Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Film Critics of Tomorrow, Today



As a near-closing activity for my Winter 2011 course English 386: The Film Review as Genre, I am reprising an activity from the last time I taught the class, and I encourage (implore?) your participation. Most recently, my students have been rooting around politically and sociologically engaged reviews composed by full-time and part-time critics like James Baldwin, Molly Haskell, Robin Wood, bell hooks, Zadie Smith, and Paul Rudnick, aka Libby Gelman-Waxner. We've also discussed the increasing pressures in today's media to draw readers into your review by isolating a sentence or "hook" that distills your critical sensibility and builds instant curiosity around your piece.

So, the assignment: I invited students to write a short review attuned in some way to ideological issues or identity politics. They could devote their piece either to one of our recent course screeings (Lady Sings the Blues, Dances with Wolves, Edward Scissorhands, Pulp Fiction, Brokeback Mountain, or The Social Network) or to a 2010 release from a list I circulated. As an additional wrinkle of this assignment, I asked the students to isolate one sentence or two that they would select to advertise the rest of the piece, as happens on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic—suggesting that this sentence should exhibit verbal dexterity in addition to its other strategies for luring a reader.

So, I ask you, as I did two years ago (and to some unexpected acclaim!): which two or three of the following sentences most whet your appetite to read the rest of the review? I'd be especially appreciative if you could quickly suggest why you selected the sentences you did: tone, eloquence, humor, distinctiveness, the thought expressed, etc. The reviews with the most votes will get an extra bump upward when I grade them.

Please limit your comments to expressions of enthusiasm!! The point is to encourage good writing and to reward interesting effort. Many of these students never wrote critically about cinema until this term. We all know how easily the Web can breed snark and vitriol, but in the interest of pedagogy and encouragement, I really ask that this not be a venue for that sort of response!

Thank you so much for participating, and for forwarding this link to anyone else whom you think might take the time to select and respond to their favorites. The more feedback the better! (You do not need to be a registered user of Blogger in order to vote; simply choose the Anonymous option from the Comments page, below the text window, and register your opinions that way.)



BJ "Though perhaps not purposely, Dances with Wolves has succeeded in using Native American hardship as the context in which another 'White Problem' can be resolved—this time around, it's the main character's struggle with Western society's suffocation of fluid sexuality among its own members."





KF "During perhaps the most poignant scene in the film, in which Edward trims just enough hair from a dog's eyes to enable its sight, we get The Point."





CG "But the film's power actually lies in its absurdity: underneath the comic book violence and razor-sharp dialogue is a message that encourages compassion, which is exactly what our generation needs."

BH "To be American, then, is to be 'totally fucking cool.' I could try to adapt to Pulp Fiction's depiction of America by making a pilgrimage to L.A., honing up on my cultural trivia, and enhancing my xenophobia, but somehow it doesn't appeal to me; if this is what Americanism is, I'm happy to stay out of it."





AG "The film is fundamentally satisfying for the mere reason that it follows a female character who exists outside the confines of love and subservience to which so many other movies would have restricted her." (Note: This blurb was incorrectly affiliated at first with Pulp Fiction—wrong Mia!)





KD1 "With the exception of a couple, brief scenes where Ennis (Ledger) seems to need to hit something (at one point, subtly, back-lit by Fourth of July fireworks) and Jack's (Gyllenhaal's) very brief rides on bucking bulls, there is none of the hallmark action of a genre Western in Brokeback. This is a dressed-up woman's film, except they've replaced the long-suffering woman with two long-suffering cowboys."

KD2 "I am calling you out, Mr. Ang Lee, director of Brokeback Mountain: you are a homophobe!"

CG "If I pay to see a gay cowboy movie, then you'd better believe that I want to see a gay cowboy movie."

LH "Brokeback Mountain is reminiscent of the popular kid in high school who sacrifices his personality and beliefs for the sake of widespread acceptance."





CE "Some people would call it a metaphor—all I know is, I saw that metaphor's penis."

SH "Dogtooth succeeds nevertheless, exploring the complexities of gender in a world where gender does not have to be complex."

JK "The overall concept starts simply, and as the film progresses, layers of the protagonists' surreal, detached world are added that are both maniacal and brilliant screenwriting touches."





