It all started…
…in a galaxy far, far away. It was a magical early June evening when my parents finally acceded to my clamoring demands to see this new movie called Star Wars. The year was 1977. I was seven…the optimal age for a young boy to view Lucas’ masterwork for the first time. My father, a chronic exaggerator, said I didn’t blink at all during the movie. Looking back on the sheer elation I experienced during my virginal viewing of Star Wars, I no longer doubt my father’s improbable claim.
Beware the Movie Bug!
I suppose the bug first bit me in my early teen years. I had seen plenty of movies before that time, but had never really understood the power, scope or sheer elation that could be derived from experiencing films. I vividly remember lazy Sunday afternoons when I viewed movie classics—on Masterpiece Theater—all by myself in the living room while the rest of my family was napping. It was a special time; a time when I didn’t have to fight to see my show or be distracted by extraneous conversation.
I thrilled to the adventure of such films as Treasure Island or the Jungle Book, even Jeremiah Johnson. Of course, discovering earlier entries in my favorite genre, science fiction, simultaneously intrigued and inspired me; such classics as War of the Worlds and Journey to the Center of the Earth were standouts then and still fire my imagination to this day.
A Dream Takes Shape
Once bitten, I suppose there was just no going back for me. Watching films and commenting on them has occupied much of my adult life. Several years ago, my co-worker and I posted a movie review listing in our work break room, which presented frequently opposing viewpoints on films. Taking a cue from Ebert & Roeper, we named our efforts Rowe & Downs (all of my nutshell reviews written during this time can be accessed in the archive from 1999-2003). Our reviews generated much discussion at the water cooler, which was immensely gratifying, especially when co-workers solicited our recommendations before choosing which movie they would spend their hard-earned cash on. When several of my co-workers suggested that my talents would be well suited to magazine/blog writing, the wheels in my head started turning and the dream of writing professionally began to coalesce.
When Downs moved away, I started writing longer reviews (all of these full-length reviews can be found in the archive from 2002-2012). For over a decade I wrote reviews for my own movie review website, www.rowereview.com (defunct). While consuming a large number of films (new and old), digesting reviews from experts like Ebert, Maltin and many others, and honing my craft by reading countless books on how to write about film, a gap between where I was and where I wanted to be became apparent. The logical next step was to formalize my efforts at responding to films so that my passion for the cinema could be expressed in more meaningful and insightful ways. So I followed my dreams and enrolled in film school…just at the economic downturn hit in 2008.
The Quandary of Immediacy
After graduating with a MA in Film Studies from Chapman University in 2010, I wanted to take my film reviewing to the next level. But how does one stand out in a field where paying jobs are scarce, where movie review blogs are ubiquitous and where everyone’s a critic? For a time, reviewers could watch a movie, run home, crank out a review and try to be the first one to post online for a particular movie. In this manner, some no-name reviewer could actually get his review listed above a critic’s review if he could post his faster. This worked for a time, but the ever-growing throng of reviewers vying for the top spot (like the top listing of a Google search) made it increasingly difficult to be the first to post a review and burnout often accompanied such an endeavor. For a couple years I wrestled with how to beat the system and make reviews more immediate for potential readers. One day I realized that the only way to present a review faster than right after a screening would be to do the review in Real-time.
The Birth of “Back Rowe Reviews”
It all came in a flash…use Twitter to review a movie in Real-time while in the theater. Of course, texting (and by extension, tweeting) is frowned upon in theaters so an effective strategy for concealing my activities would have to be devised. I figured I could probably get away with such a system if I sat in the back row of a theater; that way I wouldn’t have to worry about blinding anyone behind me with my cell phone. The name just evolved from there, and anyone familiar with my twisted sense of humor knows I just couldn’t resist creating a pun out of my last name.
My Real-time Twitter reviews appear here, along with annotations expressing my “upon further review” thoughts written some time after the original screening. This movie review format is likely the most narcissistic you’ll ever find, but hopefully it’s also what makes it memorable and enjoyable. I hope you have as much fun reading these reviews as I had writing them. If by some chance we’re ever in the same theater, you’ll know where to find me.