Cinephile Interview I: A Door Into Movies

A Door Into Movies is run by sixteen-year-old Alec Muzquiz. A Texan residing in Hong Kong, Alec shares my own aspiration: to become the next Roger Ebert. Hopefully, if luck factors into both our lives enough, we’d be the next generation’s Siskel and Ebert. Support his blog and the guarantee is greater.

This interview was conducted between November 25th and December 12th.

I guess it’s obvious that you’re into film. At 16, you’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of such filmmakers as Tim Burton, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Woody Allen, Oliver Stone, and what have you. What first took your interest about film, and is it the same reason you love film to this day?

At a younger age I was just like any other kid. Any colorful and exciting commercial would have me begging my mom or dad to take me to the theater. Through those years I fell in love with the experience of just watching movies. Going through 11-15 had an important impact as well. Not a few days went by where I didn’t at least watch one movie – my love for it was huge; not a day would go by where I didn’t read one of Roger Ebert’s reviews as well. My dad had a collection of movies he showed me at age thirteen. He told me to pick a few to watch. Almost Famous and The Purple Rose of Cairo were my choices. Both had an impact on me; Almost Famous on fame, journalism, and wanting to have a life led by no other than me. The Purple Rose of Cairo of course resonated with my passion for film. It’s hard to elaborate on why you love something. But you know, I just fell in love, and that love can never be severed.

Almost Famous is one I haven’t seen yet, but The Purple Rose of Cairo is easily one of my favorites by Woody Allen. What was it that got you started blogging?

You should really put Almost Famous on your list to see when the chance comes.

Growing up I was a big writer; I’d write stories and just about anything else. Being an author was actually my dream as a young kid. At around the age of twelve my parents got me a laptop – fixed it up after two year on the inside and out with new software and everything else. Believe it or not, but that was my only laptop, still using it today. Boy did I use it. When I wasn’t using it to access the internet I typed about sports, my life, movies, and a ton of other subjects. Sometime all night, even if it was nonsense. My left hand (I’m left handed) has paid for it at times, I’ve had quite a few small problems with it – all easily fixable. At thirteen (my last year living in the United States) my school had a career class discussion type thing. I was listening to everyone talk about jobs and retirement plans etc. I thought, man, no one is talking about enjoying life, just simply getting through it. I had seen Revolutionary Road a few days before – had a big impact on me – and I didn’t want to be “normal.” Life passes you by and you only get one. So, I combined my love for movies and writing by starting to write movie reviews on various sites. I started my official blog December 31, 2011 on an impulse.

Revolutionary Road is the second film to co-star Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in a lead romance. The first, of course, being Titanic. How do you feel the two films compare?

If you compare the two side by side, they are nothing alike aside from the fact that both Winslet and DiCaprio star in them. Personally, I really love both in different ways. Both would get my full rating, but Revolutionary Road is my favorite of the two by a good margin. Titanic is one great epic with a captivating love story dealing with love. Revolutionary Road is a love story that deals with life in general – it goes deep and hit me hard. The chemistry between the two is undeniably superb – I though both should have been nominated for RR though. Overall, if your just comparing the movies, it’s like comparing The Grey to Taken 2 (just imagine Taken 2 was really good in its way).

You’re right that you can’t really compare films. Maybe if they’re within the same series/from the same director. I had to laugh when you said “it’s like comparing The Grey to Taken 2.” Well, let’s see, one’s great, the other’s terrible, one is set in the wilderness, the other in Istanbul, one makes perfect sense, the other tries to work mathematics into the action genre….we could go on. It just isn’t possible, and the only common bond is Liam Neeson, just as Revolutionary Road and Titanic are only similar, you state, in that they both star DiCaprio and Winslet.

Your blog features mainly reviews of new movies, but occasionally, you’ll write up a short review for a less recent film. Which kind of writing do you prefer?

I love to write, so there really isn’t a set preference. My reviews are mostly of new movies, I feel that’s a good route to go. However, I’ve often thought of weaving in reviews from my top 100 movie list. All my older reviews apply to that; I hope to write a few more in January and February because of the slow movie months that they are.

The addition of reviews to your top 100 would be very nice. I miss the “Buy, Rent, Skip” feature you had with the shorter reviews (to which I was referring before). Why did you decide to delete that one?

I saved the page to drafts, wanted to clean it up a bit. So, I can and will bring it back eventually. Naturally, thoughts rush to my head and I end up writing long reviews. However, I liked that page. Views for that page was awful though, I felt slight tweaks were in order.

Your reviews do tend to grow very extensive, but they’re at the same time just as informative. Now I’m wondering, because I can usually only spill my thoughts out into three or four paragraphs–five if I’m lucky. Do you take notes as you watch, and if so, does it detract at all from your watching?

I’ve tried to take notes while watching movies, but I found out that it would distract me too much. Naturally, my head fills with thoughts. I actually have a problem of writing too much and have to cut down some of the reviews. It will take me around three days to write a review, then I’ll edit it the next day (this can vary depending on if it’s a busy day or not). I try to make them informative and not too boring – hope I succeed in that.

How do you decide which (new) movies to review and which ones to just leave unwritten?

Well, I mostly review any new movie I’ve had a chance to see. As soon as I see a movie, my hands just can’t wait to get on typing. The only instances to where I wouldn’t write a review are:

1. If a movie is so bad that I can’t even muster writing more than a word.

2. Also, if I’m busy and have seen a few movies, I will pick which one to write first. It’s rare, but a few reviews have been lost in the shuffle.

It’s always fun to read a review of an absolutely horrendous movie. I’ll always remember your review of Jack and Jill, in which you expressed that the film “is not just a simple train wreck, it is a train that went off the tracks, then kept crashing through houses and trees, than fell off a cliff and blew up.”

On a COMPLETELY unrelated note: have you seen the entire filmography of any director(s)?

Yeah, I know what you mean. I actually just saw Lockout; awful (might be my next review). Nothing can compare to Jack and Jill though, man, was that horrendous – I should have added that I was on that train. Also, I decided to bring back Buy, Rent, or Skip as a weekly feature (seems like everyone has at least one). I will do three each post. The first post will be three rehashed, but the next one will have at least two new ones.

I’ve seen all the movies for these A-list directors: The Coen Brothers, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson, and Ridley Scott.

FIVE directors!? Whoa. I’ve only finished off Nolan’s, and I’ve one more film to see of James Cameron.

For each respective director, I have one film for which I am curious on your thoughts:

Joel and Ethan Coen: Blood Simple.
David Fincher: AlienΒ³
Christopher Nolan: Following
Wes Anderson: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Ridley Scott: Legend

Joel and Ethan Coen: Blood Simple = 3 and a half stars – not their best, but it still has their quality that draws you in.

David Fincher: Alien 3 = 2 stars – easily his worst, but it looks great.

Christopher Nolan: Following = 3 stars = interesting and a good mystery, but the climax was uninspired.

Wes Anderson: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou = 2 and a half stars – only watch if you really love his style.

Ridley Scott: Legend = 2 and a half stars – never gels and the effects overshadow everything to a fault; they are really great though.

You can find Alec on Twitter @moviereviewer96

Be sure to check out his recent reviews of The Hunger Games, Skyfall, Lockout, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

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