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Ten Questions (Plus One!) for Canadian Cinephile

In the run-up to the Academy Awards this weekend, we thought we’d take a look at some film bloggers this…

In the run-up to the Academy Awards this weekend, we thought we’d take a look at some film bloggers this week. Let’s kick things off with ten questions for Canadian Cinephile, also known as Jordan. Jordan’s clean, bold, focused site showcases his reviews of everything from the latest art-house fave to the most recent Kevin James vehicle, and readers appreciate his thoughtful, candid analyses. Read on to learn more about his site, his process, and his Oscar picks.

1. You have virtually no identifying information on Canadian Cinephile. Why not?

I have a pretty obscure About page that includes links to my other work and whatnot, but I’ve tried to make the site more about the reviews and less about me personally. I wanted things to be all about the movies, so that’s why there are really just reviews on Canadian Cinephile — save for a couple of list-type posts now and then.

cinephile

One of these two men is the real Canadian Cinephile, but he’ll never tell.

2. How do you decide what films to review? Are there films you’ll refuse to review?

I started Canadian Cinephile as a way to talk about the films I’ve seen, no matter what they were, but other writing opportunities through Blogcritics and Cinema Sentries came up, and I started receiving screeners from all over the place. I try to get to the newer movies when I can, but sometimes I’m swamped with reviewing stuff from Criterion Collection (ed.: classic and contemporary classic films) or Strand Releasing (ed.: art films) or wherever.

Awards season gets really nutty and, thanks to my admission to the Online Film Critics Society, the diet of movies coming in is pretty steady this time of year. I was able to see Les Misérables a month or so before its theatrical release, for instance, so that’s a nice perk I never expected when I started the site in November of 2006.

I don’t really refuse to review anything. I’ve had independent filmmakers show up in my email inbox with a link to an online screening room or a download, and I’ve always tried to give what they have to offer a look. I’ve also tried to stomach things like Adam Sandler movies because I think balance is important. I don’t think limiting myself to one genre is a very good idea.

3. What’s your typical process for developing and writing a review?

Most of the time I take a few pages of notes with a pen and paper first, then I kind of distill things from there. If I’m reviewing a screener, there’s often a press package that I read through. If not, I tend to check out online informational sources for casting, writing, and production credits so that I have whatever else I need.

Unless it’s something I’ve already seen a few times, I generally only watch a movie once. With the amount of review material I have coming in, I just don’t have time to do many second viewings unless it’s really important. Mostly I just work from my notes. Also, if I’m in a screening or something I can’t rewatch and have to work from the notes.

Then I just write and try not to be an asshole about it.

4. Your tagline is interesting: “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” What does that mean to you as a film buff?

In all honesty, I meant to have sort of revolving quotes from filmmakers there, but that one from Hitch (ed.: Alfred Hitchcock) just kind of stuck. I appreciate the attitude, even if I’m interpreting it a number of different and potentially wrong ways.

I think too many of today’s movies are audience-driven in that they’re a product of focus groups and a bunch of suits deciding what people will like and dislike. It’s like assembly line filmmaking and the art is secondary because, hell, they might confuse or otherwise challenge the audience.

I wish more people would allow themselves to be challenged or maybe even suffer for what’s on screen.

I remember hearing stories of people walking out during The Artist and asking for refunds because it was a silent movie. Who the hell asks for a refund over something like that? I always try to make the point that it’s important to understand what the artist is doing, whether it’s through a movie or a record or literature or dance or whatever. I wish more people would allow themselves to be challenged or maybe even suffer for what’s on screen, but I guess that just doesn’t much happen these days.

As for Hitch, he was probably talking about winding his audiences up. He always enjoyed doing that; he loved getting people excited or giving them a thrill, having them clutching their dates and not knowing what was going to happen next. The idea that something could happen like it did in Psycho thrilled him as a filmmaker as much as it did audiences.

