Sunday, 22 September 2019

How to Write a Film Review

Recent (constructive) criticism about how I write film reviews encouraged me to do a bit of research online to see if there are 'rules' and how others approach the task, perhaps more methodically. Here's what I found out, though I'm sure there are thousands of other ideas out there.

By the way, my self-appraisal is that actually I do quite a lot of this usually anyway, but could improve. (I do wonder if it's worth all the hassle, however, when few people read it anyway - and others around me just submit a paragraph at most!) Anyway, I post here in case anyone else is interested - and perhaps to encourage discussion and other people's ideas.

Ten Thoughts
1. Is this film part of a franchise? How does it suit the series?
2. Is the plot based on a novel, fantasy, or real-life events?
3. Did the writer manage to create a clear and captivating plot?
4. Is the rhythm of the movie dynamic or smooth? Are there too many needless details?
5. What is the target audience of the film? Is it G-rated, R-rated, or unrated?
6. Do movies on the same theme/topic that are worth mentioning in your review exist?
7. What sorts of shots does the cameraman use in the film? How do these techniques affect the overall impression?
8. Does the movie have an exclusively entertaining character or touch on serious issues?
9. Was the casting successful? Did all actors manage to portray their characters?
10. What is the general atmosphere of the movie? Is it tense/joyful/obscure?

---------------------------------

1. Begin with a catchy introduction.
Your introductory paragraph should include essential information about the movie: title, genre, director’s name, and release date. You can also mention, if appropriate, the awards (the most prestigious ones), the budget and the box office (if they are impressive), and the cast members. In addition to the general information, it is necessary to include your overview into the introduction. A compelling overview is a starting point for the critical part of your review that goes beyond the elementary plot summary and description of the technical elements. The overview may display different aspects such as:

- the connection between the film’s central idea and the current issues or events;
- the similarity between the plot and your personal experience;
- the interrelation between the thematic content of the film and its formal elements.

2. Don’t put your evaluation into cold storage.
If your readers don’t have much time to read the entire review, you can, at least, provide them with your evaluation at the beginning of the text. Don’t reserve your personal opinion for the concluding paragraph. You are not a crime writer: lay your cards on the table in the first or the second paragraph.

3. Compose a brief plot summary.
Describe four or five major events but don’t reveal the ending. Besides, avoid the “spoilers” by all means because your readers will hate you for destroying the suspense. If you still want to mention a significant turn, please, warn the readers about it.

4. Describe an overall impression.
The main purpose of the plot summary is to tell what the film is about. The description should inform the readers not about what you’ve seen but what you’ve felt. Mention the emotions and thoughts awakened by the concrete scenes, the most touching score, and the moments that pulled your heartstrings. Share your cinematic experience in order to make your review less formal and more personal.

5. Determine the purpose of the movie.
Answer the question, “Why was this film created?” Sometimes, you may find the response in the interviews with the members of the shooting team. In other cases, the purpose can be obvious thanks to the plot. If the movie has an entertaining characteristic, don’t try to dig deeper to find some implied sense. Certain films are good because of their simplicity.

6. Add some details about filmmaking.
The analysis of the formal techniques is an indispensable part of any exhaustive film review. Concentrate your attention on one or two elements that you consider to be the most significant for this particular film. Be careful with the specific terminology because your movie review shouldn’t look like a crossword. Here are some aspects that you can describe:
a) Cinematography
This term includes everything that happens with cameras during the shooting. You can describe three main aspects of cinematography if you see them as important for comprehension of the film: camera movement, camera angles, and camera distances.
b) Sound
Although the sound affects the atmosphere of the movie as well as the visual elements, it is often underestimated. However, talented film score composers are highly praised in the filmmaking world. Every sound in the film can be classified as diegetic and non-diegetic. Diegetic sound is like thunder, birdsong, barking, or conversations in the restaurant are the part of the narration. Non-diegetic sound is like off-screen commentaries or film scores that come from outside the universe of the film.
c) Editing
In a nutshell, the goal of editing is to create a smooth connection between all pieces of the film. The editor creates the “world of the story” in order to give the viewer a sense of space. The filmmakers use various methods to compose the integral reality of the film: graphic similarities, eyeline match, establishing shots, etc.
d) Mise-en-scène
This aspect is the most global because it includes literally everything that you see on the screen. Every landscape, actor’s smile, and visual effect is a part of the mise-en-scène.

