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Film review

Film Review Competition 2016

Full Details

This competition is now closed but you are still welcome to read through the published writing and blog posts.  

Need an excuse to go out to the movies? This Hollywood season, review a film for the Write the World audience. Share with us the merits of storyline and plot, the nitty-gritty on cinematography, editing, and screenplay (to name a few).

Writing a good film review is an art. Critics carefully consider the intricacies of each element (costume, acting, score—to name a few more) and then turn their gaze to the magic of the whole, drawing the reader’s attention to how all the various components of the film come together to make meaning. So get watching, dear writers! Eight out of ten moviegoers consult reviews before deciding which film to see, and we want to read yours.
What is a film review, exactly? Movie critics set out to do the following, all while keeping the reader engaged with vivid description and insightful analysis:
INFORM: Give the reader the nuts and bolts such as genre, notable actors, etc.
EXPLAIN: Tell the reader just enough so that they understand the basics of the storyline.
ANALYZE: Tell your reader what worked and what didn’t, and WHY.
RECOMMEND: To see or not to see?  
The Planning Phase
  • Step One: One of the best ways to become a movie critic is to immerse yourself in published film reviews, noticing the various styles and techniques: How does the writing draw you in? What elements of the film does the reviewer discuss? How detailed is the analysis? Does the writer back up their recommendation (to see or not to see) with particular reasons/evidence? We recommend the following:
            The New York Times
            The Washington Post
            The Guardian
            Rolling Stone
            The Atlantic
  • Step Two: Decide on a film that you’d like to review.

The Viewing Phase           
  • Step One: Have popcorn (and other treats of your liking) at the ready so you won’t be distracted mid-movie!
  • Step Two: If you're able to see the film more than once, use the first viewing to take in the cinematic experience without a pen and paper in hand. Just watch, listen and absorb.Then, reflect—go for a walk, make a cup of tea, stare into space—all the while thinking about what you just saw. Next, write down your initial thoughts: anything that springs to mind, uncensored.
  • Step Three: Familiarize yourself with the “Elements to Consider” (listed below), and on your second viewing, jot down your observations and reactions as you watch, taking notes on performance, storyline, editing, etc.
  • Step Four: After the film is over, take 10-15 minutes to record any other reactions, big or small. Make sure to include your thoughts on how the various elements contributed to the film's overall theme, meaning, and mood.  
Elements to Consider
  • Performance: How was the acting?
  • Storyline: Was the narrative convincing? Satisfying? 
  • Screenplay: Did the script propel the story along? Match the subject? 
  • Editing: Were the parts and pieces of the film well chosen? Linked together smoothly?
  • Music and sound effects: Was the music/sound well selected?
  • Special effects: Were the special effects convincing? How did they add/detract from the overall viewing experience?
  • Cinematography: How did the film look?
  • Camera angles: Were different angles and distances used (between camera and subject) to create mood? 
  • Lens: Through what lens did the writer and/or director explore the subject? Was there a focus on gender, race, sexuality, or class? How about the environment, culture, religion? As the reviewer, could you better analyze the film's meaning by examining it through one of these particular 'lenses'? 

The Writing Phase
The order in which you write your review is entirely up to you, but almost all film reviews include the following:
  • Opening Hook: Grab the reader’s attention!
  • Key Information: Provide the film title, genre, lead actors, director, etc.
  • Plot Summary: Because most of your readers will know little if anything about the film, provide an overview of the premise, drawing your readers into the storyline, without giving too much away.
  • Impression: Describe your experience watching the film, and how the film looks, feels, and sounds.
  • Analysis: Explain which elements of the film were most compelling, and which fell short. If you were you glued to your seat, describe what made the film so gripping. Alternatively, if you found yourself ducking out for more popcorn, explain how the film failed to hold your attention. This is the most ESSENTIAL part of your review—the main course. By making meaning from the film, you demonstrate that your recommendation (whether or not to see the movie) is founded in thoughtful, carefully considered observations.
  • Final Rating: State whether or not you recommend seeing this film, and what type of viewer would enjoy it (you might decide, for example, that action junkies will be thrilled with the new James Bond flick, while those viewers hoping for a more nuanced plot should see Cate Blanchett's latest film instead...)
  • Title/Headline: Your title or headline should make your audience want to read on!
And to brush up on your film terminology, check out the Glossary in Resources, where you’ll also find a collection of reviews for Mockingjay Part 2, and interviews with set designers, directors, and other film-world wigs about their various processes. 

400-1,000 words.  
Guest Judge  
Mathew Gilbert, TV and film critic for the Boston Globe. 

Best Entry: $100 (winning piece + author interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog)  
Runner up: $50  
Best Peer Review: $50 (reviewer interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog)  
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?  
Prizes: The winning entrant will receive $100, and the runner-up and best peer-reviewer will receive $50.  
Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.  
Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday January 11th and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.  
Key Dates  
January 4: Competition Opens  
January 11: Submit draft for Expert Review (optional)  
January 14: Reviews returned to Writers  
January 19: Final Submissions  
January 29: Winners Announced  
Upcoming Competition  
February Competition: Opens Monday, February 1
Stay tuned for more details!  

Due Dates
  • Jan 11 - Drafts Due to Expert Reviewers

  • Jan 19 - Competition Deadline