I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year. I’m sure that, for many, it was nice to say “so long” to 2016, and I hope that the new year is treating you kind. Our holidays were great, filled with time with family and friends and some chances to recharge our batteries. I’m still on vacation from work for another week, and I’m hoping to use this time to really gear up for the coming 12 months so I can attack 2017 afresh next week.
I thought it might be good to take some time and write about the hopes I have for this site in the coming year. I started blogging at Patheos nearly a year ago, at the end of January 2016. I feel like I’m still figuring out what this site is supposed to be, what works, and how to best keep this conversation going. I’ve done some writing for Patheos that I’m immensely proud of, and I think the readership community has proven to be smart and engaged. I’m very happy to be here and I enjoyed the discovery process of 2016, even as it was complicated by grad school and the general craziness of life with kids. I hope 2017 is the year we can really make this site sing.
To do that, I think the first step I need to take is focus. I’ll be the first to admit that I was kind of all over the place last year, writing about movies, Christian culture, theology, politics and more. And I don’t regret that. Like I said, this was a discovery process. I was trying to find out what worked and what kind of writing I was best suited for here. But I can understand it was probably a bit whiplash-inducing for readers. Those who came here expecting coverage on movies may have been unpleasantly surprised to find another screed about Donald Trump. Those who found this site through someone sharing one of my more Christian culture-centered articles may have wondered why I wrote about movies the next day.
I still want to have a voice in theological, cultural and political matters. But I don’t want it to interfere with the movie and pop culture-related writing I do here. So, I’ve reopened an old blog to occasionally post on those topics. I’ll likely post an opening paragraph here when I publish something that I think is of interest, but then I’ll have a link to redirect. For the most part, this is going to be a movie and pop culture-related site because that’s where I believe my focus is strongest. It’s also directly related to what I’m going to grad school for, so I hope there can be some sort of synergy between my studies and my blogging.
So, what’s going to be different in 2017?
Well, I’m going to do my best to keep writing about new movies. That became difficult this fall with school, but I really missed not being part of the conversation about some big end of the year films this year. My class schedule is a bit more accommodating to the screening schedule in metro Detroit this semester, so my hope is to be able to make it to more screenings in the coming year. It won’t be everything, not by a long shot. But I’m hoping to be able to keep abreast of the movies that I particularly know will be of interest to Patheos readers. I’m very eager to screen Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” in the very near future, and I know it’s a film I’m going to want to focus on here. For movies I can’t catch by opening day, I’m still hoping to get out to the theater a bit more. So, we’ll keep the new movies coming here.
I’ve always wanted this site to have a focus on older movies, though. I feel that it’s important to continue bridging those gaps in my film knowledge. Also, I think older films just have so much to say. We’re past the “hot take” point in their release and it’s fun to dig in and really study some films that either we’ve forgotten about or that may have escaped notice. I also think examining the classics (and arguing for new additions to the canon) is something all critics need to be engaged in. So, I’m looking forward to doing that this year.I’d originally planned to start a series based on the BBC’s list of the top 100 films of the 21st century. I made the unfortunate decision to try and do that the same time I was beginning classes, and it fell by the wayside. But it’s still on the radar. Also, I’ve made a decision to spend each year revisiting the works of one director and one author. For Christmas, my wife got me a copy of Matt Zoller Seitz’s “The Oliver Stone Experience,” a book I’m devouring right now. For about 10 years, I’ve had a boxed set of Stone’s films sitting in my collection and I’ve never properly taken the time to watch them. So, I’ve decided to spend 2017 looking at his filmography. I’m not sure how extensively I’ll write about it here, but I imagine that it will come up in some posts (the author, for those who are curious, is CS Lewis).
Will it all be reviews? I don’t know. For that, I’m leaving things open. I’m sure there will be a lot of reviews. Probably a few lists. Maybe some mini-essays. What I love about this site is that I have the freedom to experiment. I’m sure I won’t just write about movies. TV continues to be experiencing a golden age, and I’m sure that whatever programs are sucking me in will become blog fodder. I’m sure I’ll write about books from time to time. I’ll try to curb the “Hamilton” talk. I enjoyed doing a few interviews last year and it’s something I really want to incorporate more of into this site. I’d love for there to be some sort of podcast element, but right now I’m just not sure what that looks like. An actual podcast? Do I get a co-host? Do I just post an interview? My hunch is that will be sporadic, if it occurs at all, during the first half of the year. After May, I’ll be out of school for the summer and I’ll have more time to experiment.
And the thing that I continue to wrestle with is how much of a spiritual focus the writing should have. I’m not a fan of the “faith-based” film movement (although my most-read post of last year was about “God’s Not Dead”), but I do feel that the genre does present an opportunity to talk about what Christians are doing write and wrong in the industry. I watch movies that don’t have much, if anything, to say about faith and spirituality; does that have a place at Patheos? Obviously, if films arise, such as “Silence,” that have something to say about faith, I’ll be paying attention. But right now, I’m playing the balance by heart. As a Christian, I see the same movies as everyone else; I think there’s a place in the conversation for a Christian to talk about those. But, obviously, faith will be a prominent, even dominant, topic of conversation. Not just because Patheos is a hub for talking about faith but because it’s where my interests tend to lie the most. So, I’m not too worried about finding the right balance.
And I hope for another great year of engagement with readers. I want to hear your comments and views on a movie, even when I’m wrong. I hope to feature more guest bloggers (please email me if you’re interested!). I hope to put up more quick posts just to keep the conversation going. I’m starting 2017 energized and ready to take this site to the next level. I hope you’re ready for the ride as well.