by Rory L. Aronsky
Every critic’s got the readers that love or hate them. Heck, I’m sure I have my own. Some likely find me obsessively educated about film, every review an ode to movies, and me happily bounding from one film to another. Others hate my guts no doubt, believing me to be an inbred turd midget with no knowledge of what is what in cinema. Fair enough. At one time, I believed myself to be an inbred turd midget, back in 1999. I haven’t been at this as long as you might think. 1999 was when I started writing movie reviews, at the tail end of middle school for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Teentime pages, found in the back of the Showtime section, which was published every Friday. An opportunity for any teen to write reviews of CDs, movies, concerts, and occasionally books. My first review was actually not of a movie, but of a movie theater that had just opened up in Davie, Muvico Paradise 24. Back then, it wasn’t such an issue but six years later, the review is horrid. I actually wrote like that? Chalk it up to author Christopher Null to bring back memories like those, courtesy of his new book, “Five Stars! How to Become a Film Critic, the World’s Great Job”, possibly the first book to ever broach the dank seas of film criticism.
Null’s not a nuckfut at all for bringing that memory back. In fact, his book is perfect for amateurs and for seasoned film critics who might flash back to previous times while reading this. For those amateurs out there, it’s a chance to see what makes a review. Yes, you really do need a knowledge of film history enough to get you through this. Yes, you have to write as often as possible. Any type of writing you do won’t be bolstered by slacking off, especially film criticism where new movies and DVDs are released every week. You gotta work at this! He even goes so far as to help out by breaking down what a review should do, what should be included, and how many words are recommended for a full-sounding review. Null is like a film professor you always wanted, but never had. Granted, just by reading his book, writing reviews seems easy. But it’s not. He gently encourages readers to learn about what it is exactly we film critics do, even going so far as to provide questions to ask yourself about a movie you have watched and might want to review. Passion is the key and he acknowledges that as well. Love it before you do it. And hey, if you feel so inclined to create your very own movie review website, Null’s got the tools in his book for you to do that too.
Accordingly, to make points about film reviews better-known, he’s dug into the archives of filmcritic.com (10 years and still going) and pulled out some reviews that will make the learning easier. School sucks, but this isn’t that kind of school. “Five Stars!” is also the type of book to inspire even more self-education. He inserts just enough about “surrealism” and other film movements to let curiosity bubble even more, enough to cause aspiring critics to dash for the local video store or Netflix, or to head to the library or a bookstore to see what books are available on the varied film subjects. I’ve been writing reviews for six years, and diving into “Five Stars!” not only brings back memories about promotional screenings and other experiences, but also inspires me to be better at writing reviews. And of course, don’t forget the 300 movies in the back of the book, recommended by Null himself. He brands these as absolute essentials. According to him, you cannot even begin to fathom writing reviews without having seen “Fantasia”, “Sweet Smell of Success”, “Unforgiven”, and 297 others. Naturally, some choices are debatable, but having that same feeling is exactly when you’ll know it’s time to try your hand at writing reviews. Some will press on, others may not have the stomach for it (we really do see more bad movies than anyone could understand), but this is a proper and well-written introduction to what Film Threat and other sites do on a daily basis.