Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Film reviews are hard to write

I have been to the movies four times in the last seven days. Four times! I don't mean watching movies on an HBO binge, I actually went to four different theaters in the DC Metropolitan area and watched four different films. That seems like a lot.

The reason I bring this up is because I have been considering how to bridge a gap between life and blog. When I had some severe cashflow problems, I sought out advance screenings for movies in the area as a form of free entertainment. In exchange for standing in line for an hour or more and sitting in less-than-ideal seats, I have been able to see films before they are released to the public. I recently realized that having seen so many films, I talk about movies a lot. I'm starting to feel a sense of responsibility to continue to go to screenings because so many people approach me and ask if I've seen a film, or if I can recommend a good film for a date, or if it's suitable to see with children, etc. I am beginning to enjoy being the go-to movie person. The demographic at my workplace is such that I have very (very!) little in common with most of my coworkers. Movies are universal. You can talk to anyone about them. It has given me a chance to get to know my coworkers a little better and gives us something to talk about. It has been nice to have that experience to talk to about to friends and coworkers.

Since I have seen so many new flicks, I have considered writing movie reviews on the blog. A night at the movies is an expensive endeavor these days. A film for two people with beverages and refreshments can set you back $40 or more. That is a lot of scratch for a two-hour (on average) experience. Since I have the privilege of seeing some of them in advance, it feels natural to write about them before people go out and spend their hard-earned money. But film reviews are hard to write. If you give away information in a review that the filmmaker intended to reveal organically, you are doing the reader a great disservice.

Perhaps I'm just bitter. On weekday mornings I listen to the Tony Kornheiser radio show and he has someone on once a week to talk about movies. I am not a fan of this woman. In the not-so-recent past, she spoke about a film that I wanted to see very badly. I had been anticipating the film and the day before it's release she said something to the effect of, "They do a great job of building suspense. You will see the shaking of leaves and the destruction left behind, but you never actually see the monster until the end of the film."

I was so pissed off.

It may not sound like a huge spoiler, but I assure you that it is. All of the care that was taken by the filmmakers to build that suspense is now marred. The whole point of suspense is to keep the viewer in a state of anticipation of what is to come. Walking into a film knowing that the monster is revealed at the end takes away some of that edge-of-your-seat action. It blemishes the overall experience. I never forgave her and I still haven't seen the film.

Last week, the same reviewer started to talk about another film that I intend to see and after Mr. Tony asked a general question about the film, she responded, "Yes, but there is a twist. I don't want to be a spoiler, but..." (the ellipses indicate the point at which I darted across my desk and turned the radio off.) I appreciate her use of the word "spoiler" this time to give me time to shut her off. I still don't forgive her for ruining that other film for me though.

Some of my best filmgoing experiences have happened when I walked into the theatre with little information, unburdened by expectations and was dazzled by the way the film came to life. Attack the Block was the most recent dazzling experience for me. As soon as I returned home after seeing an advance screening, I sat down at my computer to write a review and tell all of my blog readers how fantastic it was. That happened in June; it has been sitting unpublished as a draft ever since. I couldn't bring myself to post it. Every paragraph is full of spoiler warnings and detailed information. It's crap. You may think that this blog is filled with blather off the top of my head, and to be fair, some of the time it is. But I do write and edit pretty carefully. I couldn't bring myself to take anything away from someone who may see the film. Even if it's at the expense of not telling people how great this film is.

After seeing Drive recently, I feel compelled once again to try my hand at movie reviews, but let's face it - there are plenty of resources for that sort of thing on the internet. Does the blogosphere really need another amateur writing film reviews? There's plenty of that out there already. So, I won't clog the blog with my own pathetic reviews, but I'm going to try to make more of an effort to share information about some of the better films I see (and possibly rant about some of the worst.) I will try my best at being responsible and attempt to enhance your filmgoing experience by providing you with links to actual reviews that are better than anything I could come up with. I have seen some good flicks this year, and I never give my endorsement lightly. I will spare you from having to read my awful attempts at reviewing a film, but I could at least do you a solid and let you know when I see something good (seriously, I have been to the movie four times in seven days. What else do I have to write about this week?)


Paul said...

What cheeses me off is when a reviewer says, "I won't give the twist away," without realizing that mentioning there's a twist pretty much gives it away. When I know there's a twist, I look for it, which always makes it less significant when it happens. Who is Kaiser Soze, anyway?

Laura said...

So strange you and I think alike! I watch a ton of movies, more on DVD then the theater, but I often have considered a spin off on my blog into a movie and local restaurant review! I think it would be fun, especially coming from the "average" person.