MH "Guadagnino creates leisurely, sensuous moments of microscopic camera close-ups of aesthetically interesting images that call attention to the innate beauty found in the pursuit of his characters' deviations from exclusive or heterosexual relationships."





BB "The Social Network, like Facebook itself, has important ramifications completely unintended by its creators: the film provides an opportunity to address America's continuing social problem of black marginalization."

AC "The Social Network is supposed to be the movie of our generation, but I don't know a lot of kids my age who create billion-dollar companies based on computer programming and spend their days fighting lawsuits, so I guess it must be these parallels between the guys and the girls in the film that make it so relevant."

KD "Women of Harvard, I hope you are finding The Social Network as instructional as I am."

AF "As made apparent by the film's treatment of females, The Social Network is a 'Men's Only' club."

NF "For a movie in which almost the entire plot is motivated by a woman, it's disappointing that the makers of The Social Network know as much about portraying women as James Franco and Anne Hathaway know about entertaining an audience: absolutely nothing."

AJ "However extraordinary Mark might be in terms of his programming and entrepreneurial abilities, however, his sexism is far from unusual in the world that he inhabits; misogynistic in its very structure, this film depicts men as chauvinistic and women, denied any complex characterization, as almost without exception belonging to three stereotypical categories."

EK "In truth, it doesn't matter whether Aaron Sorkin's script is historically accurate and it makes no difference that Jesse Eisenberg's Mark can fully represent only a small subset of the young population; sometimes the best fiction tells the most truth, and ultimately this is the very real story of the depersonalized new world."

RK "Sorkin satirizes the culture of the rich white male—the ritzy nightclubs, the flashy parties, and the Winklevosses' contention to their college president that 'we never asked for special treatment'—but who is doing the satirizing? A rich white male."

RL "While depicting the Facebook obsession and Zuckerberg's computer genius, The Social Network also glorifies a gender stereotype that depicts men as the innovators, the leaders, and the thinkers of the world and women as sexual objects."

SMB "The universe of The Social Network is a boys' club, plain and simple."

BM "The Social Network's shortcomings are disappointing and annoying, but are unforgivable when one considers how they distracted from the egregious generational dismissal of women—that is, if we are to understand the cast of the 'film of a generation' to be representative of that generation."

AP "The Social Network is not a film for the generation brought up on Facebook. It is a film for the generation that does not understand Facebook."

CPJ "At the end of the day, using the logic of Fincher and Sorkin's own faux-Zuckerberg, if they've made a sexist movie, they've made a sexist movie."

AS "The valuable moments in the movie resonate not because they reveal something about the movie's focal figure Mark Zuckerberg or because they reflect a generation's feelings. Rather, the most telling moments of the film give brief glimpses into a synonymous thought or emotion shared among white people."

JS "Every interaction we undertake, every pursuit, and even the dreams we have are more easily available to us. The Social Network captures that essence: the possibilities of this world of interconnectivity that, while so sleekly efficient, has departed from a quaint time of yesteryear."

KV "I've had a Facebook account for years. I don't need someone to waste a precious morsel of Aaron Sorkin wit explaining to me what a wall-to-wall is."

MW "In the process of defining Zuckerberg as the biggest asshole/genius of his generation—an intriguing paradox, certainly—Fincher inadvertently posits the status of Gen Y women as sexually superfluous objects, intellectually useless beings yet, like the audience, patently in awe of Zuckerberg's legendary and controversial stature."

SW "But most of all, what a wonderful message for our times: women don't have to do anything!"

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45 Comments:

Blogger Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

BH "To be American, then, is to be 'totally fucking cool.' I could try to adapt to Pulp Fiction's depiction of America by making a pilgrimage to L.A., honing up on my cultural trivia, and enhancing my xenophobia, but somehow it doesn't appeal to me; if this is what Americanism is, I'm happy to stay out of it."

Not sure if it's because I understand (and possibly agree) with the assertion, but this one jumps out at me. It seems fearless without being particularly inciting.

Runners Up (in order):

KF on Edward Scissorshands: It's a great thing when reviewers actually use parts of the film (something that sounds obvious, but often doesn't happen)

AG on Pulp Fiction: Don't particularly agree, but it's an interesting thought that makes me even more interested in the review.

