Saturday, September 01, 2007

Nothing like a funeral to find out who misses you

The DVD Journal is no more. Last Thursday we had a bit of a celebration, many of the core group there for the final sort of party for it all. The editor, Alexandra du Pont, D.K. Holm, myself, Dawn Taylor, and Scott Anderson, all regulars over the nine year run of the website, all critical members of the core group. Others, those who've moved away from Portland, or were never there to begin with were there in spirit like Yoda at the end of Return of the Jedi. Funny that it should all end at the Aalto Lounge. Funny. Funny because that's where it began for me in the winter of 2000.

Sometime in 1998 my brother was working at Powell's with D.K. One afternoon I was in the bookstore, and spotted Doug at an info counter and chatted his ear off for a good hour. I was there to pick up an R. Crumb book I had recently read about, and that helped cement our now-decade long friendship, as did a piece Doug wrote about me in The Portland Mercury. Doug used to have something of a roundtable back in the old days of Portland journalism, back when he wrote for the Willamette Week. Sometime after we started hanging out, and after his kindly assistance in ushering me into the Portland critic scene, the table began anew, and continued frequently until I left Portland.

This used to happen at Berbati's, and as I made my segue into film buying, sometimes - actually most times after work on Thursdays - I would saunter on down to join Doug, and a collection of people, some critics, others friends, who would join us for a night of spirited discussion. Around this time as well, the TV show DK did - originally with Pat Holmes, then with Kerry Fall and myself - was shooting at Berbati's as well.

Doug was looking for a DVD player at some point in either late 99, or early 2000. He was to review Bringing Out the Dead for the J, and didn't have the player yet. I think I helped him get his player, and got it set up - I'm not sure any more. This helped alert me to the J, which I knew was located out of Portland, but hadn't read as much as DVD File or The Digital Bits. Mostly because I was more interested in the info of what was coming out than anything else. I was also writing for, which gave me a number of free DVD's. But after reading the Journal I wanted in. Sometime after Doug moved, we started relocating the roundtable to the Aalto lounge and so the members of the table somewhat shifted. And since the table brought together a number of the writers, eventually the editor joined every once in a while. It was there I met him, and circled writing for the site. Eventually, one night, after many drinks, I finally put my cards on the table, and he suggested I write something for free. I wrote a couple like that, and was then brought on.

The editor edited. For Binary, no one touched my prose, which was - to put it nicely - early. To look at some of that stuff now, even though I have also adopted a more personal first person voice for much of my other (non-screenplay) writing, mastering the Journal's third person tone was hard, and something I struggled with for much of the run. I knew a lot about movies, still do, but even as an English major, I never knew much about the nuts and bolts of writing. And so for much of my journey through the J I learned about writing. How to construct sentences, how not to be too redundant, how to use sentences to make my point as much as the words. Things I may have intuited but did not understand. I never had that sort of technical mind. And so I learned much over the years.

At some point my role shifted. I knew more about the tech specs than many of the writers, and so I wheedled my way into a position as the managing editor, trying to catch typos and spec errors. Every Sunday I would spend a good couple of hours (after having finished my writing) pouring over the reviews that were, more often than not, some of the best reviews on the internet. And being there meant the editor had someone to bounce ideas off of, and occasionally listen to the gripes that come with dealing with so many writers, and all their bad habits (I was chewed out more than once for some poorly worded prose, lashings I took with a certain sadomasochistic pleasure as I knew I would learn something from them).

When pushed I could actually write some pretty okay stuff. One of the first ones I wrote that was something that gave me positive feedback was Mulholland Dr. I had fun tearing into bad movies, and one of the best tear jobs was beating up on Pearl Harbor. I really enjoyed writing at length about Tarantino's films, and so Pulp Fiction will always be a personal favorite as will my works on Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2, which were later published in a book. I also loved writing about Melville and so Le Cercle Rouge and Le Samouraï are also faves. Writing about great films also got me going so The Band Wagon, La Dolce Vita, and Seven Samurai have a special place in my heart.

I think my favorite will always be Straw Dogs, though. I really worked hard on that one, felt like I got to something there.

The rhythm was developed, discs were gotten each week, I was also made courier at some points, and a weekly routine was established. I moved from a basement apartment to my own home, and was able to bring Clarence Beaks on to the team. But, as the editor put it "our own world has changed in the past decade as well, with marriages, children, new homes, career changes, and various other things that happen to sensible people when the subtle business of adulthood creeps up on them unawares." In 2004, I moved to Los Angeles and got a new job, in 2005 I met a girl and got married, and last year I had a kid and bought a home - such describes my life perfectly. With my move the round table stopped happening (as I've been told), but the site soldiered on. Thoughas long as I've been writing for the J, the editor has been threatening to quit - or at least for the last five years. It was "too much work," but he (like myself) has never been one to just sit around, and so now he does other things.

Some may ask "So did you bone Du Pont?" The answer is, sadly, no. We joked about that on my return, as I'm now married. It was always weird. She was usually in and out of relationships, and it never clicked. She's happy where she is, and vice versa. Though because she's kept to herself and is kinda "mysterious" I could probably get away with saying I did. Though, honestly, I was never her type.

The DVD Journal was a labor of love. and visiting the front page now, it's nice to know that people will miss it.