The Idiot in the Back Row

Hello. You would think that after contemplating creating this blog for over a year I’d have come up with something deeper to say as an introduction, but no. I’m not that good. Anyway, welcome to I Actually Paid to See This, your very own slapdash Consumer Reports for you, the movie-going public (disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Consumer Reports, so please don’t sue me).

The philosophy here is simple economics, and it goes back to a line from an episode of The Critic from more than 20 years ago: “If people stop going to bad movies, they’ll stop making bad movies.” Nowadays a trip to the local theatre can be almost prohibitively expensive, and that pain is only exacerbated if you end up shelling out all that money to see a load of crap. So that’s where I (hope to) come in.

Who am I? Just an idiot who loves movies. I have no real credentials to speak of, save for a Bachelor’s degree and too much free time on my hands. Going to the movies is my favorite pastime, and I see as many films as I can afford. The last two years I’ve seen every Oscar-nominated film in every category (even Fifty Shades of Grey – ugh, kill me). In 2017 I saw 56 films between the theatre, DVD, and streaming services. Thank whatever god might exist for Netflix and MoviePass is all I can say.

Most of the time, I pick and choose what I see in order to avoid bad movies, but in many years that means staying away from the theatre for weeks or even months at a time, and that’s no fun. For me, there are few better experiences than sitting in the back row of a theatre, right under the projector, and watching someone’s art, even if it sucks sometimes.

For the last several years I’ve tried to increase my visits and viewing. I’ve posted reviews and critiques on message boards and social media among my friends, and that too has become a lot of fun. There’s a kind of exhilarating joy in watching something and discussing it with others, especially when our opinions end up on opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s gotten to the point where some have even told me that I could be a professional film critic myself.

That’s what got me thinking about doing this blog. I enjoy the movies. I enjoy the conversations. And honestly, apart from being bald, I’m probably well on my way to looking like Jay Sherman anyway. So why not give this a go? It’s not like there are myriad want ads out there looking for critics (I literally saw one last year and applied wholeheartedly before realizing the posting itself was over a year old – like I said, I’m an idiot), so this is the best forum.

Again, I’m hardly an expert. I’m just a fan with little money to spare, and I want to spend it smartly. And I want to help all of you to do that as well.

So here’s the goal of this blog. I will see as many films as I can in the due course of my day-to-day life, hopefully at least once a week. I will post reviews here, in hopes that I can aid you, the consumer, in your quest for entertainment. My opinions are my own, and are in no way paid for by any outside entity, so I have nothing to gain by praising, or damning, anything I come across. I want to start conversations and do my own small part in aiding the love of film overall. If there’s something you want me to see so you don’t have to, let me know. I’ll take one for the team if it saves you $20 down the line.

What makes me different from any other critic? Well, for one, as I said, I’m not being paid for this (at least not yet; maybe if this somehow gets super popular I can monetize it in some way, but that’s waaaaaay down the line), so that means I can be 100% honest. I won’t pull punches, and I won’t oversell something. If I like something, I’ll let you know. If I think something is shit, I’ll let you know in equal measure. Oh yeah, I do swear. I pray that’s not a deal-breaker for any of you.

I try to look at all the individual elements of a film as well as the overall entertainment experience. Sometimes a film will have terrible acting, but really good set designs, stuff like that. Even in the worst films, if there’s something positive to note, I will. A lot of people put in a lot of hard work even for the shittiest of movies, and I don’t want to denigrate needlessly. Also, as my actual paid work is in the entertainment industry (most recently as a game show trivia writer), it wouldn’t behoove me professionally to rip people’s efforts to shreds without reason.

I’ll rate things on a simple A-F letter grade scale. But that doesn’t mean films are necessarily comparable. If I give a prestige film during Awards Season a B+, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s on equal footing with a regular popcorn action flick that earns the same grade. The reviews are done basically in the moment, as soon as possible from when I see something, so that everything is fresh in my mind. There may be some amazing reference I miss, or some allegory that just sails over my head, but that’s why we have a comments section. If I miss something, tell me. It won’t necessarily change my mind, but it may further aid someone else reading this blog.

Finally, and I apologize in advance, but as you can see, I can be pretty verbose. I do my best to get out as many thoughts as possible as concisely as I can, but I often fail in that endeavor. Just know that I’m trying, and also that if you think this is a lot, imagine what doesn’t make it in.

That’s it for the greeting portion. I hope I don’t bore you all to death. Let’s go see some shit together!

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