EK on The Social Network: A very interesting notion, and though it's been said before I like the sentence :)

(I'll now go pretend that I was lucky enough to be in your class.)

3:15 PM, March 02, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dogtooth, CE -- This is a difficult film, mainly because the entire time it screams LOOK AT MY METAPHORICAL ARTISTRY. This review is funny, and encapsulates that yes, the movie is saying something, but in the end, I'm not losing much sleep over it.

Social Network, AP -- It seems the authors of some of these other lines got too tied up in writing a thesis. Sometimes, you can get to heart of that by simply understanding the intended audience. This line is a nice caveat to all those banal reviews proclaiming "THIS IS THE MOVIE OF OUR GENERATION." I like the fact that this reviewer is obviously articulating s/he felt removed from the film, though the characters are his/her same age.

3:16 PM, March 02, 2011  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Well, the 'Dances with Wolves' quote makes it sound like the review is infinitely more interesting than the movie itself, so that is my pick.

3:27 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger Cal said...

Hurrah! I loved this feature last time around.

To me, the obvious winner is C.E. on "Dogtooth," because a) They summarise their opinion of the film in very few words (Sensationalism as its most resounding feature) and b) They mention the word "penis." (Fickle, I know, but always guaranteed to make me bolt upright Pixar squirrel-style.)

My favourite in terms of being the most encouraging analysis (I get very little sense of what C.E.'s full review would be like etc.) would be A.J on "The Social Network." I agree somewhat with them, but I'm interested to hear more on the argument.

Good set of students you have!

3:29 PM, March 02, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your students are really into identity politics, huh? Not sure if that was part of the assignment here, but it's a perspective on cinema I generally find nauseating. I'll vote for KD1 on Brokeback because it promises engagement with genre and film history, and with specific scenes of the film. Second place goes to CE on Dogtooth, because I laughed.

3:31 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

Thanks, everyone, who has already responded! Especially for taking time to explain your choices.

@Anon 3:31: Yes, it was part of the assignment that this short review be attuned to cultural ideology or identity politics, as our critics in this unit of the course have been. I've boldfaced that part of the preamble of my post to make it more obvious for future commentators.

3:37 PM, March 02, 2011  
Anonymous Percy said...

Many of them are great, but the two whose full reviews I'm most interested in reading are:
KD1 for Brokeback Mountain (same reasons as anonymous at 3:31)
AG for Pulp Fiction

AG's teaser works very well as a statement that expresses the argument simply but compellingly, something that would be interesting to those who haven't seen the movie as well as those who have.

And bonus points to KF (Edward Scissorhands) for capitalizing Important Concepts. He/she clearly takes after your example, Nick. :P

This sounds like a really fun class. I just read the syllabus, and the course sounds like a demanding (especially for a nine-week course) but supremely rewarding one. It makes me wish I'd gone to Northwestern!

4:05 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger GregWA said...

I agree with Rebecca. I totally want to read the Dances with Wolves review. I missed all the fluid sexuality.

And why do the reviewers everyone find the lack of female perspective in the Social Network surprising or notable? Neither industry - film or technology - welcomes a female perspective.

4:18 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger Dave said...

I'd give first place to AP on The Social Network; admittedly it's a refreshing difference from all the misogyny arguments it's surrounded with (although I suppose the abundance of quotes for TSN makes for a mini-Rotten Tomatoes page of sorts), but it's short and snappy and the idea is something I'd be very interested to read the argument on.

Runner-up to CE on Dogtooth - glad to see it's not just me who laughed, but I sense a clever wit there rather than mere puerile humour.

Care to do a semester at King's College London next year, so I can take this module? ;)

4:23 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

Hmmm. a lot to consider here.

I like KF's Edward Scissorhands because the moment is such a perfect simple character visual and I want to read more about 'The Point.'

I like KD1's on Brokeback simply because i want to read the rest of it. It helps that it doesn't sound dismissive though I'm not sure if the review will be possitive either. And teasers that aren't too immediately dismissive of worthwhile films turn me off (if the film in question is understood -- in a general sense -- to have worth, very negative sentences tend to make me click away rather than click to read because of the possiblity of contrarianism for contrarianism's sake)

and for this same reason I like EK's on The Social Network.

