Note: This is the eighth feature dedicated to bloggers who have made a huge difference to the on-line community.
by Sam Juliano
Literature gave the world the Brothers Grimm and the Brothers Karamazov. Music gave us George and Ira Gershwin and and the Brothers Sherman. The cinema has yielded the talents of Joel and Ethan Coen. In the age of the internet two blogging brothers from the Salem, Oregon area have enriched the film community with their unique insights, specialized tastes, and some of the finest on-line writing available to readers. Troy and Kevin Olson have matched their long-running and prolific activity on the film boards with the nearly four-year stewardship of two popular sites, Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies and Elusive as Robert Denby: The Life and Times of Troy. Both the elder Troy and his younger sibling Kevin (the two have a third brother who resides in San Diego) have also written for other sites and for a very long time have been regular contributors at the homes of others, furnishing many of their colleagues with some of the most valued commentary under film reviews and features. Troy has reported on his travel, family additions and domestic events at a site aptly dubbed ‘Olson Family Matters,’ while Kevin has been a contributor at a Western blog launched by fellow writer Jon Lanthier.
By combining intelligence with personality the Olson brothers have developed a remarkable on line following, which hasn’t diminished even with an unavoidable lull in their recent activity, necessitated by domestic and academic obligations. The Olsons have come to the blogging table armed with more than just writing talent and a love for film, but more significantly the ‘people skills’ that make discussion a triumph of comeraderie. It is no doubt this latter trait that has attracted droves of film bloggers to their sites, and has subsequently inspired both to some of their best writing online or anywhere for that matter. Troy and Kevin joined forces with Jamie Uhler and Robert Taylor in September of 2010 to negotiate the highly successful ‘horror countdown,’ where each penned some terrific essays. Troy has stated that he believes he penned his best work as a film blogger for that project, though when one looks at his recent work on director Robert Bresson, one must wonder. Kevin’s incredible review of Michael Mann’s Miami Vice is one of the finest pieces ever written by anyone for any site. Kevin recently covered the work of Ken Russell at his Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies site. Troy Olson and his wife Tricia have engaged in some remarkable travel ventures in the past few years, and the reports have been lovingly related at Olson Family Matters. The trip to Italy was a culture maven’s dream, and the following year, the trek to China brought the young couple the love of their lives, precious Madelyn.
Kevin and Troy acknowledge a wonderful family, and rewarding professions as a catalyst in paving the way for them to broaden their horizons, but in a lengthy interview share their feelings about film, their on-line accomplishments and what they have hoped to achieve in a long tenure as major players in the blogging community. Rather than “translate” the Olson brothers’ responses to questions I have posed, I have opted with this blogger appreciation piece to present the long interview verbattem. I feel this would be the best way to understand exactly how and why Troy and Kevin have meant so much to so many who have visited their shrines, and have been graced by their most-valued visitations and contributions at their own site. (note: Kevin’s wife Tieryn is featured with the brothers in the photo above)
Responses to questions are displayed here in bold type:
1. When did both of you begin your respective movie blogsites and what motivated you to do so?
KO: I began my blog in 2007.
TO: Well, my first post says that it was in July 2005, but that was actually a post imported from a a MySpace blog (wow — that sounds extremely dated, doesn’t it)…those are some terribly goofy posts, yet I keep them around for historical reasons. I made the move to Elusive as Robert Denby sometime around January of 2008.
2. Do either or both of you have other blogs and if so to what purpose?
KO: We have a bad movie blog entitled Garbage Day where we lovingly riff (or homage, if you will) on Ed Howard and Jason Bellamy and their Conversations series by “seriously” conversing about bad movies. I also sometimes write for Jon Lanthier’s western blog (along with Tony Dayoub) Decisions at Sundown.
TO: Well, there is It’s Garbage Day, which we really need to get back up and running, as well as my “personal” blog, Olson Family Matters, and a board game blog (which is just in archive status now), Time To Play The Game.
