He may refer to himself as just a "thing on page 8," but for a large group of Bowdoin students, Wesley Morris might just be their golden ticket to a lifetime relationship with the silver screen.
The Boston Globe film critic visited Bowdoin at the invitation of friends Mary Pat McMahon, the associate dean of student affairs and the director of residential life, and Mellon Curatorial Fellow of the Bowdoin College Art Museum Diana Tuite. Morris spoke to students twice during his October 4 visit.
First, Morris led a career-centered discussion with Associate Director of Career Planning Dighton Spooner about his personal experiences as a journalist in Lancaster Lounge, Moulton Union. He then led a question-and-answer session with students at Ladd House.
Morris got his professional start when an act of serendipity landed his résumé on the desk of the San Francisco Examiner—forwarded from another office that turned him down for a job.
He told the gathering of students in Lancaster Lounge—many of whom were interested in film studies—that the way in which he secured his first job is typical of the kind of luck often required to break into journalism.
Morris, who majored in film studies at Yale at a time when most of its male alumni were expected to "join the military or go to Wall Street," has since written for NPR, The San Francisco Examiner, and ESPN's Grantland, among other media outlets.
"So much of [journalism] is the people you know, but the work you do speaks for itself," he said.
Morris started at The Boston Globe in 2002 when the paper's sole film critic, Jay Carr, retired. Since then, he has weathered various changes in the movie-viewing experience, including the fast rise of the DVD.
Nonetheless, Morris said he still prefers theater viewings and noted, "I'm not a DVD reviewer; I think about that a lot when I have to watch on a computer and I just think, 'Would I like this more or less if I was in a movie theater?'"
In the face of the constantly evolving film world, Morris has stuck steadfastly to his expectations for what the theater experience should provide.
"I just want to have some kind of time," Morris said of the movie-going experience. "I don't want to have a fun time or a good time because some movies aren't meant to give you that. I have to feel something and have the best movie going experience I'm supposed to have with the movie."
Eli Garrard '12, a Spanish and Latin American studies major and film studies minor, attended the talk at Ladd.
"Even if you're not looking into a film-related profession, it's valuable to be able to appreciate film as a craft rather than [you might] as a passing consumer" he said.
Morris typically attends screenings one to two weeks in advance of a film's release, although he has watched a few films the same night as his deadline. When asked about his intended audience, he said: "I think about the audience to the extent that I hope it reaches people. I think about the studio to the extent that I want to be fair."
Over the years, Morris has dabbled in topics he never expected to explore. He got his idea for his own blog, the Sportorialist—a look at style in sports—while watching Wimbledon at a wedding.
"A friend of mine was sitting in front of the TV complaining about something Maria Sharapova was wearing," he said.
Morris' blog later became the Sportstorialist and a fixture on Grantland, Bill Simmons' long-form sports journalism site launched earlier this year. In Morris' October 4 article, "On Brady's Hair," he describes Tom Brady's former haircut as "hair that smacked your tray onto the cafeteria floor."
Morris ventured into social media and said that the rise of Twitter has left film critics more accountable to their readership than ever before.
"You can't hide from anybody on social media," he said. "The emails and tweets I get from sports people are not like the ones I get from normal people. [For sports people, it's as though] you invaded their home, you violated their belief system."
Eric Binswanger '12, a history major and film studies minor, attended the talk in Lancaster Lounge. Binswanger, who worked at a production company in Los Angeles this summer, was struck by Morris' comments on social media.
"The film critic doesn't exist in a bubble; he's getting pressured from one side and thinking about who he's writing for—not just the movies," he said. "It's all of these interconnected things."
Despite the vocalness of his online readership, Morris' enthusiasm for the profession appears unabated.
"I'm really psyched to write about the movies I have to write about more than I have been in years," he said. "At the end of the day, I'm just a glorified moviegoer."