Alibi’s O’Leary: “Working within boundaries can lead to great art”

Chaos fills Devin O’Leary’s office. There are photographs of famous icons and fictional characters, some abstract paintings and a pair of gray boxer shorts. Papers are stacked on his desk together with a stegosaurus figurine. DVDs, Blu-rays and some tapes were scattered everywhere, while boxes containing stuff were loaded in one corner. As the film editor of the Weekly Alibi, O’Leary works amid this mess.

The 42-year-old film expert’s interest in writing was first developed while in college, 16 years ago, when he and some friends decided to work on “Ones & Zeroes,” a technology magazine they established through the University of New Mexico’s Honors Center.  They were about to graduate when they heard that some publishers were coming to New Mexico to establish “Nu City,” a new alternative weekly paper that would soon develop into the “Weekly Alibi.”

The friends then met with the publishers and asked if they wanted to retain “Ones & Zeroes” as a regular column. After their idea was approved, O’Leary worked on the section for about a year. When the paper started to fill out, he was encouraged to broaden his horizons. “Some writers eased into sections that were natural for them,” he said. “Having a background in film, I ended up as the paper’s film editor.”

O’Leary does things differently. Unlike other prominent film critics, he does not assign letter grades, stars or thumbs-up to movies. According to him, everyone has their own personal preferences, and he does not want to tell people what to and what not to watch. “[I am] only stating my opinion and hoping to influence others,” he said.

He is also not always a fan of popular movies. He wants to let people know about more obscure flicks rather than widely-known ones. “I wouldn’t tell people about ‘Terminator’ because they already know about it,” he said.

O’Leary does have some personal favorites. He admitted his preference for horror, science fiction and kung-fu films. “Those aren’t generally considered lofty works, but I appreciate films that aim for a specific audience,” he said. “Working within boundaries can lead to great art.”

Movies have played a vital part of O’Leary’s life. He was first introduced to “Star Wars” when he was six, and since then, he developed a strong foundation and deep knowledge of films. But for him, film criticism is not just a job; it is pleasure, too.

“It’s a weird transition how I watch movies for work, and how I go home and watch movies for fun,” he said.

Aside from films, O’Leary also loves games. When he is not watching movies during his free time, he is playing video games. He even blogs about them on the Alibi’s website. “The Alibi exploits me so much,” he jokingly said.

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