Thursday, May 14, 2009

Who Needs Another Movie Blog?

Presenting my tool of choice for blogging. Tool may be self-applied.

I ask the same question whenever another one pops up. I think there are generally too many out there with very little to say, often chasing whatever they feel will capture the zeitgeist.

It's safe to say that I'm not generally a fan of most sites, as I'm sure some won't be a fan of this one. Outside of blogs like The House Next Door and a handful of others, I do not feel most of them represent someone like me. I can also add that this feeling also applies to the majority of movies released these days.

So, I've decided to set out to do what I feel was the inevitable solution to both matters. I will be writing about movies on this blog in a way that I would like to see more film writing do. At the same time, I am working on my own projects, currently in the writing stage, so that I can make the kind of movies that I haven't been seeing often recently.

The occasional smart-assery will rear its head. I like a cheap laugh.

Right off the bat, I can tell you that I am not a hardcore cineaste. If you came here to worship at the altar of Godard, I will mention now that I find his movies sort of unwatchable. On the other hand, if you came here to read another site salivating over movies geared towards film geeks, this isn't the place for you either. My discussion of the “Star Wars” movies will be relegated to their place in the recent history of film (which I don't think is a positive one) and very little about the movies themselves which I think have gotten far more attention than they ever deserved. I want to attempt to share some nuanced thoughts on a wide variety of movies, as opposed to serving niches of extremist artistic taste.

I am not going to be as schooled in the long-term history of film as some critics. The films of the 1970's were the ones that hooked me on films, although I always make an effort to see films before that time. I choose the films I see based on whether I think I am going to get something out of them. I probably see on average about 30 current releases a year (used to see a lot more), usually catching up on 10-15 more the following year on Netflix or cable.

To give you an example of my movie watching this year, I have seen 9 movies: “Gomorrah” (Video on Demand), “Tokyo Sonata” (in theaters), “Hunger” (Video on Demand), “Sin Nombre” (in theaters), “Sugar” (in theaters), “Il Divo” (in theaters), “3 Monkeys” (video streaming via The Auteurs), “Sita Sings the Blues” (legal HD download via and “The Girlfriend Experience” (Video on Demand). Notice how much technology is now playing a part in my movie watching, in addition to the movie theater experience (which will be discussed much on this blog). When I see Pixar's “Up” in a couple of weeks, that will finally add a Hollywood movie to the list. I'm also looking forward this summer to “The Hurt Locker”, “Public Enemies” and a few others. My taste pretty much encompasses a wide variety of movies.

When I'm not seeing current releases (which is often), my DVD collection contains about 500 titles and I either watch them or watch movies from Netflix or the rare occasional revival at either the Walter Reade theater or BamCinematek (boycotted the Film Forum years ago due to pretentious audiences and uncomfortable seats that may have contributed to my back and neck problems 2 years ago).

I plan for this blog to function in part as my second film school. I'm not terribly interested in aspiring to be a published critic (not like that gig is available much these days). I still much prefer to work as an editor to pay my bills.

I hope to explore new ways to look at films I've seen. I'm looking to discover films I have never seen before. I am looking to understand the craft and expand my understanding of film language while I embark on my own projects.

So, yes, I am writing this blog for selfish reasons. But who doesn't write a blog for some selfish reason? I hope that the writing doesn't come across as excessively narcissistic and that everybody could get something out of it, intellectually and emotionally. This post may have the most personal info that I would ever share.

The neighborhood movie theater of my childhood, the Chopin in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is now a Starbucks.

Let me give you a quick bio. I was born in Brooklyn, growing up in Greenpoint. I would be classified as a Nuyorican, as both my parents were born in Puerto Rico. I don't speak Spanish, but understand words here and there (although I plan on changing that soon). I was introduced to movies at an early age, even seeing R-rated movies at a very young age.

I attended Stuyvesant High School. When I graduated, I went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for two years, which was the first time I was ever away from home (and I did it when I was 17). I then returned home and transferred to NYU's Undergraduate Film & Television program. I can honestly say, in retrospect, that I'm a little skeptical if it added anything to my knowledge of film. That doesn't mean I believe I know everything, but feeling that I do a better job of learning more about film on my own. That learning still continues today and will never end, as I hope for this blog to demonstrate.

I eventually moved to Astoria, Queens. I have been working primarily in video post-production for the last 10 years or so. A couple of years ago, I gave up a staff position to become a freelance video editor. This allowed me to make more money and work less days through the year. I cherish this level of independence and the ability to move from project to project.

All those years working and paying off student loans, I had lost sight of the real reason I went to film school. I wanted to make movies. In many ways, the game has changed since I went to film school. We were shooting 16mm and editing on Steenbecks back then. The very last semester at NYU, I enrolled in a class that taught this brand new editing system called the Avid. Since I make my living as a non-linear editor, it is odd to think back that the tools of my trade didn't exist two decades ago. Nowadays, shooting on everything from the Panasonic DVX-100 to the very film-like RED camera has become more common for independent filmmakers, as well as A-list ones such as Steven Soderbergh and Michael Mann.

The RED camera, which sprouts appendages and sometimes attacks.

Although I have always loved movies, I feel myself becoming engaged by them on a more complex level the last few years. As I have been coming up with several ideas, I have also studied films with more attention and tried to seek out movies I haven't seen before. I believe much of this comes from my maturing as an individual. I can also say that my work as a freelance editor for television (and, I must add, most of it not very good television) has also made me respect the craft of putting movies together through images and sound.

Editing timelines. I get paid to make sense of this.

This blog will now be a part of this process, as I discuss movies new and old. Movies I am revisiting and movies I am seeing for the first time. Also, this blog will occasionally get into the individual crafts that go into making movies (and television, as well) from writing to editing, often with personal anecdotes from my own work experiences and discussions concerning the tools (expect many thoughts on Avid and Final Cut Pro, as I edit on both). Also, I plan to also incorporate video into this site to present criticism in a form that other critics have recently pioneered.

The great thing about the internet is that it has become more democratized, as blogs allow any voice to to be heard. Admittedly, this has been for better or worse, but, in this case, we have to take the good with the not-so-good.

So, welcome to my blog, The Fine Cut, where I will post on movies and related subjects that inspire me and hopefully interest you. Thanks for stopping by.

Ladies and gentlemen, This image was picked to be the first symbolic shot of my movie blog. You're welcome.


Craig said...

Ah, great news! Among other reasons, it will be heartening to read somebody who is open to "new ways" of watching movies (and open about being open about it). Nothing against another critic I otherwise deeply admire, but it's a little dismaying to see so much energy being spent defending the studio-backed, big-released, Oscarfied "Benjamin Button" when "Sita Sings the Blues" is a hundred times more interesting and worthier of discussion (and, thanks to a copyright tangle, available for free online). Looking forward to some good reads, Steven.

Steven Santos said...

Thanks, Craig. You actually found my blog in pre-launch phase. But I would like you to know that you were one of the people who encouraged this and I greatly appreciate your support. I guess it was inevitable considering how much I commented at places like House Next Door.

I hope to make this interesting for others as well as myself, especially when the blog becomes as much about making films as it concerns talking about them. It will be an interesting experiment.

And, yeah, "Sita Sings the Blues" deserves more attention and I'm glad you wrote something on your blog about it.

Carl said...

Well done, Selfish is ok, but self absorbed is not alwasy so good :) I am looking forward to interacting with your blog, mine being someting similar.