film-review-62

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GUIDELINES FOR WRITING A FILM REVIEW AS CRITICISM

Required length: 2 – 3 pages double-spaced, font 12.

Due April 15th

INSTRUCTIONS FOR YOUR ASSIGNMENT

(1) WHAT ARE THE REQUIRED COMPONENTS OF A FILM REVIEW AS

CRITICISM?

a condensed plot synopsis

background information

a set of abbreviated arguments about the film (THE MAIN FOCUS OF YOUR

REVIEW)

an evaluation, and a recommendation about whether to see the film, or not, and/or

who might enjoy seeing the film.

Be sure to attach a critical essay of the film to your film review.

(2) SHOULD THESE ELEMENTS COME IN ANY PARTICULAR ORDER?

Generally, a review with open with a

summary judgment

, a way of catching the

reader’s attention; this is followed by a

synopsis

of the plot; then a

series of arguments

about the FORM of the film (genre, cinematography, mise-en-scène, narrative structure,

acting, etc); this is accompanied by

background information

(information about the

director, stars, film’s production, reception); in other words, generally the argument and

the background information are woven together; the review concludes with a more

elaborated statement of the evaluation of judgment alluded to, or suggested, in the

opening line.

(3) WHAT ARE REVIEWERS LOOKING FOR WHEN THEY EVALUATE A FILM?

WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING A FILM?

The motivation of what happens in a film

The entertainment value

The social value

Let’s look a little more closely at these criteria:I. MOTIVATION

There are

four

main types of

MOTIVATION

:

Compositional

: Does a given action or event constitute part of the film’s cause-and-

effect logic? Is it unmotivated by the story logic? Motivation is a very important part of

an evaluation of a film because motivation creates a sense of unity and coherence. To

argue that an element is unmotivated is to suggest that it is arbitrary, and detracts from

the film’s coherence.

Realistic

: This doesn’t mean necessarily that the event, or character’s reaction (or any

other element) is true to life, but rather asks whether in the world of the film’s fiction,

the element in question is plausible. Is the element believable within the terms of the

film’s fictional world?

Intertextual

: This refers to the relation between a film and a given genre, between a film

and its source (e.g., a famous source). Genres follow conventions, and so whereas bar-

scenes constitute part of the conventions of a film noir, in an action film, to have the

characters lounging around in bars would be somewhat unmotivated, OR would

constitute a genre transformation in the works!

Artistic

: This refers to the effects of specific techniques (camera movement, lighting,

editing techniques, combining of genre conventions) that the reviewer evaluates in

terms of the ways the aesthetic (i.e., artistic) effect of these techniques contributes to the

MOTIVATION or COHERENCE of the film.

II. ENTERTAINMENT

What makes a film entertaining? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Does the film hold the spectator’s attention?

Does the film do this through the strength and interest of its narrative?

Does it do this through fostering identification with a character or set of characters?

Are the characters three-dimensional, with complex psychology?

OR, does the film hold the spectator’s attention through offering them a roller-coaster

ride, or a sensory overload that is thrilling? In this second approach to an entertaining

film, the emphasis is placed on spectacle and sound rather than complex psychology of

characters or narrative.

OR, does the film entertain through a more cerebral, or intellectual, appeal? Through its

clever allusions to other films, to other media, to other genres?

III. SOCIAL VALUE

Finally, in contrast to entertainment values, films may be evaluated and judge on the

criteria of the significance of the film’s approach on a social issue. Quite a number of

recent films that have come up in class discussions tackle social issues, e.g., Paul

Haggis’s 2004 film,

Crash

.

FINALLY, WHAT WILL MAKE A STRONG FILM REVIEW?

Remember that your argument comes through the descriptive language (the adjectives)

you select to describe your film. It is not only in statements about a film that the

argument emerges, but just as much through your choice of lively, art, and powerful

adjectives. THINK VERY CAREFULLY ABOUT CHOOSING YOUR ADJECTIVES.

(From Liz Constable)

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