3. What goals have you both set for your sites, and what are your proudest accomplishments blogging?
KO: All I want to do is write about movies. I don’t have any goals. I hope people enjoy reading about the movies I enjoy writing about. I think my proudest accomplishment would have to be the Italian Horror Blogathon I hosted and the piece on Miami Vice I wrote for J.D.’s Michael Mann blogathon, which I later expanded upon for your site.
TO: I intend on making millions of dollars off of my blog. But since that won’t happen, I just write for my personal edification. I’ve found that writing about movies has helped to increase my love and understanding of them. I’ll go with the post I made for the Wonders in the Dark horror countdown as my greatest accomplishment, though I also had fun putting together my “Favorite Bad Movie Characters” series of posts.
4. Your love and expertise in horror cinema is well known in the blogosphere. What launched this artistic obsession and does this passion go back to your childhood years?
KO: When I was young, I would rove the aisles of the local video stores and just stare at the oversized coverboxes with all of these crazy titles and images on them. I was fascinated by looking at all of these images I knew I would never be allowed to see. Eventually, I became old enough to just go down to the video store and start renting every horror film the local video stores had. It helped, too, to have an older brother who loved the genre and would fill me in on all that I was missing.
TO: Like Kevin, the fascination began long before I was able to even rent movies — the lurid cover boxes, as well as the occasional movie trailer (our cable provider had an all-day movie trailer channel that let me see previews for such “classics” as Child’s Play and Nightmare on Elm Street 4) created a need to see more. I’d catch the occasional horror film on TV or at a friends house, until finally, in high school, a friend and I pretty much made our way through the entire horror movie section at the local Hollywood Video. Yes, most of that stuff was crap (even then we were smart enough to know that the Friday The 13th movies weren’t very good), but it created a knowledge and affection for the genre that stands to this day.
5. For each of you: What are your favorite ten desert island movies of all-time?
KO: Oh boy. I hate this type of question…not because it’s a bad question, but because I know that this could change on any day. So, as far as today goes (and off the top of my head), my desert island movies would be the following: 8 ½, The Beyond, Out of Sight, Lost in America, Step Brothers (I would simply just rewind after the first 30 minutes and watch it over again), The Shawshank Redemption, A Journey Through American Cinema with Martin Scorsese, Lethal Weapon 2, The Awful Truth, and Punch-Drunk Love. That’s what I would want on a desert island
with me to keep me happy, intellectually stimulated, excited, and laughing. Already I’m regretting not putting any Coen Bros., Hitch, Buster Keaton, Three Stooges, Michael Mann, Terence Malick, etc. on the list…why do you do this to me, Sam! Hehe.
TO: A meager ten films just doesn’t seem fair, especially as I don’t have a lot of films I watch repeatedly (just the few holiday films that come on the same time every year). Besides, surely I’ve crash landed with my iPod, which has room for hundreds of movies on it…but I’ll play by your rules, Sam. I’ll limit my choices to actual films in keeping with the spirit of things (otherwise I’d throw in some Mystery Science Theater 3000, some classic pro wrestling, and the complete series of The Wire). Let’s start with Robocop and Alien. Then add in Commando and Rad, my two favorite bad movies (and there’s never a bad time to dance the Bicycle Boogie). Rear Window is my favorite film from my favorite director, so it’s in. Wall-E is there to keep my spirits up. Remains of the Day, In The Mood For Love, Le Samourai, and Once Upon A Time In The West are four films that have always held me captive when I’ve watched them, which it seems I’d want on that desert island, so they can round out the list.
6. What other bloggers have made a big difference to you?
KO: For me, I would have to say all of my favorite stops as a blogger have a big influence on me. If I had to single a few out, I would have to say on a large scale there are people like Jim Emerson and Keith Ulrich and Alan Sepinwall. On a smaller, but by no means unimportant scale, there are people like Ali Arikan (who encouraged me to really get serious about blogging), Sam and co. here at Wonders in the Dark, fellow Olson, Rick, who used to have a fine blog before it he shut it down, Andrew Wyatt at Gateway Cinephiles, Tony Dayoub at Cinema Viewfinder, Tim Brayton of Antagony & Ecstasy is a huge influence on me (and he’s a really nice dude), Dennis Cozzalio over at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, and finally Jason Bellamy (also a really nice dude that Troy and I had the pleasure of meeting this past December) and Ed Howard.
