When I first embarked on this blogging adventure in February of 2010, I'll admit I was a novice at it in more ways than one. Learning to let my freak flag fly, for one thing, figuring out how to stand toe to toe with (and sometimes head and shoulders above) the millions of other movie blogs out there, by offering up a different spin on the basics of filmcraft - technique, trivia, retrospectives, reviews - than you're probably used to. Or struggling to stay relevant, by paying respect to the films of the present (which, let's be honest, is all people really want to hear about) and also to the films of the past (which, let's face it, is where all modern motion pictures get their ideas). Also learning that you can't be everything to everyone all of the time; sure, people love their Comic Book Movies and their MacGuffin With Egg, but try blogging a quiz or two (or three, or eight), and readers will have nothing to do with it. (It took me too long, perhaps, to realize that once one person responds with the answers, it's pretty much pointless for everyone else.)
Still, the thing that's disappointed me the most is that I haven't been able to build up an audience to the degree I'd initially hoped for. I have my core readership, of course, to whom I'm eternally grateful. Ultimately, though, the responsibility of bringing traffic to the site rests entirely on me, and only me, and I've been slow in making that happen. Never one to toot my own horn, I was uncomfortable at first posting updates to Facebook, or anywhere else for that matter, expecting, I guess, to succeed on the strength of my words alone. But it takes a certain amount of shameless self-promotion to make it anywhere in this world, a fact I've only started warming up to, and now that I've started posting to Twitter and Medium.com, we'll see what that does for the site. (Special thanks to Ether Ling for crafting a marketing plan to help bolster the blog.)
Part of the fun about blogging, particularly for a narcissistic perfectionist such as myself, is that I'm able read past posts and edit them as I see fit: a spelling correction here, a redundancy there, a grammatical error or forgotten factoid there. (By the time you read this sentence, I'll have gone back and re-edited it 4-7 times.) This may not be the most honest way of representing myself, but whatever; generations from now, people will read FTWW and marvel at just how streamlined and articulated it actually is. That's the dream, anyway.
Pictures, too, have been getting an upgrade. The reasons for this are twofold: One, because when I first started the blog, I uploaded all my screencaps in JPEG format, which has a nasty habit of degrading in quality over time. This is especially true if the images are cropped or edited - the compression rate for JPEG is so high that bits of "data" are lost each time the file is saved, like making a copy of a copy of a copy. So a photo that initially looks like this...
...will eventually look like this:
Was anyone else aware of this? I may not be the most tech savvy person in the world, but I have to say even this important fact took me by surprise. To the untrained eye, of course, the difference may be negligible. Try posting this same photo to a site like Medium, however, which allows for much larger image space than Blogger currently does, and the difference can be downright embarrassing. Needless to say I've been updating random posts throughout the site, this time in lossless PNG format, and will continue to do so as the moment strikes me.
My second reason for upgrading FTWW's photo cache is more of a personal one, and it feels hypocritical that I've been ignoring it for so long. Allow me to explain. Even at an early age I was well aware of widescreen aspect ratios - how, for instance, a rectangular image in the theater didn't fit too well on a square television at home. On plain old pan & scan VHS, that meant up to half a film's image could be missing at any given moment, taking the artistry right out of the thing. (By now you're probably well-versed in the whole widescreen versus pan & scan debate. If not, you can check out this link here.) So when movie studios finally started embracing the letterbox format (on videotape, then later on DVD and Blu ray; laserdisc was always too rich for my blood), I made it my mission to point out the difference to everyone who would listen - trying to explain that those pesky black bars at the top and bottom of the screen gave you more of the picture, not less. Just as the filmmakers intended.
Why, then, would I intentionally crop my photos for the blog? Had I retained nothing from my formative film-going years? What was the point in defending my beloved letterboxing if I turned around and presented you with images altered from their original format? Even from the beginning I was doing this. Consider March 2010's post on Spike Jonze's live-action Where The Wild Things Are, a movie I still feel is better to look at than to actually listen to. The film's Academy ratio is actually fairly wide, at 2.40:1, like this:
For the initial post, though, I cropped the image down to this, presumably so I could bring Max and his buddy Carol front and center:
Not much of a difference, you might think, since the area I discarded is basically empty space to begin with. The image in its entirety says a lot about the alienation of the characters, however, isolated from everything and everyone (at least that's what I think it says; the movie is plagued with so many Meaningful Silences my mind has a tendency to wander), and lopping the information off the sides eliminates all integrity of the shot. Somehow I doubt even Maurice Sendak would approve.
Granted, not all films are shot so equally wide. The Batman films of the 90s, for example, shot in a "matted" 1.85:1 ratio:
Cropping this same image for the blog, the difference, again, is somewhat negligible:
Still, professional courtesy dictates that I stay true to the filmmakers' original vision. Call it busy work or just plain obsessiveness, my aim is to make FTWW as uniform as possible, and to provide you guys with the most comprehensive cinema-going experience you can possibly imagine.
As I continue to post to Twitter and Medium over the next year, figuring out simultaneously how to expand the blog and make it more accessible to non-readers, you can expect to see more consistency in terms of regular updates to the site. I think, as well, that my lackadaisical approach to blogging prevents people from checking back on a regular basis, so a weekly post every Friday, say, might help to remedy that in the long run. Also expect to see a continuation of series we've run in the past (i.e., more Franchise Face-Offs, Details You Probably Never Noticed, Unsung Heroes and the like) as well as some new ones I intend to introduce in the coming months, which I hope will lead to plenty of conversations about the nature of film and the many ways we take it for granted. We're quickly closing in on the 5th Anniversary of the site, with no signs of slowing down in the future, and I hope to see you back here, bringing your friends along with you, happy and hungry for more.
Until then, we'll see you around the blog-o-sphere!
Until then, we'll see you around the blog-o-sphere!