Sunday, December 26, 2010

What Type of Film Critic Are You?


When you tear down the facade of self-given absolutism and opinion based ideology, Film Critics are a unique subset of the human workforce. Unlike so many jobs where your skill set, style, and expectations are predefined, critics enjoy an open range of topics and messages they can present in the manner of their choosing through the medium of film analysis. However, I've noticed growing trends as of late in the subject of how critics view their jobs. The same principle applies to bloggers.

While there is no doubting that we often lack the consistent access to worldwide cinema that most published critics possess, bloggers play a role in the grand scheme of things. Well, at least in our little world. So I think it's interesting to see how each and every one of us approaches a review. From what basic value do we derive the entirety of each critique? Or are these critiques mobile and we adapt them to suit the film at hand? What happens when we fail to make that adaptation fully? Perhaps the better question is: should we? After reading a lot of blogs (I don't want to name names), I've come up with what I think are the three prevalent movie critic types:

Type 1: Entertainment Gauger:

Often a card holding member of 'Groupthink,' the Entertainment Gauger evaluates a film on level of interest maintained throughout the runtime alone.

Common Characteristics: Personal reviews (lots of direct first person criticism), constant references to things that are boring or exciting (such as comparing films to high school or college classes), and a priority centered on action (violence, romance, comedy, or vocal) over drama.

Positives: High correlation value to the modern film goer, often upbeat with their approach to mainstream films, and foster an environment in which consistent readers feel connected to the reviewer.

Negatives: Pandering of negative reviews to avoid being rebuked by reading base, writing style becomes redundant after a while, and favoritism towards modern films often ignores merits of cinema as a historically evolving art form.


Type 2: The Informer:

A 'this is what you're going to get, take it or leave it' approach to film criticism where the reviewer avoids making too many direct claims about a film, and instead offers the reader an idea of what type of film they'll be seeing.

Common Characteristics: Crux of the review centers around a summary of the film's plot setup, any analysis centers on the content of the film over the style, and demonstrated efforts to distance self from the film.

Positives: Preferable to the reading base that cares more about what they'll be getting out of a film, focus is on content over scoring, and any analysis there is usually well thought out and worthwhile.

Negatives: Lack of personality in writing, posts usually drawl on minute plot details, and failure to grab the reader's attention and gain repeat readers.


Type 3: The Analyzer:

As much a 'historian' of film as a real evaluator, the analyzer breaks down movies mostly on the technical and narrative aspects that uniquely define them with respect to film throughout the ages.

Common Characteristics: Often draws parallels in their reviews to other literary and cinematic tales, uses the summary as a starting point from which their criticism is derived, and makes many declarative statements about the quality of a movie.

Positives: Understanding film history appeals to those who want a broad picture of a movie, offer an in depth look with careful attention to socially relevant analogies, and never relent on their scoring in favor of public love.

Negatives: General negative outlook on streamlined blockbusters earns them the title 'snob,' assumption of self-absolutism alienates potential readers who disagree with them, and efforts at putting themselves above mainstream audiences can cause them to forget who they are writing towards.

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So, those are the three that I was able to come up with. I want to know - Which one do you think you are? Or are you a conglomeration of sorts? What type of critics do you enjoy reading? Why? Do you have a type of critic that I missed?

Enjoy!

22 better thoughts:

SugaryCynic said...

I think I'm mostly the first with a touch of the second. Mostly because if a movie's fun I give it a lot of leeway, and rather than the snob I am definitely the junkie of bad taste :D

Robert said...

Great analysis! I feel like I'm kind of a Type 1 with tendencies of Type 3...or rather, a type 1 who's slowly becoming a type 3? With some type 2 thrown in for good measure. Of course it's difficult for me to objectively categorize my writing. Haha!

amy said...

Trying to be #2 type, with #1 if I really enjoy a film and can't get enough of it. I don't think I'm a type #3 unless we're talking about specific forum topics... but as a blogger, never.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

It never occurred to me to define reviewing styles in such a way...I'm three, I like reading - so off-the-top of my head I suppose I like analytical reviews, but when you decide to read a ton of reviews for one film (like I do sometimes) it's a real treat to see how every one can talk about the same film, say the same things at times and yet come to different conclusion.

At the heart of it, it comes down to writing style I think. Some people can be analytical and yet fun, and some people can be analytical and boring.

Univarn said...

@Sugary One of the points I am trying to make with this is that there's a market for all types of critics, just knowing which one you are (or try to be) helps guide your blog.

@Robert I had the same issue when I tried to label myself, figured it would be best to let the post stand on its own.

@amy I think it's often too easy for us to write off type 3 as simply being a 'snob' when there's a lot of value to the writing style they bring forth.

@Andrew very true. I suffer from anti-categorization, categorization, syndrome. I enjoy trying to find core values which help define various groups, but I often refute them as minimalistic and loosely founded. It's a bit of a double edged knife, if you know what I mean.

MovieNut14 said...

I dunno which one I am. I think I'm a mix of all three.

Stevee Taylor said...

I may be a mix of all three of them. OMG that means I am a snob!

Andy from fandango groovers said...

I am none of these, but at the same time I am all of them. What does that make me?

Tom Clift said...

I think I'm some combination of all three. I read a lot of "1's", and I think that's probably my favourite style, although too casual sometimes prevents me from taking a blogger seriously (snobby, I know)

TheGreatWhiteDope said...

Great post, Uni - had to chime in here...

