Honestly, I really don’t think I should be writing something about “reviewing” in this site; not that I think that it isn’t necessary but because I feel that I am not exactly qualified seeing as 1) I am not a professional movie critic 2) I believe reviews are a reflection of one’s personal taste 3) I believe there are better writers than I am 4) I don’t think anyone would care what I think of reviewing. My friends Sean Rhodes and Cenobite7 both gave their two cents in the art of reviewing. Both write ups were incredibly well-written and very informative. I don’t think I can add anything else to the info both of them had shared. So what the heck am I doing following their write ups under a data point? Well, I mostly review movies and most of the time, I review movies that aren’t that well known; I try to review things other than mainstream Hollywood. I guess this write up would serve me better than any other reviewer; consider it a personal reminder and maybe a “guide” if you will to movie reviewing.
As I’ve said, I may not be qualified but hey, consider this a
newbies who want to review movies in this site.
I am NOT a movie critic but I am a cinema fan. This is a hobby, and I am not getting paid to write reviews, but it has become a sort of a personal passion. I love comparing notes with my friends here at Lunch and I have learned from each of them. Anyway, consider what I am about to discuss my own personal guideline to reviewing movies--not to teach but to share and so maybe I can be better understood. Again, some of you may wonder how I can review Transformers 2 and give it a 2 star rating and then I review a lesser known movie (like Crank 2) and gave it a weak 3.5 stars. This is my personal guideline; it may not be perfect but it is my own…
Be Emotionally Detached and Remain Level-Headed.
Emotions can play games on our mind how we react or how we like a film. I tend to avoid reviewing my favorite movies because I may become too biased and may sound too much of a fan boy. Don’t instinctively give a film a great rating because you like the director, actor or the film’s premise. Let’s say the new STAR TREK movie which has a huge fan base or the latest Transformers movie; I try not to get too excited that a new movie from my favorite franchise is being released, it compromises objectivity. I keep my emotions in check but I do allow the movie to instill whatever emotions it should wthin my gut. Nostalgia is good and entertainment value is good, but it has nothing to do with the WHOLE of the movie you are currently watching. Not to say they’re good or bad movies, but a reviewer should be able to break a film down with pure passion and credibility. What is the plot? How's the acting...the characters? It also works the other way around, just because a movie didn’t meet your expectations means that it is a bad movie. (I will discuss this next) Above all, keep your expectations low and remain hopeful to what you are about to watch...
Look for what the Film is trying to Express
… NOT what You Want to see in a Film
Sean Rhodes and I have discussed this numerous times. As he’s stated “an apple isn’t an orange” and this is a great way to put it. Let’s say that you don’t agree with the way Ridley Scott approached the way he made “Gladiator” or how Kim Ki-Duk makes Korean movies. Don’t expect “Citizen Kane” from “Crank 2”. A viewer has to go into the mindset of the director and take in the story to really know the film inside out. Let’s say you get offended with sex scenes or you say that “boring because it is like a reality show” as with “Paranormal Activity” or if a movie is disturbing, which sometimes is the point to the film (to be disturbing); find the reason for the movie in the first place. Complaining why something is, wouldn’t make your review credible it just shows how you reacted to the movie. Your reaction isn’t how everybody else would react, therefore it would only be an opinion and not entirely a review. It is easy to just criticize or praise a movie or topic, but this is not reviewing. Myself, I usually put myself in the movie character’s or even the director's shoes. What would I do in that situation? Read Between the Lines
Thematic and Art House films require breaking down the films themselves. I love Asian cinema because they avoid the perfunctory happy endings. Instead of showing motivations for a scene, they may ask the viewer for the motivation. Great directors and writers know how to provoke a reaction. Learning to identify the anatomy of a scene is vital to movie reviewing. Looking for the positives of a film is vital to also identifying its negatives.
Capture the Tone of the film
I personally try to reflect the tone of the movie I am reviewing. Don’t be afraid to use the “Thesaurus” in Microsoft word. (I find it very helpful) If you’re reviewing a horror film, capture your emotions; if a drama, reflect just how dramatic the movie is and so on. Showing your enthusiasm for a movie (whether good or bad) is infectious to the reader. Adding some research to the film’s background and a summary/teaser of the film’s plot helps the reader to get into the rhythm. It also helps to know your audience.
