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Introducing “James on screenS” and Its Other, Rejected Name

Photo of Caryn James By Caryn James | James on Screens December 15, 2010 at 7:00AM

I wanted to call my blog “Dangerous Liaisons,” but that made no sense without an explanation: the best reason I’ve ever heard for becoming a professional critic comes from Graham Greene, who spent a few years reviewing movies in the 1930’s and later said, “The idea of reviewing films came to me at a cocktail party after the dangerous third martini.” I love the sense that reviewing for a living is a completely cock-eyed thing to do – and, although Greene didn’t say so, that if you do it well you’re tossing safe, conventional, dull opinions aside.
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I wanted to call my blog “Dangerous Liaisons,” but that made no sense without an explanation: the best reason I’ve ever heard for becoming a professional critic comes from Graham Greene, who spent a few years reviewing movies in the 1930’s and later said, “The idea of reviewing films came to me at a cocktail party after the dangerous third martini.” I love the sense that reviewing for a living is a completely cock-eyed thing to do – and, although Greene didn’t say so, that if you do it well you’re tossing safe, conventional, dull opinions aside.

But in the end I chose the more lucid name “James on screenS,” plural, because I’ll be covering film, television, the web, whatever is most interesting on any screen. After all, that’s how we watch. I’ll have new pieces every day, usually more than once. Of course I’ll review, everything from popcorn movies to foreign films, cable series to smart network sitcoms. But I’ll also be a guide through the huge swamp of stuff we’re all surrounded by, offering tips about that overlooked film now arriving on DVD, the best show on TV tonight, what movies to catch this weekend at a theater or on VOD. I’ll include links to amusing videos, and comment on what’s happening in the film and television worlds (just in time for movie awards season). No bloggy cliches –I hardly care what I ate for lunch, why should you? But I sometimes meet and interview fascinating actors and directors, and you’ll find that here too.

My first review, posted right now, is of Ricky Gervais’ comedy special on HBO this weekend – just the kind of sharp, exciting television I’ll be covering. In the next days you’ll find a review of Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, my take on the Screen Actors Guild nominations announced tomorrow, and more pieces that might be surprises even to me.

So please come back often, and please comment and let me know what you think. My only tenet as a critic is that there is no right or wrong, just opinions and ideas. Well, there is one other firm belief. I grew up watching I Love Lucy reruns and I have a Ph.D. in English from Brown; that background has left me with the undying conviction that Ricky Ricardo and Samuel Beckett have more in common than most people think. Pop culture, high art, I won’t waste time with silly distinctions. I’ll just raise a glass of champagne to screens of all kinds, and invite you to join me.

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