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Okay, Let's Try This Again...
Welcome To Yet Another Attempt By Me At Starting A Newsletter On The Movies
The following is on my personal cinematic journey. An experience that is different for each and every one of us which is what makes talking about film amongst each other so exciting. I go into details about what made me fall in love with movies, what movies I grew up with, how I discovered major classics, the dark time in my life marred with association with certain groups I now despise with every fiber of my being and how that took me away from the movies for a time, my return to life as film fan with a new perspective, and my various attempts to join the criticism community.
Its a personal post, perhaps the most personal I’ll ever write on here but I needed to get it all off my chest to re-introduce myself and this rebooted newsletter in the process. I promise all posts after this will be more centered around the movies than myself, but alas I bared my soul and held nothing back. I warn you I might accidently offend when my intention is no such thing. This is me and this is how I ended up here ready to write about film consistently.
GROWING UP WITH THE MOVIES
I’ve loved the movies since my twin brother and I sat on our grandmother’s floor with our legs crossed watching up at her boxed television as Godzilla went toe to toe with Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus. The movie was 1975’s Terror Of Mechagodzilla and not only was it the launching point to becoming a full fledged fanboy of the giant lizard, but it opened the path for me to enjoying the possibilities that cinema could bring to the senses for an hour or two or three.
It was that same year I had my first theatrical experience when our pre-school took us on a field trip to see the animated Aladdin Disney film. A fact that my younger relatives are in awe of since that film is to them what 1970’s The Aristocats was to me at their ages - old. I was the one in awe looking up at the big screen as the titular protagonist walked into "the cave of wonders”. That introduced me to the idea of watching the movies being an experience akin to when my parents dragged us to sports events or school plays. And now at 33 years of age in the year 2022 that experience seems to be in some trouble.
Eventually my brother and I discovered the television networks that would run some classic genre films, specifically the Sci-Fi channel. It was through there we didn’t just discover more Godzilla movies, but we also discovered the Classic Universal Monsters as our gateway to the horror genre.
My grandfather who adores the western genre and would regale us with tales of being a youngster in the thirties and forties and watching early western talkies for just a few cents each at his local theatre introduced us to John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
And my parents would every now and then bring home from the rental store some new adult drama that I now know in hindsight was a big awards darling during the time. I remember vividly being five years old and walking in on them watching The Shawshank Redemption which looked boring to me at the time but I now appreciate as one of the beloved films of the early nineties.
It was this combination of giant monsters and old black and white horror flicks on TV, my grandpa showing us westerns, our parents bringing home dramas, and Disney films that we went to the theatre for that we learned to love the movies at a young age.
By the time we moved from Puerto Rico to the Tampa Bay area in Florida, which remains my home, we discovered Turner Classic Movies and Robert Osbourne introduced us to some of the greatest classics of all time. By middle school, we were binging the next level of horror films in slasher flicks and gross out creature features. By high school my brother’s passion for movies was taking a backseat for his passion for video games, a passion I tried to share but ultimately never really got into no matter how many new Nintendo or PlayStation models I bought as I got older. Instead I spent those years being the typical loner kid staying in his room watching movies, and my interest in the opposite sex somehow translated to me enjoying and appreciating romance flicks.
WASTED YEARS ON PATHETIC THINGS
Eventually I met a young woman a few years after high school, dated her, moved in together, and in time married. In those years my passion for the movies was dwindling a little past some casual fare which in a way I think is why I sympathize now with the casual movie go-er more than the typical film fan seems to. But admittedly I did still watch the Oscars more so than anyone else I knew did.
Instead, I had gotten much more sucked into the world of politics and worse yet I was getting roped into some hardcore right wing blogs online that I didn’t even agree completely with but I thought I had found a community for my dissent in regard to the role of Government during the Obama years. As someone who tends to be cautious about authority, there were elements that intrigued me though I now don’t completely share those views anymore either. I’m a Libertarian when it comes to certain Government fiscal policies and don’t trust those in power if I can help it.
But as the years passed I started tiring of feeling angry all the time, of wasting time blogging and tweeting about what we were angry about instead of going out and enjoying life, and the stuff I didn’t like aside from the debates on how much Government should play a role such as the racism, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia became a bigger and bigger shadow over what it mean to be part of that side of the aisle that it made me wonder what I was devoting so much time to. Just four years into that part of my life, I was getting really alienated from that stuff and in hindsight looking back I get really pissed off at myself for wasting years on a movement that would become what it has now - or perhaps it always was. You can only look away for so long from that dark stuff if you have any kind of a soul. I’d much rather have my differences with some on what goes into what budget than attempt to reconcile with those who think a queer child getting love and support is going to trigger the downfall of humanity.
