1) Study all of the classic films and read Pauline Kael's reviews and the works of other major critics religiously. Quentin Tarantino once said "I would study Pauline Kael's reviews like class assignments." Philip Lopate's American Movie Critics: An Anthology from the Silents Until Now (Library of America, 2006) provides an excellent survey.
2) What is one's basis for judging a movie? I like Pauline Kael's answer in her essay "Outside the Circles or What is a Film Critic?":
"new films are judged in terms of how they extend our experience and give us pleasure . . . our ways of judging how they do this are drawn not only from older films but from other works of art, and theories of art . . . new films are generally related to what is going on in the other arts . . . a wide a background as possible in literature, painting, music, philosophy, political thought, etc., helps . . . it is the wealth and variety of what he has to bring to new works that makes the critic's reaction to them valuable."
So, develop a background in all that as well.
3) Choose the movie and the theater. I prefer afternoon screenings due to the relative cheapness and lack of a crowd, although a large enthusiastic audience on a Friday evening can definitely affect one's review. You don't have to pick the most critically noteworthy releases. I like the critical challenge of writing a good review on a stupid movie.
4) Once you have selected a film, very carefully stay away from reviews, other people's opinions, Rotten Tomatoes averages, etc. before you write the review. I usually encounter at least one yahoo who likes to blurt out what he has read on a given movie, whereupon I stop him by saying SHUT UP! and running from the room.
5) Bring a small notebook and a pen, and take notes while watching the film. I usually write down the interesting dialogue, but also sometimes other responses (written cries of disgust, for instance) can make for a good lead.
6) Go home and sleep on it. Sometimes, I might brood over a film for several days, but usually one good night's sleep helps let the movie marinate in my brain for long enough.
7) The next morning, get out your laptop and write down all of the quotes that you can read from your notebook.
8) Then consult with the Internet Movie Database for basic information about the director, actors, studio, etc. IMDB will usually also guide you to the studio webpage promoting the film. Browse in that as well. Production notes are often useful.
9) Start to draft your review. Listen to your gut response and never cave in to the general buzz around a film. Over time, I've learned that in the competitive world of film blogging, having a differing opinion from the consensus view helps make your review stand out. You have to be faithful to your gut. That's really all you have.
10) Try to make your review entertaining, engaging, and free of cliches. Look for patterns in the directors and/or the lead actors' previous films. Try to support opinions with evidence from the film. Enliven your writing with details. Try to imagine what the studio's goals were in making the film. Who is the targeted audience? Imagine the original pitch that theoretically made the film an attractive thing to produce. I like Griffin Mill's take on what makes a film marketable in Robert Altman's The Player: "Suspense, laughter, violence. Hope, heart, nudity, sex. Happy endings. Mainly happy endings."
11) Beware of writing spoilers. That usually means you should try to not include the latter third of a film. It can be difficult to analyze a film effectively without including the ending, but I usually just hint at the structural problems of a movie without giving the ending away.
12) Show your review to someone else who can edit it. I'm still surprised by the many mistakes my wife can find in my reviews on a sentence by sentence basis. Watch for repeating words and sentence structure. Beware of boring the reader with a pedestrian and overly long plot summary. Try to keep your style lively by maintaining a conversational voice.
13) Watch for relying on glib snarkiness. Put downs are great fun to write (check out Roger Ebert's great compendium of snide comments in "In the meadow, we can pan a snowman"). I often get excited by the anticipation of panning a bad film for that reason alone, but vicious slicing remarks can become a bad habit. Strive for a more nuanced and level-headed critical response even as you try to make the review fun to read.
14) Pauline Kael was quite good at incorporating quotes from other critics into her reviews, usually to show how they didn't get the film. Kael shows how juxtaposing the style of another critic with your own can help create interesting tensions in your review.
15) Publish your review and listen carefully to feedback.
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