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Blogcritic of the Month: March, 2006

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In our ongoing effort to promote and recognize the very best that Blogcritics has to offer, I am extremely pleased to inaugurate this new series, in which each month we will highlight an outstanding contributor to the site as chosen by the editorial staff. Over the past three years, Blogcritics has grown tremendously, in large part due to the contributions of a stalwart group of writers who have consistently informed, engaged, and entertained us. This designation is meant to recognize and celebrate the best of the best, and hopefully introduce these fine writers to a whole new audience.

Please join me in a virtual round of applause for our first honoree, the esteemed El Bicho!

Image hosting by PhotobucketIf you’re a regular reader of Blogcritics’ TV/Film section, then you’ve undoubtedly encountered El Bicho’s work. A prolific and consistently engaging writer, El Bicho has, in the space of two years, posted 225 articles to Blogcritics, nearly all of them film or music reviews. Born in 1967 in Buffalo, NY, and raised in Westminster, CA, he completed film studies at UCLA, a biographical detail which clearly informs his film writing. Since then, he has worked on a number of low budget films and videos in all stages of production. He’s been published in Orange County Review and The Writer’s Attic. He started writing online in January, 2003, when he was asked to join The Masked Movie Snobs, where he has been Managing Editor for over two years now. Toward the end of 2003, he created a blog to post and archive his reviews. He began writing for FilmRadar.com in the summer of 2003 and then stumbled across Blogcritics in March 2004. He’s added other sites to his resumé along the way and continues to be one of Blogcritics’ most distinctive voices.

So, “Why ‘El Bicho’?” I can hear you asking. I wondered that, too, so here’s an explanation from the man himself:

El Bicho means the bug, the insect, the tiny beast, and other similar connotations. It was an identity I adopted when I started writing for The Masked Movie Snobs website. The idea my friends had when they started the site was to review films while wearing Mexican wrestling masks. They took Spanish names like Mil Peliculas (1000 Movies) and Bolsa de Queso (Cheesebag).

The look of El Bicho is from an obscure SNL skit where Dan Aykroyd created a poor disguise of pantyhose and two oranges and said he looked like an insect. The name comes from way back in 1982-84. I was taking Spanish II and we had to do a skit. I remembered the look and used it for a scene we did to show off our Spanish skills where Superman stopped a bank robbery. I played the evil villain called El Bicho, since I looked like a bug. Who knew I would resurrect the character almost 20 years later?

Q & A (The Serious Stuff)

BC: As it happens, this column is being published on your BC anniversary date (your first post was published on March 2, 2004, and it was a review of Neil Young’s Greendale). Blogcritics has changed a lot in the intervening 24 months, and no doubt you have, too. What are your thoughts on the development of the site as it relates to your own writing/participation?

El Bicho: With a second set of eyes now looking at my work before it’s posted, it can only be a benefit to my writing because I know the mind doesn’t always see the way things are. While it puts a crimp in my instant gratification quota, it’s well worth it.

As far as participation, I don’t get involved with as many discussions/arguments anymore since the more active role of the comment editors. While I completely understand the need for editing some comments, and am aware that it’s a thankless task, I think it’s overused. Some threads look like a machete was taken to it rather than a scalpel.

Editing has the unintentional effect of altering the way people are perceived. For example, a number of people don’t like to be called “chicken hawk”, which was put on the banned list, and they think less of the person who uses it. If the word bothered me, I would want to know who used, so I wouldn’t waste time dealing with the person.

I also think the time-honored tradition of people insulting each other can be very funny, but then my sense of humor isn’t for everyone. If you don’t agree with me, then [censored], you [censored].

BC: Nearly all of your posts here have been in the area of film or music criticism, and you write from a well-informed point of view. Now that everyone and his brother has a blog, everyone’s a critic. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

El Bicho: It’s a double-edged sword. There are no gatekeepers, which is good, because people can get their work out to the masses that wouldn’t normally. Sure, their talent holds some people back, but getting writing jobs has as much to do with opportunity and connections. I might never have had the chance to make money in the world of criticism writing if it hadn’t been for the Internet.

