Reviewing Films – A Distinct Journalistic Art

Sunayan Bhattacharjee: Assistant Professor
Centre for Print & Cyber Journalism Skills

Let us get this straight! There is no specific definition for what a film review is. Film review is another term for film appreciation, which is again a technical term to start with. Someone once said that simplicity is the most difficult thing and rightly so. So, let us make an informed choice to keep things simple and move ahead. Film appreciation constitutes analyses and evaluation of films based on multiple cinematic parameters. Before trying to get our hands dirty with film appreciation, it is important to understand that certain sort of backgrounding is absolutely necessary. To start with, we need to read literature from all across the world. Cinema can’t be divorced from literature. We should try and get a basic understanding of film history in order to track the historical development of the medium. Film theories need to be studied in detail with a fundamental understanding of semiotics to get a strong grasp over different kinds of cinema. However, there are still some standard pointers based on which we judge the quality of a movie. Let us look at the pointers one by one.

Content Pointers:
  • Does the film have a good plot/ storyline?
  • Does it follow a fitting narrative structure?
  • Is the story relevant?
  • Has the story been told well?
  • Does it have a well-defined social significance?
  • How is the acting?
  • Has it been shot well?
  • Has it been edited well?
  • Has it been packaged well?

Technical Pointers:
  • Does the film boast of a great filming location?
  • Does the film enjoy a fitting lighting plan?
  • Does it have a good background score?
  • Does it have a good sound design?
  • Does it have special effects (SFX) and visual effects (VFX)? Are the effects good?
  • Has it been shot in 2D, 3D or Imax? Is the format true to the story being told?

Business Pointers:
  • Does the movie stand to make a profit?
  • What are the current market considerations?
  • Is there any other film competing with it?
  • What is the distribution scene?
  • Will it succeed internationally?
  • Has it been released to the right markets?

Tips to Become a Film Reviewer:
  • Watching movies and television on a regular basis. 
  • Knowing about film and television history.
  • Writing on films for at least two hours every day.
  • Speaking on films for at least two hours every day.
  • Jotting down your observations immediately.
  • Keeping it simple and precise.
  • Knowing history and psychology.
  • Not preaching and sermonizing.
  • Not using any jargon.

Does Film Appreciation Pay Your Bills?
Yes, it does but in ways that might not be immediately conventional. Multiple critics have eventually turned to filmmaking such as the celebrated French duo of François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, the two poster boys of the French New Wave. Simultaneously, it also needs to be understood that film appreciation happens to be an area of passion. So, one can’t expect to earn in millions as a beginner. However, most of the media organizations recruit professional film reviewers and the pay is not negligible.

However, film appreciation needs to be understood and learnt professionally for it to become a person’s career. While one can’t become a film appreciator without a deep passion for cinema, it is also a reality that the passion has to be given a direction for it to bear obvious fruits.

*****

Assistant Professor – A journalism postgraduate from the prestigious Symbiosis Institute of Media Communication in Pune, Sunayan earlier worked with renowned organizations such as The Times of India and Reuters News. He is a UGC-NET qualified scholar and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in film studies from Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University. He is also the Associate Editor of The Cinemaholic.

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