The Role of the Movie Critic

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.

 

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18 responses to “The Role of the Movie Critic

      • I sit there on my sofa watching films, as I see my girlfriend catching up on the days news and entertainment on her phone. Just flicking through feeds. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Buzzfeed, Daily Mail… everything is a feed or a list now, with lots of pictures, whereby people just look at headlines or scores.

        It’ll be a matter of time until movie websites will simply consist of a phrase they can shove on a poster with sweeping general statements , “Tour de force”, “Masterpiece!”, “Hilarious!”, and a load of photos from the movie itself.

        May as well jump ahead and do it now.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I personally enjoy reading what people have to say about a film, everyone has a slightly different opinion and it’s often the little things that someone picks up on that others ignore. Your point about putting out the same news or popular opinion is very true but if you have a dedicated reader base, whether it’s one person or one thousand it’s nice that they value your opinion.

    I shook things up with my Star Wars review (mainly because I wanted to avoid spoilers at all costs) and just kept it short at about 200 words. People are going to see it no matter what I say about it so if people are willing to take the time to read my stuff I at least try to make it worth their visit. Lighthearted, fresh, original is the route I choose for both mainstream cinema and DVD/VOD titles.

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    • True, but what keeps you going to continue doing it? Even the most seasoned film critics struggle to make ends meet, and it’s no wonder many websites have now disabled the comments section – film is one of the most subjective topics out there.

      Not to deter you anyway, I’ve just seen your website for the first time today and have enjoyed having a browse. Maybe I set my sights too high, or I just need to shake things up a bit. You should keep doing what you’re doing though, and I’ll follow your blind spot list with keen interest. As I only review films I haven’t seen before, I’d say my site is one massive blind spot (good idea for a website name… *takes mental note*), and with over 100 unwatched DVD’s, I know where my focus will be this year.

      I think as of February I’ll stop reviewing blockbuster/hollywood films and stick to the stuff I can get motivated over, which is documentaries, indie films and world cinema.

      It’s difficult to write about a film you know is good, that everyone says is good, but maintain the enthusiasm to more or less echo what other people have said.

      Cheers for commenting anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I guess the key is trying to find a way to harness your interests and make an impact on the industry you love. Film isn’t going anyway and if anything it’s going to get stronger so from the sounds of things film festivals are right up your street, at the end of the day your blog, just like mine, is a place that we own for whatever purpose we desire. I get a fair amount of traffic from Facebook and often get comments from close friends and distant friends. This gives me confidence knowing that people who aren’t necessarily up to speed with the latest movie news are finding my blog valuable. That’s why I continue writing, I have an audience (no matter how small) and I enjoy writing for both myself and for them

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  2. I agree entirely with the first comment. Write about what you love. I suppose it depends on your priorities: if you write about smaller indie or foreign-language films then you have to be okay with the fact that your audience is potentially limited. It can be a pretty thankless task writing about film sometimes so it’s important to enjoy the process.

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    • Thanks for the comment Al. I guess this became a chore when I set myself the task of writing about EVERY film I saw. It becomes unenjoyable, and the process therefore becomes tedious.

      The limitations of audience reach for niche films wouldn’t phase me. I’d be happy if just one person watched a film I recommended and enjoyed it. Although, the method in which I sell that recommendation can be refined – would they not watch it if I didn’t write 3 or 4 paragraphs about it? Or if I put up a picture, a couple of sentences and films it’s similar to, would they be more inclined to watch it?

      I have about 35 films sat in my draft folder at the moment. I’m going to revise the way in which I write for those, churn them out, and see if anyone cares! Maybe I’ll enjoy the process more knowing that they’re easier to get through, and I’m more able to find time to summarise my viewing habits for people to review.

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      • Great, I hope it makes it more enjoyable for you. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the new format.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi there –
    Don’t get so down! Stick to what you know and what you want to write about, so if it’s indie/world cinema/documentaries then more power to you, those are areas of movie making that deserve to have a light shone on them. It sounds as if you’re getting discouraged by what we all go through from time to time: self-doubt. Is what we’re doing worth it? Is what we’re doing being appreciated – by anyone? Take it from me it is. Your reviews are out there and they’re being read, but even if you never find out if someone watched a movie based on your review/recommendation, even if it was a movie that you’re passionate about, it still doesn’t detract from the fact that your review has the potential to encourage someone to watch it, become a fan themselves, and then encourage them to promote it. I don’t always have the time to comment on the reviews I read, but I absolutely appreciate the time and effort you put in to writing them, because I do it myself and sometimes motivation is an issue. But every movie is an opportunity, and they shouldn’t be wasted. All of us in this blog-crazy world are looking to encourage people to keep watching movies (or avoid quite a few!), and that’s a very cool thing to do, so keep up the good work!

