What does film criticism mean to you?

ImageHave you ever had to endure family dinners of endless mundane conversations of who’s been to the latest hip place, what renovations they’re working on and of course, who’s making the most money. The tension grows, as the next topic is sure to be politics. I sit in silence observing my family members and wondering where the line of genealogy got so mashed up.

Until… the conversation shifts to common ground as my all so observant nephew notices my recluse state and asks, “Have you seen any good films lately?”

Now we’re talking… talking films.

In my family when we talk films there’s an air of excitement, passion and heaps of discussion.  Even if someone hasn’t seen the movie, they listen in as though they are watching a movie trailer. There are no spoilers as we have this subliminal ritual to keep our audience in anticipation. We talk about the actors, characters, direction and effects. We compare the Director and actors to their previous works and when we delve into subtext and metaphors we open up to interpretation and varied opinions.

When we talk films we unite to form the family of wannabe film critics.

My own cinephilia practice really took off during first year film studies at university. Analyzing a film from an academic perspective was a real eye opener. Breaking down scenes frame-by-frame, focusing on costume, action, mise-en-scène and camera direction to name a few, took my viewing experience to another level. I had moved beyond my family of film critics.

I recall one morning when my lecturer had several small journals laid out on his table. They resembled travel journals you would take with you on a holiday. He must have noticed me smirking at the journals and jumped at the chance to share his passion.

“Would you like to look at my film journals”, he asked.

“Film journals?” I responded in complete surprise.

“Yeah. Every time I see a film I note the director, actors and a summary of what I thought of the film or anything particular that caught my interest… You learn a lot more about a film when you write about it.” He said as he flicked randomly through the pages of one of the journals.

A film journal! I never even knew they existed. I remember that night searching the Moleskine website to purchase my own film journal. Whilst his words repeated in my head, “You learn a lot more about a film when you write about it.”

Writing academically about a film certainly allows you to dig deeper into areas that would otherwise go unnoticed when you are simply viewing a film for its entertainment value. There is hours of research in analyzing themes, patterns, motifs etc. However, with academic writing there is the absence of personal opinion that is generated from film critics of printed publications and online bloggers.

Film critics of both, publications and online bloggers bring their personal passion and opinion to film criticism. Experienced film critic writers will draw you into wanting to watch the film. The Director or actors attached to the film mostly dictate my choice of film. There is also the practice of skimming the paragraph synopsis for the film. I enjoy reading newspaper or magazine columns by film critics who give a brief review of their experience watching the film. However, when a film has resonated with me to the point where I’m constantly thinking about it, I will search various online film critics in search of their interpretation.  When I come across a film critic that shares the same passion as I have for a film, it allows for this imaginary connection and discussion: a unity similar to my family dinner experiences. Even if their opinions are not equal to mine, the angle of another interpretation can bring a whole new meaning to my own evaluation and understanding of the film.

Film criticism to me is about interpretation, evaluation and opinion of the critic. It enables you to remember the film.  And most importantly…

“You learn a lot more about a film when you write about it.”

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