A decade at the theater: Reflecting on 10 years

The big “one-oh.”

I turned 30-years-old in May and started reviewing movies in September 2008. That’s a third of my life, and over that time I’ve reviewed more than 600 movies, some more memorable than others.

It’s been a journey that has involved changing websites. I actually wrote my first reviews on MySpace (yes, seriously), and after that site screwing up and losing an entire review I wrote, I decided to make a new web-page. My reviews were first hosted on the site Webs.com.

Then, in 2016, I moved to a new platform called AreaVoices, a blog network operated by Fargo (N.D.)-based Forum Communications Company. When that site ended in June of this year, I arrived WordPress.

Just like my website, my locations changed over the past decade, too. I started my website while living in my hometown, which has one theater with five screens. After I graduated with an Associates degree from Rainy River Community College, I moved to Moorhead to attend Minnesota State University.

Located near the mighty Red River of the North, MSUM was where I studied journalism and the art of film. During my time there, I was able to enjoy films on the other side of the river in Fargo, at both large multiplexes or at the indie theater.

Standing in downtown Fargo, N.D. near the city’s indie theater.
At the West Acres 14 Theater in Fargo, N.D. Photo featured in the Fargo-Moorhead Forum.

I kept writing reviews after graduating from MSUM and getting hired at the Wahpeton (N.D.)-Breckenridge (MN) Daily News. There I had my own column for sharing movie reviews. That has continued into my current position at the Bemidji (MN) Pioneer newspaper, where I write columns about film, especially during award season.

Outside of my academic and professional career, I’ve also traveled for films, often going to the Twin Cities area for movies.

Outside the Edina Cinema.
At the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis.

Through all of that, I’ve seen a lot of change and creation in the art and industry of film. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed:

The Summer of 2008


I did an entire column on this but the short version is “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight” changed the industry forever. From the box office to the Academy, they left an impact. Here’s the link to my column on the subject.

The spring box office

Another subject I’ve done a column on. Over my time reviewing movies, I’ve noticed the steady increase of marquee movies coming out in the spring months, leading to this year’s “Black Panther. Here’s a link to my column.

The “Young Adult” genre

Right as I was getting into film criticism, the “Harry Potter” film series was in full swing. As a result, there were a lot of film studios licking their chops, wanting to make their own adaptations.

Over the next several years, I saw my fair share of these adaptation attempts, from “Twilight,” to “The Hunger Games” as well as “Percy Jackson” and “Mortal Instruments.” While some of these took off, the majority didn’t really catch on. A great example is the “Divergent” series. That franchise lost so much money, they were forced to scrap the final film in favor of a television direction.

The rise of Marvel


No real surprise with this one. The Marvel Cinematic Universe arrived with “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” a few months before I started and the rest is history. They managed to develop a formula and a strategy and it’s been a total success.

The movie “Avengers: Infinity War” which brought together nearly every character in the series is a reminder of just what an accomplishment the Marvel franchise has achieved.

Pixar falls, Disney rises


“Brother Bear,” “Home on the Range,” “Chicken Little” and “Meet the Robinsons” didn’t do many favors for Disney animation. Pixar, meanwhile, was king in the animation world, with releases such as “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille” and “Wall-E.”

While Pixar continued its success, though, with “Up” and the third “Toy Story,” something was building at Disney. In 2009, Disney released the above average “The Princess and the Frog” and a year later put out the fantastic “Tangled.” The mouse had returned to form.

In the years that followed, Disney put out hit after hit, with “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Frozen,” “Big Hero 6,” “Zootopia” and “Moana.” Pixar, meanwhile, has experienced stumbles.

Despite solid pictures like “Monsters University” and “Inside Out,” as well as the recent “Coco” and “Incredibles 2,” there have also been poor attempts like “Cars 2,” “Brave” and “The Good Dinosaur.” Plus, there have been just average pictures like “Finding Dory” and “Cars 3.”

Video game movies continue to wander

There have been a lot of attempts at video game adaptations, and I’ve seen my fair share. But outside of this year’s “Tomb Raider,” the genre remains poor. “Max Payne,” “Prince of Persia,” “Warcraft” and “Assassin’s Creed” are all examples of a genre that still hasn’t found its footing.

I still have hope, though. Comic book movies, outside of “Superman” one and two along with the late 80s “Batman,” were largely forgettable. Then “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” hit the screen, and, here we are.

The return of monster movies

Another subject I wrote a column on. While not as dominant, I’ve noticed a steady increase in giant monster pictures. Check out my thoughts with this link.

The Matthew McConaughey resurgence

For a time in the 2000s, McConaughey’s career wasn’t all that great. Outside of a fun appearance in 2008’s “Tropic Thunder,” McConaughey appeared in lackluster pictures such as “Sahara,” “Failure to Launch” and “Fool’s Gold.”

Then in 2011, it turned around. First came his fantastic performance in the underrated “Lincoln Lawyer,” followed by his solid work in the indie comedy “Bernie.” A year later he had a solid role in the slice of life drama “Magic Mike” and in 2013, he did arguably his best work in “Dallas Buyers Club.” For his performance in the latter, he earned an Academy Award. He followed that with the sci-fi epic “Interstellar.”

86th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room
Matthew McConaughey after winning the Academy Award for “Dallas Buyers Club.” Courtesy Getty Images.

Memorable award night moments

Winslet wins at last

Kate Winslet had been nominated five times before, but it wasn’t until 2009 that she won an Oscar. The award was for her work in the 2008 movie “The Reader.” While the movie had mixed reception, there was no doubt about Winslet’s acting skills on display.

81st Annual Academy Awards Press Room, Los Angeles, America - 22 Feb 2009
Kate Winslet after winning the Oscar in 2009. Courtesy Stewart Cook of Shutterstock.

The rise of Jennifer Lawrence

Lawrence was by no means a newcomer in 2012, but it was the year that she made her mark in a big way. First she starred in the hit “Hunger Games” film and then followed that with winning the Academy Award for her work in “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Since then she’s earned two more Oscar nominations, as well as three Golden Globe wins.

Lawrence after winning the Oscar in 2013. Courtesy Getty Images.

Streep wins three

The acting legend Meryl Streep took home her third Oscar in 2012 for her work in 2011’s “Iron Lady.” When the first trailer hit, it already seemed likely that she would win and that’s just what happened.

Streep’s victory was actually somewhat of an upset, too. Before Oscar night, it was Viola Davis who won the Screen Actors Guild award for her work in “The Help.” However, Streep was the final winner when all was said and done.

Streep after winning the Oscar in 2012. Courtesy Getty Images.

Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins

DiCaprio had four nominations under his belt and had starred in many other great movies where he wasn’t nominated, such as “Django Unchained.” However, he still didn’t have that gold statue. That was until he took home the Oscar for his work in “The Revenant.”

Leonardo DiCaprio
DiCaprio winning the Oscar. Courtesy Associated Press.

“La La Land,” no wait, “Moonlight”

Of course I had to share this one. In this day and age with all of this technology, the wrong name was still read for an Academy Award. Not just for one of the early awards of the night, but for THE award of the night.

While “La La Land” was initially called, the actual winner was “Moonlight.” From my side of things, I would have been OK with either pick, since those films ended at No. 1 and 2 on my top 10 list that year. Still, it’s such a memorable moment.

Director Barry Jenkins at the mic after “Moonlight” won best picture. Courtesy Associated Press.

Hopefully the next 10 years is just as memorable.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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