Reviewing Movies

I have decided to, once again, review independent and wide-release mainstream movies. I was inspired recently to engage cinema after viewing Andrew Haigh's 2011 surprise, Weekend (starring Tom Cullen, Happily Ever After, The Other Half, and Chris New). Movie database IMDb notes: "In the first major critical survey of LGBT films, conducted by the BFI in 2016, Weekend (2011) was named the 2nd best LGBT film of all time." (link) (emphasis added) I understand why -- completely. The storyline captured my heart, and my mind, because I recently experienced a somewhat similar narrative as in the movie.

That film and theatre critics sometimes disagree over the quality of a work of art (or art in motion) is not surprising. However, there are core values that critics judge of any work, and these values typically include the manner in which a particular director chooses to frame and contextualize a story; the manner in which screenwriters create a narrative through which to convey that story; how the cinematographer interprets and executes the vision of the director; how the editor pieces what he is given in order to tell the story; how the storyline is portrayed by the actors; how the collaborators frame the context of the story with set designs and place-settings; and, finally, the sound, including the musical score, sound effects, and the volume of the dialogue. (link) That is a lot of ingredients.

So, a film or theatre critic does not -- or, at least, should not -- base her or his critique primarily upon how the movie affected the critic. There are other matters to consider. For example, I was disappointed with Denis Villeneuve's Arrival (2016), starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, but my disappointment in no sense indicates that Arrival is a poor piece of movie-making. This movie meets all the criteria listed above and stands out as a superior movie. However, what I thought the movie was going to be about is not what the movie is about, hence my disappointment. I experienced the exact same reaction with Neill Blomkamp's District 9 (2009), starring Sharlto Copley, David James, and Vanessa Haywood.


I think movies and theatre are important aspects of our lives. Often art imitates life; and, perhaps even unwittingly, demonstrates truths of which we may be unaware but need to address and engage. Take the movie Weekend as an example. IMDb tells the story briefly: "After a drunken house party with his straight mates, Russell heads out to a gay club. Just before closing time he picks up Glen, but what's expected to be just a one-night stand becomes something else, something special." (link) Now, you can hum and haw regarding its homosexual context, but consider that this same scenario happens among heterosexuals as well. A straight couple meet in a bar and, unbeknownst to them in the near future, they actually fall in love and commit themselves to one another. Art, in this movie, is imitating life.

There are movies in which one might think that reality has little in common with what is being portrayed on screen: Sci-fi flicks come to mind. What, for instance, does Gareth Edwards' Rogue One: A Star Wars Story have to do with reality? Much, actually, when you consider what is at the core of the storyline. From the movie database Rotten Tomatoes we read: "In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire's ultimate weapon of destruction." (link) This, here, is a classic tail of good vs. evil. This movie demonstrates the courage and self-sacrificial nature of many human beings who value what is right, what is just, and are willing to give their lives for the sake of others. That is about as relevant as we need in the art of cinema!

I have read some people on-line who do not like reading movie reviews. I get it. All a person is reading is one individual's subjective opinions. I will admit, however, that I have read reviews of a movie and was either inspired to see the film, that I may not have considered viewing, or vice versa: I have avoided a movie based on negative reviews. I like horror movies, for example, but I will pass on Stacy Title's The Bye Bye Man (2017), currently at a 28% rating out of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with credible witnesses insisting that I should save both my time and my money. So, my conclusion is that I may see a movie that someone may have not considered watching, and be inspired to view it and be happy they did.


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.