Fifteen Candles: Notes on Forgetting Our Birthday

Fifteen Candles: 
Notes on Forgetting Our Birthday
by Jen Johans

Today, I'm feeling a little like Molly Ringwald's entire family in “Sixteen Candles,” except in my case, let's make that “Fifteen Candles.” To explain: last week, Film Intuition turned fifteen years old and I completely forgot! The official legal birthdate, I believe, is December 9. That's when, so many years ago, I registered my blog as an LLC and properly gave it its own URL courtesy of Yahoo, which then became Illuminate, then Aabaco, and is now Verizon, but who knows which merger and name change tomorrow will bring. (Speaking of mergers, I had to ax my old site layout and lost our extensive review index but will try to create a new one with review links in '22.)

First, however, I'll kick things off with a little history: I started the site originally through Blogger in the fall of 2006 as a project for my self-designed Film Studies baccalaureate program. I devoted my focus to movies made by women since there wasn't a whole lot of information available about the subject either online or in print at the time. In fact, that's actually why the website has a female-centric, female intuition-based name. Nonetheless, soon after I launched the blog, I fell in love with my classic and contemporary noir coursework and decided to broaden my website's scope to all of cinema as the year ended and I graduated from film school.

Having essentially gone to college off and on since I was 16 years old (where I quickly realized that it was my goal to never stop learning), at 25, my nerdy constant quest for film knowledge was a hard habit to break. So I did what I'd done for years, and especially what I'd done when I couldn't go to school due to multiple spine surgeries or chronic pain. I kept up my research by buying old film textbooks online as well as from used bookstores. I also continued writing blog entries... so many blog entries.

December 9, 2007 marks the date when I changed the Blogspot address to an official legal one (and when I started to repost old reviews in the new set-up), but by the time this happened, I had loyal readers, and had written hundreds of short pieces in a single year. While some of those early posts, I'm sure, are quite cringe-worthy, over the next 15 years, I amassed a database of more than 2,500 reviews. Since I don't know the date I started the first version of the blog in 2006, I've decided to keep December 9 for that too!

As all Type As will tell you, like anything worth doing, throughout its history, this site has brought me joy and stress in equal measure. Most importantly, though, it served as my launchpad or industry calling card and led me to such places as working as a grant and festival guide summary writer for the Scottsdale International Film Festival. Continuing on in the field, one of my favorite things I've ever done was curate and host a film discussion series at the Scottsdale Public Library, where I also lectured and ran discussions on behalf of the Holocaust Museum and Film Movement. It was around this time that I began freelancing for some wonderful sites, including Indiewire, DVD Netflix, The Phoenix Film Festival blog, BlogCritics, Rupert Pupkin Speaks, Hardboiled Wonderland, and more.

Absolutely my creative outlet when I developed a rapidly worsening systemic disease in my 30s and officially became disabled, I can't tell you how much having film to focus on meant to me over the years when I was going through multiple departments at the Mayo Clinic, etc. and stumping every doctor in sight with my strange and scary test results. (In fact, it's taken until just before age 40 to get a proper diagnosis of a very rare genetic immune disorder which I discovered I've actually had since birth! If you're in the same situation where you're still searching for answers, please keep looking, surround yourself with people you trust, undergo good university level genetic testing, and stay strong.)

In celebrating this birthday, first and foremost, I want to thank all of the readers for being there even after my review output became sporadic. Of equal importance are the many encouraging filmmakers, writers, and actors, plus the PR and studio representatives who had both faith in me and placed value on my writing years before I became an official Rotten Tomatoes or Cherry Picks certified reviewer. Additionally, I want to extend my gratitude to the colleagues who've treated me with respect in a cold and increasingly dire industry early on, along with those who've asked me to write for and work with them over the years and invited me to join their critics' associations as well. 