TO: I’d point to many of those same people, so I won’t bother repeating all the names here. I’m not quite as active in the blogosphere as Kevin is, but I surely enjoy reading a lot of those same people. As for my favorite writers, Ed Howard and Roderick Heath both have densely worded, yet still very readable styles, packing in tons of content. I’ve kind of tried for that style myself, since I never want to leave a thing out when I’m writing something, but how effortless those two make it look always makes me jealous. Also, and I don’t just say this because Sam is doing the interview here, but Sam Juliano is quite possibly the nicest man in the entire internet — it’s always encouraging to have him stop by your blog and leave a comment.
7. Family history, marriages, kids, parents.
KO: I am married with no kids. Troy and I have been fortunate to be part of a great family (we have another brother, Andrew, who lives in San Diego) with great parents, George and Becky, that have always nurtured our love of film.
TO: I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Tricia (awwww) with one child, Madelyn, whom we adopted from China last May. Also, so it’s known, I’m the oldest of the three Olson brothers, Kevin’s the youngest.
8. Education? Elementary School, middle school, high school, college, graduate work.
KO: I went to Gubser Elementary where I had to sit by myself facing the class because I was such a distraction. I always got into trouble for bringing WWF magazines and talking about the latest action movie I saw. The teachers didn’t appreciate me tying EVERYTHING to the movies I watched at home, hehe. Then I enjoyed being all awkward like most middle school kids are at Whitaker Middle School in Keizer, OR (a mere couple of miles from Gubser). I graduated from McNary High School (also just a couple of miles from elementary and middle school) in 2000. After that, I went to Western Oregon University and received my undergrad in Literature with a minor in Humanities. I just finished my graduate studies at my Alma Mater receiving my Masters in Teaching.
TO: I skipped 1st grade, which I blame for all of my social issues up until my Junior year of high school. I graduated from McNary High School in 1995 and then hung around town for one year and went to a community college (the same one Kevin now teaches at). After that I made the genius move go to a liberal arts Christian college to get an engineering degree. I graduated from Northwest Nazarene University in 1999 with my degree, but little ability to get a job. So I did what all college students do when they don’t know what to do and I went to grad school. I got my Masters in Electrical Engineering at Oregon State University in 2002. I have always wondered how many of the folks in this here movie blogosphere are liberal arts nerds like my brother and how many are tech geeks like me?
9. Working career, past and present?
KO: I worked for Blockbuster Video for about six years managing and doing other various tasks (I was actually successful in getting The Last Temptation of Christ, a film BBV refused to carry, on our shelves once the Criterion disc was released). I then worked coffee and other various odd jobs for a local non-profit organization Isaac’s Room (they help at-risk teens gain the skills they are sorely lacking). Now I work for Chemeketa Community College in Salem with their High School Programs. The high school I work for is an alternative program that helps kids (from ages 16-20) who have dropped out get their high school diplomas.
TO: Since graduating from OSU, I’ve had exactly one job, working as a Corporate Applications Engineer for Mentor Graphics in Wilsonville, OR. We make software that companies use to design
computer chips and circuit boards. It is quite simply the greatest job ever, thus why I’ve been there for 10 years now and will never leave until I’m forced to…
10. Due to a very busy home and work life, both of you have been less active the past few months on the blogging scene, but prior to that have had incredible streaks of prolific activity. What are your immediate and/or long term goals? Are you planning to blog a while longer? What ideas are you pondering in this sense?
KO: Well, a lot of my inactivity was due to the fact that I’m focusing more on my job and finishing grad school. What I found was that I was deconstructing things and doing critical thinking all day with the students or with my homework that I just didn’t have anything left for the blog. I hope that changes in the next couple of months. I hope to finish my Ken Russell retrospective (I have about four movies left) and then move on to a different filmmaker or tackle a genre.