CE's on Dogtooth is provocative and funny.

4:39 PM, March 02, 2011  
Anonymous Heather said...

I'm stunned BH isn't walking away with this so far, based on that great rundown of Pulp Fiction as "Americana."

I laughed at CG on Brokeback and CE on Dogtooth, and I sensed a real review coming, not just a snarkfest. It's actually kind of refreshing that your students seem to err on the side of sincerity over snark. But how will they survive on the Web without their switch constantly set to Flippant??

I like AP on Social Network, especially if he or she has the same "generation" in mind in both sentences. If he or she is just saying that The Social Network is for older folks than the characters, I feel like that's been said, but it's still good phrasing.

I've got no problem with everyone who ran down TSN's gender politics, though I guess they'll realize now that to get noticed, you need to put a more individual spin on an idea other people have definitely had. Too bad, because I'm interested in AJ's "three categories" and it sounds like KD and RK and NF might have spunky things to say. I might have clicked on their pieces. Are you going to post the winners in full?

5:31 PM, March 02, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CE's Dogtooth review gets my thumbs up: witty, informative, snappy: exactly what you want out of a Rotten Tomatoes snippet review. Presumably it sums up the full review perfectly as well.

5:56 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

Damn, talk about a Social Network dogpile! I wonder if any of them think it's sexist? Sorry, you wanted positive feedback...

My favorite one is definitely SH's blurb on Dogtooth. It only hints at a fascinating discussion.

Second place for me would be BH on Pulp Fiction, if only because I have no idea whether he's condemning the film or its characters, and I'm very interested to know why either way.

6:36 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger Colin Low said...

BH "To be American, then, is to be 'totally fucking cool.' I could try to adapt to Pulp Fiction's depiction of America by making a pilgrimage to L.A., honing up on my cultural trivia, and enhancing my xenophobia, but somehow it doesn't appeal to me; if this is what Americanism is, I'm happy to stay out of it."

I would love, love, love to read this review. (BH, if you're reading this, please let me know if you'd be happy to share.) This snippet alone hints at the polemical heft of that famous spiel on the same movie by the critic sharing those initials. And it turns phrases in a manner reminiscent of Pauline Kael at her best.

Out of a Rotten Tomatoes lineup, I'd also pick AP on The Social Network and CE on Dogtooth. Punchy, and they whet my appetite for an interesting contrarian perspective and a good dosage of humor respectively.

6:54 PM, March 02, 2011  
Anonymous Jake D said...

I'm loving CE's "Some people would call it a metaphor—all I know is, I saw that metaphor's penis."

A completely apt appraisal of the arbitrary sensationalism of Dogtooth: Metaphors Gone Wild. Definitely want to hear more.

I also have a feeling I would not agree with LH's "Brokeback Mountain is reminiscent of the popular kid in high school who sacrifices his personality and beliefs for the sake of widespread acceptance." I'm somewhat surprised to see the negative blurbs for Brokeback, but this is the one that intrigues me. Did we really need Brokeback to be more graphic or explicit (or something else)? I'd like to see what the student has to say there.

I'm always disappointed when this class gets mentioned ...it filled up supernaturally fast! I never stood a chance :)

7:37 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger par3182 said...

KD2's brokeback - 'cause he sounds like he's got a point and he ain't afraid to use it

(btw, was the entire class down on brokeback?)

runner-up: NF for the super timely franco/hathaway slam

(i'll always go for an entertaining review over an intellectual one)

7:57 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger James T said...

LH "Brokeback Mountain is reminiscent of the popular kid in high school who sacrifices his personality and beliefs for the sake of widespread acceptance."

I disagree with the opinion, but thought it was a clever way to describe a problem some "taboo-message" films have.
-----
MH "Guadagnino creates leisurely, sensuous moments of microscopic camera close-ups of aesthetically interesting images that call attention to the innate beauty found in the pursuit of his characters' deviations from exclusive or heterosexual relationships."

