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How to be a film critic? A tongue-in-cheek guide to being a great movie critic

Updated on April 28, 2012
Let's sit back, relax, grab some popcorn and learn how to be a film critic....Not!
Let's sit back, relax, grab some popcorn and learn how to be a film critic....Not! | Source

"How can I be a film or a movie critic?" If someone asked this, they'd probably get answers like "Study film theory at film school", "Read David Bordwell inside out", "Make Dov Simens your Bible" "Dissect a lot of movies" Really? Considering the kind of movie and film critics are floating around on TV and online space, there is a slim chance that they've even looked up the art of criticism on Google.

That brings us to the question: What does a movie critic really do? It seems like they simply roll up their sleeves, park themselves on a sun chair and sip their Kahluas while they wax eloquently about a film, or at least they think they do. Is it worth getting paid for giving your opinion? Let's check out some spoofy takes at how to be a film critic and what film opining is all about.

1) Pay tributes to the Masters

To know how to be a movie or film critic, you have to start off your auspicious journey by paying a tribute to the Masters in every possible review you write. Whether it is the Hitchcockian technique of double entendre, non-linear narratives started by Orson Welles, Almodovarian sexual innuendos, Kurosawian recurring motifs or the extreme Kubrickesque techniques of social dislocation. You've got the point right? All you've got to do is add an –esq or –ian suffix after a master filmmakers name and ascribe it to the film you are reviewing.

An example in use

This new age Korean filmmaker has elevated his low budget docu drama to an epic like status with the use of classic Kurosawian techniques such as long takes, reference to the humanist elements in exotic cultures and minimal camera movement.

2) Talk about technique, form and other things that lay people really wouldn't care about

This is your golden chance to talk complete jargon about camera movements, literary plot devices, patchy use of sound and intensity of color used in the film. It doesn't matter whether the director of the movie ever meant it or not. The point is to interpret, interpret and further interpret until you are completely dislocated from the original story of the movie. The key in knowing how to become a movie critic is to have the supreme confidence and quality of being able to confuse people to impress them suitably.

An example in use: The use of blue camera lends filter used in Ian Softley's Wings of the Dove plunged the two main protégées Kate and Millie into a sepulchral saga about love, greed and betrayal, the sense of which was only further heightened by the multiple top angle head shots of winding staircases and plunging necklines.

3) Always pick unknown, random movies to critique

You aren't a real movie critic if you simply opine about and review commonly releasing Hollywood films. What's the big deal? The real key to know how to become a truly serious film critic is to pick the choicest, most hard to download, hard to find, hard to pronounce film titles. Once you critique them and publish them on the web, people are going to be mesmerized by the foreign sounding names in any case. Without even reading your review. How easy is that!

4) Always sit with a Glossary book tucked in your pants

Haven't you already invested in an expensive little hard bound glossy paged film glossary book? Then how are you possible going to start your journey of knowing how to be a film or movie critic? Well, arm yourself with a comprehensive film glossary book and tuck it inside your tuxedo considering you will be attending parties after being a successful movie critic, courtesy this hub on how to be a film critic. Use it whenever you need to touch up your text or conversation with some jargon.

An example in use

The French New Wave, contemporary Taiwanese and Japanese films and underbelly American cinema have taught us what choppy editing, use of non-diegetic sound, the breaking of the 180 degree rule, the complex use of fill and key light and going back to the roots of the realist cinema of Andre Bazin really mean.

5) Don't be too liberal with compliments

As a high flung movie and film critic, rule numero uno is to never shower any film with compliments even if you were floored after watching it. If you saw Nolan's Inception recently and thought it was mind blowing, never ever verbalize the same. Film critics are generally a restrained bunch of people, you see. Rarely will they use trivial words like 'Wow' or 'This was bloody good' after watching a movie.

An example in use

This is how a true film critic would review Inception, even if he/she didn't really understand anything.

"Inception was interesting. For the first time, a Hollywood mainstream film gives viewers a window to transgress into reality, outside a maze, from a dreamscape, to the future and so on. If that was baffling enough, trust Christopher Nolan to take you through the film"

6) Mention everything under the sun except whether you liked the movie or not

Arm yourself with the skill of use long winding sentences, complex and obscure words and of course, film jargon. The beauty of a serious film critic is that in the end, you still can't get to know whether the critic liked the movie or not. The use of simple words and uncomplicated opining should not be your endeavor as a film or movie critic.

