By Way of Introduction (For Some, A Recap...)

As one of my major interests in film criticism is in the influence life experience plays on personal opinion and how knowledge of that experience by others further influences their opinion of your opinion, and as I have recently plunged headlong into the network of movie fanatics on Spout without so much as a "howdy-do," and as it is too frickin' hot to really write today, I have decided to do just that: introduce myself in a somewhat formal fashion. In the interests of my personal national security, it shall be first and middle name only, no rank, no serial number, and will consist of only the truths I feel comfortable divulging. Those of you who have read The Cinema 4 Pylon, or the Cinema 4: Cel Bloc or have known me for a quarter century may feel free to wander about and peruse the literature bins while I forge through this. Others, if we have not met, in much the same way that we should get to know people before forming friendships, I will inform you that I consider this to be an important point in my own process, and if you are interested in why this is, there are a number of posts on the Pylon wherein I elaborate on that "why." Perhaps someday I will post them on Spout, but for now, seek them out if you wish.

So, "Hello." The first name, obviously, is Rik; the middle, Tod. Lived in Anchorage, Alaska for the first four decades of my existence, and moved to So Cal three years ago. Have put on 25 pounds since I moved, but am now ensconced in an exercise regimen that should get me back down to my preferred fightin' weight of 180 in a couple of months (already partway there). Outside of being a marketing coordinator, I also write and edit for a soccer publication, despite having very little interest in soccer. (I am a baseball guy, after all -- Reds and Mariners -- for life) I have been with my girlfriend Jen for seven years, and while we both do things that drive each other a little crazy, we seem to have done away with the petty jealousies and flareups that destroy other relationships left and right, and which served to do in my own past marriage of eight years practically from Day Negative-One.

I refuse to define myself by a religious or political tag (as if those were the most important aspects of life), but those who insist on these matters generally consider me to be an atheist, and on the "yammering, yammering, getting nothing
really done" front (which I suppose might apply to religion, too, now that I think of it), many people have called me a social liberal, though one pal recently hit me with the label of "libertarian socialist." I'm not so sure about it, but at the very least, it appeals to me metronomically for the nonce. Nobody really knows what they are in life until their plane is going down anyway.

But, we are here because of the movies, and that information I am more than willing to share. My two earliest memories both involve steps: the first is stepping on a bee in Duluth, Minnesota (the only time I am aware of being stung in my life) at the age of two; the other is standing on the garishly carpeted steps leading up to the balcony of the Fourth Avenue Theatre, a grand old lady of a moviehouse that has since been raped and pillaged by Anchorage's ruling class to be turned into nothing more than a tourism center and a place where the elite can occasionally clink glasses together when patting themselves on the backs for their "good" works. Never mind that I saw The Jungle Book there at that tender age; never mind that it is also where I would later see Stop Making Sense, Ghostbusters and Escape From New York, amongst many others. Not too much later, my parents took me to Pinocchio, and while it shall remain in my Top Ten Films list forever, I was certainly far too young to see it, and it scarred (and scared) me immeasurably. Many of my earliest nightmares were brought about by that film, not least of which was my rising fear of water, thanks to Monstro the Whale. After that, an afternoon TV matinee of The Beast of Hollow Mountain at the age of six kick-started my love of, simultaneously, dinosaurs, special-effects films, monsters, horror and science-fiction. A trip to the Polar Theatre when I was 12 also got me going on a life-long obsession: we saw a double feature of Animal Crackers and a Ma and Pa Kettle movie, and I and my brothers have been steadfast Marxists ever since.

Growing up without cable or video (didn't know what either was until I was 15) didn't slow me down. From that point on, I devoured any film in any genre that was shown on television. With only four channels to choose from, pickings were slim, but I frighteningly good at locating an amazing array of films to study, jumping on Christmas showings of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin shorts, Errol Flynn films on Saturday afternoons, and Jerry Lewis films whenever I could get them. And then, on a breakthrough night in 1976, after coercing my father to drive me 40 miles there and back just to get baseball cards in Wasilla, I saw in a row the Sasquatch "documentary" The Mysterious Monsters on NBC, and then Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? on the local ABC affiliate (probably the most adult-themed movie I had seen at the point in my life; it stunned me...) and then saw my first Harryhausen film, The Valley of Gwangi at midnight. If there was a moment that truly turned me into a movie fan, it was that night. The following Saturday night, I saw The Birds for the first time, my first Hitchcock. I start keeping copious notes on the films I was seeing, as movie resources were almost nil back then, and then I dove into several local matinee and late-night horror and sci-fi packages, getting introduced to the "classics" at just the right time.

Speaking of "the right time," was it fate, divine providence or sheer luck that found me at the age of 14-15 when the first VCRs came out and cable hit town? I didn't know it then, but those were the Wild West days of home video, and I thrilled with every rental, even striking up friendships with the clerks and finding myself getting handed "private stock" material -- odd films, such as Evil Roy Slade and the like, most of them unavailable legally, but I refuse to call it the "black market," as I never once had to pay dime one for the use of these films. They were merely tapes that were handed back and forth between the video clerks throughout town, and I felt privileged to be considered one of their number, at least as a movie fan.

For those who are on Spout and see the Ruthian numbers racked up on my page -- 15,120 movies listed, 6,478 movies seen, etc. -- rest assured, those numbers will go up much higher, and yes, I have seen all those 6,478 movies and then some. The lists do not reflect this yet, but when I left Alaska, I had almost 5,000 movies in my collection (I traded most of the generic videos for credit before my move), and I have yet to update this aspect on Spout to its full compliment. Most amazing, I have had two whole years of my life where I purposefully set out to see 1,000 films over 365 days (averaging just under 3 films a day) and succeeded each time -- one year while I was married, and one year out of it. I also spent a seven month period seeing every single film released in Alaskan theatres in 1996, and only stopped because my involvement in a play made it impossible to continue the effort. I spend (or try to spend) every New Year's Day completely at a movie theatre, seeing four or five movies in a row; and try about once a month to spend a Saturday in this pursuit as well (such as I am doing tomorrow). To say at this point that I am truly movie mad would be pointless...

And yet, something changed since I moved. While I have always written quite a lot, it is only since hitting California that I have purposefully concentrated on writing as more than a hobby, but also as mental exercise and vocational possibility. And part of this exercise and purpose naturally had to involve writing about the movies -- they always say to write what you know -- but for those of you who have slogged through some of my "reviews" and said, "When is he actually going to review the movie?," here's the kicker: I am really not concerned about "thumbs up" or "thumbs down". Whether I liked the film or not is never the point; the question is why I did or didn't like the film, and what internal or external circumstances led me to each absolutely arguable conclusion. Yes, it's nice to get comments, and especially constructive criticism, but unless we are longtime BFFs, I am really not concerned with whether you agree with me. I write to discover and flesh out my own feelings about each film, and every post is a chronicle of my struggle to discern this feeling. I include very personal details sometimes for even the most superficial subjects; it would not be out of place for a Roger Corman badly-suited monster flick to reveal some deeply buried nugget regarding my ill-advised teenage struggle against my well-meaning father. It is personal journal disguised as film criticism, and some might find it outside of what they will accept as a film critique, and again, I really don't give a shit. I'm not in it to review movies; I'm in it to review myself.

So, Spouters and doubters, that's a start on me. How about the rest of you?


B-Train said…
I must admit I have gotten behind on reading ur page, and more behind on writing my own. I do miss 1996 when I could always count on Rik to call up and go to a movie and while we may have not always agreed on the quality of the film I always had a good damn time.

Miss ya brother... and that fine fox Jen too


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