August 21, 2009 / Filmwell
On celebrations and empty chairs at the table in three films: Still Walking, Summer Hours, and Rachel Getting Married.
May 16, 2011
In March of 2009, Filmwell was born.
But what was it?
And what the hell is it now?
Some quick background: After collaborating about movies for several years, film blogger Michael Leary and I invited a small group of thoughtful moviegoers, reviewers, and bloggers to collaborate on a website where we would share miscellaneous questions, opinions, outbursts, and ideas.
With my opening-act post inspired by the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are, Alissa Wilkinson’s thoughts on Goodbye Solo, Mike Hertenstein’s consideration of Albert Serra’s films Honor of the Knights and Birdsong, and Jason Morehead’s reflections on films about “the sadness of things” … we were off to a strong start.
We asked questions: We invited readers to share their favorite opening scenes. We challenged them to think of a film that portrays an artist in a positive light, instead of depicting self-destructive behavior.
We delivered first impressions from film festivals, like Michael Leary’s take on Beeswax. We featured a two-part interview with Lee Isaac Chung, director of Munyurangabo and Lucky Life. And the Filmwell Book of Filmmaker Wisdom became a category for archiving quotable quotes from inspired directors.
From the beginning, we had envisioned something a little different: a sort of cinephile’s novelty shop, a roadside museum of curios and oddments. And we were making slow, steady progress.
But as contributors came and went, Filmwell became unpredictable and schizophrenic. And since most of us write about film for other sites and publications as well, the site often slowed to a full stop. We had ambition, but we lacked time and resources. Our schedules would not allow them to commit to a daily blogging routine, or typical opening-weekend review routines.
Nevertheless, we were delighted by the enthusiastic responses and endorsements we received; they inspired us to keep feeding the flames as much as possible.
So, instead of giving up, we began to dream of a better place, a new home. We felt that we might feel more at home in the company of a larger conversation, somewhere on a higher vantage point, where the view would be more interesting and the company more stimulating.
After all, most film sites treat movies as an end in themselves. But for us, a passion for film is part of a passion for life. We want the conversation about movies to feed, and be fed by, conversations about other forms of art and other aspects of human experience from faith to politics.
The Other Journal looked like the right place. We dared to hope that this family of insightful, surprising, passionate writers might pull up a chair and make room for a new family member. We were blessed by their enthusiasm.
So… what now?
Try thinking of Filmwell as The Other Journal’s cantankerous, movie-loving uncle. He spends a lot of time in his room with the door closed, and through the walls you can hear foreign languages and strange music from his television, as he watches imported DVDs and obscure Netflix titles.
Occasionally, he’ll stomp down the stairs (probably during dinner) and interrupt everything by ranting about a movie you’ve never heard of, raving about a director he’s just discovered, or insisting that a film of dubious reputation deserves another chance. Then he’ll disappear back into his room and slam the door.
Perhaps Filmwell is the Kramer in the Seinfeld world of film criticism. Or the “Cousin It” of a cinephile’s Addams Family. Perhaps you’ll find his volatile nature endearing. Perhaps you’ll want to keep a wary eye on him from a distance. Perhaps you’ll stop in from time to time just to ask… “What the hell is going on here?”
We hope you’ll bookmark Filmwell and visit us from time to time. At times, the place will be quiet. At times it will blaze with essays, news, and reviews.