5. What are your top five daily reads, film-related or not?

I tend to check out what’s happening at the other sites I write at, truth be told, and then maybe the news or something. So that would start with Cinema Sentries, which has some really great writers, and head into Something Else Reviews and Blinded By Sound. I also read Anomalous Material and Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews.

6. You have several blogs – cinema, audio, hockey. Why did you decide to create multiple sites, rather than one “all about Jordan” site? What’s the benefit?

Well, the hockey site is something I get paid to do and have been paid to do for a number of years now. It’s part of my oeuvre as a freelance writer, but it’s grown into something beyond work for me because I just really love the people that frequent the site.

I wanted to keep the music separate from movies because they’re two different interests. Music has actually become a much bigger thing for me than the movies, although the Canadian Cinephile site is more popular. I’ve made tons of connections in the industry through the various sites I’ve been blessed to write for. I’ve interviewed bands, musicians, and artists. I received dozens of new releases a week (not kidding) and am absolutely swamped in that regard. I have more music than I know what to do with.

I try to articulate my opinion in a way that draws people in to something, that maybe gets them to consider a film or a piece of music in a different way, and I try to make it about that rather than about me.

I don’t think anyone would be interested in a site that would be all about me, to be perfectly honest. I try to articulate my opinion in a way that draws people in to something, that maybe gets them to consider a film or a piece of music in a different way, and I try to make it about that rather than about me. This has worked out really well so far and each year presents new opportunities that seem to suggest I’m on the right track.

7. What are your top three tips for new or struggling bloggers?

First, ignore your view counts and statistics. These will only drive you crazy. Second, write about something you love and not something you think will be popular. Third, try to be social about it. I didn’t really like sharing my posts or going around talking about what I wrote or whatever, but it really does help if you check out similar blogs and comment around every so often. You have to generate your own buzz.

8. Why did you choose WordPress.com?

There was no real particular reason, actually, but I’m glad I did. I’ve never had any problems with WordPress.com or anything and the platform has been easy to understand for a guy who doesn’t really give a shit about technical stuff. I like to just write, plug it in and forget about it. WordPress has allowed me to do that with relatively little fuss.

9. What does your blogging setup look like (computer, surroundings, etc)?

I write on my laptop and usually do so in my house on the couch next to the giant wall of movies and laundry that I’ve yet to fold or dishes that I’ve yet to wash. There’s also a fair bit of self-loathing somewhere nearby and probably some ice cream that I shouldn’t have eaten.

10. Which of your reviews has resonated the most with your readers, and why?

The most popular posts have been the Top 20 lists, it appears. The Top 20 Horror Movies list has done really well and there has been quite the response, although my site doesn’t really get that many comments. People like lists and they like to talk about what is or isn’t on your list. They like to let you know when you can go to hell and how quickly you can go there if _____ wasn’t on the list or if ______ wasn’t high enough or was too low or whatever. I hate doing lists. That’s why there aren’t more of them.

Bonus question: would you share your Oscar picks in the major categories with us?

Sure thing.

Argo will win Best Picture, but Beasts of the Southern Wild should win. Daniel Day-Lewis will take Best Actor and he should win. Jessica Chastain will snag Best Actress, but it should go to Quvenzhané Wallis. Christoph Waltz will get Best Supporting Actor and he should, while Anne Hathaway will get Best Supporting Actress and she should. I can’t see anyone but Spielberg winning Best Director, but Benh Zeitlin would win it in a perfect world.

We’ve started turning to Canadian Cinephile for his considered opinions on film — will you?

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    1. Thanks for reading, Judy. It was fun. I think blogging is simpler than people let on and I think more people should try it. The Internet is a valuable resource and we can learn so much from each other.

  1. I don’t mind reading opinions, but I need to know more about the reviewer if I am to accept his ideas of what is good and what is not. Pretending to be someone he is not, sort of causes me to questions his judgment altogether. I do understand what he is referencing about unique movies hardly given a chance. We almost blew past a very unique movie: Dogville. When it first started we were waiting for the Real movie to start, once we realized we were watching the real movie, we were ready to pull the movie and watch something other. However, for whatever reasoning, we let it go and it was a great movie. Sometimes it takes a great critic to bring out attention to movies that are a little less than conventional.