I'm always humbled when someone seeks out a movie based on something I've reviewed or sees that I've written a new essay on a film and then watches it first just so they can read it. To this end, I've heard from so many of you, along with a cross-section of performers and filmmakers whose work I so admire, and it's both greatly touched me and also kept me going. A note to all readers: I sincerely apologize for removing comments on my site so many years ago but I wanted to spend my time creating as opposed to refereeing fights between strangers. Still, I'm quite easy to reach online and love hearing from you on social media, whether that's via FilmIntuition on Twitter, Patreon, Letterboxd, and/or Instagram.

As my regular readers are undoubtedly well aware, after becoming burned out from steadily churning out movie reviews for so long, in March of 2020, I launched the podcast Watch With Jen over at my FilmIntuition Patreon. It's since become available on Spotify, Apple, Audible, and every podcast platform in between, except YouTube (where we are unaffiliated with the new YouTube channel that launched in September that is currently titled Watch With Jen but in the process of changing). 

A beacon of light in the midst of a horrible pandemic, while things started out small as I merely recommended movies you might not have heard of otherwise and also started interviewing people I admired, the Watch With Jen podcast has since evolved into a fun, research-intensive, in-depth exploration of the films, actors, directors, and mediums that inspire us most. I love collaborating with each guest on a topic of their choosing and we treat each episode like a Film Studies survey course we're taking together with the audience. We hit the 100th episode landmark in August and have kept going strong, with awesome plans for upcoming shows in '22, some of which I'll be unveiling soon on social media and Patreon.

Yesterday, I uploaded the final episode of season 2 and I am completely honored to have had on so many amazing guests this year, including: author Megan Abbott (“The Turnout”), author S.A. Cosby (“Razorblade Tears”), author William Boyle (“Shoot the Moonlight Out”), actor James Urbaniak (“Difficult People”), critic/podcaster Blake Howard (“One Heat Minute”), historian/podcaster/author Karina Longworth (“You Must Remember This”), author/screenwriter Jordan Harper (“Hightown”), author Nikki Dolson (“Best American Mystery & Suspense Stories 2021”), screenwriter/author Chris Cantwell (co-creator, producer, and showrunner of “Halt and Catch Fire”), critic/historian/author/podcaster Jason Bailey (“Fun City Cinema”), critic Bilge Ebiri (Vulture), author/blogger Jed Ayres (Hardboiled Wonderland), critic/author/historian Walter Chaw (FilmFreakCental), critic Sean Burns (WBUR), critic/historian Sheila O'Malley (The Sheila Variations and RogerEbert.com), author/critic Adam Nayman (“David Fincher: Mind Games”), critic Tomris Laffly (RogerEbert.com), critic Nell Minow (RogerEbert.com), filmmaker BenDavid Grabinski (“Happily”), as well as our gifted logo/merchandise designer Kate Gabrielle (KateGabrielle.com), and many more.

In writing news, this year my review of “The Velvet Underground” documentary was cited in "The L.A. Times" and I contributed an essay about the film “The Chicago Syndicate” to the UK Blu-ray box set release of Columbia Film Noir #4. In addition to finding my words printed on a few DVD boxes (thank you to Film Movement, in particular), I was quoted in the advertising of NY's Quad Cinema for the film “Final Set,” and also wrote one of my all-time favorite pieces for DVD Netflix on actor David Morse as well.

I'm greatly looking forward to what 2022 will bring and hope that I continue to deliver both the pieces you'd love to read here on FilmIntuition (and elsewhere) and the podcasts you'd like to listen to as well. For the curious, once I get caught up on all of my film screeners and voting in our various critics' organizations, I will be working on my Best Films of 2021 list, which I hope to have available to you right around the second week of January.

In the meantime, please don't hesitate to reach out to me via social media if you ever have any questions and I want to thank you so much for devoting some time to my work. While I'm pretty sure I'd always be writing or talking about movies to random strangers regardless, I wouldn't do any of this at all if it wasn't for your loyalty, interest, patronage, and support. On behalf of myself, Film Intuition, and Watch With Jen, I'm wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday season and happy movie watching.

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