I’m not going to hamper on too much about my personal political journey because this is isn’t what this post is mainly about. I only bring this up because of what affect it had on pausing my journey as a cinephile and overall human being at the time. But by the time Donald Trump was the leader of the Republican party, I was out and I was never going back. Granted I’m no Democrat either, but I sure as hell am no Republican and my time as keyboard political warrior for a party that ignored me made me realize that. And with it I also left behind years of wasted time just commenting with others who were stuck in their own loop of anger and obsessing about the day’s news. That’s not to harp against those who keep up with such things, but I personally went down a rabbit hole that made it an unproductive time for me by being a news hound for too many years.
But one positive thing that did happen from that experience was my discovery for my appreciation and love for Psephology - the study of public opinion and electoral trends. That hobby held me together through the absurdities of the Trump era and as I transition back to joining “the normies” and left obsessing over politics and getting roped into certain groups, my love and passion for the movies started to return. Not only did the hobby give me a new perspective and respect for others’ viewpoints and life experiences, but it also made me understand the different facets of movie fandom from the casual movie go-er who enjoys genre films to the hardcore cinephile who can make informed comments on all the Oscars’ contenders.
SEARCHING FOR A SPACE IN THE CONVERSATION
And boy did that passion for movies return with a vengeance, almost as if it were making up for lost time. I started binging all the Oscars contenders, I wanted to check out all the movies I saw showing up in critics’ best of lists at the end of the year, and in 2019 I started watching movies as they came out on opening weekend on the regular where as before I only did that for the event films. I also started to go back and start a journey of watching more classics I never got to before which lead me down a path to exploring the history of cinema in a way that only the hardcore cinephiles might appreciate.
In late 2020 I attempted a newsletter titled “The Cinephile Café” - it didn’t work out. But I did learn about movie reviewing and started to come into my own as to how I view films and how I critiqued them. Last year I roped my brother into agreeing to doing a weekly podcast on movies named after the old newsletter and that lasted up until February of earlier this year when he finally waved the flag on being able to keep up with movies on a weekly basis. Its a shame because I actually enjoyed getting to watch and comment on these new films with him and it was refreshing to see him actually know what the Best Picture nominees were all about. Furthermore, I had attempted to create a new newsletter on film during the half a year I was doing the podcast with him and that ended up flopping as well when I realized I had zero direction for it just weeks in. I called it “The Mendez Movie Report” which also took over as the name of the aforementioned ill-fated podcast.
So here I was with all of this passion for the movies, with all these thoughts and opinions to share, and my attempts at various platforms for such have just kept failing over and over again. So I let things in my life chill for a bit, just stuck to logging my Letterboxd and taking part in ”Film Twitter”. I allowed my mind to come up with potential ideas as to where I could join the discussion. Perhaps a website? A little too grand for me right now. A full blown dedicated YouTube channel maybe? Nah, I do anticipate making a few videos every now and then but nothing that is as consistent as the Austin Burkes and Zach Popes of the world.
So what then? I was always much more a writer than a personality. And thus in the last few weeks as my 33rd birthday came and went, the idea of finishing what I started came to me. Another newsletter, this time one I won’t quit on so easily. And yes I’d name it after that last attempted newsletter as well - that and its sort of my social media branding already.
So welcome to another attempt by me to jot down my thoughts on film through the power of Substack’s platform. Where I can speak (well write out) my mind on new films as they come out, list some classic favorites, keep sane in a world where horrible people cause horrible events with escapist cinema and beautiful dramatic films, and where I can maybe give my two cents on awards season or the biggest topic of conversation in the industry at any given moment.
I currently belong to no critics’ groups and while I am at peace if that never happens because my love for film is personal and has nothing to do with needing any sort of validation as a cinephile, I would love the opportunity to prove myself as one. Thus I don’t (usually) get screeners, I don’t (usually) see films days or weeks in advance, I don’t get to attend major film festivals, etc. I pay my hard earn money from my day job and watch the new films coming out at my local theatre or a streaming service I subscribe to. Why? Because I have that passion and desire to watch new movies, to pass the time and see someone’s vision for a new story told on screen play out, to see which will become a new go to favorite in years to come, to see which will stick with me by the end of the year when its time to root for personal favorites during awards season.
This is the new and improved reboot of “The Mendez Movie Report” and I have a lot to get off my chest…