(Ch. 1) Reviewing Films – Six First Steps

 

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**We will continue offer tips and thoughts throughout the semester on critiquing film and writing reviews. Some of these items will build on previous lessons and notes, and some will be brand new. Look at the following for ideas on how to engage in active film criticism.

  1. Make notes as you watch the film. This will help you more than you can imagine.

  2. Understand the story, the characters, the conflicts, the motivations, the themes, and the director’s intent. What do I mean by director’s intent? Ask yourself this: What do you feel the director was trying to accomplish? Was the film for pure entertainment purposes? For Art? For Message? All of the above? Was the director attempting to reach a very focused audience? If so, that should be noted, because “you” may not be the intended audience. If that is the case, sometimes that may impact your reactions and evaluation.

  3. Explore the technical aspects (as you’re able) including acting, music, lighting, camera work, editing, set design. This means: Did any of these elements attract you or distract you from the story, character arc, or theme. The more films you review, the more easily this will become. We’ll also explore in details later how to better analyze these parts of filmmaking.

  4. Acknowledge and identify the key stars or directors in your review/critique/evaluation. Was the film based on a true story or adapted from a novel or some other source? Was it original to the screen? You should mention these.

  5. Compare to other films you’ve seen that are similar only when you feel it is warranted.

  6. What were the strongest and weakest points of the film? Articulate those. This is ultimately what will help audience know if the film is worthwhile to view or not.

In taking these first steps you’ll be able to start getting deeper into the understanding  of what matters in film studies/critique and you’ll begin to offer a more informed and thought out review/critique. The more you watch films thinking about the list above (and below), and the “more” films you watch, you’ll find it easier and easier to comprehend things like “the story question”, character arc, the hero’s journey and the technical achievements of filmmaking.  

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**Use these guidelines for initial note taking to help you connect to story and character and for better understanding of message and theme:

  1. What was the story in one to two sentences? Remember our “writing concise story summary” thoughts earlier in this lesson.

  2. What was the inciting incident?

  3. Which literary hero best represented your lead character(s)?

  4. What was the key conflict?

  5. Did the main character(s) change?

  6. What worked for you? What did you like about the film?

  7. What didn’t work? What were the sore spots? What was missing? What was there too much of?

  8. What grade would you offer this film?

 

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