I’ve been watching tons of Takeshi Kitano movies lately and other Japanese crime films, so I think I’ll be doing something on that soon. Blogging has always been something that I love and look forward to doing; I love the community that I have met, and I don’t want to just disappear; however, I don’t think I’ll ever choose it over something else in my life. If it comes to that (shutting it down), I’ll still remain active in the community by reading and commenting on others great sites.
So, in short, I don’t know if I’ll be blogging for another two years or two weeks…I just kind of play it day-to-day. I am wanting to do a second Italian Horror Blogathon this year, though, so that will definitely motivate me to keep at it.
TO: No one ever told me that having a kid takes so much time ;) Madelyn takes up most of my free-time on the weekends (and I have no complaints about that). At the same time, my work life got busier as I took on some new responsibilities, limiting the potential free time I had to even think about blogging during the weekdays. Another part of my problem is I write and re-write and re-re-write and then research and then write some more for many of of my posts, which makes them take an inordinate amount of time. I know — excuses, excuses, excuses.
I am currently working through a retrospective on Robert Bresson, which at the rate I’m doing it will last until 2013. I also intend on starting a similar retrospective on Powell and Pressburger. I’m notorious for starting things and not finishing them, so it’s a personal goal to see these through to completion. I’ll throw in one-off reviews here and there as well as it strikes my fancy.
I don’t see any good reason why I’ll stop blogging in the near future. I really enjoy what I get out of it.
11. What do you feel are your finest achievements as bloggers?
KO: I don’t know. I suppose that would be for others to decide. I’m particularly proud of the Italian Horror blogathon as many of the bloggers I most admire contributed pieces to my humble little project. I think it was at that point that I realized, “wow, people read my blog and generally like it enough to want to contribute something to it.”
TO: I stand by my work for the horror countdown as my best stuff, because for once I was writing from a viewpoint where I had confidence that I truly knew what I was talking about.
12. By way of taste and style, what sets you two apart mostly, and in what ways might you be more similar.
KO: Perhaps Troy can answer this better than I, but I think our horror and comedy tastes are pretty well aligned; although, I would say I have a higher tolerance for broader comedy styles (Will Ferrell/Adam McKay movies; Judd Apatow; Andy Samberg’s SNL shorts; Danny McBride/David Gordon Green/Jody Hill collaborations) than he does. In fact, I can guarantee that I will be more interested in David Gordon Green’s newest comedy, Your Highness, in a way that probably seems confusing to him. I know that the most recent big-time disagreement the both of us have had is over Michael Mann’s films, especially Miami Vice and Public Enemies.
TO: Kevin pretty much nails it there. Apparently I’m like an old-man — I’ve gotten to the point where I won’t even put in the effort on mindless action fare anymore (The Expendables or, since Kevin mentions it, Faster) unless my wife wants to see it. I also find the majority of modern day comedies to be a waste of time (classic Hollywood era comedies are simply superior) and tend to just ignore them, where I know Kevin ends up seeing many of these. I will not see Your Highness and it boggles my mind that David Gordon Green would waste his time on it (this is the man directing the Suspiria remake — I hope he got the stoner comedy out of his system).
In fact, I’d say a lot of the difference is that Kevin is much more willing to give a film a chance than I am and perhaps due to that is more apt to like something than I am. I think I’ve just gotten pickier with new films as my time has become more limited and my list of movies I want to see from years past has grown.
Our most recent disagreement seemed to be on Black Swan, which Kevin loved and I was in the middle on. As for director’s, yeah, Michael Mann is one we differ on (Kevin loves him, while I find him very hit and miss). I’m also certain that I love Pixar stuff more than he does.
13. Do you two guys ever watch movies together and then talk about them?
KO: If we watch movies together, it is rarely a serious movie; although, we did go see No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood in the theater together. We usually only go out to the theater to see horror films (we watched The Descent and The Strangers together), or we go to watch a re-released movie (we’ve seen The Godfather and Alien together). So, if we watch a movie, it is usually a bad horror movie or an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 so we can laugh, talk while we watch, and just have a general good time in the “pizza and beer movie” sense. We do most of our “serious” talking about movies around the end of the year when we try to catch up with all the big end-of-the-year releases. And now that he has a kid, well, I don’t have to tell you that all movie-watching together has pretty much come to an end for a while, hehe.
