An irritating thing that happens when people write about movies (film crit thread)

I’m apparently just a giant ball of nerves right now, so I’m just going to keep venting about Stuff That Sucks in This Idiot World

Namely, the trend in internet movies writing where people see a movie that they are apparently so jazzed about that in their review they can’t bother to offer even the barest description of like, the genre or basic premise of the film, because “The less you know going into it the better.”

I absolutely hate this junk. Beyond just guaranteeing that the review itself is going to be the vaguest, limpest writing you can imagine (in spite of all that enthusiasm) the worst thing about it is it typically happens with smaller films that show at festivals, often don’t even have trailers yet, tend to only get released in VOD or in really limited runs. So the first thing you’ve read about a movie tells you absolutely nothing about it, other than the fact that this random idiot happened to like it so much he wants everyone to just drop everything and see it without even knowing what it is about.

I get that spoilers are irritating, but I also sort of hate being surprised by the genre or premise of a movie that I am watching? Like, the idea of a movie that changes genres radically and unexpectedly part way through is kind of interesting, but I highly doubt that this is the case with 90% of the films that get this treatment. I feel like it’s particularly rampant with horror movies, so at least in that case you can kind of bet that if someone doesn’t want to spoil even the barest detail of a film beyond the 1st act, it is going to be some kind of fucked up horror movie that no one should be watching anyway. But now when I see reviews that take this approach, I just assume that the movie is going to have like, horrific child murders or some other unspeakable thing in the 2nd act that aren’t foreshadowed at all in the first, hence the delightful surprise that a reviewer can’t bear to spoil, so I just keep my distance altogether.

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Broadly speaking, I find the whole notion of spoilers to be kind of dumb. I can see how a few surprises may be worth maintaining for effect, but if a work is ruined by knowing anything about it, it’s probably not worth seeing in the first place.

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Yeah agreed. and studies have shown that spoilers do very little to affect one’s experience. At worst they dampen your suspense slightly, at best they actually get you enjoy the story more. They certainly don’t RUIN EVERTHING like you’d be led to believe.

I almost never read film critiques before I’ve actually seen the film in question. Same with books. But not with games!

Funny.

I guess I don’t understand putting ignorance on a pedestal. The more I know about a thing, the better I can enjoy it… provided that I’m not wasting my time by entertaining it in the first place. I’d find that much more of a spoiler (as it were), having invested in a thing only to find that it wasn’t worth all of that energy.

For example: I’m glad that I knew the ending to The Sixth Sense before I watched it. That got some annoying formality out of the way, allowed me to view the story from two perspectives at once, and ensured I’d never have to watch it again. Because it’s really not that interesting!

it’s not about putting ignorance on a pedestal in lots of cases. i think, particularly if i’m talking about a creator i’m already familiar with, i’d rather just engage with a work raw rather than read, like, an essay someone else wrote about the work first. if i’m talking about, like, whether or not i want to go see ant-man or whatever, yeah, okay. but if i’m talking about the new kanye or the new souls game or the new terrence malick movie i don’t want the lens of someone else’s opinion about the thing put between me and the thing ahead of time. even if we’re talking about just a summary, or something, i mean, i don’t need to point out that even that isn’t going to be an objective thing

re: the op, though, “the less you know going into it the better” is a thought that i’d totally respect coming from a trusted source and one that i’d also find hella suspect coming from whatever given film critic

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Yes, that’s a bit much of me. I think I’ve just got too much Trump in my news feed…

Sure, of course, but if you’re looking to read a review before you see a movie then this already doesn’t apply to you.

I personally see value in avoiding spoilers myself, it increases my immersion. This is easy to see in videogames, where figuring out how the game actually works is part of the joy of playing. But one can “figure out” how a movie or book works by an analogous, if much less interactive, process. Being told how it works before you engage it yourself disconnects those crucial early critical faculties. Meeting a new work is kind of like your brain growing. Synapses form that can only be altered later through heroic effort. I’d rather not have that done for me.

Yeah, I am generally anti- major plot spoiler for a movie I’ve already decided I want to pay for to see in a movie theater.

In that case I agree with @aderack that knowing the plot before watching it makes it easier to engage critically. But to me that’s a problem–it increases your ability to critique a movie formally, but decreases your ability to just get taken in by it. I already tend to overanalyze stuff, and if I’m going to be paying like 15 bucks to see a movie I’d rather maximize entertainment over analysis. There’s time for that later. I know people who feel ‘tricked’ if they are emotionally affected or otherwise absorbed in a movie that they later decide is somehow inferior. I’m not one of those people. Since I am naturally inclined to analyze and look at things from a technical / formal perspective, I don’t mind at all being taken in by a movie. If it works well enough for me to want to revisit it and be more critical, and it ends up making me hate a movie, that’s fine too. The first time this ever happened to me was American Beauty when it came out.

But anyway, I don’t mind at all knowing basic details about the plot and tone of a movie before going in, especially if it’s something I don’t already know I want to see?

If it’s a critic I already know and understand, then I guess in that case I could see just taking their word for it and seeing the movie without knowing anything else.

But there are so many “small” movies by new directors these days, and even more random film critics. They sort of need each other to survive, and fear of “spoilers” or ruining the experience just makes it seem like the critics are failing at actually promoting a movie and telling audiences why they should care about it.

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I can make my own decision about whether or not I’ll want to see a movie/play a game/read a book/etc. The idea of using a review to gauge whether or not to engage an artwork just seems… weird, even to a very poor person like me who goes month to month with just enough money to pay for rent and food. I feel like that’s the sort of literary approach that only appeals to bizarre people with no will of their own or literalist tools who use phrases like “respects the franchise’s roots” and who need to know about those specs before they Execute their Consumer Decision.

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So yeah, in most cases I’ll read a review if I have no plans to engage that work, or I’ll read it after I’ve done so.

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think i’ve decided recently that negative reviews/analyses are the most fun to write & read

Hope that’s a typo. More fun that way.

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I don’t know what’s “common knowledge” around criticism, film or otherwise.

See Ebert’s book series, including Your Movie Sucks.