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    • Nice one buddy. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s me being down per say, just more of a frustration at my inability to keep up with the amount I watch, and I often wonder if it’s even worth it?

      I will never stop watching a promoting films, just that the method in which I promote them will change. I have 35 backed up reviews, and I wrote 6 of them today. These will continue to be churned out with no second thought to them until I run out, and then I’ll probably just keep up this level of effort.

      I’ll put as much effort in as the casual reader puts in reading them, with a big shiny score at the topped a snazzy photo to catch the eye! Or they’ll appear in digestible lists that people can just flick through and queue up to watch. We’ll see – I won’t change too much.

      The irony of this post is that WordPress has said my stats are “booming” on this particular post. Sods law.

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  4. I know what you mean about the amount of movies you watch, I’m the same, and often there’s not enough hours in the day to watch and review everything I see, so it means I’m more selective in what I do watch and review. Sometimes I’ll watch something and find I have nothing to say about it, or what I thought I’d get from a movie turns out to be something completely different, and that means no review – or it did until I started doing my Monthly Roundups. I think that’s a good enough format to still review everything else and bring those movies to people’s attention, and it doesn’t require as much effort. And like you I’m not always sure that reviewing the big new shiny movies is worth it, so my feeling is that I’ll gradually phase them out over the coming year. There’s just so many movies out there, and it’s a rare trip to the cinema now where I don’t come away feeling disappointed. But I think that we all do this because we love movies and we want to share our feelings about them, and I think we all hope that the next movie we see will become an all-time favourite – it’s just that it doesn’t happen that often. But again, keep up the good work, in whatever format you choose, just be reassured there’s plenty of us out there who are reading what you post, and appreciate the effort you put in in doing so.

    And it’s not surprising that your stats are booming on this – you can never tell which post will strike a chord; my “golden post” is for a documentary about teenage killers – go figure!

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    • I just liked having a record of every single one I had seen – regardless of what I thought of it. I think the monthly reviews work, calling it something like “Mainstream Monthly” where I review the ones I watched that were more commercially released. But I completely agree, there are some films whereby they have been completely covered to death, I sort of feel like “What more can I add?”. Compound that with, “Why should I add anything?”, and then you have my current state of mind.

      Although I’ve managed to churn out 6 reviews yesterday for films I’d watched ages ago. Couple of paragraphs on each one and this format is much better for me.

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  5. I agree with you to some point here. First of all, I am a big lover of Foreign Films, Indie & Documentaries of which, I am pretty much on my own in that none of my friends likes them to much, so I usually go on my own. Don’t ever stop watching them..they are truly life-giving! And I did have to make a rule for what I post because of the time it takes to do a review. I can’t usually just plod one out..I write down my immediate thoughts..step away for a few hours, then come back and finish it..then step away..come back..do an revisions, add photos etc.. I think a lot of the time people might not realize that unless, like you, they are doing it also. And unless we are working for a big top magazine/site etc…there isn’t much money in it. So I made a rule that I’m pretty much only going to write reviews of the films that I get to see advance screenings of. If the studio/film doesn’t ask me to a screening..then it’s unlikely I will write a review unless it’s just something I simply loved..or for that matter..hated. ha! Plus I think we all find certain blogs of people who write in ways that we admire or respect or find fun etc.. When people just write reviews where they explain the whole entire plot line and try to use over the top language all the time.. aren’t as enjoyable for me. I try to have fun with it, not give out the whole plot or spoilers and hopefully others like it. Also, when I go into a film, I try not to know everything about it as what fun is that. i want to be surprised and/or entertained. I hope you get your movie reviewing ‘juju’ back.. and make it fun for yourself again. Sometimes a break is a good thing and you will come back rejuvenated! 😀 Cheers..

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    • Thanks for the reply – I’ll never give up on watching Foreign films or the indies, I have too many in my DVD collection still to watch!

      The fact you get to go to screenings and get previews is pretty incredible. I have only had a few opportunities to review festivals, but I’ve ended up paying to do it on my own and any exclusives I got were through a friend running a different website.

      This is pretty much the only thing that adds a bit of variety to what I do on a day-to-day, and it’s difficult to fit it in now I’ve moved in with the girlfriend who would rather flick through Instagram on her phone as opposed to watching a film with subtitles. I don’t find I can watch the quantity or the quality that I want to.

      As you can see though I churned out about 7 or 8 reviews in about a day, and set them all up on schedules while I give this some thought. Once I’ve cleared the backlog I’ll have a clearer direction of what I want to do, if anything at all.

      Cheers for the support anyway, hope all is good with you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ohh.. you’ve moved in with an Instagram addict.. you know that’s a real thing too!! hahaha Someone asked me the other day if I watch movies on my phone..I told them I would rather slash my wrists..I mean how do you even conceptualize that! haahhaha anyways..yeah. I hope you catch up and keep rolling! 😀

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