I don't know which close-ups he/she is referring to, but it was a great observation. I do think, however, that the point is partly missed by the specificity at the end of the sentence but not entirely, and it's still quite good.
-----
AS "The valuable moments in the movie resonate not because they reveal something about the movie's focal figure Mark Zuckerberg or because they reflect a generation's feelings. Rather, the most telling moments of the film give brief glimpses into a synonymous thought or emotion shared among white people."

The "white people" wouldn't have been missed if it weren't there, but it's a very good, well-written effort to see the big picture.

8:06 PM, March 02, 2011  
Anonymous Liz N. said...

I'd be lying if I said I didn't crack up at CE's "Dogtooth" blurb. But I would love to read the rest of the review, because I definitely think I understand what he/she is getting at, just with that single snippet.

I'm also a big fan of BH for "Pulp Fiction." Very Pauline Kael, as someone already mentioned.

KF, "Edward Scissorhands": I'm going to love any review that capitalizes Concepts.

8:32 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger Evan said...

I had two criteria:

-When I'm looking at reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, I click on extracts that are **short and simple, but give complete opinions.** I want to read a review, not a term paper, so I'm looking for a blurb, not a thesis.

-The review should be focused on the film rather than the reviewer (I only want to see the word "I" if the reviewer is referring to the viewing experience). I use the reviewer as a lens, not as someone with whom I'd want to converse.

With those principles as my guide, my favorite was:

KD1's take on Brokeback. I like this extract because it tells its readers exactly what kind of person will like the film (lovers of the traditional western, beware!) and also deconstructs the movie for those who've already seen it. I especially love the last sentence. Note: I'd use ellipses to remove the middle of that first sentence and make the blurb catchier on RT.

Honorable Mention to:

AP's take on The Social Network. The simplicity of this quote paints a very clear picture of the movie (as a middle-class white film) and for that succinct depiction, I'd be extremely likely to read the full review. That said, I fundamentally disagree with AP's assessment given the type of people who have enjoyed this film-- it seems like this review would lead many people astray and that this description is much more apt for other 2010 films. But... sometimes we read reviews just to disagree with the critic so do with my comment what you will. (Bonus points for having the initials AP!)

As a semi-relevant aside to this assignment, I see TSN as a film more about class identity than gender politics. The desire to find a girlfriend is only part of the desire to be part of the cultural elite (along with the obsession with joining a Finals Club). Why else does the movie feature that scene with Larry Summers where the rich kids are pwned? This reading also gives new light to the rejection of rich kid Eduardo.

8:34 PM, March 02, 2011  
Anonymous Patrick said...

CE on Dogtooth, I like his or her sense of humor but more than that the sentense makes me want to the see the movie!

9:19 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger Amir said...

i like C.E.'s comment on dogtooth even though I can't say i'd agree with it fully. it's funny and it definitely makes me want to read the rest.
i really like C.G.'s comment on brokeback mountain.

11:01 PM, March 02, 2011  
Anonymous /3rtfu11 said...

CE "Some people would call it a metaphor—all I know is, I saw that metaphor's penis."

MH "Guadagnino creates leisurely, sensuous moments of microscopic camera close-ups of aesthetically interesting images that call attention to the innate beauty found in the pursuit of his characters' deviations from exclusive or heterosexual relationships."


Nick I like these two. I originally wrote little responses to each but my post didn’t post. And since I don’t remember the exact wording you’re getting this cold response instead – since I’d like to participate and encourage your students whose work stands out to me.

11:24 PM, March 02, 2011  
Blogger Squasher88 said...

SH "Dogtooth succeeds nevertheless, exploring the complexities of gender in a world where gender does not have to be complex."

By starting with "nevertheless", it forces the reader to want to know more. This is especially important when reviewing a little-known film like Dogtooth. The sentence provides a good summary of the over-arching essence of the major storylines without blatatantly telling you what the film is about

12:56 AM, March 03, 2011  
Blogger GlenH said...

My favorites are:

1. BJ on "Dances with Wolves", because s/he manages to stuff so much information into the one sentence without it seeming overstuffed and because s/he's produced a plausible reading that potentially invigorates a pretty boring film.

2. BH because as much as s/he may not want to be American in that way that is a "totally fucking cool" sentence. Bold without being aggressive, specific without being exhaustive.


