I wrote countless essays as an English major. I love movies, and went to film school for four years. One would think I'd be good at writing movie reviews. But I'm not.*
In the nineties I used to purchase Leonard Maltin
's annual movie guide, a thick book listing seemingly every movie ever made. He rated them from BOMB to four stars. Eventually I realized I didn't care much for his approach to film. I think it was his opinion of Dances With Wolves
that drove this point home for me. He gave it four stars, but the source of his praise seemed to be all about the sets and costumes. The film does excel in those departments, but Maltin overlooks the fact that it also happens to be a tedious, shallow piece of work. Also, he seemed to see it as a flaw if a film was upsetting. Still, I found a use for his book. I went through it page by page and wrote down the title of every movie I had seen. I've been keeping that list up to date ever since (I've seen about 1700 movies).
In February 1990, the first issue of Entertainment Weekly
was published. I was introduced to letter grades, which I've used ever since. Actually, I boil it down further, by rating films out of 100**. For every movie I'd seen, I created a note card with information, comments, and my grade.
In 2000, I finally got my first computer, and it wasn't long before I discovered The Internet Movie Database
***, a far more comprehensive catalogue of films (and television programs) than Maltin's book ever was. Of course, I also found a much more pleasing way to format my list of films. Over the last couple of months, I've been getting rid of all info and thoughts I had written on paper, transferring them to a couple of Word documents - one being a factual table listing year, director, actors, genre, and grade; the other for my reviews.
While I enjoy the neatening process, there has been one downside. As I transcribe these notes that I took a decade or more ago, I find myself cringing quite often. I may not be much of a movie critic now, but man, did I ever suck back then. And no, I am not transcribing any of that tripe into this post. I'll just say that if I see the word "witty" or "compelling" again, I may puke.
I'm not sure why I never became a good movie critic. Even when I wrote essays for English class, I always had trouble meeting the minimum length requirements. There was something basic about essay-writing that I didn't understand. I think I just find it difficult to turn my thoughts and feelings into words.
*see for yourself
**I know there's something objectionable about assigning a grade to a work of art, but said grade exists mostly for my personal satisfaction. It helps me maintain the illusion that there's some sort of order to the world.
***As useful as that website is, it also serves as home to the most dim-witted comment board posters on the internet.