’ve especially fallen behind this year in the area of reviews. There’s no real excuse for that, other than maybe that most of the films I’ve seen so far this year don’t inspire lengthy analysis. 

There’s been a lot of solid films so far–my current top 5 has an average score of 88.2, just 1.2 lower than my top 5 for 2014 as a whole–but I’ve come out of a lot of films this year thinking they were good, but definitely not having 1,500+ words worth of commentary on them.

Now, however, a fresh set of complications has made keeping up with the blog more difficult than before. My computer is currently out of commission, forcing me to rely on public library computers, which limit me to about 2 hours a day online. And because I’m currently job hunting, much of that time must now be devoted to applications.

And, money being tighter than before, I’ve decided to cut back on my trips to theater, which for the nonce is less of an issue since September is so infamously slow a movie month. But taking all these issues into account, I think it best that I take a break from posting for a while to sort out my various issues and hopefully recharge the batteries in the process. 

So here’s how I think it’ll go down. I’ll finish the pending entry of the Movie Journal (which has been especially hard to keep up with, given my limitations) and not resume posting again for…at least two weeks. That should hopefully be sufficient time to get my life in a little bit more order. I may extend the hiatus further, but during that time I’ll work on some posts and hopefully hit the ground running when I return.

Things being in flux, I’m not going to commit to a posting schedule just now, but here’s what I’d like to put out for the first round of post-hiatus articles:

  • A two or three part article offering my reviews of those films from the year so far which I have not already reviewed (I wanted to write full-length reviews of several films, including Mr. Holmes and Straight Outta Compton, but I think rather than aiming so to do, I will write about them and make my reviews separate articles if they grow to a sufficient length);
  • A fully updated Most Anticipated Films list, taking us through to the end of the year and possibly featuring an appendix for films which will be coming in 2016;
  • New Trailer and Poster Salads;
  • A rundown of the films I saw during the hiatus.

During this time I expect I will still go to the movies, and I will keep my ranking of 2015 films fully updated.

It’s my hope that by the end of September I can resume regular posting. It will take some work to get to that point, but I’ve always held one thing true:

If you want the gravy, you’ve got to get the biscuits.

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Onward and Upward

Jurassic World, by not having Samuel L. Jackson, can never be quite as good as Jurassic Park, since it has Samuel L. Jackson.

As of this writing, If You Want the Gravy… has seen 8,504 views for calendar year 2015, officially topping the 8,498 views we received in all of 2014 (though we didn’t start until late January). To be fair, some of those views were me indvartently clocking views while reveling in my accomplishments, but barring a severe drought of views, the record will be absolutely beaten before the month is out.

Now, as for what to expect in the coming days. As noted previously, I’m on a vacation (for my cousin’s wedding, and you should totally check out his movie blog) and won’t be home until well into June, limiting my ability to see movies and the time I have to write. But between now and the end of June, here are a few things you can expect to see:

  • A review of the obscure 1961 film The Sand Castle, which I have long sought and which is finally available for online viewing (and from a stable source);
  • My Cannes wrap-up, where I reflect on the winners, on the receptions accorded the competitors vs. my initial impressions, and where I delve into the Un Certain Regard films and special screenings;
  • Possibly a review of Tomorrowland (at this point I’m more interested in picking apart its apparent failings);
  • A review of Jurassic World;
  • Reviews of Aloha (which looks remarkably lame), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Love & Mercy, possibly Saint Laurent, Spy, Ted 2, and hopefully Dope;
  • More soda reviews;
  • And lastly, the Six-Month Film Awards.

And, if we’re lucky, that won’t be all.

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Introducing the New Rating System

I’ve decided to change things up a bit here. For several years, I’ve been using a four-star system, with **** as the best and “Utter Shite” as the worst. It’s a good system, but it occurred to me that a change might be in order.

I’ve decided to switch to a five-star system, where the ratings will be distributed thus:

  • *****: 90-100
  • ****½: 85-89
  • ****: 75-84
  • ***½: 65-74
  • ***: 55-64
  • **½: 45-54
  • **: 35-44
  • *½: 25-34
  • *: 15-24
  • ½: 10-14
  • Utter Shite: 0-9

The net effect of this is to make my highest and lowest rankings more exclusive. Which is not to belittle the films I scored 87 and 88, but is it unfair to say that a great but imperfect film like Snowpiercer is not necessarily in the same strata of greatness as, say, 2001? Is it wrong to say that the badness of Gigli is less absolute than the badness of Black Devil Doll from Hell?

And the new ****½ rating brings what were once low **** films and high ***½ films together into a happy family of excellence–but the kind of excellence that makes a year-end Top 10 rather than an all-time Top 10. 87s and 88s are relatively plentiful. 90+ films are rare. They are, to quote the cartoonist Bob Mankoff, the “crème de la crème of the crème de la crème”. Only the very greatest films qualify; in many years you could count them on one hand.

It’s not a perfect system–that Argo may now be considered a **** film (at least until I rerank it) is a bit hard to swallow. But that’s what you get when you institute a system like this. You have to take the bad with the good. And I’m entirely willing to do that.

I won’t retroactively change the ratings on my previously published reviews, but I will update the lists of yearly rankings to reflect the changes. The new ratings will first be applied to my reviews of Foxcatcher and American Sniper, coming later this morning.