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How to write responsible online film reviews

Reza Mardian
Reza Mardian

Film enthusiast and a big fan of Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli, and all films in the running for an Oscar or Festival Film Indonesia award

Jakarta  /  Fri, January 4, 2019  /  02:12 pm
How to write responsible online film reviews

A still from 'Mary Poppins Returns.' (Disney/File)

The increased number of film bloggers, vloggers, and movie reviewers on social media states one insightful phenomenon in our culture: that more people start searching for reviews before deciding to pick what to watch at the cinema. The rise of these film accounts on social media platforms also indicates that anyone is entitled to share their opinion of any movies they watch. While Indonesia is nowhere near Hollywood in terms of appreciating the art of film criticism, it is impossible to deny that film critics are essential to a healthy film ecosystem in the country.

Ideally, film critics are unbiased and are not affiliated with any film productions/studios. In other words, film critics do not have a responsibility to encourage their readers to watch the works they review. Rather, their pieces should evaluate a film's quality and whether or not it has substantive value to be discussed and celebrated by society. This is, probably, the quality not many movie reviewers and casual moviegoers have, which is completely fine. 

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However, we do have opinions, we do have social media accounts, and we often share our opinions after seeing films online. This is where we should perhaps be more responsible. We might think it is okay to say if a film is good or bad, but to what extent should film bloggers and casual moviegoers be able to praise or bash certain creative works? Saying a film is good or bad per se won’t be enough. And so, how do we become (more) responsible movie reviewers? As social media users, our opinion might influence our circle as to whether or not they will watch a movie. A clear and elaborated opinion would help certain films gain the spotlight they deserve, but vague and unclear thoughts would not trigger any curiosity. Here are three simple steps on how to write more responsible online movie reviews:

First and foremost, you need to come up with a clear stance on whether or not a film is good and name what aspects of the film affect your judgment. A common mistake movie bloggers often make is saying if the genre of the film works. Case in point: saying Rob Marshal’s Mary Poppins Returns has good musical numbers or Anggi Umbara’s Suzanna Bernapas Dalam Kubur is scary. Of course they do, as those films are crafted in particular genres to meet our expectations. Saying a film is good because it meets the expectation of the genre is not enough. We need to come up with more specific points, for example, Emily Blunt’s or Luna Maya’s performances in transforming themselves into widely known characters previously portrayed by two legends. If Blunt's performance is compared with Julie Andrews, Luna Maya is compared to the real late Suzanna herself.  

Now that we have decided on one thing that makes the film good (or bad), the next thing we should do is elaborate on that point. This is also where most movie reviewers on social media fail. They think that saying “Emily Blunt is amazing,” or “Luna Maya is so good transforming herself into Suzanna,” is enough. A film is not just a costume party. Which is why we also need to talk about other elements such as key scenes or the plot.

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In Mary Poppins Returns, Emily Blunt not only brings a more ruthless and strict approach than Julie Andrews' portrayal, but she also shows a more human side in one of the most emotional scenes of the film — when she departs from the Banks family. Unlike Andrews, who had to speak to her parrot umbrella to reveal her being sad leaving the Banks family, Blunt showed her sadness through her silence and breaking voice just when she took off at the end of the movie.

In Luna Maya’s case, she was very good at imitating Suzanna—especially with the prosthetics. Yet, her facial expression is somewhat not natural. You can see Luna Maya has difficulty moving her mouth due to the prosthetics during close-ups of her face, especially when she is not in her ghost costume and makeup. The performance of the actors is one example. There are more things to be discussed and to be pointed out in films. What’s more important is elaborating on why those aspects are powerful or not effective.

Last but not least: sharing our thoughts. One thing the movie bloggers love is active engagement from their followers. Do that. Half of the fun from watching movies is talking about them. You could always tweet, post Instagram Stories, or even write a piece to influence your inner circle or just give good films the spotlight and attention they deserve.

It is important to be more responsible when posting reviews online. Only big-budget studios are able to constantly promote their films and show how many tickets they sold. Most of the best Indonesian movies might either be produced by independent or low-budget production houses. Even last year’s best picture nominees of Festival Film Indonesia didn’t sell millions of tickets, which means great films did not get the spotlight they deserve. If we could make a small, yet significant contribution by sharing our thoughts, I think we are being more responsible in maintaining a healthy film industry in the country.  

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Reza Mardian is a film enthusiast and big fan of Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli and all films in the running for an Oscar or Festival Film Indonesia award. He loves writing about the politics of film festivals and great movies tickling his head. Catch him talking about movies and books on his Instagram account @mardian.reza.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.