Editor’s Blog: Lessons in Critical Douchebaggery


The Editor’s Blog is your weekly look behind the curtain here at FSR, in which members of our editorial staff take you into the not-often-interesting world of movie blogging. Ever wonder what its like to be one of the cool kids? Well, we can’t help you with that. We can however, share a few useful anecdotes from our day to day grind.

Through the course of my time on this planet, some 25 years and change, I have always kept what I like to call a “things to not do” log. It is a mental list of things that I have witnessed other people doing that I myself would not ever do. This tactic of watching others fail and adding their actions to my list has worked out quite well, both in everyday life and in the workplace. I was never the kid who touched the hot stove and learned never to do it again, I was the one who watched his mother burn her hand on the stove and took note — the stove is hot.

And since my journey into the world of film journalism began back in late-2004, there is one thing that I have realized — film journalists are naturally very good at showing their peers what not to do. Some of them are like a walking encyclopedia of bad habits and deplorable actions. So with my mental notepad in hand (or mind), I have wandered through this world of film journalism, adding items in bulk. And for this week’s column, I thought it might be fun to share some of the things I’ve learned.

First up: don’t make a complete drunken ass of yourself in front of someone with a video camera. And of course I am referring to the now infamous and mysterious video that was posted by my good friend Pete over at /Film during this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In the vid, two friends of mine — Devin Faraci from CHUD and Alex Billington from First Showing — had it out about their differing theories on film criticism, “real” journalism and the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases. And while funny at face value, it was an argument that should have taken place off-camera. Because while I’m sure that all of you find the behind-the-scenes elements of the movie blogging industry to be fascinating, it can often be misconstrued without the proper sense of context. The lesson here, at least for me, is to stay away from the camera and anyone with whom I am prone to passionate arguments after having a few drinks. And we journos do like to drink. In the end, I think we all learned that particular lesson.

But that isn’t even really the big story of the week. Next up is probably the most gross and flagrant violation of common sense that I’ve seen in a long time. It is the story of a man named Jeffrey Wells, whose work can be found over at Hollywood Elsewhere, and his trip to the quaint little town of Oxford, Mississippi. And as was so expertly chronicled by our good friend Eric D. Snider, Mr. Wells was invited to Oxford by the programmers of the Oxford Film Festival, flown out and put up in a hotel at the fest’s expense all to have him sit on a panel discussing film criticism. But after having some allegedly epic WiFi problems in his hotel room, which was documented on Wells’ blog, Wells not only made a big stink to the festival runners, he also drained his own emotional bank account so much so that he just “blew off” the film critic panel the next morning.

Now, common sense tells us that if you are invited somewhere (all expenses paid) to participate in something like a panel discussion that you should actually attend said panel, no matter what your internet connection situation might be. And to be fair, I’ve been in that “no internet” situation at a film festival — and it sucks. It sucks a lot. But it doesn’t suck so much so that I would ditch my responsibilities and make public my childish antics on the pages of this website. There is always a Starbucks, a cafe or heaven forbid, the purchase of an Aircard to help ease the pain of finding good WiFi. I learned long ago that if you are going to succeed in the world of blogging about movies, you have to be resourceful above all things. Being clever with a turn of phrase comes in third, right behind “functional” knowledge of movie history.

But there is an even bigger lesson to be learned from this little debacle with Mr. Wells, whose work I have long read and respected. The lesson is to never forget. As someone who has the privilege and good fortune to be able to work in this industry full-time (my job is, I watch movies and stuff) I vow never to forget how fucking cool that is. And in turn, I should never forget that no matter what happens, there are so many people out there who have it worse than me. The jobless, the shit-shovelers and anyone working in the retail industry (which is where I worked before). I get to travel the country, watch movies and meet cool and interesting people (and celebrities, too). And there is nothing that could possibly happen in my day-to-day in the world of movie journalism that could possibly be so bad that I would erupt in such a ridiculous way.

And sure, there are annoyances sometimes — can’t find seats at Comic-Con, publicists not calling you back, everyone and their brother (inside the industry) labeling you “one of those bloggers” and treating you like a second-class citizen — but all of those are temporary. They are not that deep. We should never allow them to linger beyond a momentary annoyance. We should certainly never allow them to make it to the pages of our blog in a childish rant — because you guys and gals don’t really care about that stuff. And nine times out of ten, all we are going to accomplish is making ourselves look like big spoiled children who have forgotten about the Utopian state of our own employment. We watch movies for a living and get paid to share our opinions with the world. It isn’t that serious a thing in the grand scheme of things. So I’ve learned not to lose perspective on things, fair readers. Because in the end, anyone on this side of things should count themselves lucky to be doing what they are doing — not angry because their hotel room has wonky WiFi.

Rule #1: Don’t Drink and Argue on Camera

Rule #2: Don’t Be an Elitist Douchebag

I think we’ve learned a lot here, friends.

And now we return you to your regularly scheduled programming…

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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