Saturday, November 15, 2014


Ten years ago today I posted for the very first time on this blog, an act which would, without getting too unreasonably bombastic about it, change my life in a lot of ways. I began blogging as an act of personal fulfillment, an outlet that signified trying to put something of myself out into the world, while at the same time having no reasonable expectation that anyone would care enough to read what I wrote or respond to it.

Strangely, at just around this same time, several people with whom I would become well-acquainted, were embarking upon adventures in what would soon be known (before it would also soon somewhat derisively become known) as the blogosphere, folks like Matt Zoller Seitz (The House Next Door), Farran Smith Nehme (Self-Styled Siren), Sheila O’Malley (The Sheila Chronicles), Larry Aydlette (That Little Round-headed Boy), Brian Darr (Hell On Frisco Bay) and, perhaps most importantly for me, Jim Emerson (Scanners). These were writers who became friends, whose comments sections were wonderful places where ideas, affinities, dissatisfactions and thoughts of the future of Internet film criticism, were exchanged. And I, along with SLIFR, soon became part of that community, thanks to the generous encouragement of Jim, Peet Gelderblom, Girish Shambu and a host of others whose names, after 10 years, don’t bubble to the surface as quickly as they should.

Not too long ago Larry, a man I’ve never met whom I also consider a good friend—such is the blogosphere—said that he thought that those years between 2004 and, say, 2008, of writing for ourselves and delighting in the connections made not through conscious networking but by what seemed more like natural selection, or perhaps just 100% pure happenstance, were the film blogging equivalent of the Roaring ‘20s. And that feels to me about as accurate a description as I’ve ever heard. Because in the days before Facebook eclipsed the moderated interactivity of the blog comments column, finding voices worth following, reading what they had to say, and then joining in the sometimes heated but usually civil discussion that would usually follow, well, there was an electricity about all that. Pressing “send” on a post you’d written was an act of faith, an attempt to truly connect, not necessarily with those who would always come to the same conclusion that you might, but with individuals who could be counted on for their passion, their seriousness (which, by the way, does not preclude a sense of humor), their dedication to movies and other arts, and how knowledge of each could cheerfully feed the other.

There was also a sort of giddiness to the notion of sending one’s words out into the ether unedited, or more accurately not being mandatorily subject to the objective eyes of an editor other than oneself, that was, at least among the writers cited above, accompanied by a sense of responsibility to provide posts, thoughts, essays, reviews—for lack of a better word, content-- that was worthy of a reader’s time. Because it certainly wasn’t a requirement that anyone actually pay to read what I and others were offering on our blogs during those heady days. There was a lot of talk, and not entirely just among ourselves, about being involved in an important moment in the evolution of film criticism. Manohla Dargis even alluded to it in an article which I linked to in one of my earliest SLIFR posts, one which ruminated upon 21st-century cinephilia. Film blogging was indeed something of, if not a revolutionary act, then certainly one that took advantage of the democratization of technology to get words and ideas to an ideal, sympathetic audience.
Of course that’s a double-edged sword if there ever was one. Finding voices like those belonging to the above-cited writers, or emerging bloggers like Ali Arikan, Kevin Olson, Greg Ferrara, Bill Ryan, Stacie Ponder and countless others was often a pleasant byproduct of sites like Matt’s, which soon became a gathering place for some of the best, brightest and most contentious young film writers; or comments columns like Farran’s or Jim’s, where writers and film buffs I had never been exposed to would routinely link to their own blogs and continue the discussion. But, technological democratization being what it is, one also had to sift through a lot of crap floating on the surface, a cacophony of alleged film “writing” which merely regurgitated lists and numbers and bite-sized bits of banality dedicated to an never-too-expansive list of fanboy-friendly titles.

