People can flock to the theater to see “The Batman” before they’ve even read a review about it. But small films require more research before the cinema.
ST. LOUIS — As a writer, you never really know who is listening or who is reading. Apart from you and your own mind, all that can be hoped for is that the visitor gets to the end of the column before judging. But what if they don’t even bother to click? You cannot win a fight that loses before the opening bell.
Film critics know this dilemma all too well. Sure, being able to extract one’s unique thoughts on a movie feels like winning in a way, but influencing someone’s movie decision is like winning the pennant. The World Series would be when the check arrived in the mail.
In each of the past three years, I’ve watched at least 140 new movies and written reviews for 90% of them. Lots of words, head scratching and ruminating on what I’ve been told is waning interest. So I asked people the question:
Do people still read movie reviews, or is this just a Rotten Tomatoes score and box office departure? The answer, unfortunately, was not surprising.
It was the most popular answer… behind “no, I don’t”. And I completely understand. Remember that all movie critics were once just movie consumers like everyone else. We are still that child, or trying to stay true to that first movie buff. Every time I write reviews, it’s a battle of wills between “giving it up” and “being respectful of who hasn’t seen the movie”.
Each time, I walk this tightrope. This response is good feedback and not negative energy. I need to write something so memorable that the consumer remembers reading a few reviews or an article and/or headline that hooks them.
Something Richard McGill talked about with his answer:
Just taken. It’s impossible for a film critic not to at least peek into the second act and give a glimpse of the third. It always seems like a half measure if I’m holding back – which is why I write reviews more for myself these days than for domestic consumption. Cool Note: Whether he likes it or not, I influence Richard because of my Rotten Tomatoes certification. I’ll take it.
Well, film criticism has no oxygen without opinion. You either listen or you don’t. If I was writing reviews based on how many people read them, I wouldn’t go over the title.
We live and die on faithful readers like Adam. Think of it as a returning customer to a local family business. If people aren’t coming back because of trust and comfort, what are we doing here in the first place? Plus, EVERY WRITER needs a Pat Houlihan behind them. A 100% full-time supporter, that’s all.
Thank goodness for Mark Reardon! Talking about a movie is a double-edged sword. It’s taking the cap off the bottle and forgetting where you put it, which can have all sorts of rewards. Fear and “don’t say that” play a part, but the unpredictable frankness of a radio conversation is hard to deny.
That’s all we need. Read it, see if it pushes you, and move on to your own decision. Paid or not, a writer is simply trying to extract how a movie made them feel and why it happened. The detail and thoroughness is what should draw you in – not if we agreed on the quality of the film.
Every cinematic conversation should be continuous, forbidden to normal temporal constructs. Enjoyment of a film is indeed subjective and depends on the story and personal preference, but the dialogue around the films and their impact should be endless discussion afterwards.
Movies like “The Batman” might not require much pre-show reading, but a small indie needs all the fire they can get. The viewer will search for anything they can find on a very cheap but rich movie. It’s going around in circles, as long as Hollywood keeps making original movies – or some of them.
If a film critic has a few readers who aren’t just family or friends, the game is still interesting. At the end of the day, we write these things in order to reassure ourselves, but a voice on the other end certainly keeps the flame alive.
So tell me, do you read movie reviews? Tell me all about it @buffa82 on Twitter or send me a note on Facebook. Thanks for reading the last sentence; it is never taken for granted.