A short guide to writing about film
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A Short Guide to Writing About Film. Chapter 1 Writing about Movies. Why Write About Movies?.

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A Short Guide to Writing About Film

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A short guide to writing about film

A Short Guide to Writing About Film

Chapter 1

Writing about Movies

Why write about movies

Why Write About Movies?

  • “Analyzing our reactions to themes, characters, or images like these can be a way not only of understanding a movie better, but of understanding better how we view the world and the cultures we live in” (4).

  • “Writing about film is careful and more calculated step beyond this first impulse to discuss what we have seen” (4).

  • Curiosity & Pleasure

Why write about movies ii

Why Write About Movies? (II)

  • Functions of writing about film:

    • Understand your own response to a movie better

    • Convince others why you like or dislike a film

    • Explain or introduce something about a movie, a filmmaker, or a group of movies that your readers may not know

    • Make a comparisons and contrasts between one movie and others, as a way of understanding them better

    • Make connections between a movie and other areas of culture in order to illuminate both the culture and the movies it produces.



  • “. . . what you say will always be shaped by your notion of audience, and especially by what you presume those readers know or want to know.”

  • Different audiences for:

    • Movie Review

    • Theoretical essay

    • Critical essay

Movie review

Movie Review

  • Audience: General public with no special knowledge of film

  • Function: Introduce unknown films and to recommend or not recommend them

  • Structure: Summarize plot or place film in another context (director’s other works, films of the same genre, etc.)

Theoretical essay

Theoretical Essay

  • Audience: Advanced students or people who teach film studies who possess a great deal of knowledge about specific films, film history, and other writings about film (i.e. people who know their shit)

  • Function: Explain some of the larger and more complex structures of cinema and how we understand them

  • Structure: Engages history, aesthetics, and philosophy

Critical essay

Critical Essay

  • Audience: Familiar with the film in question, but hasn’t studied it closely (students in film courses)

  • Function: Hopes to reveal subtleties or complexities that may have escaped viewers on the first or even second viewing

  • Structure: Remind reader of key themes and elements of plot, but no length retelling of story of the film. Engages in a critical analysis of a very specific aspect or theme in the film

Opinion and evaluations

Opinion and Evaluations

  • Subjectivity: opinion vs. evaluation

    • Proper use of “I” to “energize” your response (15)

    • “. . . Personal feelings, expectations, and reactions may be the beginning of an intelligent critique, but they must be balanced with rigorous reflection on where those feelings and expectations and reactions come from and how they relate to more objective factors concerning the movie in question: its place in film history, its cultural background, its formal strategies” (15).

    • “not pronouncing a film good or bad, but explaining why” (15).

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