Tag Archives: filmmaking

Should Movies Be Reviewed Subjectively or Objectively?

The lowest rung of humanity is populated by the couch critics, the apathetic advisors who, from a detached perch of safety, believe that every whim that breezes over their small minds, and every one of their witless arguments, ought to carry the same weight as the hard-won wisdom of those who are actually in the fight, whose minds have been sharpened with real-world experience, whose legends are being forged by action.

—Brendon Burchard, The Motivation Manifesto, p. 39

Who is qualified to review a movie? And what kind of review are they qualified to make?

Personally, I think it’s absolutely necessary to consider context before one reviews a movie. That is, who is the audience you’re reviewing the movie for?

If it’s simply Joe Public, then we should embrace subjectivity.

I think Netflix gets it totally right with its rating system:

***** “Loved it”
**** “Really liked it”
*** “Liked it”
** “Didn’t like it”
* “Hated it”

Beyond star or numerical ratings, your review should reflect on the experience you had as a viewer. Optionally, you could also discuss the quality of that experience with the goal of informing potentially like-minded people and helping them choose whether they might or might not have a similar experience.

“I enjoyed it, I hated it, it forced me to rethink my position on X, it scared me, it annoyed me, etc. And here’s why I feel that way.”

The ONLY time I think it’s worth talking about the “objective” quality of a movie is in the context of filmmaking and film history. And that’s a really small audience: Basically filmmakers, film students, and film historians.

And if the reviewer doesn’t have some pretty awesome credentials or experience in filmmaking or film history before he makes his “objective” proclamations, then he’s just a poser with a podium. Or a blog. 🙂

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The Loved Ones (2009)

I can’t say enough good things about this movie.

I first heard about it in some horror magazine in an article that was probably titled something like “The Top 10 Horror Movies That You’ve Never Seen.” See, the tragedy is that The Loved Ones has not been released theatrically outside of Australia. You can’t buy it or rent it in the US; the only way to see it has been film festivals and torrent sites (there’s a UK Region 2 DVD).

So why recommend a movie that most people can’t even see? Because it’s too good not to.

That said, I do need to offer a caveat. There are some very intense scenes of violence and gore.

But to call this a horror movie is to sell it short if by “horror movie” one implies it’s simply a genre film. By every measure, this is some top notch filmmaking—better than a lot of the more pretentious films that get so much praise. The Loved Ones is beautifully directed and edited, superbly acted, and very well written (both the dialogue and the story structure). Oh, and the music kicks ass. The scoring is minimal and subtle; most of the music in the movie is presented as diagetic sound, but chosen carefully to match the emotional tone of the scenes perfectly. This makes the world feel real. Combine that with believable characters and dialogue, and an emotionally true setup, and it all makes the horror that comprises the entire middle section of the movie that much more horrific.

But by praising the realism, I’m not saying that the movie isn’t cinematic. It is. Beautifully so. And I think that dance between creating a world that feels real, yet using all of the grammar of film to amplify the emotions of the story, is what I like most about this movie.

If you don’t want to risk spoilers, stop reading now. Otherwise… Continue reading

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