Whether we call them flicks, films, or motion pictures, movies play in important role in our culture and in our lives. We celebrate their creators as artists and reward them with ungodly sums of money and endless accolades because we recognize that what they do has value. Movies are the lingua franca of the modern era, a universal language that can be used to cut across nearly any manmade barrier, be it age, race, class, color, creed, sex, national origin, or religion.
Film is a familiar subject most of us enjoy talking about. That may be why some teachers ask their students to write movie reviews
, since they know movies can make even a dull topic more exciting. The only problem is that most students don't understand that there's more to writing about motion pictures than simply stating your opinion, whether you loved it or loathed it. You actually have to follow a fairly rigid format if you want to pen a proper review. With that in mind, let us take a look at a few of the most important steps.
Step 1: Planning
As with any kind of writing, you should begin by identifying your GAP, which is an acronym that stands for genre, audience, and purpose. Only then will you be able to determine which writing style you should employ to address your readers.
If you are new to movie review writing, is always a good idea to peruse a few published pieces before you turn your attention to the genre. These reviews are readily available online and should give you a good idea of what's expected of you.
Next, you will want to familiarize yourself with the movie genre your picture belongs to. Obviously, you won't be able to watch hundreds of comedies, science fiction, horror, or dramas to prepare for a single review...but at the very least, you should know the most celebrated pictures in that genre so you can make references to them, if necessary.
Finally, you will want to ask yourself what is the purpose of your review? For the average movie review, the goals are always the same. You want to inform, which means telling readers who's in the film and who made it; describe, which means talking a bit about the story without revealing too much; analyze, which means giving your opinion on whether the film ultimately fails or succeeds; and advise, which means telling the reader whether or not you think they should see the film, and possibly even who with, e.g., a date, the kids, or with friends.
Step 2: Structuring your review
Because films are not nearly as long or as complicated as most books, movie reviews tend to be quite brief. Most can fit in a single column of the paper or on one page of a magazine. As a result, they tend follow a fairly basic, simple structure. For instructional purposes, we will divide the standard movie review into three basic parts:
This section provides a general overview that lets readers know who stars in the film and what it's about. You should also include a brief conclusion about the flick, i.e., whether it's worth seeing, so readers won't have to finish reading your entire review if you absolutely abhorred the film.
In this section, you will want to talk a bit about the basic plot and the action, without including any spoilers that can ruin big surprises, which is why most of us see movies in the first place, for surprises! Revealing too much information is an amateur move that should be avoided at all costs.
In this final section, the review should get down to brass tacks and analyze the film to determine whether or not it is worth watching. This is the paragraph most amateur reviewers have trouble with because they fail to remain dispassionate and consider both the good and the bad things about the film. As a result, they either praise it to the hilt or tear it to pieces with reckless abandon. But that is not how a professional movie reviewer should conduct himself. He should convey the strengths and weaknesses of each film before he forms a conclusion and makes a recommendation.
Step Three: Style
Now that you know the basic structure you should use, it is time to consider your audience. Who exactly are you writing this piece for? Are they children? Teenagers? Adults? For obvious reasons, you would not speak to any of these groups the same way. For example, if you are writing a movie review for kids, you should exclude film language or lingo. This kind of jargon can be used to impress adults, even teenagers, but when it comes to kids, it will probably sail right over their heads. Instead, you might want to employ a more personal style that children can relate to, using familiar language and expressions that are used in ordinary conversation.
When writing a professional review, the easiest and most reliable way to select a style is to identify the target audience of the publication you want to write for. If they are young adults or older folks, you can tailor your style and tone based on those readers. It may also be a good idea to read the newspaper or magazine before you submit your piece to determine the general level of vocabulary, since publications for professionals tend to include more recondite language than those aimed at the hoi polloi
Step 4: Film talk
Speaking of language, it is generally a good idea to use at least a few general film terms, no matter who you will be writing for. Words and terms like direction, performance, editing, special effects, camera angles, and cinematography are understood by most moviegoers. However, if you are writing a technical review for a film class or a movie periodical, it may be a good idea to include a few lesser known, production-specific terms like mid-shot, long-shot, panning shot, close-up and extreme close-up. This technical lingo can be used to great effect when addressing an educated audience.