How to be a Movie Critic
Everyone should be a movie critic. "Why?" you ask. Simple. Movies are written and directed by people. People have opinions and world views which will come out in their work - either intentionally or unintentionally. Before you swallow their views wholesale examine what it is they are selling you. Critique the movie.
I am not saying you should allow yourself to be pulled into the action, to imerse yourself in the characters' lives and dilemas. But I am saying that when the movie is over you need to look at it critically. Examine the messages and determine if they fit with your beliefs or if you would have written the story differently.
Discover the World Views of the Characters
Behind every characters action there is an assumed world view. Do you agree with this world view? Would you have proceeded in similar fashion? While you are considering their world view also consider whether they remain consistent or change. A good movie will show characters that grow and change. However, these should be reasonable changes brought on by experience.
I am not saying that you need to agree with the characters' changes. But the changes need to be understandable and probably expected in light of their experiences. Often you will learn more about yourself and the world if you watch a good movie in which the character reacts counter to your own instincts.
Examine the Plot Points
When you look back at the movie don't just look at the characters, also consider the major events of the plot. Do the points of action follow one another logically? Are there any major holes in the plot, that is are there any questions as to how one event moved into the next? Then consider what the writer was trying to say by writing about these event.
Some movies are written purely to entertain you, for the money. And while these movies can be fun, they will not be the movies you remember. Good movies will have purpose behind the actions, a message if you will.
An Example of Critiquing
My husband and I recently watched "The Avengers". During the movie there is a scene in which three characters discuss their beliefs that the authorities are not being honest with them. One character expresses his intention to hack their files, another shrugs his indifference (and thereby acceptance), while the third opts to break into a locked room to see what they might be hiding.
There are a several of assumptions going on in this scene. Let's look at a couple. The first, and one that most of us would agree with, is that we have a right - possibly even a duty, to question authority and assertain that the powers that be are dealing honestly with us and others. The first two characters believe this (though the first with more conviction) and they eventually bring the third character around to their thinking because his belief in virtue is strong than his belief about following authority.
The second assumption is a little more insidious. Look at how these characters questioned authority. Not directly. Not honestly. Not legally. They were, in fact, just as devious and underhanded as the authorities they were questioning. The assumption is there that just because their intentions were honorable we should overlook or even applaud their actions.
I don't know whether this lines up with your beliefs or not. And I am not trying to say that it should or should not. What I am saying is that if you are not watching the movie critically ideas like this will wedge themselves into your thinking without your even being aware.
Now you are likely saying that one movie isn't going to change your world view. And that is likely true. However, after an idea has been wedged into your subconscious the next movie with a similar theme will push it in a little deeper. After several such movies you will not even realize that your ideals have shifted.
What we read and what we watch we take into ourselves. Thus we need to examine each critically, aligning the assumptions and opinions with our personal views not the other way around. This is why it is so important to watch shows and movies with our children.
Critiquing and Children
When kids are young they have not yet developed the ability to think critically. So you must do that for them. Model it by expressing your thinking process out loud. Help them to ask the questions. What assumptions are being made? Why did the character behave in that manner? What is this movie trying to say to us? Children's movies are often a good place to begin critique because they will come right out an give you the message behind the movie.
Enjoy your movies. But think about them when they are over. What was the movie saying? What beliefs did the characters hold? Why did the action progress in the manner it did? You might come to discover that you enjoy critiquing movies with your friends as much as you enjoy watching them.
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