The bad side is that with infinite content and readers only having finite time, it could take people a long while to find you, if they ever do. Plus, if people read too many bad blogs, they might exhaust themselves and stop.

BC: Do you think that readers are turning more often to non-traditional media for their culture news and reviews? Will there continue to be a place for the Roger Eberts of the world?

El Bicho: Yes, but only because there are more options. People like Roger Ebert will always have a place because he has an ability to convey his arguments in an understandable, thoughtful way. He’s very good at what he does or else he wouldn’t have been around for as long as he has. I don’t always agree with him, but I understand why he likes or dislikes something. When he moves on, there will be opportunities for others to move up.

There’s big money in traditional media, so of course they will find a replacement rather than just give up that cash cow. If someone non-traditional can capture a large audience and have the potential to make a lot of money, you can guarantee traditional media will sign them up.

BC: In these days of Netflix and pay-per-view and content coming to us via the Internet, the film industry is a different beast than it used to be. Do you have any thoughts about where it’s heading?

El Bicho:The term “film industry” is too limiting because film is just a part of the larger entertainment industry. Films, until they stop shooting on film, which will happen, are now commercials for DVDs, which are the bigger share of the market.

The ultimate goal seems to be that the consumer will be able to experience any form of entertainment, any time they want to, anywhere they want to. It sounds like a good thing, and I’m sure I’ll take advantage of it, but it’s not. Since most consumption appears to be done in isolation, social skills are shot to hell because no one has any consideration for others around them.

I almost never go to the theatres on weekends anymore because the public is so self-absorbed that they no longer know how to behave. Everyone talks loudly, unwraps plastic bags of large meals, takes phone calls, or lets their kids run wild. It’s infuriating and ruins the film-going experience, yet theatre owners are puzzled by their revenue dropping.

Concerts are just as bad, with every idiot taking a picture or calling someone to hear a song. I understand the desire to keep and share a moment, but they aren’t fully experiencing the moment as completely as they could because they are removed from it. Plus, I’m trying to enjoy the show, so I don’t need your phone blocking my view of the band or to hear you screaming into the phone, “I’m at a concert.”

Q & A (The Fun Stuff)

BC: What book/CD/DVD do you have more than one copy of, in case something happens to the original one?

El Bicho: None. I might have two copies of something due to upgraded formats, such as albums on Record, Tape and CD, or movies on VHS and DVD, but my neuroses doesn’t apply to this question.

BC: If you had to pick one sense to do without, which of your five senses would it be?

El Bicho: Sight because that seems to be the most manageable.

BC: What do you wish they’d do a series about on TV?

El Bicho: Whatever great idea I come up with.

BC: If you could, would you swap sexes for a week?

El Bicho: Sure.

BC: What do you think you’d learn if you could swap to the opposite sex?

El Bicho: Well, assuming my mind would still be “me”, I don’t think I would truly grasp the female experience, but I would probably get a better sense of how others treat women.

BC: What sports team will you love until the day you die?

El Bicho: None. Being from Buffalo, I root for the Bills and Sabres. I grew up in Southern California, so I root for the Lakers, even though The Clippers used to be the Buffalo Braves and UCLA teams. But, in essence, they are businesses and any of the owners or fans could commit an act of stupidity that would stop my love. Of course, a wager will always affect my fickle heart.

BC: What’s one sign that you’re a total nerd?

El Bicho: Other than being Blogcritic of the Month? I don’t see myself as being a total nerd since I only have adequate skills on the computer, have dated plenty of women, and don’t live with my mom. But I’m sure the superhero action figures, being more interested in writers and directors of TV shows and movies than I am actors, and getting into discussions and arguments with complete strangers online are nerd-like qualities.

BC: What’s the first book you recall reading?

El Bicho: Something by Dr. Seuss or some type of pop-up book.

BC: What magazines do you subscribe to?

El Bicho: None.

BC: Who is your favorite writer?