TO: Wow, that was 2+ years ago when we saw those films. More recently we have seen Black Swan together in the theater. But we don’t go to the theater together much and as Kevin states, when we do get together, we hardly ever end up watching “quality” films. I think that probably speaks to just how the relationship between the two of us works - we’d rather goof around than be serious.
14. To Kevin–in your earlier days, you were a regular contributor at the site of young Alexander Coleman, a personable California blogger who wrote great reviews in many different genres. What do you remember from that period?
I remember what a great, tight community of cinephiles that met there every time Alexander posted something. He and I shared a love of professional wrestling (yes, I said pro-wrestling, hehe), so we had many conversations that stemmed beyond film that made me realize what an all-around nice guy he was. But his blog was one of the meeting places in the blogosphere to talk seriously about films. It was a great community to be a part of. I miss his massive, all-encompassing reviews and the great conversations that would be found in the equally massive comment threads. I also believe that is where you and I first found out about each others work.
15. Troy–Two of the biggest moments in your recent life–in fact in your life period were the trip to China to claim your daughter Madelyn, and your Italian trip. What can you say about those two unforgettable experiences looking back?
Tricia and I have always tried our best to take a big vacation each year we’ve been married. We have tons of fun memories from trips to places all over the world — we did a England/France/Germany trip, as well as an East Coast US trip in two of the prior years — but the Italy trip was memorable for the fact that we knew it was kind of our “last hurrah” before moving on to parenthood. So even when we got lost because I couldn’t read a map, or Tricia got sick on winding bus rides, or we got off the train in the wrong town and were being stared at by
the locals, or when we were delayed for 24-hours because they couldn’t put fuel on our plane and had to stay at a hotel in Amsterdam with no luggage, it was still such a fun and exciting time just because it marked such a pivotal moment in our lives. (Just go here for links to my posts and pictures from the trip).
As for China (and again, here’s day-by-day trip reports for that journey), a lot of the monumental importance of that trip goes without saying. The several hours from when we landed in
Madelyn’s province, drove to the hotel, and then made our way up the elevator to have the doors open and see her there waiting for us, are the greatest hours we’ve been able to experience in our lives. Needless to say, spending all that time there with Madelyn was amazing — learning to be parents amidst hotel rooms and long plane rides teaches you a lot in a hurry :) Our eyes were also opened in many ways by being in China and interacting with the people and culture there. It’s perhaps the one country that the Western world misunderstands more than any other, and to be able to have that experience there was enlightening for the both of us.
16. Both of you guys are amazingly even-tempered and non-confrontational. What philosophy do you embrace that always keeps things on a pleasant and amicable level? What would you two attribute to your amazing popularity amongst your peers?
KO: Wow, are we amazingly popular? I had no idea, hehe. I guess a lot of the credit goes to our parents and the way they raised us. Also, I tend to subscribe to the theory that people are going to do what they want to do, so there’s really nothing I can do to change their mind. All I can hope is that when people read my work, have a conversation with me, or listen to my side of the argument that they understand that the things I do and say are genuine.I hate debates (it’s why I loathe politics) and arguments, and so I prefer bloggers who look to foster a dialogue on their blogs instead of merely being antagonistic all of the time in order to increase hits and comments from angry anonymous visitors. I hope my blog is a place like that, and it’s what I try to make sure happens when there are people who comment on something I write.
I also want to make it clear that I like disagreement. I don’t write things just so people will leave comments to tell me how right I am and how much they agree with me. I enjoy a good discussion about the different merits of a film…it’s why I was so glad to write that Miami Vice piece for you guys. I think too many people simply look for comments of affirmation; I want people to tell me when they think I’m wrong, and then we can have a conversation about it. I did have someone disagree with something I said about the movie Dark City, and it was funny to see you, Sam, and J.D. of Radiator Heaven and others immediately jump to my defense. I was honored, but I was more than willing to flip that commentators remarks back on them and give them additional context and reasoning for why I wrote what I wrote. I wanted to have conversation, and as flattering as it was for you guys to stick up for me, I didn’t want that thread to feel like a place where a person couldn’t voice their opinion. Anyway, I just want people to feel like they can discuss anything on my blog without fear of being ridiculed.