And an honorable mention to MH for tackling how a film's style informs its themes (and, in my opinion, being pretty spot on).

4:12 AM, March 03, 2011  
Anonymous Guy Lodge said...

There are other extracts here that may promise sassier wit or more artful wordsmithery, and obviously I want to read those too. (Frankly, there's not a dud sentence in the bunch -- I think I need to take your course!) But these two stood out to me for much the same reason:

BJ: "Though perhaps not purposely, Dances with Wolves has succeeded in using Native American hardship as the context in which another 'White Problem' can be resolved&#151this time around, it's the main character's struggle with Western society's suffocation of fluid sexuality among its own members."

KD1: "With the exception of a couple, brief scenes where Ennis (Ledger) seems to need to hit something (at one point, subtly, back-lit by Fourth of July fireworks) and Jack's (Gyllenhaal's) very brief rides on bucking bulls, there is none of the hallmark action of a genre Western in Brokeback. This is a dressed-up woman's film, except they've replaced the long-suffering woman with two long-suffering cowboys."

Both sentences tease us with individual interpretations, not just provocative opinions. I particularly like how they subtly flip the prism of analysis by which these two genre-fraying films have been mostly discussed thus far: from race to sexuality in the case of Wolves, and from sexuality to gender in the case of Brokeback.

I have no idea how far they take these ideas -- whether they form the spine of the review, or a mere aside -- but both suggest the full review may lead me to learn or think something fresh about films that have hardly been under-discussed. Can I offer up a conditional bravo?

5:57 AM, March 03, 2011  
Anonymous Laika said...

CG and AG on Pulp Fiction take on an overly-familiar film from unexpected angles - CG's approach, in particular, seems as though it will be diametrically opposed to the standard reaction to Tarantino's work, and that makes me want to read more.

Also, CE on Dogtooth. No, I won't pretend this is much more than a response to the word 'penis', but if its the iceberg-tip of ireverent wit, rather than bone-headed shock-tactics, the review should be worth a read. I'd certainly click on it.

7:14 AM, March 03, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I liked a lot CE's and JK's for Dogtooth (I am voting for both): CE because it made me laugh out loud and JK because the sentence made me very interested in seeing the movie, with the depiction of the adventure the moviegoer will encounter (and, for my, every movie is an adventure).

Pedro

9:35 AM, March 03, 2011  
Blogger Deborah said...

"I saw that metaphor's penis" is the best phrase in any of the excerpts. It's funny, it's elegantly brief, it makes me want to read more.

10:15 AM, March 03, 2011  
Blogger Joe Reid said...

My three picks:

PULP FICTION
CG "But the film's power actually lies in its absurdity: underneath the comic book violence and razor-sharp dialogue is a message that encourages compassion, which is exactly what our generation needs."

I'm wildly interested to see where this reading of Pulp Fiction as a compassionate text goes.

DOGTOOTH
CE "Some people would call it a metaphor—all I know is, I saw that metaphor's penis."

Funny and blunt, which I love, but also suggests there's an interesting reading of the film's sexual humor and bluntness.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK
AP "The Social Network is not a film for the generation brought up on Facebook. It is a film for the generation that does not understand Facebook."

Self-flattering opinion aside, it's as succinct and snappy a pull quote as I've found among the whole group.

11:54 AM, March 03, 2011  
Blogger Simon said...

CE "Some people would call it a metaphor—all I know is, I saw that metaphor's penis."

That...that just made my day.

BJ "Though perhaps not purposely, Dances with Wolves has succeeded in using Native American hardship as the context in which another 'White Problem' can be resolved—this time around, it's the main character's struggle with Western society's suffocation of fluid sexuality among its own members."

This sounds kind of fascinating, if only because I'm so quick to criticize these types of movies.

KF "During perhaps the most poignant scene in the film, in which Edward trims just enough hair from a dog's eyes to enable its sight, we get The Point."

And I'm a sucker for gratuitous capitalization.

CG "If I pay to see a gay cowboy movie, then you'd better believe that I want to see a gay cowboy movie."

Yeah. Everything under Brokeback Mountain.

KD "Women of Harvard, I hope you are finding The Social Network as instructional as I am."

Everything under the Social Network, too.