El Bicho: I don’t have a singular favorite, but, in alphabetical order, and I’m certain I’ll be mad I left someone out, I enjoy the work of Woody Allen, Bill Amend, Isaac Asimov, Tex Avery, George Carlin, Paddy Chayefsky, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry David, Phillip K. Dick, Bob Dylan, Tom Fontana, Thomas Friedman, Neil Gaiman, Robert Heinlein, Christopher Hitchens, William Joyce, Jon Krakauer, Charlie Kaufman, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Steve Martin, Arthur Miller, Frank Miller, Monty Python, Alan Moore, Ralph Nader, Cole Porter, Shakespeare, David Simon, Robert Smith, Dr. Seuss, Hunter Thompson, Roger Waters, Bill Watterson, George Will…

BC: Who is your least favorite writer?

El Bicho: Writers who are lazy or sloppy in their work. Writers who try to hard to be clever. Writers who try to be controversial to get attention their writing wouldn’t otherwise garner.

BC: Do you have a favorite Blogcritic?

El Bicho: No, but there are plenty I enjoy reading.

BC: What do you think is the best part of Blogcritics?

El Bicho: The potential audience that I have access to.

BC: What song is stuck in your head right now?

El Bicho: “Idiot Wind,” I was just listening to Blood on the Tracks yesterday.

BC: What do you have set as the home page in your browser?

El Bicho: I use FilmJumper to publicize The Masked Movie Snobs, so my home page changes every time I use it, bringing up someone else that has an account.

BC: Who was your idol as you were growing up?

El Bicho: I don’t remember having one.

BC: What are three items you would need to have on a desert island?

El Bicho: As a Survivor watcher, I’ll say flint, water and food. Do I want to stay on the island? I might alternate “boat” or “a communication device.”

BC: What’s the best place to get a meal in your neck of the woods?

El Bicho: Depends on what you are looking for. I enjoy the chiliburgers of Tommy’s. There’s a good Mediterranean place called Byblos in Orange. A great Cuban place in LA called Versailles. I ate at a great Persian place last night in Irvine called Caspian. Wahoo’s Fish Tacos is very good.

BC: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

El Bicho: Since this is an impossible question, I’ll give an impossible answer. I would change the way people’s thought process works. I wish there was a way a person could truly be objective, so their ego would be completely removed from the equation. While I don’t claim to know any of the answers of the universe, it seems that it is more likely that we are all part of one thing rather separate individuals, so even though you think you are doing what’s best for you, your family, your state, your country, your political affiliation, your religion, your species, whatever, that might not necessarily be the case.

El Bicho Picks El Bicho

We asked El Bicho to pick some of his favorites from among his writings, and if you’ve missed any of these, do take the time to enjoy them. In fact, check out his entire Blogcritics oeuvre while you’re at it!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
When I asked friends what they liked, Eternal came up the most often. For future reference, Scarlett Johanssen and Sheetal Sheth have replaced Halle Barry and Monica Bellucci at the end of the article.

Talk about The Passion
Most people at the time weren’t discussing the movie itself, which is what I tried to do.

Fear And Loathing At The Kodak Theatre
The Masked Movie Snobs did an Oscar Roundtable in OC Weekly, a local alternative paper, and this article spun off from that and was my first foray into strict commentary. Hunter Thompson’s death was still in the air, hence the title.

Particle – Live at the House of Blues Sunset Strip
This was my first concert review. When I read other concert reviews, they usually just stick to the performance, but it’s the entire experience that adds or detracts from the event. I was always surprised when I would read reviews of The Grateful Dead or Jimmy Buffet and the party in the parking lot never got mentioned.

La Fortunata Vita: A Report from the Match Point Premiere
BC provided me with my first time on the red carpet, my first attempt at photojournalism and I got to speak with Woody Allen.

Book Review: Voices of a People’s History of the United States
My first book review that wasn’t related to film.

Star Trek: Nemesis (a.k.a. The Wrath of Bad Moviemaking)
This was the first review that I wrote.

Winged Migration
This review got me a job with FilmRadar.com, which provided me with the opportunity to attend press screenings.[ADBLOCKHERE]

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About Lisa McKay

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Congrats, El B. Well done feature, Lisa.