Make Educated Comparisons to an original film…
…But don’t make this the main ‘ingredient’ of your review. Comparing sequels to original movies and remakes to originals are all well and good; however, avoid falling too much into this trap. Keep the focus on the film being reviewed. I loved “A Tale of Two Sisters” and disliked its American remake “The Uninvited”--review them separately and each film standing alone. Keep the topic about the original or the remake’s plot elements not how one outdoes the other. Also, it is a bad idea to compare a new movie to a director's earlier works. Example: rating Avatar as to how it compared to James Cameron's earlier works is not credible; a director's earlier work is different from his present ones. Why should you compare "Saving Prvate Ryan" to "Forrest Gump"? It is a case of apples and oranges once again. Ok to compare but never forget that you are reviewing a stand alone movie which may be meant for a different audience.
Work Hard on the Review
A reviewer is only as good as his/her last review. I often say my reviews are only as good as the film being reviewed. I write reviews to share what I have seen about movies I am passionate about. Try to share as much as you learn in your review. Back up your opinion, minimize spoilers unless absolutely necessary to prove a point. Capture your initial reaction and jot down notes during or after you see the film. Just ‘wing it”, it is ok to make grammatical errors (it is fixable) and be as opinionated and analytical (if need be) as you can. Question Yourself. Learn to doubt your own reaction to the film. You may be wrong and it is always a smart call to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. Write from your heart and you learn from your own mistakes. Do not review a film you haven’t finished; It is just totally unfair to the reader. Most importantly, stay on your own side of the road. Make your descriptions vivid and engaging so that the reader can MAKE their OWN decision whether the movie is for them or not. It is not about how you rated the movie after all, but how you help others make an informed decision.
Find Something that is Your Own
Be an individual, Find Your Style and know what you like and dislike. I usually open a review with a little basic background, a summary or a teaser to the film’s plot then my actual opinion of the film. My style is pretty much very basic and very simple. Open well and close the review well. Also, if you hate romantic comedies or if you hate exploitive cinema then don’t review films from this genre too often. Find what you are into and stick to it--however, be open-minded to other genres since there have been some movies under a genre I usually hate (like romance movies) but I would be caught totally by surprise. (“My Sassy Girl” and “Cyborg She” are great examples) Be adventurous and open, and think not inside or outside a box but deny that there is a box.
Make your Own Guidelines and learn to identify certain things. I have questions I ask myself:
1) Was I entertained?
2) Did all the plot elements fit the film’s screenplay or tone?
3) Is it Original, Creative or a Hack job?
4) How are the characters and performances?
5) Is it a popcorn film, an art house film or something with a theme?
6) Is it actually meant to be this way?
Reviewing itself is like TELLING A STORY.
Do not just copy product information and make a summary from the back cover. Whether by pictures and funny quips, get your readers’ attention--you can make a short humorous review. Reviewing is an art form and learn to respect (and maybe inspire) your readers. They took the time to read, the best a reviewer can do is make it worth their time but don't beat around the bush. Be as direct as possible while taking the reader on a journey. Remember a review isn't how you liked or why you liked a movie but putting your eyes in two viewpoints; the positives and the negatives. Oh, a review does not need to be long to be effective; be real, sincere and direct with your feelings/opinion about the movie. There are two types of readers: those who really like short reviews and there are those who wants to read long stories. It is your story--write whatever you feel.
I try to work hard to promote lesser known movies; Hollywood gets all the attention, so I need to find something else to review. Be credible, focused, and above all, have fun. Do it for yourself and not for anyone else. But the biggest reward in writing a review on an obscure film is that someone out there may pick up the movie on your recommendation...it is intangible but makes the effort worthwhile!
You are a guest in a filmmaker’s art form so one needs to get himself into the film itself--whether the viewer likes it or not. Avoid presenting your assumptions about the film/director/writer as fact. Be honest with yourself; turn off the dvd player if you are getting disconnected and try again. Need two viewings? Go right ahead. First and foremost have fun in writing any review. Film reviewing is not a job, it is a passion. This is how I approach my movie reviews, whether you agree or not is all good. This is me.
Thank you very much
. Enjoy your visit to Movie Hype at Lunch.com