      1. What causes me to believe that anyone might be pretending is a lacking in verifiable credentials. Keeping one’s personal life private is not the issue; what is the issue is that this blogger provides little by way of verifiable credentials. I might be interested in reading the blog occasionally, but cannot be convinced that he is accurately critiquing the arts without evidence that he is an authority in that field. Jordon Richardson’s Blogcritcs profile is redirected to another site. Other than that profile, I cannot know that he is an authority.

    1. I don’t pretend to be an authority, so there’s that. I’m just a writer with an interest in film. I don’t pretend to have credentials and you can read my blog or not, it really doesn’t matter to me. Anyone can “critique” the arts.

      1. As I stated, I don’t mind reading opinions. You are a writer with an interest in films, that is a credential. The article asked: “We’ve started turning to Canadian Cinephile for his considered opinions on film — will you?” My answer is “I need to know more about the reviewer if I am to accept his ideas of what is good and what is not.” The “Pretending to be someone he is not,” was intended as a general statement of why I would not trust just anyone’s opnion.

        Note: your link to the Blogcritcs profile really is broken, I can see it for a second then I am redirected to another site.

        I am wonder if you have viewed the film Dogville?

      2. The only way to get to know about a reviewer or any blogger is to read him or her. If you decide not to for whatever reason, fine.

        But when you start by suggesting that I’m somehow “pretending” to be something (or someone) I’m not, it’s not really a general statement because you actually referred to me. You followed up by discussing “verifiable credentials,” furthering the implication that you were, again, talking about me. You said that you could not be convinced that I am “accurately” critiquing the arts unless you see some form of “verifiable evidence.” With all due respect, nothing about that seems overly general when you claim that might be interested in reading my blog were it not for the fact that I appeared to be “pretending.”

        Furthermore, I wouldn’t ever expect anyone to accept my ideas without question, consideration or debate. I’m not trying to pass myself off as an authority; I am, as the interview states, trying to articulate my opinion in a way that gets people to potentially reconsider film, music, art, pancakes, whatever in a different light. I think anyone is capable of doing that.

        Also, the Blogcritics link works for me. I just clicked it. I didn’t format the article, but the link to my specific profile and my 786 published reviews is:

        http://blogcritics.org/writers/jordan-richardson/

        I also have 1,122 reviews on Canadian Cinephile. There are over 200 reviews at Blinded By Sound. And countless other reviews in places I’ve frankly long since forgotten. I’ve moved on from Blogcritics some time ago, but it still holds a lot of my work.

        I have seen Dogville, yes. I haven’t reviewed it, though. Lars von Trier is a wonderful and dangerous filmmaker. I dig that.

  2. My question; Are film reviewers full of hot air who gave them the power to either make or break a film, I have read reviews of films then I watched them and thought ‘What the hell have were they talking about’
    We listen to people who review what we drink, what we eat, what we read, what we watch and what we write and where did they get their qualifications to manipulate our opinions on such things?
    I decide what I drink, what I eat, what I read, what I watch and what I write and not someone who spends majority of their life watching, reading, eating, drinking, writing for sometimes is far to much money.

    In the UK we have someone called Jonathan Ross, who apart from doing his chat show, reports on ‘Film 2013′ a review show. This man was dumped by his radio show and his TV show because along with a fellow comedian (comedian is word I use very loosely) Russell Brand after the presenters left a messages on veteran actor Andrew Sachs, (78) answerphone claiming Brand had slept with his granddaughter, 23-year-old Georgina Baillie, an aspiring model live on the radio.
    Do we want people like this telling us what to watch, read, eat, drink or anything else. I make my own life choices and if I make the wrong choice its my fault, like I have done with many films, TV programmes etc ect.
    What I normally say if asked is ‘Please yourself’ My tastes is not your tastes and your tastes are not the next person. How about trying a month without reading any reviews on anything and see how you get on. :-) have fun.

