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Presto! The Magic of Shortcodes

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Mago//Magician, by Eva Peris (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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?

21 Comments

  1. Thanks for this, I love these handy tips and tricks! It can be a bit overwhelming to customise your blog, but these tips are always really useful and applicable!

  2. Great article.I have been using many of these short codes in my blog, one problem which I faced was in “display posts” when we are inserting images. The images (thumbnails) are aligned at the left hand side but text don’t get properly wrapped.

  3. great tips! I liked the display posts shortcode, but I ran into some formatting issues too – the titles were huge! and the font was much bigger overall than my blog font. Overall, though I am pretty pysched. I just started using the soundcloud shortcode and embedding some audio of me reading my poems on my blogs. It was so incredibly easy, and I think it looks cool.

    1. Hi lupitatucker,
      You’re right — the look of the list generated by this shortcode varies greatly by theme. If you’re willing to do some tinkering with CSS, you can always change the font size in question with the Custom Design upgrade. Either way, I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying shortcodes — embedding your poetry readings sounds like a great use of the Soundcloud Shortcode!

  4. I tried this on a post and it worked fine. I copied the same code to another post and changed the tag from “film” to “weekly photo challenge” because I have posts using that tag. For some reason, nothing is showing up. I did use the text editor and not visual.

    1. One quick suggestion that comes to mind: try separating the words in the tag by a dash (“weekly-photo-challenge”). I think it might be what’s causing the issue with your shortcode.

  5. You are a godsend! I’ve been trying to add a “follow” button to a one-column theme blog and I was at my wits’ ends! Thanks so much for this post. It will really come in handy!

  6. Please could you help me! All the [display-posts] short codes I have written for my pages are working fine with the exception of one – Cookies. I’ve tried deleting the short code and re-writing it, changing all the posts within that category to something else and then back again, but they are still refusing to show up on the page. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Pinkrosebakery,

      One thing you might want to double check is that the tag (or category) you’re using in the shortcode is the same as the tag (or category) slug in your site’s dashboard (to see what the slug is, you can go to Post > Tag or Post > Category from your dashboard, where you’ll see a list of all your used tags and categories).

  7. Thank you so much for these helpful tips. I’m new to blogging and I’m actually only doing it because of a class assignment. My professor doesn’t give us any tips on how to add things to our blog and we have to figure it all put on our own. Your tips will definitely come in handy! You should check out my blog. It’s http://mojicajamie.wordpress.com

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