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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

should I continue offering DVD alternative to movies new in theaters and rundowns of new theatrical releases?

As you may have noticed, I’ve been doing a lot of rethinking of some of the content here. And I’m wondering how many of you have been following my posts on DVD alternatives to each week’s new movies. The posts haven’t been getting many comments, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of interest — I get that sometimes there’s just nothing to say in response.

Do you like them? Should I continue? I don’t whether they’re useful for actually making immediate entertainment choices — I mean, I don’t think anyone ran out to rent or buy any of the movies I recommended because a trip to the multplex fell though — but perhaps those posts are useful for reminding you about other movies you may have forgotten about?

If I do continue, I’ll separate them back out from the “what’s new in theaters” posts, because they have been getting kinda lost there.
I’m rethinking how to do the “new in theaters” posts, too. Again, I don’t think anyone is using my site for their only source of news as to what’s new, but maybe you are?

I guess the overarching question here is: Are you expecting to find comprehensive news about what’s new in theaters (and I guess what’s new on DVD, too) from this site, or are you getting that elsewhere? Is it more valuable for me to let you know what’s new that I’ve reviewed or at least posted a trailer for, or do you want FlickFilosopher.com to be a somewhat more comprehensive place for such basic news as what’s opening/what’s new on DVD?



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  • iakobos

    Honestly, I don’t take in your DVD alternatives. My Netflix queue is what generates the next movie rental for me.
    I usually check out your reviews for the latest movies that are opening and often look ahead to see if you have reviews up for movies that are “opening soon.” If I could change one thing about the “recent screenings” column it would be to put the “opening soon” ahead of “opening xx.xx (US/Canada).” I tend to get my comprehensive news from RT and AICN. I mainly come here to see what you have to say about the next movie at the theater. But that doesn’t mean I never check out your left over links at the end of the week. In fact if you posted them up during the week, I’d probably follow right along.

  • scurvy

    I always skip these. Wouldn’t miss them a bit.

  • Rose

    I read those for the often humorous way a film at the cinema is broken down into the DVDs – I don’t really read it as alternatives to the film but a way of pointing out how a new film is related to others around it. I like them – though I don’t find much to say about them.

  • Bill

    “Again, I don’t think anyone is using my site for their only source of news as to what’s new, but maybe you are?”

    pretty much.

    “Are you expecting to find comprehensive news about what’s new in theaters (and I guess what’s new on DVD, too) from this site, or are you getting that elsewhere?”

    comprehensive? nah. but i like a heads up on stuff like “Creation” and “Winter’s Bone”. stuff i could easily miss otherwise. and by heads up i mean, “hey, there’s this darwin movie called Creation coming out.”

    “Is it more valuable for me to let you know what’s new that I’ve reviewed or at least posted a trailer for, or do you want FlickFilosopher.com to be a somewhat more comprehensive place for such basic news as what’s opening/what’s new on DVD?”

    again, just a little heads up on movies that don’t have their own billboard on 95. other than that, i get all the “what’s new” i need from the right hand sidebar.

    i do find that i will sometimes miss a review or a trailer until i notice it linked in the sidebar. so if you could make your 5 or 10 most recent reviews and trailers blink like xmas lights when i come by, that’d be great.

  • Keith

    I’ve looked at your DVD alternative posts before, but not regularly. If the movie in question falls into a genre of interest to me, I’ve most likely seen the recommended DVDs and automatically form a similar list in my head of “Oh, this is probably like movies X, Y and/or Z I’ve seen.”

    I mainly come here for your reviews and other (mostly geeky type) posts of interest. I’d say I probably go to IMDB for info about new movies are coming out. If it looks to be of interest I’ll go their page on it to see who is in it, who’s directing it, etc. Also, I haven’t timed it, but I think their page is a bit quicker (though some of their advertising stuff annoys me).

    It’s good to ask for feedback on areas like this. If your readers aren’t all that interested, you need to know so that you can better allocate your time into developing something that readers would find more indispensable.

  • Bill

    and yeah, what Rose said about the DVD alternatives.

  • JT

    I like reading the recommendations, but I seldom follow them; so no, I wouldn’t miss them hugely if they were gone.

  • JoshDM

    I only don’t read the Dr. Who and the Male Gazing stuff, unless it’s an actor for whom I have something to contribute.

  • Lenina Crowne

    I like DVD Alternatives. That’s how I found this site, in fact. I was intrigued after looking at DVD alternatives on Film.com. They do remind me of movies I’ve forgotten about, and some of the movies I haven’t heard of but do sound interesting. Also, they are an interesting discussion. Sometimes you/the commenters make connections I hadn’t considered before.

    And in terms of news and new releases, I think a little of that sort of thing helps the site be a little more… well, organized isn’t the best word, but listing off the weekly releases sort of ties everything together. Not sure if that makes sense, but I do appreciate having a little news about releases from movie sites, even if this site isn’t the only movie review site I visit. It puts everything into a sort of context right here on this site.