  • http://wisdomandmurder.blogspot.com Lisa McKay

    Thank you, DJ. It was a lot of fun to do, but the lion’s share of the credit belongs to El Bicho, who, after all, supplied me with the source material.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Outstanding El B and Lisa, great stuff !

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    “El” means “the?”

  • http://indemnification.blogspot.com -E

    And how about that sexy mug shot. Good job, El Bitch-o.

  • http://sterfish.blogspot.com/ Sterfish

    This is a very cool new feature and congrats to El Bicho for being the first honoree. It’s definitely well-deserved.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    well-deserved bicho. congrats.

  • Jess

    Congrats! Next time you come by this way again we’ll have to celebrate :0)

  • http://trinimansblog.blogspot.com/ Triniman

    Very interesting. It’s cool to get to know more about the writers. I look forward to more profiles in the series.

    This may make you laugh. For a while, I thought El Bicho and Aaron, Duke de Mondo were the same person. I’m not sure why.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    My reign is half over and I wanted to thank those of you who stopped in and offered your congratualtions. It is appreciated.

    Trini, although we started at around the same time and have some similar tastes, I too must wonder how you thought the Duke and I were one in the same.

    Yes, Matt, “El” can mean “The”. I’m glad to see you found the feature thought-provoking.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    El Bicho, this was all the fun in the world, and a damn great feature, too, Ms. McKay.

    Heh, Triniman, that dazzles my shock-glands senseless.

  • Scott Butki

    Congrats. I’m going to go read a few of your reviews.

  • http://indemnification.blogspot.com -E

    So now that your reign as supreme king of all critics with blogs everywhere is almost over, how was it?

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    -E,

    The honor was a great compliment. I hope the powers-that-be got out of the feature what they desired. As for me, and not to appear ungrateful, after the first week, it was mostly uneventful on my end.

    Intially, I noticed a few people come to my blog from this article, but they can read everything I write over here, so that’s not an accurate measure of anything.

    With all the writers and readers the site has I thought there might be more comments, but I proably needed to take a strident position on a political issue or list the greatest [insert noun] of all time.

    I was surprised not to get a negative comment by a random poster, this is the Internet after all, so that’s a relief. Although, I’m sure I’ve just opened up that door wide.

    From the comments I did received, it appears at least half the people already knew and enjoyed my writing. That was flattering to discover because I was unaware they thought so.

    If this feature introduced me to one new reader who will continue to read my future articles, it was definitely well worth it.

    And lastly, we’ve finally put the rest the notion that Duke De Mondo and I are the same person. That’s got to be worth something right there.

    Thanks again to BC and Lisa.

    El Bicho
    BCotM for the next few hours

  • Jet in Columbus

    ElBicho did you write oscar acceptance speeches in another life? By the way, oddly your photo is exactly the way I’ve always pictured you.

    I enjoyed it ;}

  • http://wisdomandmurder.blogspot.com Lisa McKay

    El Bicho, it is indeed our fervent hope that this series will introduce the featured writers to a new audience by bringing just a bit more attention your way. You’re quite right that the posts that always seem to bring the greatest number of comments are the political ones and the ones that challenge one’s notions of who the greatest guitar players might be. The rest of us, laboring quietly in the vineyard for the most part, never really know who’s out there reading, but if a few more readers are regularly making their way to your articles because of this piece, then it was well worth the effort.

    And I personally enjoy learning a tiny bit about the ‘insides’ of our regular contributors, too.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Dang, just saw a bio on Rod Serling last night on PBS and would certainly add him to my list of favorite writers.

  • Dawn

    Having finally met you in person, you are every bit as engaging and interesting as your writing. We sure are glad to have you around!!!

  • for-too-oooh

    i guess you know in puerto rico el bicho is vulgar for penis? it makes you seem sexier to me — despite your associating the word with its literal meaning of bug

  • IgnatiusReilly

    “in puerto rico el bicho is vulgar for penis”

    That’s a coincidence because I know people who think he’s a dick.