A Word About the Reviews

It turns out reviewing movies on a regular basis is harder than I thought it would be, however, they’ve sort of become the back bone of this blog. I suppose it was inevitable since I don’t care to pick over ever detail of a movie before it’s even released, I have zero interest in box office projections or recaps, and even less interest in Hollywood gossip. Until movie stars start flinging themselves at me, begging me to interview them, I guess it’s going to continue to mainly be about reviews.

I do enjoy writing them when they go well, unfortunately they don’t always. As we speak, I’ve got two full drafts sitting there in my pile languishing; unfit for human consumption. For several more films I have yet to even set fingers to keyboard. A quick glance at the Review Index shows me that 7 movies are listed as Coming Soon, but “Soon” passed a long time ago. They should read “Coming Maybe”.

One of the problems I find is that it’s difficult to be quick yet still get inside of a movie. The stock and trade of the internet is immediacy which doesn’t play well when you’re a rewriter, a tinkerer and a ponderer like me. The end result is that either I rush something up before I’m really happy with it or I work on it and work on it until long after everyone has moved on to the next batch of new releases. Yeah “Get your fresh, red hot Ratatouille review here, folks!” Indeed. Maybe in time for the DVD release. I’ve tried to be faster and I’ve tried to be less picky, but with limited success.

Another problem is the Spoiler. Spoiler warnings are awkward and inconvenient and I don’t like how they interrupt the flow of a review. I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone, however, so I generally just try to dance around a plot in a way that won’t reveal anything significant. That way I can avoid spoilers altogether. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to talk about a movie in any depth without revealing key information, and because I believe the less you know about a movie in advance the better, my definition of key information is extremely liberal. It’s a surprise really that all of my reviews don’t read something like “One time, there was this guy, and he did this thing, and then this other thing happened, and it was so awesome you should totally check it out.”

So how do I react quickly, avoid spoilers and still manage to pick a movie apart while hopefully inspiring some kind of discussion from other people who’ve seen it? Well, the current experiment I’m trying out with 3:10 to Yuma is to put up a general spoiler-free “what’s it about, who’s in it, did I like it or hate it and why?” kind of thing as quickly as possible and then to come back later in the week with a follow-up that’s a little more direct, in depth and thoughtful; something that will likely be packed with spoilers, that will likely begin with a general warning, but is really intended for people who have seen the movie. It could be inspired by something I’ve read after the fact or it could just be the result of further consideration or an email I got from a friend. It may even include a shift in opinion. I’d spend zero time regurgitating the plot and all the time wallowing in some aspect of the film that moved me, confused me, inspired me or pissed me off.

That’s the theory anyway. I think it sounds good on paper, but it remains to be seen how it plays out (if it plays out) in the real world. I’ve already diverted from my intentions with a more detailed review of Yuma than I’d planned, but whatever. I’ve got more to say on that film and will follow up in the coming days. Let me know what you think of this idea if you think anything about it at all.

Also, on a final note: what do you think of the cheesy star ratings? I know they’re simplistic and corny, but damnit I matured into a movie lover with a tattered, but always current copy of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide in my hands. I like to think I’ve grown beyond the blurb-and-grade, but I’m not sure I ever want to completely let it go. Call me nostalgic. Call me a simp. What do you think? Do you like them? Do you hate them? Do you care?

I give this post 2 1/2 stars. I enjoyed it I guess, but it dragged in spots and ultimately left me wondering what the point was.

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5 thoughts on “A Word About the Reviews

  1. I know what you mean. I had a half assed Halloween review up for a couple of hours, kept playing with it until it made even less sense than before, and ultimately decided to put the poor critter out of its misery. I didn’t post anything this week, but that’s better than posting one shitty thing.

    In terms of stars, spoilers, and so forth, I say go with what rings your personal bell. It sucks when even labors of love have to be compromised.

  2. Hey, I’ll trade you one stale Ratatouille review for your Halloween deletion.

    Actually, if I wasn’t so desperate to put my writers’ block to bed and to just run something I would’ve left my own Halloween review in the oven a little longer.

    But I’ve gotta say it felt good to get it out there, warts and all and hopefully things will start flowing a little easier around here for a while.

    Oh, and the star ratings will likely remain. I’m a cornball, what can I say?

  3. Stars, thumbs, numbers…they’re all cheesy and somewhat misleading in a sense but they accomplish the goal of giving the reader a quick in to the mind of the critic. I say keep ’em.

    I like the concept of the quick review, then the detailed follow-up if necessary, but you should probably try to come up with a format for the quick review and label it as such. Otherwise, people may be confused when they come to the site and think that the follow-up is actually the quick review they already saw and skip it. They may even miss the other new content inbetween.

    Those are my two-cents. I give my comment 2.5 out of 3 stars. It got to the point and didn’t stray much, but it needed more feeling.

  4. Hey! I know exactly what you mean. I myself have chosen to be less immediate (also because films tend to come out -much- later here, and I do aim for the most general audience possible), and to write instead with two goals in mind: I try to give a new angle such that people who have seen the film get to think about it again (though in truth I often settle for pointing out a few things that will hopefully put the movie fresh back in to people’s minds), and I try to give people who have not seen the film an impression of what they would be in for if they were to see the movie.

    This means I often don’t go for plot descriptions, although I’ll admit that’s also a personal preference: I like to go into a movie as fresh as possible plotwise, and I think the story of a movie is much better left to unfold by itself. I should, however, probably put a permanent spoiler warning at the top of the page since I sometimes reveal more than some people might want to know. It’s an odd balance, and it doesn’t always turn out well. I think I’m a little too inaccessible, for example, because I’m often quite sketchy. On the other hand, I hope I inspire some people to see at least one movie they might not have otherwise because I wrote about it.

    Sorry for rambling. Anyway, good luck with your new format. I’ll look forward to the more in-depth pieces more than the quick summaries, I admit, immediacy be damned.

  5. Well the quick review won’t necessarily be short or abbreviated in any way and probably won’t even be distinguishable from many of the others I’ve written. At any rate, they’ll be the ones that say ‘Review’ and the title and give the star rating.

    As I say, the 3:10 to Yuma review is just such a ‘quick’ review. It’s quick only in that I put it up quickly. The main difference is that I left out a lot of stuff I still would like to talk about because I want reviews to go up more regularly and because I know not many people had seen the movie yet. At least now the world will know what I thought about the movie right away and it buys me some time to shape some of the things I want to add about Russell Crowe’s character and some other things. In the end it was actually a more in depth review than I was intending, though I think it’s still spoiler free and mainly gives the set up of the plot without describing the full arc or the resolution.

    I don’t know, I’d give Joel’s comment a full 3 out of 3 because it had a good beat and you could dance to it.

    P.S. I love that I can go back and edit my own comments. I’m 32% less douchie this way.

    And also, thank you all for the quick feedback.

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