My Take On… #226: How Do I View Film Criticism?

When you have been reviewing movies for a long time, you establish a craft of how to review movies and how to handle film criticism. To be fair, film criticism has no right or wrong answer to it, everybody has their own unique way of representing film criticism, it’s why we look to such people as Siskel & Ebert, Jeremy Jahns, Chris Stuckmann, Doug Walker, John Flickster, Richard Roeper, Double Toasted, all these and many other different people showcasing how many different ways that they take a look at film criticism.

I essentially got the idea to do this from watching the old Sneak Previews with Siskel & Ebert, they did an episode where they talked about how their reviewing crafts work when they look at a film, it’s a great episode and I highly recommend watching this:

as well as the Siskel & Ebert short video on how they do film criticism:

So, having spent the last 12 years reviewing movies in various forms from the high school TV show I used to do to the current website you are looking at right now, I have my own views of film criticism and overall, how I review movies. So this post is essentially going to look at that, how do I view film criticism on the whole? How do I review movies?

Well, for me, my film criticism motive when I first began in high school was to essentially take from what Roger Ebert & Richard Roeper established when they were doing their show, try to look at a movie by essentially looking at what I liked about the movie and what I didn’t like about the movie. Simple critic strategy, talk about the positives and the negatives.

After I graduated and later came back to reviewing movies, I continued to do just that but as I got more into it, my way of reviewing movies changed. I took a lot of inspiration from and The Nostalgia Critic in trying to add a little more comedic elements to my review and just essentially talk about a movie and not be afraid to talk about those moments in a film that a lot of people would easily pass by.

So, what is my overall motive of how to view film criticism?

Well, first off, I look at the trailers to see my first impressions on what I may think a film may or may not become once I see it. For example, my initial impressions of Beauty & The Beast when those first couple of trailers came out, I was really excited, it looked exactly like the original animated movie, Disney had been on a hot streak of adapting animated films into live-action, I really did not think it could possibly fail. But once I saw Beauty & The Beast, as my recent review showed, I was disappointed by the overall film as a whole but still kind of enjoyed it.

Going into this weekend, I didn’t think too much of the Power Rangers trailers, it looked like it could go either way, it could be kind of fun and over the top or it could be incredibly stupid. I haven’t really been won over recently by the more recent trailers BUT the recent first reviews have come out and honestly, I am very curious to see what they have done. Early reception has been mixed, some people liked it for being a fun action movie that kind of satirizes the old show while others just didn’t like it in general. My interest is very curious, I was not the biggest fan of Power Rangers growing up but I did really like at 6 at the show’s peak so I’m optimistic for the best on that one.

In terms of recent trailers, I thought the trailer for Pixar’s new movie Coco looked pretty impressive visually but it was hard not to bring up the obvious elephant in the room about how the film is very similar storywise to The Book Of Life, a movie I really loved from three years ago. I still have hope Coco will be great but we’ll wait and see.

That leads into another key thing when it comes to reviewing movies, balancing your expectations.

Whenever you see a preview for a movie or if somebody tells you about it, you have to learn to balance your expectations and to keep your interests controlled in a manner where it doesn’t overstate your overall enjoyment of the movie. I’m guilty of doing this a lot when I first started, the fact that I would be allowed to see a lot of movies on my own made any movie going experience in the beginning very enjoyable. As I continued on and got older and more into becoming a more prominent reviewer, I knew that I had to balance out my expectations, the days of getting excited for a Michael Bay Transformers movie all the time had to pass me by when I knew they were not going to great movies, let alone good movies. Most times when I see a movie I’m looking forward to a lot, I can be excited but I also have to accept the fact that it could end up going horribly wrong and it has done just that in many different movies.

Next up, as Roger Ebert said in the film criticism video above, “you have to give a movie its’ day in court.”

You can’t just go into a movie already expecting to hate it, even after seeing a bunch of negative reviews or feedback from general moviegoers who saw the movie, you need to give a film a chance to convince you, the person, because for all you know, you could very well end up loving a movie that a lot of people really did not like. That happens all the time with people regardless of what film it is and my overall way of looking at a movie is letting it show me its’ stuff, show me what you are trying to show me as entertainment. If I think you did your job or one element did its’ job, I will give you points for it.

Leading into another thing I do, balance out the positives and the negatives of a movie.

As bad of a movie can get, I try my damndest to not just flat out hate every single moment of a movie. I try my hardest to find something in every bad movie I see that’s worth watching and very rarely do I come across a shitty movie that just has every single element of it as bad. Even in some of the worst movies of each year, for example, Batman V Superman, it was my #1 worst movie of the year in 2016 because it was such a massive failure after spending years building up to something to combat the Marvel Cinematic Universe when in actuality, it just cut, copy, and pasted everything Marvel did but in half the time and effort but also has no respect for anything Superman related whatsoever. But even in that movie, I still give credit to Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot for good performances as Batman & Wonder Woman.