And somehow nobody had the foresight to anticipate how all this writing-- the good, the bad and the genuinely shitty—suddenly made available to anyone at any time, would dilute the value of the pool within which professional writers, hereby defined as those who are paid by newspapers and magazine, which also paid editors, once swam. Some of us were too giddy at the thought of being on the cusp of the evolution of a new sort of film writing establishment to consider that we might end up helping erode away the presence of those paid jobs to the point where making a living as a film critic in 2014 is something that few can still do, and even fewer would now ever harbor illusions of attempting.
I still think about these things. But I also think about how my life appreciably changed, and for the better, because the associations and achievements that were made available and possible to me through my establishment of this blog. Again, I’m certainly not talking about money. Over the course of my 10 years as proprietor of this site, having established a tiny little corner of the Web from which to operate and develop something that sounds like my own voice as a writer, I can think of one instance where I was paid to write a piece. I made $500 for it, and it was a proud moment. But even in that particular afterglow I knew this would likely be the exception and not the rule. I could probably have pursued more freelance opportunities, but my energies always seemed to be pulling me elsewhere, and frankly, even in 2004 but certainly now, beating down doors for freelance work always seemed like work for a much younger person than me.

No, when I think about the true value of this blog in my life, I think about the people I know now, and perhaps even more interactively through the extended family of Facebook, who I first met because of the happenstance of my writing. (Take a deep breath.) People like...
Simon Abrams, Kent Adamson, Jeff Allard, Allison Anders, Aaron Aradillas, Peter Avellino, Sean Axmaker, Larry Aydlette, Howard S. Berger, Robert Beveridge, , Tom Block, Paul Brunick, Steve Carlson, , David Chute, Paul Clark, Doug Cummings, John Damer, Joe Dante, Brian Darr, Brian Doan, Bilge Ebiri, David Edelstein, Jim Emerson, Greg Ferrara, Paul Gaita, Peet Gelderblom, Ed Gonzalez, Jim Gibson, David Hudson, Robert Humanick, Odie Henderson, Richard T. Jameson, Larry Karaszewski, Craig Kennedy,  Matthew Kiernan, Charlie Largent, Craig D. Lindsey, Violet Lucca, Don Mancini, Nicholas McCarthy, Maria McKee, Kim Morgan, Farran Smith Nehme, Peter Nellhaus, Andrew O’Hehir, Sheila O’Malley, Craig Phillips, Anne Richardson, Carrie Rickey, Patrick Robbins, Bill Ryan, Matt Zoller Seitz, Ariel Schudson, Michael Schlesinger, Chris Schneider, A.O. Scott, Girish Shambu, Dave Sikula, Craig Simpson, Richard Harland Smith, Paul Talbot, Charles Taylor, Anne Thompson, Michael Torgan, Keith Uhlich, Mike Werb, Bob Westal, Matthew Wilder, Chris Willman, Ray Young, Stephanie Zacharek, Adam Zanzie and probably a hundred or so others.
And this is to not include all the wonderful and creative people those above and the hundred or so others ended up introducing me to. I haven’t meant this as some sort of epic name-dropping situation—I am truly grateful to everyone mentioned above (and the hundred or so others who weren’t) for every moment of friendship and challenge and joy and creative inspiration you’ve afforded me over the past 10 years, all of which I would have missed without you.

I don’t know what the future holds for Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. If you’ve read this site for any length of time over the past 10 years, you will have noticed that I am no longer as prolific as I was for the first five or so years. I am not an old man yet, but I am considerably older than when I started, a time in my life which was defined, even more than it was by my little writing endeavor, by learning to be a father, going back to school, and juggling all that with a schedule of day-job paying work which often bleeds into the nighttime, midnight hours in which during the past I would have been writing. In those days I often would stay up until 4:00, sometimes 5:00 a.m., to get a piece written and edited for the blog. Then off to bed for a couple hours of sleep before dragging my ass out of bed to get kids ready for school and to go to the office, propping my head up at my desk and trying not to let my dedication to movies interfere with my dedication to breadwinning. Sometime around 2007, when I added in my pursuit of a master’s degree in education to the mix, the camel’s back began to buckle, and since then my output has been far less frequent (but hopefully no less intelligent) than it was during the “Roaring ‘20s.”  

