film reel

movie marqueeObviously the first response to the question of where movie criticism takes place would be something like, "Duh! In the theatre." After all, as movie critic Rita Kempley of the Washington Post says, the things a reviewer needs most are, "a strong stomach and an iron butt." Not only to sit through the movie, but sometimes to survive the theatre-going experience itself!4

But the reviewing process begins before the critic ever hits the movies, with the preliminary research done before viewing. The thorough critic will look up information about the cast and director, see if the movie has been highly "hyped" before release and check for anything else of note or interest relating to the movie.

While some advocate not reading other critic's reviews before the reviewer writes his own, there is no real harm in gathering as much information as possible. In fact, it would be recommended for the beginning critic to leaf through advance reviews in order to get ideas and find the elements that others have concentrated on.

film stripHowever, a strong note of caution should be inserted here. Any sort of plagiarizing, while generally strongly frowned upon in general, will ultimately break the career of the aspiring critic. Even if a flowery phrase or particular image strikes the rookie reviewer, he should resist the urge to steal the intellectual property of others and instead use the striking passage as a springboard for his own original ideas.

As Dr. Robert Lucas teaches in his GPPI Practicum on writing, "Good analytic writers paraphrase much of the material that they describe, and carefully cite the original source.

"However, paraphrasing (a good thing) devolves into plagiarizing (a very bad thing) whenever you retain a significant amount of the author's actual phrasing but do not properly enclose it within quotes."5

clockWhen to begin the process of movie criticism may also seem like a pointlessly obvious question, but looking beyond the obvious answer ("After you've seen the movie, duh.") reveals otherwise.

As mentioned earlier movie criticism often begins with intensive research. Some reviewers like to write a rough sketch of the article they hope to produce already at that point, the "start early approach."

Others like to take a "write while fresh approach," by gathering the background info, seeing the movie, taking copious notes and then beginning to write immediately afterward. And a few like to "marinade" for awhile, letting the movie images wash over their subconscious, not beginning the writing process until "the muse" hits.6

However the aspiring critic chooses to go about producing his finished product-a well-crafted and well-written review-he must still keep a few guidelines in mind.

  • Know the deadline of the piece.
    It does the critic no good to write an insightful, moving piece if it misses deadline and cannot be printed.

  • Know the general release date of the movie.
    Like the deadline, this is an essential time element. The reviewer wants his piece to be timely and therefore should aim to have the publish date either coincide, come slightly before, or very soon after the general release date.

  • When critiquing a classic, have a relevant reason to do so.
    It needs a newsworthy factor. Basically if there isn't something new about it, good luck being published.


    This site was created by Andra Parrish. It was last updated on Nov. 29, 2001. Any questions or comments should be mailed to: aparrish77@hotmail.com. © Andra Parrish 2001.