Joe Bowman

Fin de Cinema

By FilmInFocus | October 28, 2009
Joe Bowman - LEADPHOTO

The Saint Louis-based film blogger tells us about Fin de Cinema, his site which gives the last word on movies.

Tell us about your blog.

My blog is called Fin de Cinema, named after the closing text of Godard’s Weekend. I wish I could say I’d always had that particular title in mind, but it was just serendipitous timing that I decided to start blogging the day after showing my friend Weekend for the first time. The blog covers most things related to the art of cinema, from simple “reviews” and analyses to DVD release updates and the occasional list (something I hate and love in equal parts). Being a Francophile (typical, no?) comes out quite a bit, as does my own attempts at defining and exploring contemporary queer cinema.

How would you describe your readers? Do you have much contact with the people who read you?

That’s hard to say. With any specific genre of blogging, I’d imagine a lot of the site traffic comes from other bloggers with shared interests. I try to respond to most of the comments on my blog, whether they come in forms of praise or disdain (one of my very first comments read, “I derive great pleasure from knowing that no one with a measurable IQ would ever take you seriously as a film critic. You are a fool among fools.”). Since that initial bout of encouragement, I don’t get “trolled” very often, which may or may not be a good thing. I usually refrain from discussing my blog with friends, so it’s always a nice surprise when one of them mentions that they’d read and appreciated something I’d written.

Tell us how – and why – you started your blog.

The thought of blogging never really crossed my mind until a friend I respect immensely started one up. I was nearly at the end of my undergraduate studies in film and took the initiative to keep myself writing about film outside of class assignments. As with any project I’ve started on the blog or otherwise, my aspirations always surmount the reality of the endeavor, so several plans I’ve had for weekly features and such have been aborted throughout the years. I like to think most film bloggers started out with the notion that they’d write about every film they watched; most of us quickly realize it’s a near impossible task, and even if someone’s that dedicated, spurting out knee-jerk reactions to every film you see is seldom enlightening.

Describe your blog day – do you work at home? Go to a café? Sit in an office?

Most of my blogging is done at home. On occasion, I do the coffee house thing, usually on days where I can’t stand the sight of my walls. Coffee houses provide mixed results. I never know whether I’ll be distracted or inspired by the people around me. Though I’m aware some people simply can’t tolerate it, I usually listen to music while I’m writing, which typically helps get a rhythm started, on the condition that I can find the appropriate soundtrack to my work day, which isn’t always easy.

How do you find things to blog about and how do you decide that an entry is worth being in your blog?

I do plenty of scavenging, but the beauty of having your own blog is posting whatever strikes you as something that’s worth mentioning. I try to find things that you can’t find just anywhere. Recently a blog I posted about the “cancellation” of Catherine Breillat’s planned English-language adaptation of her novel Bad Love, which was slated to star model Naomi Campbell and infamous con man Christophe Rocancourt (who swindled Breillat out of a large sum of cash, leading to the project being scrapped), got a lot of attention because only French-language sites were reporting on it. Basically, if I find something that gets me excited, it’s worth blogging about.

Fin de Cinema

Fin de Cinema

What is your favorite blog entry?

One entry I end up referring back to quite a bit was one I titled “Cliquot”. As you can see from the link, I had another title I wasn’t happy with, so I settled on simply the name of the song I was listening to at the time (by Beirut). It’s not the most academic piece of writing, but in it, I tried to dissect my intense, personal reactions to three films I saw within the span of a week, Olivier Assayas’ Boarding Gate, Bruce LaBruce’s Otto; or Up with Dead People and Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park.  It’s strange that I hold that particular entry in such high regard, because I reveal a lot (maybe, too much?) about myself in it, something that usually irritates me in other people’s writing. I suppose I just like the way I can visualize the exact frame of mind I was in while writing it. Some of the most compelling bits of writing I’ve run across address films (or music, literature, etc.) on a very subjective level. As long as that isn’t the writer’s standard, that approach can provide some fascinating results. I also had a lot of fun writing about Showgirls a few years back.

What was your most popular/controversial blog entry?

The blog posts that get the most hits on my site always tend to be ones where I don’t say much, as discouraging as that sounds. This year, I tried to find as many posters as I could for the films screening at this year’s Cannes, Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, something that sounds a lot easier than it actually is. Those entries, which are almost entirely visual, have directed the most attention to my blog, which is great considering the amount of time spent finding those posters. On the other hand, it’s a lot more satisfying getting feedback on an entry in which time was spent more on thought than on research. The most popular entry on the “thought” level was when I participated in the Queer Film Blog-a-thon with a post titled, “Eat Me Out; or How Did New Queer Cinema Die?” That piece actually served as a jumping off point for my undergraduate thesis. As for controversial, I sadly haven’t really shaken people up as much as I would have liked, at least that I know of. I wrote a rather scathing response to the film Broken Sky by Julián Hernández, which pissed a couple of people off.

Is blogging the new path to fame and fortune?

If it is, I have yet to uncover the secret to obtaining either.

What separates journalism from blogging?

This is a really thorny question, and one I’m not really equipped to answer. In today’s media, I’m not even sure what the term “journalism” means. But what separates a “film critic” from a “film blogger?” Often, it is talent, taste and education over abundant free time, access to a computer and an obsession with The Dark Knight, but I’m sure we all can think of plenty examples where it’s a simple divide between being paid and not.

Who are the bloggers that you read religiously?

For film, though some have been taking time off lately: Andrew Grant, Glenn Kenny, Vadim Rizov, Karina Longworth, Daniel Kasman and everyone else at The Auteurs’ Notebook, Girish Shambu, Mark Adnum, James Hansen, Aaron Hillis, Eric Dienstfrey, Bradford Nordeen, Ed Howard, Mubarak Ali, Andrew Horbal and plenty of the usual film writers who would probably scoff at being referred to as a “blogger.” As for film links in general, I always resort to David Hudson at The Auteurs’ Daily and Catherine Grant at Film Studies for Free.

For general amusement in cross-media blogging: Michael K at Dlisted, Rich Juzwiak at FourFour, Stephen Scott Smith’s blog and the Butt Magazine blog.

How has your life changed because of your blog? Has it gone in any new directions because of your newfound prominence?

Prominence is a maybe too strong of a strong word, but having the blog has definitely lead me in directions I wouldn’t have been headed otherwise. Because of the blog, I’ve met some amazing, like-minded people, though mainly through e-mail and the various social networking sites. I don’t know that much else has changed that wouldn’t have anyway.

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