I’ve come to look upon what I post on SLIFR these days as far less filler-driven than it has been in the past. If it makes it to my blog, one thing is practically guaranteed—I feel strongly enough about it to take what dwindling time I have to myself to address an audience that has most certainly dwindled as well. I’m just not allowing myself to feel guilty when I go for extended periods without posting. I look at the blog these days as a magazine that can’t afford to publish more than two or three pieces a month, with varying degrees of consistency. But it’s a magazine that’s still there, and those who are disposed to seek it out, my ideal audience of sympathetic film buffs, will know where to find it. Just like the early days, my expectations are considerably lower in terms of an audience. But I have every confidence that, however few or many I reach in 2014, those I’m able to reach will be exactly the audience I’ve always hoped to engage.

So I suspect that, as tired as I often feel these days, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule will continue for the foreseeable future. As I approached this anniversary I couldn’t tell even myself whether or not that would hold true. But truth be told, as much as Facebook has usurped the immediate interactivity that used to be the domain of the blog, I remain addicted to having a place like SLIFR solely dedicated to expression of my thoughts on movies and whatever else in life that might be related to them. Facebook, in some ways, has helped make SLIFR a less cluttered place for the good—it often serves as a platform to try out ideas and notions that may or may not be good enough to fashion into full-fledged posts. (I posted something today, as a matter of fact, that began as a throwaway Facebook status update.) It has also helped me train myself to be a little less logorrheic and allow myself the pleasure of a cleanly worded 600-word review, without the nagging impulse to go on and on and on—the post you’re now reading, if you still are, and God bless you if you are, being an obvious exception.
In addition to this elongated state of the blog address, as a way of marking the 10th anniversary I began looking at some of my very first posts, from November-December 2014 and January 2005, and decided that linking to them here might be amusing—probably the highest quality to which this blogmeister has ever really aspired. It’s a strange and difficult thing to do without some level of embarrassment—some of the things I’ve learned since I started SLIFR are clearly not on display in these posts. But I offer them to you here in lieu of champagne as a way to toast the 10 years I’ve spent here in your company and once again express my gratitude at your fortitude in sticking with me and my rambling messages of cinematic hope, encouragement and occasional disappointment. Fair warning: I may not be able, in the coming weeks, to restrain myself from linking to more of these bloggy bonbons. But for now, take these as you will, along with my thanks, for coming along with me this far.

PLEASURES WORTHY OF GUILT (11/15/04) My very first post, which was reposted on Peet Gelderblom’s 24 Lies A Second site, and then amended years later with a necessary (I think) postscript and reposted at The House Next Door. 

MOVIE OF THE MOMENT: THE INCREDIBLES Not quite a review; more a recommendation. It’s more worthwhile to me now as a memento of the first movie I ever took my second daughter, Nonie, to see. 

UNSUNG PERFORMANCES: SHAWNEE SMITH IN SAW  The first time I ever really took a swing at a piece of acting.  

THANKSGIVING 2004 Worth remembering what I was grateful for at the time, much of which I remain grateful for today. 
I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD The first real review I ever published on SLIFR, as well as what ended up being a sort of manifesto for me during the first five or six years of writing this blog.

ON BARBET SCHRODER'S MORE  I guess I wasn’t too impressed…

THOUGHTS ON CHRISTMAS EVE 2004 My very own 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
Review of the remake of FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX  I was still finding my feet here, but it’s not as excruciating to read as I thought it might be.
FRUSTRATED FILMGOERS 101 Looks an awful lot like the earliest seeds of the SLIFR Quiz to me… 

A New Year's Eve Consideration of THE THING WITH TWO HEADS

CHEER AND LOAFING IN EL SOBRANTE  My first reeeeaaaaaaally long, first-person essay which incorporated reviews of movies. The accounts of nights at the drive-in I would write later can be traced back to this one. And again, my thanks to anyone who made it through this piece!

IN PRAISE OF ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY and other thoughts on what makes me laugh.



Adam Ross said...


Wow, has it been that long? The first blog I ever visited was yours sometime in 2005, after Googling for information about drive-ins. I read several of your posts and then found my way to Kim Morgan's blog and did the same. Eventually it led me to start my own blog about 6 months later.