I quite like your students.

3:06 PM, March 03, 2011  
Blogger Tim said...

First off, I'm massively impressed by the quality of all these. I've been hunting down pullquotes from my own reviews for three years now, and I'm nowhere near that good at it.

Another vote for CE on Dogtooth, which manages to express in few words than almost anybody else needed the author's opinion of the movie (it's overhyped) and present their sense of humor with a keyword that makes it almost impossible not to want to keep reading.

KD1 on Brokeback presents a very clear idea about the movie that hasn't already been done to death, and promises a rather objective criticism of the movie that descends into neither excessive enthusiasm or sniping. I'd love to read this whole review.

LH on Brokeback uses a brilliant metaphor, and has enough a fun, unfussy voice that I want to read more even though I already disagree with the review. It doesn't feel at all like a contrarian provocation.

BJ on Dances with Wolves, largely because its a reading of the film I've never even dreamed of, and I'd love to see what the author makes of it.

3:16 PM, March 03, 2011  
Blogger Paul Outlaw said...

BH on Pulp Fiction
CG on Brokeback Mountain
BB and AP on The Social Network

I'm intrigued and/or amused. Bravo!

5:52 PM, March 03, 2011  
Blogger Glenn said...

My favourites were:

KF on Edward Scissorhands

BH on Pulp Fiction

AG on Fish Tank

EK on The Social Network
AP on The Social Network

I like quite a lot of the blurbs, although I think several of them (I won't say which since that wasn't the task you put to your readers) suffer from "importantisis" where I suspect critics some up with an important hypothesis and shove a review around it so as to sound important and lofty.

I was surprised at how many chose The Social Network's apparent sexism as not only the edge to which to hand a positive or negative review on to it, but also that so many chose it to represent their review. I wasn't too fussed by Network's representation of women so I wasn't as drawn to the quotes about it, but I've seen the movie so I am, unfortunately for the challenge, coming at it a little askew.

5:48 AM, March 04, 2011  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

OHHHHhh on the Fish Tank blurb. I kept trying to figure out how "Mia" from Pulp Fiction was not defined by subservience to a man since she was essentially a kept woman.

Now, I am interested in reading that review because I think, though I'm sure that this isn't helpful to your class, some of the most important critical work is done on films that have not been over discussed. and i'm interested to hear a positive read of the way this movie treats Mia... not that i think the movie doesn't like Mia just that it is so grim about her future.

8:58 AM, March 04, 2011  
Blogger Andrew Rech said...

Hope I'm not too late for this! Runner up would go to EK for The Social Network.

I don't have a lot more to offer considering earlier comments have already touched upon this but I really think it hones on on what I believe The Social Network is truly about: none of this overreaching "Defines a dgeneration." As someone who loves The Social Network I think EK's blurb nails in terms of pulling someone in on the purer themes of The Social Network. Even if the review isn't a total rave, it gives an indication of a truly measured take on the film that I think would provide some rich insight without being too dismissive of the films virtues as well.

First place goes KD1

As someone who was puzzled when people felt they had been misled by the genre dressings of Brokeback Mountain, I'm extremely intrigued by KD1's perspective that Brokeback is a "long suffering woman" film. I would love to read the parallels if they are elaborated on, and I think if I saw this in a sea of homogenized blurbs on RT or Metacritic, this would be the first review I would click to. You have some really sharp writing students Nick!

8:24 PM, March 04, 2011  
Anonymous Ian C. said...

I like the first comment about Pulp Fiction, and the hook that PF is about compassion...it's very counter-intuitive, and it makes me want to read more.

I also really like the pithy one about Social Network, and Sorkin wasting his wit on explaining what a "wall-to-wall" is.

8:37 PM, March 04, 2011  
Anonymous Ian C. said...

Generally, the ones that are simple and concise are the best ones, IMO.

8:38 PM, March 04, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think most of the comments for TSN were pretty interesting (EK's being my favorite), but I guess CG's take on BBM is the one that stands out the most, it really made me eager to read the rest of the review. If luring a reader was the goal, he nailed it.

3:50 PM, March 05, 2011  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

Hope it's not too late for this:

I loved RL's and AP's points on The Social Network; it sums up the problems that I think the script has perfectly, and concisely, too.

