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Movie Review Form

Copyright © 2002 by Dorian Scott Cole

To entertain, movies produce an aesthetic effect (art emotional reactions), movies carry messages (reflect, comment on, and amplify the human conditon, and sometimes even influence), and they displace the viewer from everyday life into another world and mood. These inseperately converge as the creative artist expresses these with varying emphases through the communication of movies. The concern of the reviewer is whether the creative artist communicated his emphases effectively with the audience, and was it entertaining.

One of the difficulties in reviewing is keeping the review in the context of the movie, and not in the context of some previous version or a previous movie in the series. Movies stand alone. They entertain a new generation. They should be reviewed for their own merits and entertainment value.

Entertainment is a subjective experience, so trying to quantify it is a faulty objective, but there are ways to get meaningful feedback. I have often solicited feedback from play performances, staged readings, etc., and over the years have refined a form for reviewing. These questions try to get audience feedback that is qualitative and subjective, but is not quantitative, objective, or minutely specific. They address what I consider to be the important issues that myself and others have identified that are important to the audience, without immersing the reviewer in difficult details.

One of these objectives for independent movies is to identify the top movies (not rate them all). In creating a scale, I have struggled in the past with the difficulty of a 1 to 5 scale in which most movies are a 4, so discriminating between them for honors is very difficult. So this has a more differentiating 1 to 10 scale.

These criteria aren't absolutes. Healthy debate is encouraged:

For example, should movies be forced into a genre? Classifications evolve. For example, adventure movies evolved into action movies, and then into thrillers. In my view: genres - classifications - are necessary for finding movies and to allow audiences to specify their expectations, but classification should be as granular and extensible as possible to be able to express detail and evolve as the industry evolves. (This is from someone who finds classifications restrictive.)

Classifying is problematic because of different definitions. Do enough people know the difference between comedy and farce, or is the distinction even relevant in today's and tomorrow's world? The movie Dumb and Dumber may contain some shots at romance - or sex - but it is a farce, and its a long way from romantic comedy. But if someone circles Comedy and then Romance, it may appear in the Romantic Comedy category.

Should there be a question in the list on factors like the redeeming value or importance of a movie? Perhaps this last question should help identify the top movies. Currently I regard this question as only one aspect of entertainment that might be desired by some, but only an aspect.

Film Characteristics for Reviews

Reviewing a movie has very different objectives than critiquing. A critique names specific things that make a movie work, or not work, so that the creator can improve. A review gives clues as to whether or not others will find the movie worth seeing.

Important film characteristics

Story Synopsis: ________________(Six lines)

  1. What is the story genre? (Circle up to two dominant genres and multiple dominant sub-genres) Action Adventure Classic Children's Comedy Documentary Drama Experimental Fantasy Farce Horror Religious Romance Sci-Fi Sexual (explicit acts) Thriller Travel True Story


    Animation Archaeology Animals Art Crime Cult Demons Detective Education Erotic Espionage Fire Game character Gay Ghost Historical fiction Disaster Futuristic Inspirational International Legal Martial Arts Medical Men's Military Monster Multicultural Music Mystery Pets Police Politics Psychological Relationships Science Sex Slapstick Social Issues Space Sports Superhero Supernatural Teen Time Travel Transportation Vampire War Werewolf Witches Women's Western Martial Arts Other_____________
  2. Scale 1 = weak; 10 = strong

  3. Did the movie engage your interest? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  4. Was the movie boring? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  5. Where _________________________________________
  6. Was the story confusing? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  7. Where _________________________________________
  8. Did you enjoy the characters? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  9. Did you enjoy the plot? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  10. Were there surprises? __Yes __No
  11. Did you feel entertained? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  12. Was the story unique and original? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  13. Would you recommend this movie to others? __Yes __No
  14. Is this movie in the top __5% __10% __20% of independent movies?
  15. What were your feelings when you left the theater? See the adjective list and circle as many as you wish.
  16. (Note: the adjective list is compiled, but requires evaluation in real use by volunteers.)

    Good luck! - Scott



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