This started out for me as a way of keeping a track of every film I watched over the course of one year, striving to hit the elusive 365. After which, this challenge has enabled me to build an archive of films that I have watched since 2014, I’ve been able to write for film festivals and partner with some great websites. More specifically, there has been some incredible feedback from those who scroll beyond the poster and the score. It’s quite a good feeling to hear that someone watches a film based solely on your recommendation, and even better when they enjoy it.
I’m thinking about taking a break from the way I’m currently doing things after this month, and going down one of many paths. I could start putting out monthly or fortnightly summaries of what I’ve watched which may just consist of a movie title, a sentence or two, and a score. Alternatively, I can condense the reviews down like they used to be, with the IMDB description to save me bothering to explain anything about it and just chucking in my two cents. I could streamline what I write about, focusing on World Cinema/Documentaries/Independent Cinema, which is where my main interests lie. Finally, I may just pack it all in and write for other websites – and even then it’d be a largely thankless task.
Websites are driven by traffic on popular movies, and ones that try and stray away to offer something different get lost in the plethora of list-based websites. Movies “you probably haven’t seen yet“, or websites that just repost the same news as everyone else’s news, probably about yet another Marvel flick that no matter whom or what it’s about will smash the box office. On top of that, the DVD industry is declining, people want movies that are available there and then on VOD, and if the movie that you review isn’t available to watch immediately chances are it won’t get a watched at all.
In-between writing about every single movie I watch, I have put out a few lists. I’m guilty of it. But despite my best efforts on making the almost daily reviews accessible, the lists do the best statistically from a traffic perspective, but from an engagement perspective they do extremely well too.
All of that certainly demotivates me to put any effort I put into a regular review, knowing that people would rather read a list, being spoonfed what to watch and where to find it, but I suppose it’s a natural reflection of the vast array of choices available to us now. Good movies get lost in the shuffle, and popular ones are promoted and covered by anyone and everyone. As a result, writing 3-4 paragraphs out about a popular film seems like a redundant exercise. Adding my thoughts on Mad Max for example seems like a waste of time because I enjoyed it like the vast majority of others did, so why would anyone care? I’d do it purely so I had a reference that I watched it, but my IMDB profile can do that for me. I’d rather spend the time trying to promote a lesser known film that deserves more attention.
I put it to you guys that review; how do you do it? Is the role of the casual reviewer and professional critic a lost cause? If so, is it that the readers want something more accessible, with pictures/gifs and a rating out of 10? Is this just a sign of the social media generation, where you flick aimlessly through feeds of nonsense and food from a birds-eye view, screencapped tweets with no credit and Ladbible posts, and that movie-based lists are just a transferring of that format?
And to you, the readers, do you care about what anyone writes? Or do you look at the lists, watch the trailer, look at the scores on Rotten Tomatoes and give the film a watch regardless of what anyone says?
The role of the critic has changed. They are not as influential as they once were, and the way in which we consume information has transformed. Watch this space anyway. Changes are coming.