Reading Film (Fall 2011)

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Reviewing the Reviewer

October 12th, 2011 by Denisha Bayley · 1 Comment · 2 Reviewing the Reviewer

Denisha Bayley

English 110

October. 7th, 2011

Reviewing the Reviewer: Film, Through the Eyes of a Ditizen

Some years ago, I found myself on a journey to Earth. With the help of a college scholarship, I was allowed to closely explore, observe, and learn the culture of Earthlings. I was intrigued by the primitive species, also referred to as “humans.” Their way of life was far different compared ours back home on Turanga. The things I took for granted that i used growing up were deemed impossible to even consider existing on Earth. The transition to the human lifestyle was difficult but after a couple of human months, I began to get the hang of it. Originally, I planned the purpose of my fieldwork to be on researching the vast differences between our species, Ditizens, and those that are of Earth. However, I found one of the few similarities we seem to share was far more interesting. Humans and Ditizens, alike, shared a love and passion for the cinema. Our species tend to watch movies all the time yet we never question any of them, we see it as pure entertainment. The humans, however, don’t just watch movies for fun but they critique them as well. By reviewing and analyzing film, humans distinguish whether or not a film is “good” or “bad”. This concept is entirely foreign to our species but it is something I believe we should adapt and benefit from. We can even devote a weekly article for the film reviews in your newspaper, The Ditizens of Turanga. With my extensive fieldwork with film reviews, I too, like the humans have come up with my own theory of review, in hopes of writing for your newspaper.

I first began my fieldwork after watching the summer blockbuster “Fast Five.” Using the humans’ resources, I soon gathered three different reviews of the movie and began to analyze the concerns the reviewers shared. The first thing I noticed was that the reviewers felt the need to include a summary or “synopsis”,as the humans called it, of the film in their review. This is not what i found to be a concern of the reviewers but it was simply standard for every review. These summaries gave insight on the plot of the film. Although, all the reviewers had an synopsis in their reviews, each critic took a different approach to introduced the plot. James Berardinelli of Reelviews, took the more straightforward approach as he devoted a paragraph to the pure synopsis, holding back on his critique. While Scott Tobias of the Onion’s A.V Club, introduces the plot along with his snide remarks towards the film embedded within the synopsis. The renowned human film critic, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, spread his synopsis through out his review, giving some insight on the film and then followed it with his remarks on the plot. In theory all of the synopsis’ would have explained that “Fast Five” is an action-package movie about how three on the run American fugitives in Rio, who decided to assemble a team of accomplices to take down and rob Brazil’s most powerful drug kingpin. This is all happening them while they’re being pursued by a US Special Task force.

I have learned from the humans, that reviewers of film have to take a lot into consideration in order to critique them. They pay attention to the camera work, dialogue and even special effects, they also most definitely play attention to character development. This was one concern of film critics in “Fast Five.” They felt as if the supplementary characters, and in this case, the team, was not given much back story. They felt that even though this was the fifth installment of the franchise, the audience still needs to be reminded who these characters are. Ebert goes to say “You couldn’t say the supporting characters are developed beyond their defining labels, but at least they’re in the mix.”(Ebert,“Fast Five”) Character development plays an important role in the progression of a film and with this lack of detail, reviewers could give a movie a low rating.

Another concern the human reviewers I studied, seem to focus on were on the aspects of realism. They believed that the actions scenes in “Fast Five” were so outrageous that most of them couldn’t even be plausible. Scott Tobias, throughout his review refers to the film’s action scenes using words like: frivolous, audacious, ridiculousness and even absurdity. He also describes “Fast Five” as being “lizard-brain escapism” (Tobias, “Fast Five”), implying that the filmmakers were mindless. Berardinelli  tunes in and says that the film seems to divorce things completely from reality. In regards to the laws of physics and the laws of man, Berardinelli believes “Fast Five” elects to ignore them altogether. Ebert on the other hand seems to just poke fun at the lack of realism in his opening two paragraphs. Even though these fantasy-like action scenes are completely unrealistic they don’t seem to impact the review on the film as much as the other concerns.

The last and most important concern the human critics seemed to draw attention to, was the lack of plot consistency in the film’s franchise. In all of the reviews I encountered, the reviewers felt that the premise of the movie had changed from what it was known to be. “Fast Five,” is in fact the fifth installment of the “The Fast and the Furious” series. This series is known for producing fast-paced, action-packed car racing movies. However, in this installment, the reviewers all seem to agree that the film has turned into more of a heist film, inadvertently altering the plot. Earthling, James Berardinelli, even compared “Fast Five” to other known heist movies such as the “Italian Job” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” he also goes on to say that the characters might be the same but the purpose behind them have shifted. In fact, all of the reviews mentioned “Fast Five’s” likeliness to “Ocean’s Eleven.” Instead of having the movie focus on actual stunt-like driving of the cars, the majority of time is spent on setting up for the heist. All of the Earthlings made sure to mention this in their film reviews, putting emphasis on a need for consistent plot on movies, especially when it comes to a film series.