TO: I’m just non-confrontational by nature and I certainly NEVER take myself too seriously, a trait that can make you lots of friends in the online world where everything has to be conveyed via written word without the help of facial expressions and body language. I’m not beyond making a sarcastic remark, but I try to not be demeaning of someone’s opinion just for the sake of being so. If I disagree with their criticism, I’ll point it out, but I’ll never tell someone who seems to have thoughtfully put their opinions out there for everyone to read that they are stupid (even if I think they are). As Kevin mentioned, disagreement is fine, but there’s no point in being openly antagonistic over it.
17. How often do either of you get to the movie theatres, and generally how many movies do you watch a week?
KO: I go to the theater maybe once every two or three months. I watch a movie once every two or three days. During the end-of-the-year onslaught of films being released, I may go to the theater more often or watch multiple movies a day, especially if I’m on Winter Break from work.
TO: Since Madelyn came home (last May), Tricia and I have been to the theater once (True Grit) and I went with Kevin and some other friends to see Black Swan. Which, now that I think about it, is pretty much in-line with how many times I’ve gone to in years past as well. We actually have a 110” projection screen in our basement which I much prefer to watch movies on, instead of paying money to go to the theater.
18. Have you always resides in your present Oregon town, and how far are you away from each other?
KO: Yes, I have always lived in or around the capitol city Salem.
TO: Salem for life. We live about 3 miles away from each other.
19. While blogging can often be a drag, what do see most worthwhile in it?
KO: Everyone in the blogging community. It’s why even if I quit blogging tomorrow, I could still hang around and comment on others’ sites and still feel like I’m a part of the community.
TO: In addition to the community, which it’s certainly fun to be a part of, I always get satisfaction when I write a post and, I have to confess, a small bit of an ego boost from people actually reading it. Quite simply, I do this blogging thing for myself and wouldn’t waste my time with it if it was a drag :)
20. How long does it generally take each of you to write a full film review? Do you take notes while watching the films?
KO: It depends. Most reviews take me an hour or so to write (for example, if I have just come from the theater I can usually type out a review pretty quickly); however, if I want to make sure something is really good, I will make sure to write it (this could take 3-4 hours) and then return to it the next day and continue to edit it. Things like my horror reviews and my capsule reviews take me no more than two hours to write.
TO: I was convinced I took longer to write a post than anyone, but Kevin’s numbers don’t make me feel so bad about my slowness. I’d tack on an hour or two to Kevin’s numbers and you’d arrive at how long I take.
21. Other hobbies? Any other interests that may lead to writing (about them)?
KO: I like books and sports. I love playing basketball. I like hiking when it’s nice outside (that only occurs for a few months here in Oregon). I really love my job, and a lot of my energy is spent on that, especially considering the type of students I deal with. A lot of my work is more social worker than teacher, and that can take a lot of your time and energy. But I love it; it is indeed a hobby of mine. If I didn’t love my job and love working with the kids I work with, I would just go teach Literature classes at a college somewhere and take it easy. I don’t plan on ever writing about those things (although, I used to have a pop culture blog, but it became a drag to maintain), but I do hope to one day write a book on literacy and reading strategies (both print and media) for at-risk high school students.
TO: I’ve tried my best to write about the hobbies I have. There’s the blog about my family life and travels, both of which I have fun writing about. Then there’s the mostly defunct board game blog, which I did enjoy writing about when my friends and I actually had time to play them. I’ve written about my marathon runs. I’ve written about the sports teams I follow. I wrote about comic books here and there when I actually stayed current on them. I’ve even spent a few minutes blogging about my guilty pleasure, pro wrestling (and I’d probably write more about some classic era stuff if I thought anyone would care). I guess the only hobby I haven’t taken the time to write about is the arcade machine I’ve built over the last several years.