Reading this post brought back a lot of memories, and it reminded me of how many of my favorite movies I watched due to the recommendations of you or many of the other bloggers you mentioned. 2006-2008 really was a special time, and even though I've posted sparingly (if at all) since then, the online friendships, and movie knowledge I gained in that time still resonate brightly with me. Just yesterday I flipped on THIEVES LIKE US on MGM HD and remembered the post you wrote for Jim Emerson's series on opening shots, and how that made want to watch it, and it led to me seeing many more Altman movies.

Thanks for all the great reading, and here's the to next 10 years!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Thanks so much, Adam, sincerely. I am forever grateful that you found your way here. When I started looking through the very first posts and had to stop for fear of falling down a rabbit hole I might not ever crawl out of. But it was a relief to find out that a goodly percentage of them did not cause me nauseous embarrassment! I really appreciate your hanging in there with me as I found my way, and I am grateful too that you and I and so many others managed to find good writing all over the place thanks to the blogosphere over the last 10 years.

Greg F. said...

I suspended, and hid, all comments at Cinema Styles after closing shop a few months back so you'll just have to trust me that you were, indeed, my first commenter ever. Always happy that, er, you were my first. I also met Bill here, thanks to you. Or, no thanks, depending on how you look at it.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Dennis. You're a good man, a great blogger, and time-tested friend.

Groggy Dundee said...

Wow, ten years! Congratulations on a great achievement. I enjoy reading your blog whenever I get a chance.

Dave said...

Stunned and honored to be mentioned in such distinguished company.

See you in March!

Kevin J. Olson said...

Dennis, I think you made a mistake listing my name next Ali, Greg, Bill, and Stacie.

You're blog continues to be one of my favorite stops (even if it's looking at old posts), especially during the time I was starting to get in to this blogging thing in 2008. I learned so much from your blog, and I modeled a lot of what I did (often failing to emulate) on my blog off of what you were doing here. Your blog (along with Jim Emerson's and Ali's) was one of the first to really get me excited about giving it a shot even though I knew I was way out of my league.

I remember how giddy I was when you agreed to participate in the first Italian Horror Blog-a-thon. I couldn't believe a writer of your caliber that was a regular on such sites as Scanners and The House Next Door (hosted by two critics I admire the hell out of) was willing to not only plug my humble little project, but actually contribute a piece for it. And (as weird as this sounds) it's almost as if you legitimized it by writing a piece for the blog-a-thon. Basically, it let me know that, warts and all, my blog was worth keeping around because people I admired were actually looking at it and supportive of what I was doing.

And that's what I've always appreciated most about this blog and about you: the kindness. This was always a great stop where real discussion could take place without fear of feeling out of place due to not knowing as much as others.

Oh, and how I love those quizzes. Sheesh. I can't even imagine all of the work and effort that goes into those, but I sure do appreciate 'em. Even though I may not have participated in all of them, I always refreshing the comments page with anticipation for each new group of answers.

Anyway, happy 10th birthday, SLIFR! Thanks for all the great content, the inspiration (your blog title convinced me I needed a long, esoteric title, too!), and for just being an overall great guy.

Kent Adamson said...

Hi Dennis! Thank you and most heartfelt congratulations on ten years of wonderful and insightful writing! May your passions burn brightly for many years to come! Cheers to the 21st Century, a fascinating and revolutionary time,"Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo."!!!

Bob Westal said...

Meanwhile, I'm still not sure what the in-field fly rule is!

Brian Darr said...

Dennis, what a terrific post. It's a wonderful history not only of your own blog, but of a certain moment in time for a lot of relatively-early adopters of what we never at the time thought of, but should probably now be seen as, an early, less streamlined (for good and ill) version of "social media". The connections made through blogging were extremely valuable and nurturing, and remain so even though they've morphed considerably in this era of likes and favs and not-enough-time-to-leave-comments. Morphing will continue but I'm confident friendships will remain and be built upon (and one of these days I'm gonna answer your quizzes again, which I used to enjoy so much!) It's high time for me to make another visit to your neck of the state...

Congratulations on ten amazing years!

Harry44 said...

Congratulations Dennis! I first came across SLIFR during the unemployed years and really spent hours reading the blog upon discovering it. I love your writing about movies and your personal family touches to it as well. Also, I must thank you for introducing me to the greatness of Freebie and the Bean. Keep writing and we will keep reading!