OPINION: A Great Movie Reviewer

27 10 2010

Dear Koungaroo (the neophyte blogger who left this comment exactly four months ago):

There’s no right or wrong way to be a movie reviewer; start off knowing that.  But you can never stop getting better.  In over a year of blogging, my movie reviews have changed quite a bit because I have been open to change.  Since you seem to be so eager to accept it as well, let me offer you five tips that have helped me find success in writing reviews.

Read lots of reviews. There is so much to learn, and you are never done learning.  Read as many reviews as you can tolerate because no two people write them the same.  I’ve picked up so much from reading other people’s reviews, everything from words to styles.  Be they professional or amateur, every writer enthusiastic enough to pen a review has something to offer you.  Other writers can help you discover your voice, which is a very important thing to have when writing reviews.  If you are a funny person, don’t hesitate to let it show.  Don’t be afraid to crack a joke or two. If you talk like a Cambridge professor, don’t be afraid to spin an eloquent phrase.

Write what you would want to read. Just because millions of people read The New York Times doesn’t mean that you have to write like that to get readers.  Don’t write in a style that would be off-putting to you.  If you woudn’t want to read what you write, how can you expect anyone else to read it?  Write first to please yourself, and then worry about how other people will see it.  If they are coming to read it on your blog, they want your unique spin and a movie reviewer they can have somewhat of a relationship with.  There are plenty of Roger Eberts out there; there’s only one you.

Know why you write and who you are writing for. It’s important to know your purpose and your audience when you write because it will affect your tone, diction, syntax, and all those other things your English teachers loved to talk about.  If you are writing to tell people that they need to see a movie that is unknown, you need to use different rhetoric than what you would use to tell people they should see the latest James Cameron movie.  You can inform, persuade, and urge with a review, but know which you want to do when you write it.  And be sure to write in a way that can appeal to the people that will read you.  Intellectual ramblings will only get you so far if you write to an audience that just wants to know what to put on their Netflix queue.

Perhaps a distinctive feature will help. Aimless reviewing makes for a lack of clarity for readers at times.  Give them ways to get what they want out of your reviewing, particularly through categorizing reviews and memorable columns.  Perhaps write something focusing on classics or undiscovered gems or overrated movies.  The possibilities are endless, but find a way to be distinct from the average movie reviewer.

Make your review memorable. Until you get paid to review movies, you have no credibility other than what you give yourself. So what are you going to do to make people value your opinion as much as Peter Travers’ opinion?  Be original and creative; don’t merely rehash what every other critic is saying.  There are infinitely many ways to express a common sentiment, find your own!  You have to give your reader a reason to remember your review, be it through the way your phrase your review or the way you rate it.

Until the next reel,
Marshall

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