From these reviewers, I learned that character development, realism and plot consistency are all important factors in determining the quality of a film. However, I am aware these aren’t the only contributing factors to the films rating. So it seems rather imperative to do deeper into the critique of film. I decided to the focus my fieldwork on the way a review is written. For this research, I chose to study the rhetoric style of the most popular reviewer from the previous three, Roger Ebert.

I rather enjoyed the reviews of Roger Ebert. This well respected reviewer earthling was known for his distinct and enjoyable type of writing style. Reading Ebert’s reviews of “Maria Full of Grace,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” and “Slice,” I learned that poking fun at movies seems to be Ebert’s signature. He doesn’t make jokes in his reviews to blatantly ridicule the movies but more to make his reviews light in a sense. The films he reviews could be of the darkest or worst matters, like in “Maria Full of Grace” and “Slice,” but it is still customary of Ebert’s funny remarks. This is what I feel makes Ebert’s reviews fun to read and not tedious like the other reviewers.

I also noticed that along with the jokes, Ebert seems to have a system of writing his reviews. All three of the reviews start off the same way, with a joke or two about a piece of the plot. Ebert then proceeds to introduce the film’s plot, settings, and actors. He then makes references to other movies like the one being reviewed or to the other movies the actors in the film acted in. Ebert then likes to included background information on the film, talking about the film’s director and screen writers. The earthling then returns to talking about the plot, again included with his jokes or snide remarks. Finally, Ebert like to end his reviews with his take on the film, stating his opinions and whether he enjoyed it or not. This systematic take on writing reviews seem to make the whole process of critiquing a bit easier.

Finishing my fieldwork, I came to the realization that determining whether or not a film is “good” or “bad” is mainly subjective. Yes, a good film would have phenomenal character development and plots but the defining factor to the film’s rating seems to rely on the reviewers taste. This concept of critiquing film is completely foreign to our home planet but I believe this will bring out a lot of fresh ideas in our own film industry. If I am able to write film reviews for our nation’s paper, I will make sure to use my own method of film review based on the methods I learned on Earth. My reviews will include an synopsis on the film and will be filled with my opinions but unlike the earthlings I will end on a question in each review. “What is your take on the movie?” This will make the idea of film critiques an interactive one for the Ditizens and hopefully instilling it in our culture like the humans. I hope that after reading my fieldwork on human film critics, I have inspired you to take interest of the idea of film reviews in the, “The Ditizens of Turanga.”

 

Work Cited

 

Berardinelli, James. “Fast Five” Reelviews. 28 April. 2011

http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=2306

Ebert, Roger. “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Roger Ebert Review. 27 July. 2011.

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110727/REVIEWS/110729985

Ebert, Roger. “Fast Five.” Roger Ebert Review. 28 April. 2011.

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110428/REVIEWS/110429986

Ebert, Roger. “Maria Full of Grace.” Roger Ebert Review. 30 July. 2004.

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040730/REVIEWS/407300303

Ebert, Roger. “Splice.” Roger Ebert Review. 2 June. 2010

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100602/REVIEWS/100609991

Tobias, Scott. “Fast Five.” The A.V. Club. 28 April. 2011

http://www.avclub.com/articles/fast-five,55266/

 

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Kevin L. Ferguson

    Hi Denisha,

    I like how you discuss the similarities between reviewers but also make a point of saying there is some variation (like with your discussion of “synopsis”). That shows a more complex approach and nuanced approach to your topic.

    Looking at how you use EVIDENCE: I noticed that you were able to find good pieces of evidence, but that you didn’t always successfully ANALYZE this evidence. For example, in the third paragraph, you have a nice quote from Ebert about supporting characters, but the very next sentence is a more general, concluding sentence about your topic. Instead, the next sentence after your quotation/evidence should be analysis, by which Harvey means “the work of breaking down, interpreting, and commenting upon the data, of saying what can be inferred from the data such that it supports a thesis (is evidence for something).” So, you might say something about what supporting characters have to do with main characters, or what being “developed” means, or what Ebert means by being “in the mix.” In the next paragraph, though, you do a good job analyzing the “lizard-brain” quote by discussing the implication. So–it’s not like you need to go and on, but you do need to interpret or comment in some way on your evidence.

    A more subtle example of your good use of analysis is when discussing Ebert’s “poking fun at movies,” where you see this not as being mean, but as a way for him to create his writing’s STYLE.

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