I also loved CG's comment on Pulp Fiction, because it's a provocative statement that I've never heard applied to the film and it makes me want to read on.

7:30 PM, March 05, 2011  
Anonymous seasondays said...

DOGTOOTH CE's quote was simple but very very effective, with some words [and very few] he shows serious criticism, wit, guts and a more "mainstream" approach.

the fact that the quote sums up the film plot and style makes it even better.

10:33 PM, March 05, 2011  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

All of these have come in with plenty of time to spare - and please let me thank you all again for the constructive and detailed responses you've taken the time to offer. I'm tickled that 3/4 of the responses have gotten at least one vote, which makes the point perfectly about how many different tastes exist for blurbs (and reviews in general), even if some clear favorites have emerged. Even the ones that haven't been chosen - all of which are from the Social Network group - seem to have been impeded by the magnitude of the anti-chauvinist reaction, often expressed in similar terms, which is interesting in itself, as many of you have said.

As a larkish aside, the gender attributions in your responses, where only a "he" or "she" has been employed, have often been wrong, which is also interesting to see. And now that I'm reading some of the reviews, it's intriguing how many of the blurbs have a different tone than the overall review. For instance, two of the Brokeback pieces are more complimentary of the film than many of you have surmised (and more so than I would have surmised, too).

Thanks again for chiming in - and it's still not too late if more readers want to do so!

1:52 PM, March 06, 2011  
Anonymous Laura said...

KF "During perhaps the most poignant scene in the film, in which Edward trims just enough hair from a dog's eyes to enable its sight, we get The Point."

Sorry to come late to the party! Glad there's still time to post! I believe that this excerpt from the 'Edward Scissorhands' review is the strongest of the bunch. It does what great film criticism does - challenges and entices you, not by forcing an agenda on you, but, instead, by recreating a cinematic experience using thoughtful, open-minded observation with beautiful visual descriptions...STYLE as well as substance. From just a sentence, you know this person not only knows how to think, but that he or she has a distinct voice.

Marrying ideas and images (cinema is a visual medium after all) is what makes a truly great film critic. Perhaps that is why I love any review written by Manohla Dargis. She is not just a critic. She's a creator, crafting her reviews with witty wordplay while exposing the racism, sexism, and homophobia in Hollywood movies that often lies just below the surface. Although the 'Edward Scissorhands' excerpt is not an entire review, I feel that this critic is capable of that kind of nuanced analysis and that, as a reader, I'm in good hands.

---

Great exercise! Hope you're having your students read bel Hooks' review of Pulp Fiction! That's one of my favorite examples of a writer with both a strong style and perspective.

2:12 AM, March 07, 2011  
Anonymous Laura said...

*Also, I know you said to keep the comments positive, but I just wanted to say that it bothered me how so many people seemed to write off The Social Network as sexist. I am female, and I found it actually to be a condemnation of the type of perpetual man-boys that populate this kind of universe. I think it's important to distinguish between when characters are sexist and when a film is. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who has written some of the most complex and interesting parts for women on TV and film, even took the web to defend this stance:

http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2010/10/aaron-sorkin-responds-to-commenter-in.html

2:28 AM, March 07, 2011  
Blogger tim r said...

I'm drawn in, as not that many others seem to be, by BB on The Social Network:

"The Social Network, like Facebook itself, has important ramifications completely unintended by its creators: the film provides an opportunity to address America's continuing social problem of black marginalization."

This promises a thoughtful review exploring what's fallen off the edges of the movie, if you like, and what it tells us by omission. I'm certainly keen to read the unpacking of that thought, and I like its ambivalent, musing quality as a pullquote, perhaps more than some of the other arguments boiled down into a punchline.

Then again, BH on Pulp Fiction (my runner-up, mentioned quite a lot) is very first-person and punchliney, but grabs me instantly: it's brash, ballsy, and has an attitude I find independent and striking.

5:49 PM, March 07, 2011  
Anonymous Bobby Wise said...

I like KF on "Edward Scissorhands". It's short, sweet, and evocative. Plus the subtle capitalization of "The Point" entices me to read further and see what the writer is getting at.

4:52 AM, March 08, 2011  

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