    1. Since when do you need “qualifications” to offer an opinion? Nothing I say or do makes me more qualified. I write a film blog, I write about music, I happen to have managed to gain some credibility because of how I present my opinions and how much material I digest. I have a lot of frames of reference, so I offer my perspectives from that position. I also don’t suggest anyone form an opinion of their own based solely on the words of another. I don’t know anyone who would suggest that.

      We learn by doing. There is no other way.

    2. MySoreSoul, I have had a few bad experiences with some fairly arrogant reviewers. I discover that some do not take criticism as well as they give it. I do not have time to try every book, movie, or software I encounter, otherwise I would do just that. I prefer to find a critic or two that likes the same times that I do. If I can find a few titles that I have already experienced in his reviews, I will read them first to see how our ideas balance. If there is enough balance, I will consider his opinions when making my choices.

      Seriously, not every soul that reviews is a bad personality. Some are a little aggressive in voice; however, I find that others, only a few, think their opinions are more important than anyone others. I love your idea of trying everything myself, but time is an issue and I usually only get a hint of the flavors I desire. Critics and reviewers are needed in the arts. The consumer must decide who speaks for them as an individual and read those write-ups.

      1. No one I don’t care how on the same level you are you will think the same about a film, book or music, you can both say “Oh that was a great film” but when reviewing it no reviews will be the same. Critics and reviewers are no needed in the arts, why do I need someone to tell me if a painting, play, film or film is better then A when I can see with my tastes it is B.

        A German art expert was duped into believing a painting done by a chimpanzee was actually painted by a respected artist.
        Dr Katja Schneider, director of the State Art Museum in Moritzburg, Saxony-Anhalt, suggested the painting was by Guggenheim Prize winning artist Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Dr Schneider said: “It looks like an Ernst Wilhelm Nay. He was famous for using such blotches of colour.” But in reality, the painting was made by female chimpanzee Banghi, from Halle Zoo.

        “When Elephants Weep” a book which described the reactions of art luminaries Willem and Elaine De Kooning on being confronted unknowingly with an elephant drawing. They praised it for its “flair, decisiveness and originality”. When informed of the true identity of the artist, Willem exclaimed: “That’s a damned talented elephant.”

        Do I have to go on. Critics can make or break a film, artist, writer or anyone else who in the arts.

        “Rhein II”, it’s a 1999 photograph by Andreas Gursky showing the Rhine river. Last night it sold for a whopping $4,338,500 at Christie’s.

        Gursky has become quite the Midas of photographers: this is his second photo to claim the title of “world’s most expensive”, with the first being 99 Cent II Diptychon ($3.89M and now the 4th most expensive).

        Take a look http://www.petapixel.com/assets/uploads/2011/11/rhine_mini.jpg

        Just because critics say its good!!! its all BS

        Be your own critic and enjoy what you like and save yourself some money!! :-)

  3. Thanks for the interview with Jordan. I read reviews to get another perspective on a film or art exhibit or special event and find them quite useful. We don’t have to agree with the reviewer but, at least, if we keep an open mind, we might glean something we missed or be apprised of something important to watch for in the film, exhibit, what have you. I pick and choose what I want to see regardless of the reviews, but they do add value to my experience and offer me another lens; a contrasting or complimentary point of view.
    I haven’t met a reviewer/critic who said “accept my view or else…” They present their point of view and we can respectfully beg to differ. There is no need to attack the messenger… Have a great week y’all!
    Peace,
    Elizabeth

    1. Well said. All I do is present my opinion. All I do is write. Other critics are not only better than me, they have “credentials” and “training.” I don’t strive for that. I don’t strive to have my opinion valued above others. I strive to have my voice heard, nothing more. People can take it or leave it, really.

