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

by Caryn James
December 15, 2010 7:00 AM
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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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  • Sheri Compagnone | December 22, 2010 3:30 AMReply

    Congrats!!! Looking forward to reading what you have to say! ...One word to discribe you....AWESOME!

  • Bill Cambio | December 21, 2010 8:29 AMReply

    Great job, love the blog good luck and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

  • Caryn James | December 20, 2010 6:40 AMReply

    Thanks so much, everyone, for such a great welcome during the blog's first week, and for all your comments on other stories too. Cheers!

  • KM | December 20, 2010 5:27 AMReply

    Looks great, Caryn, looking forward to reading more of your posts from London!

  • Jon Mindell | December 18, 2010 12:18 AMReply

    Hearty congratulations on two counts. One, for your new writing venue, of course. And two, for the revelation that you hold a Ph.D. in English from Brown, making you the least snobby English major I know, including myself. Happy Holidays,

    Jon Mindell

  • s jones mcgruder | December 17, 2010 4:01 AMReply

    Hurrah ! Caryn we get to read your insights every day. I know you'll keep me
    away from those bad, bad flicks and point out the enjoyable bits of the

  • A Goreau | December 17, 2010 3:08 AMReply

    Bravo! Congratulations to indieWire for linking up with this wonderful writer. I've admired her witty and smart takes on high and low culture for years. I'm really looking forward to seeing what she's going to come up with next. Her tapdance around Graham Greene's remark is delicious.

  • Michèle Halberstadt | December 16, 2010 2:48 AMReply

    Hi Caryn, you now have a daily reader in Paris, and I will spread the word...I raise my Martini to you. "santé!" Michèle

  • Rick Allen | December 16, 2010 12:25 AMReply

    Welcome Caryn! At SnagFilms, we're all fans of your work and are proud to have you join our family. You'll help us make sense of the incredible profusion of great content now available on so many platforms.

    We're all raising that virtual martini glass in your honor!

    Rick Allen

  • Kathryn Gibbs Davis | December 15, 2010 10:57 AMReply

    Hallelujah! Just in time to weed out the Christmas clunkers and help keep us all sane over the holidays.

  • norm green | December 15, 2010 10:34 AMReply

    Congratulations. I'm looking forward to reading you here.

  • David Browne | December 15, 2010 9:58 AMReply

    Way to go, Caryn: Maggie and I look forward to reading your posts.

  • M&D | December 15, 2010 9:39 AMReply


  • Sharyn Wolf | December 15, 2010 9:31 AMReply

    Congratulations Caryn--love the dangerous third cocktail reference

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