Saturday, April 25, 2009

Welcome to Far From Hollywood!

Welcome to Far From Hollywood, my site to showcase my views on films new and old and also my thoughts on cinematic trends, upcoming blockbusters and other musings.

As the title suggests, this blog is not written from the perspective of a Los Angeles insider. I reside in Detroit, which few would expect to be a movie mecca. However, Detroit is one of the film world's best-kept secrets; there's a wonderful film community here, some fantastic art theaters and--thanks to some great tax incentives--a growing base of fim productions.

A bit about me before we delve into this site and what you can expect from here. My name is Chris Williams. For nearly four years I was a writer at The Advisor and Source Newspapers, a weekly publication in Macomb County, MI. While my official job included beat reporting, my love for film and background in film studies allowed me the opportunity to be the film reviewer for the paper. I am a member of the Detroit Film Critics Society and, although I have moved on to another daily venture, I still review films for the paper on a freelance basis.

I love film. One of my first memories is of my parents, my baby brother and myself jammed into a car in a drive-thru watching "E.T." Growing up, film connected with me in a way that music and literature never did. Yes, I love a good album and a good book...but it was the way movies enveloped you and were able to transport you, touch you and make you think that appealed to me. When I was 13 my heart pounded and I ducked behind my chair as a Tyrannosaurus rampaged the screen in "Jurassic Park." When I was 19 I wept in a parking lot after watching "Saving Private Ryan." I've cheered as Will Smith blew up a flying saucer in "Independence Day" and fallen in love with Jesse and Celine in Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset." I've learned that life isn't about what you experience but what you do for others in films like "Groundhog Day," and "Ikiru" and I've had my own faith reaffirmed and challenged through Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire" and Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ." Just this week I had the opportunity to watch a documentary that had me alternating between screams of rage, tears of sorrow and intense admiration for one brave couple.

For most people, the film-going experience ends when the credits roll and the lights come up. They depart with their friends and, aside from quoting a funny line, don't often think much about what they've just spent two hours experiencing. I've never been that way. When I saw "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" as a child I couldn't stop telling my friends how great it was and trying to convince them to go see it with me for a fourth or fifth time. I'm not, by nature, a great conversationalist and often clam up on first meetings. But if the topic of film comes up I become an expert and guide, telling people what they should see and raving about how the cinematography, music, themes and acting affected me.

When talking about praise, CS Lewis said that it wasn't just a separate activity; praise was the consumation of an entire experience. One could go to the Grand Canyon and be awe-struck at its beauty; but the experience just wasn't the same without someone to share it with. Film is the same way for me, which may be the reason I am drawn to talking and writing about it. A great entertainment experience is like a roller coaster that you want to experience again with your friends. A great cinematic work of art is something you want to share with others because, if it touched you, then on some level you are making yourself vulnerable and sharing that part of yourself with others. Some do it with cds, others do it with books. For me, film has been the window into who I am. So I welcome you to this cinematic journey with me and I invite your comments, arguments and heated debates.

Later this weekend I hope to get up a few DVD reviews and a film review...there's a backlog of other things I've been watching and my hope is to write them up over the course of the week so we can get a good backlog of writings here before the summer movie season starts this coming Friday. But here's a look at some segments I hope to bring to this blog:

Film Reviews: This is actually pretty self-explanatory and will likely take up the most space on this blog. I don't get into celebrity gossip and I'm not really a fan of box office analysis or spoilers. This is a site to discuss film. My hope is to present these reviews with a strong journalistic style, different from much of what is out there on film sites. Those who have previously read my reviews on my Xanga blog or in the paper know that I have often employed a grading scale on films similar to what's used in "Entertainment Weekly." I have recently decided to retire that system; imposing a letter or star grade on a film talks down to readers and encourages them not to think or read but to jump to a quick review. More importantly, I have found over the years that a grading system is meaningless. There are well-made films that I have not enjoyed and poorly-made films that I have watched innumerable times. What does an "A" or "C" or "F" grade actually mean--is the film of poor quality? Did I just not like it? And any film lover can tell you that definitive views on film change over time--I've been chagrined about my "A" grades for "Superman Returns" and "300," which upon revisiting I've found to have seriously flaws. Likewise, there are films like "The Big Lebowski," which I initially hated and then, over repeated viewings, came to be cherished additions to my library. So no letter grades.

The Alphabet Project Those who have followed my Xanga or Facebook blogs know that I recently began a personal project to go through my DVD guide alphabetically. I'm not setting a time-line for this because there are also other movies I'm trying to watch and study. But when I have nothing else to watch my plan is to pull the next film from the shelf and watch that. Next up is "Batman Begins," which I hope to get to in the coming weeks. I hope to bring some of my other entries over to this site in the coming weeks, but for right now they can be read at

Chris's Catch-Ups My film experience didn't begin to expand until college, when I was introduced to documentaries, foreign films and some of the historic capstones of cinema. I'm still learning and re-visiting classics that I have been told are essential viewing for film lovers. There are directors I want to familiarize myself with and old films that I feel embarrassed for never having watched. As I watch and write about those, I will update them here. Coming this week I hope to add my thoughts on recent catch-ups, "The Apartment" and "Chinatown."

Monthly Movies In the past I've tried to write about a weekend's upcoming films or do summer/winter previews as a way to make people aware of what's coming out. What I've decided to do with this site is do a regular rundown of films opening up in a given month. Tomorrow, along with some reviews of "The Soloist" and some DVDs I've been watching I will do a May preview-which should get everyone geared up for the onslaught of summer films coming.

Chrisicisms This is the opinion piece of the site (although I guess reviews fall under that as well). If there's a cinematic trend or upcoming news that I have a strong opinion on then I will write a piece on that. My hope is to have one a week, and as the site develops I hope to put them on a given day of the week.

So welcome and enjoy your visit. I know there's not much up now but give it timea nd I think this will be a fun and engaging site for all.

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About Me

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30s, engaged and living in Motown. Wrestling with life, love, faith, art, film, culture and everything in between.