      1. Jordan, you are doing a terrific job at what you love. Doing work we love with commitment and passion trumps bs credentials any day. I applaud you 100% and share your sentiments. Have a great week! :-)
        Eliz

  4. I think it would be useful just for the blogger to highlight 1-2 things that makes him a film critic that we like to follow. I know, I know anyone can be a book critic, film critic. But anyone who has formal training in literary criticism (and one does if you major in literature at university), knows that real butt-ass critiquing means supporting one’s observations with some key evidence.

    I totally agree that serious film analysis and writing does mean watching all sorts of films. It has nothing to do with giving a person a choice which film to critique.

  5. A well-deserved spotlight on a talented writer.

    However, exactly what credentials does sha’tashari have to call into question someone’s credentials? I need to know more about the commenter if I am to accept her ideas of what is good and what is not.

    Honestly, I haven’t read such rubbish in quite a while. All writers accurately critique the arts…from their POV, which is how we all critique everything in life. There’s no single objective perspective that is the correct response to something. If there was, life would be awfully boring.

    I agree with Jordan about Skyfall and disagree about BotSW, so what difference would it make whether he’s holding a MFA in film studies or is a high school dropout? Roger Ebert is considered an authority in the field, so what am I supposed to do when I disagree with his assessment of a film, which I frequently do? Defer to him and consider my own opinion wrong?

    I read film reviewers because I like to see how other people react to a film, especially if they write in an engaging way while making their case. I don’t need to agree with their assessment to enjoy reading it.

  6. Wow … I’m a little surprised at this exchange. I too appreciate your response to #7 (as a newbie) and I think I need to watch more movies :-) Go Habs Go!

  7. Jordan, I found your answer to the interview questions intelligent, thoughtful and funny in a self-deprecating way. You make the point that you don’t want the blog to be about you, you want it to be about the films you review. And you say: The Internet is a valuable resource and we can learn so much from each other.

    All of this work on your part (because to be articulate and funny and informative in an interview is work) about your film blog (more unpaid work) is then challenged by a bunch of people who demand your credentials or, at the very least, more personal information about you so they can decide if they like you before they read your reviews.

    I’m weary to the bone of this sort of thing, which I see over and over again on every public opinion blog (as opposed to a “me and my cats and my knitting” or “me and my erotica books” blog).

    It’s true that the internet is a valuable resource but I’m getting to the point where I want to use my computer to write, send and receive e-mail and conduct research. The opportunity to learn from each other is getting lost in the opportunity to attack someone who is trying to give an articulate opinion on an issue. Possibly, there are hordes of jerks out there lurking on the web, waiting to crucify some poor bastard for daring to have an opinion contrary to theirs.

    Thanks for taking the time to put yourself out there Jordan. I’ll try to read your reviews but I’m not going to waste my time reading the comments. That, alas, is also your (unpaid) job.

    xo Madeline Moore

    1. “The opportunity to learn from each other is getting lost in the opportunity to attack someone who is trying to give an articulate opinion on an issue. Possibly, there are hordes of jerks out there lurking on the web, waiting to crucify some poor bastard for daring to have an opinion contrary to theirs.”

      Could not have said it any better, Madeline.

      Thanks for reading and for so clearly describing the unbridled but rewarding morass that is the Internet. As an aside, my third choice was a “me and my cats and BDSM” blog. Something along the lines of I Can Haz Safe Word?, maybe. :)

  8. I enjoyed the interview and liked the way Jordan states his opinion. It is thoughtful and humorous at the same time, refreshingly uncontrived.

    I believe that trolls are inevitable in this protected internet world. I realize that somehow they either feel insecure or superior…thus their need to criticize and attack. One good way of handling them IMO is to ignore them and they will lose interest in harassing their victim.

  9. Question and answer for #7 was very helpful. I am one who looks at view count and it does drive you crazy. Great article period… Will be watching the Oscars this Sunday and can not wait to see if my picks were right.