The Reel Dad remembers 21 years of movie reviewing

The Reel Dad reflects on his twenty plus years of movie reviewing. For the Love of the Game featuring Kevin Costner was the first of many movie reviews that appeared in print.

The Reel Dad reflects on his twenty plus years of movie reviewing. For the Love of the Game featuring Kevin Costner was the first of many movie reviews that appeared in print.

In August 1999, this column began with a question.

One Thursday evening, shortly after our family had moved to Ridgefield a year before, my then 15-year-old son, Jonathan, asked, “why doesn’t The Ridgefield Press have a movie critic?”

Well, some 21 years and more than one thousand movie reviews later, someone in town may again ask that question because this is my final print column as The Reel Dad. I have loved writing about movies all these years. Thank you for reading.

Back in 1999, Jonathan wrote The Ridgefield Press to ask if we could, together, write a weekly column about movies with different views from different generations. After editors Jack and Sally Sanders said “yes,” we started Take Two: A Son and Father Go to the Movies with our review of “For the Love of Game” starring Kevin Costner. After Jonathan, and later his brothers Matthew and Garrett, went off to college, the column shifted to The Reel Dad. And, all these years and movies later, it’s time for this reel grandfather to say goodbye to a print column I have cherished since 1999.

I love the movies. I savor what we experience once the lights dim and the credits begin. I love how film takes us to places we can only imagine, introduces us to people we will never meet, and prompts us to consider questions we might forget to ask. I love how movies enable families to share such special experiences. And my weekly routine — to watch and write — has been a real joy.

When Jonathan and I began back in 1999, our “take two” approach to this column naturally emerged from our routine as a son and father who love film. We’ve always watched movies. And we’ve always talked about the movies we’ve watched. And, when we would go to a movie theater, Jonathan and I would spend the ride home discussing and occasionally disagreeing about a movie’s relative merits.

So, when the column began, we continued our routine. We would to go to the movies together, but refrain from talking about the film until we got home and each wrote our 250 words for the paper. Sometimes we would agree, sometimes not, but the opinions mattered less than our experience. Together we shared what every parent cherishes, the chance to be together and build memories that last forever. Now, each time one of the movies we once reviewed shows up on “the late show,” we recall that first time we wrote about it. Where we were. And what we remember.

Our favorite moment occurred, in 2001, when an overeager publicist at Sony Pictures attributed fake movie reviews to advertise a film to a nonexistent movie critic from The Ridgefield Press. But we did exist. And, within days, the real “son and father” critics Jonathan and Mark were interviewed for columns in the Los Angeles Times, Time, Newsweek, Entertainment, and on All Things Considered on NPR. Our tradition of sharing movies as a family hit a nerve among parents longing to spend time together.

Now, it’s time for the newspaper to print other news. We are so grateful to Sally and Jack who, years ago, said “yes” to our offer and who, for years, took care of the column. And, more recently, TinaMarie Craven has continued the tradition as part of Hearst Connecticut Media. Most of all, I want to thank you for reading this column for so many years. I have loved receiving your notes over the years. And I will miss the spontaneous chats at Stop & Shop when you disagree with me.

Thank you so very much. And see you at the movies.

Editor’ s note: Mark Schumann will continue to write his Reel Dad column and his movie reviews, but they will only be published online. His columns can be found at , , , , , and .