Reviewing the three types listed here, it's hard to put myself into any one category. When you review movies like "Ishtar", "Second Sight" and "Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn", there are times when you cannot focus on a single aspect of any certain film. They have to be taken in as a whole and, whether you like them or not, you have to give your reasons why - and it's never always as simple as just writing "because" and being done with it.

I know what I like and while I may not have the technical knowledge of many of my peers, I like to think that I explain the tech stuff I DO know so that Joe Blow from Kokomo can grasp it.

Anyone who reads any of my reviews will hopefully understand that I try to bring out what entertainment there is contained in my subject matter. Also, you can't talk about a film without explaining its content, what it's about and over-analyzing to a fault.

Therefore: I suppose I am your average personal entertainment-pandering informative snob slob. I guess there's more than just me out there that does same, but hey - it's what I do and I won't apologize for it.

Besides, I got a whole new year of reviews to do the same kind of writing around. Why change now? :D

- TGWD

Castor said...

Interesting post Ryan. I think the most revealing way of knowing what type of reviewer you are would be to ask someone else though. One may have a hard time discerning which of those types they are closest to be. So let me ask you, which one would I be? ;)

Will said...

I may be a type 1 with a mix of type 3. :)

Sebastian Gutierrez said...

Hmmm... interesting. I've never really thought about that.

I'd guess I'm a mix of 1 and 2. I review mostly modern films, and will make mention of entertainment value. I will focus on the other things that make up a full film going experience. I always try and focus on the content of hte review over the actual score, which I why I only have five ratings, and neither of them have anything to do with an actual grade. I don't think too much about stars of letter grades. Artistic achievement can't be measured with a number or a grade, if you ask me.

Univarn said...

@MovieNut I would say you lean a bit towards 2 and 3 because of the way you style your reviews.

@Stevee We can all be a bit snobbish sometimes.

@Andy It makes a normal human being who recognizes they can never objectively analyze themselves to the fullest.

@Tom I notice the general readers have shifted in favor of #1 recently, though I think #3 has a lot of solid merits that people shouldn't overlook.

@GreatWhiteDope I don't think you should change. You've not just found a niche subsection of film to thrive in, you got the writing style to support it :)

@Castor I think you're mostly 1 and 3 since you do a lot of summary it's generally base level and more about the motifs of the movie.

@Will I find a lot of people see that in themselves.

@Sebastian I agree with that, but I try anyways. My scoring is definitely based in the #1 category but I like to think my writing is more indicative of #3...

Simon said...

...none? I suck at analyzing, I don't go out of my way to watch movies I'd have to pander to, and the second one implies some sort of expertise on something.

Rich said...

Well, I make a point of not writing film 'reviews' in the traditional sense, and that's by choice, but before I started writing about film I wrote about comics, and based on that, I'd say I was definitely a Type 3.

Mike Lippert said...

This is the best post of the week and right on the money. I'll be blunt: I'm mostly 3, I'm a film scholar, have worked in the film business and know a heck of a lot about both the artistic side and business side and learn more every day. I try to put that into reviews as much as possible because it's interesting to me and it's what I want to be reading. If that makes me a snob so be it but I see to be the one who is more open minded than most to big Hollywood movies and trends and whatnot so I guess I'm some of 1 as well.

I think writing like a 2 has little to no worth in that it doesn't teach you anything and is kind of lazy and boring and can border on fanboyish.

Univarn said...

@Simon I think you have a very unique style all your own. In fairness, I'd put you in a bit of an outlier. You tease style #1, avoid #2 like the plague, and occasionally dive into #3. You're very much a 'commentator' as a writer which I would say makes you generally #1, but you never pander. Remember: these are base observations, not declarative facts that define everything about each writer. :)

@Rich Thanks, that comment means a lot to me. I think #2 is less fanboy intrinsic as #1. To me fanboy reviewers are the encompassing of all negative qualities of #1 - in that they find everything entertaining (well, everything that the studios let them see for free). I always see #2 reviews as for those who are a bit afraid to go against the mold. They want to analyze the films like #3, but avoid being labeled 'snob' or 'nitpicky' and therefore limit the amount of opinion related content they insert into a review.

The Mad Hatter said...

I *think* I'm somewhere between Entertainment and Analysis. I seem to be gaining a reputation of "not liking the fun stuff", but I find that I can't force myself to like something 'fun' if it's not entertaining me.

Add that to my widely known love of the classics and I think I'm Analysis with some Entertainment tendencies. Maybe?

Fletch said...

No idea what I am, either. I really don't think of any those shoes fit all that well. I like to think that I offer analysis as it relates to current popular culture (and not so much in relation to films of old). I avoid plot summation in totality if possible. I guess my avoidance of the classics puts me most in line with #1, though I detest being associated with 'groupthink,' as most would (does that make me groupthinkier?).

edgarchaput said...

I have a little bit of all three to be honest, but if I have to pick just one, I think I am B. My style can be somewhat impersonal at times, with maybe the rare joke or snotty comment (probably why I've been stuck with 30-35 followers for a couple months without going higher). I also tend to focus on plot details when perhaps more general comments would suffice.

@Mad Hatter: you professed your love for the 'A-Team', so that covers you with regards to the mainstream/fun stuff.

Ross McG said...

feck me, what a great post. i think most people are probably a mix of all three. i have to admit though if im reading a review which dwells too much on the plot i switch off. i guess you just have to go with your gut, if you like something dont be afraid to say so. equally if you hate something let the bile spew forth.

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