My top 10 list of expressions I don’t want to see in another film review
Dear fellow film fans!
To all of you who express your thoughts about movies publicly, either you’re blogging, podcasting or twittering: can I ask for your attention for a moment? There’s something I’d like to say to you.
I bet you’re busy catching up with the last few films of the year to finalize your top-of-the-year lists, so I’ll keep short and go right to the point.
The thing is: I would like all of us to step up our game when we share your thoughts about movies. I want to stop labelling the films I watch with old clichéd labels and I challenge you to do the same.
Those expressions (I think you know which ones I’m referring to, but if you don’t, I’ve listed them below) are not only worn out. They also indicate that the one who uses them is a) too lazy or talentless to come up with something more original and b) sadly dependent on what other people may think, sticking to the established jargon to be on the safe side.
I can see why we use those quick labels: it’s quick and easy. But in the long run it doesn’t make us feel proud of ourselves. It’s not enjoyable to write and even less enjoyable to read or listen to. We can do better. Our listeners and readers deserve it.
Please note that I say “we”, because I know very well that I’ve been guilty of using some of the expressions I’m just about to list myself. But it’s never too late to change, either we’re talking about diet, exercise or writing habits.
From now on I’m going to do my very best to stop using those pesky labels and if fail at it, please don’t hesitate to point it out to me and give me the verbal spanking I deserve. It takes time to break a habit, but I’m committed to do it.
The Black List of my most hated expressions
When you use this expression you’re basically telling the world that everyone else is wrong about a movie except for you, who know a movies “true” value. There’s nothing wrong about having good self confidence, but isn’t this to bring it a little bit too far, making you a judge over every other film critic? And besides, how do you know? Have you read every film review there is, or do you base your statement on the IMDb rating? If you use this expression, the least you can do is to be precise about whose rating you’re referring to.
A better way to say the same thing could be: “I’ve seen many negative/positive reviews for this movie, but I actually liked/didn’t like it a lot”.
This word doesn’t say a thing to me, apart from that you probably didn’t understand what the movie was about, but you lack the guts to say so. Use another word, please.
The popularity/backlash cycles go so fast these days that many films already have been unanimously praised as well as dismissed as “hyped” before they even open.
“Hyped” is a part of the same family as “overrated” and “underrated”, where you make a snap judgment on what other people think about a film. Stop thinking so much about what other people think about a movie. Express your own feelings.
This is yet another expression where we think highly of ourselves as superior in our judgement. If you would have made a different choice than a jury of a certain film award, just say so. But snubbed? No. Getting an award is a nice bonus, it’s never a right.
There are other opinions on this, but my view is that criticism of any art form always is more or less subjective. In the case of figure skating, it’s “less”. It’s pretty easy to see if someone did nail that quadruple jump or of they fell flat on the ice. But the points given for artistry are a different creature, much trickier. Move forward to movies and it gets even more into the territory of personal taste. “Flawed” implies that everyone in the audience actually saw the skater fall on the ice or translated to movies agreed on that the script/acting/cinematography/directing or whatever was “flawed”. But that is rarely the case. What one person loves is a pet peeve of another one. My suggestion is that you rather address the individual problems you have with the movie. Say what you liked or didn’t like about a film. “Flawed” is a flawed word that should be avoided.
5. Crowd pleaser
I know this word isn’t always used with bad intentions, but in my ears it’s insulting – to the film as well as to anyone who happens to like it. Nobody likes to think of themselves as someone in the “crowd”. In the end we experience movies as individuals. Being successful at the box office doesn’t automatically disqualify a film from holding a high artistic standard. If you didn’t like a movie that a lot of other people liked, feel free to say so. But you can do it without slapping the “crowd pleaser” label to it.
The p-word. Don’t use it. It achieves nothing apart from pissing off a lot of people. It’s ok not to love all the critic darlings and the festival successes. It’s fine to warn people who prefer something more easily digested from watching it. If you think a film is obscure, if it bores and alienates you, if you don’t “get it” at all, if you think it lacks substance, narrative, something to relate to – say this. Without the p-word
I’ve written an entire blog post about my hatred for this word. In short: I think it’s arrogant and pompous.
2. Oscar bait
So the Oscar juries are easy victims to the cynical film industry? If anyone is cynical, it’s the one who uses this expression, implying conspiracies where I’m not so sure there are any. You know I actually think that people make movies about disabled persons for other reasons than to get an Academy award.
If you truthfully react like this after watching a movie you didn’t like, you need to pick the movies you watch more carefully. Or rather: you probably shouldn’t go to the movies at all, considering how stressful life you must lead. Of course you’ve already weeded out all other time traps in your life, such as Facebook? Yeah. Thought so.
Making 2013 a better year
So this was my black list. Do you agree or disagree? Feel free to suggest additions to the list, or make your own!
Maybe we differ when it comes to what words that should be blacklisted. But let’s at least agree on one thing: that we should swap the old, tired labels for new, fresh words of our own.
Let’s make 2013 into a better year in regards of how we talk and write about movies!