With Beauty & The Beast, I was not overall negative with it, I actually made a list of balancing out the positives and negatives of the film to fully decided whether to give it a 2 star or 3 star review, you can see the review for yourself to see what I overall gave it.

Even when a movie is great, you also have to acknowledge any negative areas or points where you didn’t really like, essentially nitpicking.

And for me personally, nitpicking is something that I freely admit to doing a lot and honestly, I think it’s okay to nitpick on a movie just to get some negativity out of it and mostly it’s because something will just stick out to me that I will absolutely despise about a movie so easily that it’s hard for me not to talk about it.

A couple of examples, Dreamworks’ recent animated movies like Home & Trolls, it’s bad enough that both of these movies just pander to play only to kids but for a studio that created universally appealing animated films like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, & How To Train Your Dragon to just go for the lowest common appealing factor and just do stupid shit to appeal only to kids like they do in those movies. Trolls, especially, got on my nerves with that troll that does nothing but farts glitter because studio execs thinks kids love grossout humor, it’s a pointless character that is only in the movie because he’s voiced by Raj from Big Bang Theory, that’s it.

Again, going back to Beauty & The Beast, people got upset at me because they thought I was nitpicking too much comparing it to the original animated movie, which first of all, don’t do that, I don’t care if you want me to look at something as its’ own thing, you’re asking me to do that to the nearly shot-by-shot remake of a classic Disney animated movie, no, I’m justified in making comparisons to the original film in this case.

But the one scene that really made me mad was that they threw in a dog pissing moment in one of the biggest dramatic moments in the film where everybody is turning back into humans after the curse is broken and some idiot exec at Disney said “hey, I’ve got an idea, let’s throw in a random shot of a dog pissing to get a cheap laugh” and I’m sorry but in the context of that scene, that is an insult to the original movie and the original intent of that scene. Plus, it’s a low bar for Disney, a studio that has been known for not stooping to such lows like Fox does to get a cheap laugh with a grossout joke, the fact that Disney themselves did it here, that made me so mad and yes I am going to complain about it because it did not need to be in there and now, you’ve basically datestamped a timeless story and just because you’re Disney that means you think you can get away with it and I’m sorry, I can’t do that. So, in that case, I don’t regret nitpicking on that scene because nobody else talks about that about this movie and it should be brought up because it’s such a low thing to do for a studio that knows better.

Got a little testy there but you get my point, I nitpick to look at all the flaws of a movie regardless of if it’s good or bad.

In a way that could also lead into another thing I do in my reviews, swearing.

A lot of people always get on me because I swear in my reviews and I do this to give an honest review like I am talking to good friends of mine, I use the language they use at me even if it means swearing. Now in the case of a bad movie, I swear to fully get out my rage and anger over a movie because you need to have a way to get your rage or frustration or anger out of something, like I did with that scene from Beauty & The Beast. You need to show a range of emotions in any way, shape or form, or else most people will see you as robotic and bland. I never want to come across as that. And even when I do swear a ton in this, I even put a disclaimer at the top of my review essentially saying, “hey, this is going to have foul language in it, if you’re sensitive to that, don’t read on” because I know people will get upset over a ton of cursing in something. If I use a swear word only a few times, I don’t put the disclaimer but when I know I’m going to use it a lot, I put that disclaimer up there as a warning…plus I usually put my overall rating at the top too so people can see that first.

The last thing when I look at reviewing movies is making sure I summarize my overall thoughts in the end.

Everybody usually waits until the very end of their review to give their overall rating but my approach is do the rating in the beginning to do two things, one for the people who just want to see my review but don’t like long paragraphs and two, to give you a sense of what I am about to say.

And with every review, I always try to sum up my overall thoughts on a film in a paragraph or two so you can get an idea of whether or not this product I am talking about is for you or not. My main goal towards the end of a review is to convince you the reader whether to spend money on this, wait for it to be on TV, or just don’t bother to see it.

You always want to end a review on a note that makes you want to know whether you should pursue this or not and also, know when not to overstay your welcome.

The bottom line is there is no right or wrong answer on how to be a critic or a reviewer but if this is something you want to venture into, you have to set a standard for you to venture forth on. There are numerous ways out there to look at different things, you can take inspiration from others like I did and try to blend that with your own way of looking at movies, sometimes it helps to have a hook and a formula to it but know not to go too formulaic with it.

Even then, there’s no real telling on how far your reviewing expertise will go, for all I know, I’ll continue to expand my knowledge of reviewing stuff in the future to get better, it’s just something you have to prepare yourself for in this profession.

Regardless, if your passion out there is to review movies then explore it, find your own unique way of doing it, and use it with the skills you’ve acquired in life. That’s how I did it and here’s hoping that continues to shape me in the years to come.

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