  • I’m here for your reviews and your commentary. The other stuff is available everywhere. :)

  • Dokeo

    Well, this is my primary movie info site. I completely missed Agora – which I’m sure played somewhere in the DC area – because I knew it was on your radar. I figured I’d see your review, which would cue me to go out and see it (assuming it lived up to the promise of its previews in your opinion), then I’d go see it. But I never saw a review, and then I found out I’d missed it. (Not blaming you, MAJ – guess I’ve just gotten lazy, since you usually do so much of this work for the rest of us.)

    I also get Entertainment Weekly, but I’m letting the the subscription lapse soon because it’s become so TV/celeb-gossip-centric that movies seem to be the magazine’s afterthought.

    So I like the new release rundown, and the DVD alternatives, but I almost never follow them past the jump. Not sure why – maybe because I don’t see most movies in the theater, so it’s not an immediate “need to know” item. I always mean to circle back to them, but almost never do.

    I know writing short is harder than writing long, but maybe you could boil the commentary/explanation down to one line for each,so we can see all the movies you reference on the initial post and then have a link to a page that does basically what you’re doing now?

    BTW, I wanted to mention that I’m also really enjoying the “5 things” posts you’ve been doing lately.

  • JoshDM

    If you’re looking to add more blog material or refresh older ideas, I’m going to suggest adding some time insensitive articles that aren’t tied to a particular media property (and therefore would be subject in search queries to the popularity of said media property). Maybe a how-to article or something. I’m not 100% certain I got the idea across, but if I knew exactly the sort of article I’m suggesting, I’d have written it myself for me.

  • Dokeo

    Forgot to mention in my commentary on the “5 things” posts, the way you’ve written them, with none of the 5 things visible before the jump, is brilliant.

    You’ve perfected the teaser. I always have to follow even if I don’t care much about the topic…I just want to see your picks! Yes, I’m a story junkie.

    If you don’t know what a story junkie is — or even if you don’t care but just like good writing combined with a Pythonesque sensibility – you should check out the works of Jasper Fforde.)

  • Ryan H

    If people are clicking through the Amazon links enough that the income is noticeable then keep it, but you are right that it doesn’t generate much discussion. For me there isn’t enough intellectual meat in a list of random similar movies.

    I come here for a different take on current culture. For a critical view that causes me to think and reevaluate my own experiences with television and movies. I tend to read (and recommend) anything that makes connections that I hadn’t seen before. The random news stuff (and cute animals… there are other sites for that) doesn’t grab me as much.

  • MaryAnn

    If people are clicking through the Amazon links enough that the income is noticeable then keep it

    Ha. There aren’t.

    Unfortunately, none of the other stuff I’m posting is generating noticeable income, either.

    you should check out the works of Jasper Fforde.

    I have, and I love his stuff.

  • JoshDM

    FYI, the “5 things” post is a perfect example of a timeless blog post.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that movie reviews aren’t timeless, JoshDM. I get plenty of hits on reviews I wrote 10 years ago.

  • JoshDM

    My intent was in reference to articles tied to a particular media property; if hit numbers are viewed over time, it is likely a pattern would appear when cross referenced to incidences of visibility of the source media, reveal large hit volume coinciding with those peaks.

  • Mary

    I never read the DVD alternative posts or the new in theatres posts either, so I wouldn’t miss them. I’m missing the box office reports, though.

  • Karl Morton IV

    I kinda like the DVD alternatives for that “remind you of movies you may have forgotten about” reason. Lists of release dates are easy to come by – I like the stuff that makes this uniquely YOUR site. Seems like every interesting and awesomely singular blog eventually gets ironed out over time until it becomes a carbon copy of every other entertainment blog out there, which is a shame. DO NOT let it happen to you!

  • MaryAnn

    DO NOT let it happen to you!

    That’s exactly what I don’t want to happen. But what I see when I look around the Web is that there are a LOT of sites that do basically what I do, but with less sense of voice or individuality, and with less of a sense of community (as in: posts get few or no comments). And yet these sites have *much* higher traffic than this one does. I’ve been trying to figure out why this is, but I’m stumped.

    But I *must* improve traffic here (so that ad revenue will increase). I’m putting in 12, 16 hours a day here, and making next to no money. I’m exhausted, I’m frustrated, and I’m just about broke. I mean that literally. Something has to give. Something has to change. I have a respectably sized audience here, and obviously a devoted one. How do I leverage that? How do I capitalize upon that? I’m really at the end of my rope here. There’s no point in continuing this if it has to become something bland and boring in order to attract a bigger audience. But I won’t be able to continue if I can’t get that bigger audience.

    I’m really really depressed about this.

  • Omar

    I think the DVD Alternatives are pretty useful for picking up movies I’ve missed as I’ve followed your advice a few times , but it wouldn’t be a problem if you left them out.

    What you should leave out is your idea for “comprehensive news” about all new releases , I’d seriously prefer if you would stick with more info/background to select films that you think are worthy of coverage.

  • RogerBW

    I find the DVD alternatives enjoyable writing, which is primarily why I come here. What’s new in theaters has little to say to me (in the UK, and rarely going to see a movie in a theater anyway), and by its nature it tends just to be a listing with no opportunity for you to have some fun with it. Ditto what you’re going to be seeing.