7. Look for the deep meaning.
A good film is never superficial. There are always key phrases, symbolic things, and repeating elements that are significant for the deeper understanding of the film and, consequently, for your overarching review. Be attentive in order to unlock all secrets of filmmaking!

8. Provide the examples.
No review can sound trustworthy without examples. Phrases like “the acting is great” or “the sound is bad” don’t inspire trust. Be more specific! For example, when you talk about the portrayal of a particular character, mention what exactly makes the actor relevant for this role: appearance, manner of speaking, facial expressions, etc.

9. Write a strong conclusion.
Remind your readers about the film elements that impressed you the most. Add some personal recommendations and specify for whom this film will be more interesting and why. Remember that your conclusion is the last chance to convince your readers, so do your best!

10. Edit and proofread your film review.
Read your work two or three times. Correct all the mistakes: word choice, grammar, style, spelling, typos, etc. Errors can spoil even the most professional review!

-----------------------------------

1. Watch the film.
Once is necessary twice is preferable. Taking notes is also a good idea and will help the writing process by making it easy to refer to your in-the-moment thoughts and reactions.

2. Express your opinions and support your criticism.
Professional reviewers do not shy away from telling their readers whether they thought the movie was good bad or indifferent, and in fact readers come to rely on those reviewers whose tastes reflect their own when deciding whether or not to spend their time and money. Professional reviewers also have watched a lot of films and can express why and how they came to their criticism. Be sure to back up your thoughts with specifics–a disappointing performance, a ridiculous plot, beautiful cinematography, difficult material that leaves you thinking, and so on.

3. Consider your audience.
Are you writing for a fan site, a national news outlet, or a Teen Magazine? Knowing who your readers are can help you decide what elements of the film to highlight. You should also adjust your writing style to fit the publication.

4. The actors.
Many casual filmgoers will be inspired to see a film if a favorite actor is in it, so you should probably spend a little space talking about the performances: seasoned actor in a new kind of role, brilliant performance from a rising star, excellence despite a lackluster script, dynamics in an ensemble, and so much more can be said about the actors in any given film.

5. Directors, cinematographers, special effects.
This is where your film geek can really shine. Tell your readers about the highlights or missteps of directors, cinematographers, costume designers and CGI magicians. What worked, what surprised, what fell short of expectations, are all great questions to address in the body of your review.

6. No spoilers!
Give your readers some idea of the plot, but be careful not to include any spoilers. Remember the point of a good review is to get people interested in going to the movie. Don’t get over excited and ruin it for them!

7. Study the professionals.
As with all writing endeavors, the more you read the better you will be. And when you read film reviews that you like (or don’t like), think about why. Use your critical eye to think about why one reviewer has a hundred thousand followers and another two. Be sure also to read the publications where you’d like your writing to appear as a template for your own reviews, and don’t forget to read the submission guidelines!

8. Reread, rewrite and edit.
Edit your work; your opinions will not be taken seriously if you misspell the director’s name or can’t put together a grammatically correct sentence. Take the time to check your spelling and edit your piece for organizational flow.

9. Find your voice.
The best reviewers have a distinct personality that comes across in their writing. This does not happen overnight, so take every opportunity to write as an opportunity to develop your own style and voice that will grab reader’s attention and keep them coming back for more.

Adapted from articles at answershark.com, nyfa.edu and others.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Carol

The relatively inexperienced director Todd Haynes takes the helm and draws this 2015 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel The Pric...