22. To Troy: How has life been different now that Madelyn is part of your household?
Well, the biggest change, as a lot of my responses attest to, is just the lack of time to do all the things I had so much time to do pre-Madelyn. But honestly, even if I’m jealous of that lost time every now and again, the end result is so worth it. And honestly, she’s really easy on us — not many tantrums or whining, so 90% of the time we get to spend with her is “fun time”, actively doing things. She’s does her best to make our lives really, really easy and we appreciate that :)
Lucky for me, Madelyn likes to watch movies I like (I should make it clear, in case Tricia reads this, that it’s me that encourages the TV and movie watching and Tricia that encourages the reading and learning!). For instance, we’ve watched Wall-E and 2001 (it started because she saw a “baby” on the cover and wanted to watch, then she liked the monkeys, and then she was just in awe of the space ships and colors) and she’ll gladly sit down and watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 with me (she especially liked their version of Earth vs. The Spider and for the next week talked about the “big spider”). On the other hand, she also likes plenty of CDs, DVDs, and TV shows that have kids music in them, but getting her to sing and dance along with me and generally act all goofy is typically worth the trouble of having “Wheels On The Bus” constantly running through my head while I’m trying to fall asleep :P
Other differences – can’t leave knives out, can’t fit as much in the car due to the car seat, can’t turn your head while she’s out in the driveway lest she run into the street. Pretty much, for the first time in my life, I’ve had to learn to be responsible!
23. Any directors being considered for future blogging prospects?
KO: As I previously mentioned, I will probably look to start writing about Takeshi Kitano’s films. I also have plans on covering the films of William Friedkin and Sydney Pollack with my next two retrospectives.
TO: Talk to me in a year or two after I finish up Bresson and Powell/Pressburger.
24. Other than horror what are other genres you like most?
KO: I love a good biopic. Aside from that subgenre, I would have to say I enjoy dramas in the style of Boogie Nights and Goodfellas (a type of biopic, I suppose). I also have a great affinity for the Western and crime films from Italy and Japan.
TO: I’d go with Westerns. I’d love to take the time to watch a swathe of them, like I did with horror movies before the top 100 countdown, as there are still so many of them I haven’t seen.
25,. To Kevin: You have always been a voracious reader. What books have always impressed you the most and how have these experiences affected and influenced your writing?
I primarily studied British postmodern literature (1980-present) in college, so I am drawn towards irreverent pastiche novels. I love the work of Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children is the greatest book I’ve ever read), Martin Amis, J.M. Coetzee, Jeanette Winterson, and Ian McEwan. I also love Cormac McCarthy and T.C. Boyle’s work. On a more transcendentalist note, I love the work of Whitman, Emerson, and Thoreau. Rick Bass is also quite good; in fact, he’s almost like a modern Thoreau if Thoreau wrote short stories. On a more spititual note, I love eastern philosophy (Taoism probably has a lot to do with my even-tempered attitude you describe in question 16) and the works (musings and poetry) of Thomas Merton. I suppose those authors haven’t really influenced my writing…I just really like their style and the themes they touch on in their work, but they have influenced my philosophies and how I view life (and I suppose they say something about my aesthetic tastes).
As far as film criticism that has influenced me, the obvious answer is Roger Ebert. I used to read his books as a kid non-stop, circling every movie I wanted to see. I try to fashion my review template after Ebert’s…an easy-to-follow and easy-to-read format that hopefully makes the reader want to see the movie.
In my more in-depth pieces, I try to remember the philosophy of Ian McEwan’s work: here is an author who is brilliant on one level (everyone and their grandmother can enjoy something like Atonement) and popular with masses, and his books can also be studied and deconstructed on a whole other academic level. He’s quite amazing in that regard. He basically writes for every possible person who might be picking up his book. I try to remember that when I write about horror movies, say, because not everyone is as into them as I am, but I want to make sure to
completely dumb it down, either, so constantly thinking about those multiple levels in which something can be enjoyed. I think those are my favorite types of films, too.