Carsen (the girl who introduced me to so many movies and books and TV shows that I will cherish for my lifetime; the first person to offer 16-year-old me a cigarette back in small-town New Mexico; the 25-year-old creative type who’s now pouring a little bit of her soul into each of her movie reviews; and the sometimes-brutally-honest, always-hilarious enigma to most with a strong penchant for the written word) watches movies.
My old friend Carsen Greene and I texted each other Tuesday afternoon for the first time in a long time. Since the latter part of 2018, Carsen has been dedicatedly reviewing movies (from the superb to the meh to the terrible — I don’t think much is off limits) and rating them on a scale of 1 to 5 over at her blog, Carsen Watches Movies.
Elly Gibson: Hellooooo!
Carsen Greene: Hi 🙂
EG: Ok, so we’ve known each other for, wow, I guess almost ten years. Which now that I’m saying that, it doesn’t sound right..? Anyway, I don’t exactly remember how you and I met, but I know not too long after, we were smoking bad pot in some random’s garage. Then we both went to UNM, but we kind of lost touch a little bit. What did you study there?
CG: I studied philosophy with plans to go to law school, but that was so many years ago. I had a minor in economics for 2 years but couldn’t pass any math classes, so I switched it for a second major in English. So for the second two years of college, I wrote… I don’t know… 10 pages a week probably.
EG: I’d say you’re doing about that much now with your blog; you publish posts so often. Let’s talk about Carsen Watches Movies. How did that start?
CG: I guess it kind of started out of necessity for me to both have a creative outlet and to stop talking my friends’ ears off about movies they haven’t watched yet or had no interest in. It was supposed to be a podcast with rotating guests, but it never got off the ground and I didn’t want to keep chasing something when I had the power to put my ideas into the ether in another way. Also, I had a fear that I wouldn’t say everything I’d want to say in a podcast and with the blog I can always go back and edit a post or make addendums to previous posts.
EG: One of my favorite things about your blog is how each post is such an easy, fun read but, at the same time, nothing is dumbed down. Do you have a process for picking a movie to review next or it more like whatever you feel like watching/reviewing?
CG: That’s very nice of you to say! Thank you! I don’t have a process for which film I’m doing next, maybe I should get one. I have always been a fan of movies, much like some people are a fan of novels. People read books as a form of escapism, and that’s me with movies. Except where readers are only in one or a few characters’ heads, I feel like I’m able to get behind a myriad of peoples’ decisions. I like to think of a movie as a whole work and think about why an actor did something one way and whether or not that was a creative choice or a direction. I like to think about where the connection gets lost between what’s on page and what I’m seeing and how a cinematographer might make a creative decision that maybe the editor can’t work with and what gets left on the cutting room floor. So watching movies to me is more about an interaction I get to have with, like, 50 people at one time. I watch 3-4 movies a week, just kind of at random. As a form of escapism. And then those 3-4 movies get backlogged and I write about them in order to move onto next week.
EG: Yeah, it’s like, “was that actor’s simple but effective mouth twitch during that scene a direction, or was that a character choice by the actor?” I have those kinds of “what’s going on behind the scenes” thoughts a lot, but maybe not to your extent.
CG: Yeah, it’s fun, right?! I also like to listen for whether an actor is saying their lines or if they have to dub over in post and what’s done in foley and the list goes on and on.
EG: One of my favorite reviews you’ve done was of Mid90s. I haven’t seen it, and before your review, I honestly had little interest in doing so. But now I just have to watch it solely based on the first sentence of your review: “I could smell this film.”
CG: Oh, yeah that movie was super visceral to me! You could tell the set was designed at Stanley Kubrick level meticulousness, and that’s something I really admire. There was just something about the smell of summer in middle school that hit me when I watched it. It’s good, I encourage anyone who is from the ’90s to watch it.
EG: What’s your favorite movie (one you’ve reviewed or one you haven’t)?
CG: That changes with the wind, you know? I have several favorites that I’ll watch until the end of time, but my most recent favorite is from 2017. It’s Sean Baker’s The Florida Project. Sean Baker famously released a full-length feature shot entirely on an iPhone back in 2015, called Tangerine, and I followed the production of The Florida Project just out of curiosity of what he was doing next. It’s about poverty where poverty shouldn’t live and a young mother’s ability and inability to keep her life in order. It’s beautifully shot and it happens to star my favorite actor, Willem Dafoe. He won a Golden Globe for his performance. I haven’t reviewed it because I haven’t watched it since I started my blog. But, I will! It’s actually getting a resurgence in a few local theaters because they put out a 35mm version of it. I’d love to see that.
EG: And here I was half-expecting you to say Drag Me To Hell.
CG: Don’t get me wrong, I love Drag Me To Hell and horror as a whole. It’s a good guess, for sure.
EG: This might sound a little redundant, but where do you think your love of movies stems from?
CG: I think I started really appreciating movies as a creative outlet when I was in college. All my friends were writers and I never particularly liked writing creative fiction or nonfiction or talking about the writing we were all doing. But I wanted to talk about creativity, and it wasn’t until I met my now-husband, who is an aspiring filmmaker, did I realize that I could think and talk about movies as a creative process to be learned from. I have since refined a lot of my tastes, and I’m able to pick apart a movie like I can pick apart a piece of writing in a workshop. It’s cathartic for me to reflect on a work made out of love, or greed, or whatever people make movies for.
EG: I saw on your Instagram you got really chic business cards made recently. How exciting was that? Have you handed any out yet?
CG: I did, yeah! My dad suggested them and I thought, what’s $40? Haha, so I ended up with 500 of them. I’ve given a few out, and the response to the cards is, “wow, what the fuck?” But the response to the blog itself is warm. I guess I never really expected a response or a readership so it’s been nice to see the number get a slight uptick with good old fashion marketing. I have always been afraid to show anyone what I’m doing in my writing or where my head is at, but with the blog, it just seems so natural. Like I would say all of the things I’m putting in the blog in an everyday conversation, so it doesn’t feel like a huge secret that can’t be judged.
EG: Maybe your blog will get so popular that someone will write a screenplay based off of you/it à la Julie Powell of Julie and Julia and Amy Adams can play you in the movie.
CG: What a nice fantasy, thank you for the visual! I’m not doing it for anyone but myself, but opening a dialogue with other film enthusiasts feels like an added bonus.
EG: Ok, last question. What are your goals for the blog? Also, is there anything else you want me to mention or anything I should have asked?
CG: My only goal for the blog is to make sure it’s always fun. As soon as it isn’t fun, or feels like a burden, or I lose interest in it, I think I’ll be able to close it and move on. For now, it’s a fun way for me to express myself. Maybe eventually I’ll open it up to other authors, or collaborate with other authors, but for now, it’s just for me. I always take submissions!