The Fear of a Ghost Planet Guide to Film: 2012 Edition is now available for purchase on the Amazon Kindle. It will be available on the Barnes and Noble Nook in due time. For 99 cents, you get all of my film reviews from the past two years, a slew of articles from the inception of this blog to my personal Best of 2012 list, and more. In keeping with the rest of the book being free to read on this blog, I am posting the introduction in this space. A great deal of thanks to Jason Teal of Heavy Feather Review for coding the book, and Alex Kittle of Film Forager for her tremendous cover.To purchase the book for the Kindle, click HERE.
My favorite experience at the movies took place during a film I still haven’t finished. It was 1997; I was nine-years-old and my sister eight. Our dad decided one weekend to take the two of us to The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Being a nine-year-old boy, I couldn’t wait to see the dinosaurs. Being an eight-year-old girl, the prospect of flesh-eating lizards larger even than the theater screen was enough to get my sister screaming as soon as the lights dimmed. Before either of us saw a dinosaur, our father hustled the us out of the theater, his head bowed low to avoid the eyes of other moviegoers. Those fifteen minutes in the theater, to me, have always stood as a symbol of film’s power to excite, to awe, to inspire, and to terrify. Living in a city like Detroit for most of my life, I’ve had the benefit of dollar theaters, drive-ins, arthouses, and movie palaces with still-functioning organs, but none of the films played at these venues have inspired within me the genuine terror my sister experienced that afternoon at the long gone Showcase Cinemas about a mile from our home. I fell in love with movies that afternoon, and have been chasing after something like my sister’s emotional response to The Lost World ever since.
That’s why I write about movies. Fear of a Ghost Planet was officially launched on September 5, 2011, but its roots extend back to 2007, when I wrote my first “review” on Careful With that Blog, Eugene, a personal blog that mostly documented how I used my free time. While the contents of this e-book only date back to 2011, Fear of a Ghost Planet’s origins in the world of personal blogging are evident even in the last posts I wrote that year, reviews of The Sitter and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Still, were you to visit the site and pull up one of those early essays, you’d not only see a clear progression in my ability to write a review—my earliest can charitably be described as “not very good”—but in how I respond to movies on a personal level.
Lest you think I have lived my moviegoing life in constant envy of my sister, I’ve cried unrelentingly during films before. During a showing of the Academy Award winning Japanese film Departures at Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival, I cried so hard my eyes stung. What I’ve found is that it is hard to synthesize that kind of emotional response in a thousand words. Often, I find myself using my small corner of the Internet to defend my positive response to one corporate product or another. The Amazing Spider-Man, The Hobbit, The Avengers—compared to unpacking the experience of sitting in a packed room of well-informed, blubbering cineastes, defending my decision to give three-and-a-half or four stars to some bloodless CGI spectacle is easy.
For the first time, Fear of a Ghost Planet published over fifty movie reviews in a calendar year. The fifty that I wrote are collected here, from 21 Jump Street to Wrath of the Titans. Between them are reviews where I believe I’ve managed the process of unpacking whatever genuine response I had to a given film. 2012 was a year of difficult movies: The Master, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Zero Dark Thirty—even the latest installments of Batman and James Bond were able to balance pop dynamism with the bleakness of an uncertain world. The result is a more rewarding cinema, but one that’s increasingly difficult to write about.
If you purchased this e-book or have visited the website, thank you. There are hundreds of movie blogs and dozens of established film critics online, and each of them bring something different to the table. As newspapers shed their critics and anonymous comment forms enable an often unflattering form of populist rabble rousing, the voices of those asking why film criticism matters have grown louder. Yes, the reviews here serve as a recommendation, but what lies beyond the up or downturned thumb is something closer to memoir. Fear of a Ghost Planet continues to grow, but my reviews will remain reports of what happened to me in the dark.