An example in use

The last line of Roger Ebert's review on the movie Tower Heist

"The notion that no one would notice a bright red car being lowered from the tower is preposterous, but realism is not the point. This movie would fall to pieces if it didn't hurtle headlong through its absurdist plot without ever pausing for explanations"

The last line of Roger Ebert's review on the movie Fireflies in the Garden

"We see literal fireflies in the garden, and the Frost poem supplies not only the occasion for plagiarism but the title of Michael's novel — suggesting it settled old scores. Yes, but although fireflies are exemplary embodiments of transitory life and are often evoked by writers, I am never sure what they represent. The poem seems to suggest fireflies emulate real stars. The movie possibly suggests Charles fails in emulating his son. Or whatever"

(source: Both above were as quoted on

7) Spread DVDs all around your bedroom

If you can't manage to look all wise and geeky (in a good way) enough like Roger Ebert, you've got to fake it. Spread out thousands of DVDs across your pad. Make sure they're original DVDs, lest you be defamed of piracy. Be eclectic and let your imagination run wild. Choose signature DVD collections, foreign films and never heard of documentaries. If you still have money left, you can pin up posters of classics like Citizen Kane, 400 Blows and Bicycle Thief in your house. And if you still have more money left, you can choose to grab a sandwich to survive.

8) Pooh-Pooh mainstream Hollywood cinema

Mainstream Hollywood films with Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie can be the best pet peeve for a real, serious, bespectacled film critic – the one you're trying to become. Would you really want to waste time reviewing a film that millions of people across the globe watch? You'd rather dissect a banned Iranian film made by a filmmaker of half Catalan origin, which barely made it to the 3rd Santorini Islands Film Festival in the category of amateur, dark and gripping new films shot only on hand held cameras.

An example in use

Here's what a true film critic would say about a commercial success.

"Angelina Jolie and Clint Eastwood's Changeling may have managed to make some money, but it's surely not a 'significant' film in the history of American cinema"

9) Never ever visit a film set

Visiting a film set and looking at the dirty sweaty labor that goes behind making films should definitely not be in your agenda while you are learning how to be a film critic. That's because you'll be in shock when you know what the director really meant to say with that tight, jerkily edited shot in the movie and what you interpreted out of it. The director took tight, close up choppy shots of the actress not to show her inner frustration, but because the table in the background wasn't delivered on time by the Props department!

10) Don't ever decide to make a movie yourself

It would be natural to think that since most film critics are so knowledgeable about filmmaking, film theory and film aesthetics in general, they would be easily capable of becoming master filmmakers themselves. But history says otherwise. Except a very few names like Rod Lurie, Peter Bogdanovich François Truffaut, Jean Luc Godard and Robert Bresson, who were highly deemed film critics turned directors, it really takes guts of steel and gumption of a giant for critics to get on the set. If you do decide to join the bandwagon of these critics turned directors who hail from the legion and time of the Cahiers du Cinema, don't expect your film theory and aesthetics to come to your rescue. Check first if you can control a crew of hundred or even thousands and yell your lungs out.

Warning Princesswithapen truly respects the art of criticism, critics and anything related to filmmaking in general. By no means, does this hub aim to demean of defame any person or discipline. This is a spoof meant to be taken in a light spirit.


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    • princesswithapen profile image

      princesswithapen 6 years ago

      Hi phdast7

      Yes, awfully close to reality. But we all know that it takes a lot of heart and passion to be a true film critic. People who are 'critic wannabes' as you rightly point out, are generally easy to spot because being a film critic is not an easy job.

      I'm glad you found this enjoyable. Thanks for stopping by!


    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      What Fun. A great spoof, but in some cases awfully close to reality. It all depends on who the critic or critic wannabe is, I suppose. Very enjoyable.

    • princesswithapen profile image

      princesswithapen 6 years ago


      No you are not having a bad day.

      This hub has elements of humor, spoof, satire and criticism. I'd really not be surprised if an aspiring movie critic or an established one felt "Oh this is crap" Not that people won't understand the pun intended, but that disclaimer was necessary in its own right to ward off a negative approach by movie buffs and critics alike.

      Coming back to your taste in classic films, there is little you need to say. Your exquisite writing and strong insight speaks for itself!


    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      I see you are one hub away from 100!

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Perhaps sadly ironic would be a better term. I just mean that it seems we have to over explain ourselves so as to not be misjudged. In other words ,you had to add the disclaimer or people would think you didn't like roger Ebert. I feel like people should be able to tell you are just reporting what critics are like without being told, but that just isn't possible anymore. Or maybe I just had a bad day???????

    • princesswithapen profile image

      princesswithapen 6 years ago


      Why do you find that statement sad?

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Sad statement that you had to add that ending. I saw this more as tongue in cheek at the most "negative." I am not trying to be Roger Ebert by preferring classic films. I truly just prefer classic films.