    I would like to support the site with money, but I see no avenue for doing this. (And I don’t do PayPal anyway, so that might make things tricky.) I do use your Amazon links…

  • Victor Plenty

    Three words: “love fest only.” Clearly you see the appeal of that, MaryAnn, because you apply it to a select handful of the productions that you most dearly love. And you seem to get a fair amount of discussion on the posts that receive such protection from you, even though they are usually about somewhat obscure shows or movies, at least for North American audiences.

    You might want to try extending a similar aegis (that is, “all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love”) to some posts that cover a few shows and movies that have a wider mainstream popularity, even if they aren’t ones that you personally love.

    I’m NOT suggesting you pretend to like anything that you don’t like, nor am I suggesting you change the way you write your primary reviews. Seeing you brilliantly rip apart a bad movie is one of the great pleasures that keeps me coming back here, and I’m sure it’s the same for many other readers.

    All I’m saying is, when any movie or TV show gets a lot of love from audiences, many of those viewers want to find a place where they can discuss their love for it with like-minded people, or at least with people willing to have a real conversation about the merits and faults of the production.

    For example, when I finally managed to make the time to watch the last season of Lost, part of my motive for viewing it was that I remembered you had blogged about it. In fact I’d been putting off reading your reactions until after I’d seen the episodes. But then I came back here looking to discuss it. It was deeply disappointing to find that you had not only stopped liking the show yourself, you had also discontinued providing any meaningful opportunity for anyone else to discuss it here.

    Preserving a respectful discussion space for at least a few movies and shows with more mass appeal might help increase your traffic. It’s worth a try, anyway.

  • MaryAnn

    Preserving a respectful discussion space for at least a few movies and shows with more mass appeal might help increase your traffic. It’s worth a try, anyway.

    Is there a point of having such discussions here if I can’t participate in them?

  • RogerBW

    This is a site which lets people add their own comments. So are all the other sites. The thing that makes this one unique, and the primary reason I read it, is not the other commenters (sorry guys) but MaryAnn’s contributions: not a voice with which I always agree, but more usefully than that a well-argued and provocative voice.

    If what makes a site profitable is a community of yes-men, so that people can go there with no risk of having their preconceptions challenged, then this site isn’t going to be profitable. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

    I suppose MAJ could set up a page which only held the “see it” reviews. Not sure there would be much point.

  • Victor Plenty

    MaryAnn, you write:

    Is there a point of having such discussions here if I can’t participate in them?

    I’m not suggesting you host discussions of any topic that you can’t participate in at all. Going back to the example of Lost, you clearly had a lot to say about it, even when you had gotten really tired of it. You don’t have to suppress your own ideas to create a discussion space more friendly to people with different views, but you might want to try expressing those thoughts in a more modulated way, sometimes.

    Also, there’s no reason you can’t have two discussion threads for certain movies or shows. One where you cut loose and tear apart all its flaws as freely as you please, and a separate one where people who love it can explain their reasons in a more protected space similar to what you’ve created for Doctor Who and Life on Mars.

    Maybe it won’t be possible for you to feel authentic about doing this for anything you really hate, but I’m not suggesting you try to do this for everything. Only for a few carefully chosen productions, ones that you might not love but don’t necessarily hate. Or maybe ones that you do hate, but wanted to love, or can find some little thing hidden within them that you love.

    The core idea I’m suggesting is to create room for more respectful disagreement between you and the fans who love a popular work. NOT for you to change or hide your own views about anything.

    All I’m saying is that you might be able to create more spaces where your disagreements with people who love a show or movie might become a topic for conversation (and thus traffic), instead of giving up and allowing strong disagreements to so often make discussion impossible (thus driving traffic away).

    And I’m always wishing you every success, whether you find my suggestion helpful or not.

  • Of course, if you think such a discussion site would be so successful, Victor, there’s no reason in the world why you can’t start one yourself and post a link here. After all, you wouldn’t be the first of MaryAnn’s regular readers to start his or her own website…

  • Victor Plenty

    Tonio, the point of my suggestion is that it’s one possible way for THIS site to draw more traffic, to gain and hold a larger reading audience.

    I’m not advocating for “a discussion site” as something the world needs in any generic sense that could be filled by anybody starting up their own site. Generic movie and TV discussion sites already exist in a number of forms elsewhere.

    I’m simply pointing out that MaryAnn is already providing a particular specialized form of discussion space, with the “love fest only” blogging for Doctor Who, Life on Mars, etc. – and that it wouldn’t necessarily require any terrible distortion of her voice and style to provide a similar space for a handful of other carefully chosen works that happen to have larger mainstream audiences.

  • bitchen frizzy

    MaryAnn wasn’t asking how to create a larger reading audience. I don’t think that should be an overriding priority.

    (To the point: when I do drop in here, I do like the DVD alternatives posts and read them. I don’t ever really know what to say to them though, beyond adding some other suggestions. So I read them, but they aren’t conversation starters.)

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