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How We Critique Films...

by Jeremy Hanke

A lot of people have asked us how we weight certain things in our critiques of films. This is especially important to understand considering that we employ a number of different professional film reviewers

Read ReviewPurchase_linkWith that said, let me explain the relative weight of the five main categories which add up to a total of 500 points. The segments are Content, Visual Look, Use of Audio, Use of Budget, and Lasting Appeal and each are worth one hundred points. (While I debated having Content worth one hundred fifty points, it ended up making the scoring process just too complicated due to the changes that had to be made in the rest of the categories.)

This is probably the most dense section as it covers writing, acting, general editing, story pacing, and the ending. The specific breakdown within this category is:

  1. Writing/Acting - These are virtually impossible to separate due to their co-dependence on one another. This deals with how interesting the viewers will find specific characters. This receives 25% of the possible Content points.
  2. Story Pacing/General Editing - Another co-dependent group, this group determines how compelling and interesting the viewer finds the film. This receives 25% of the possible Content points.
  3. The Ending - The only segment of content that stands "alone", the ending will make or break your film. If you have the best film on the planet but a wishy-washy and unsatisfying ending, your audience will hate the film. Conversely, if you have some issues earlier in the film, but can manage to make a uniquely satisfying ending, many audiences will see past your earlier mistakes. Because of its crucial nature, it receives 50% of the possible Content points as well.

Visual Look
Establishing a unique look through camerawork, set design, costuming, white balance, lighting, editing, and effects. Although the visual look of the film is important, it's not generally as important as the actual content of the film. I say 'generally' because it can detract from a film's content if it's problematic enough to distract the audience (such as the awful hand-held camera and dim lighting in the Bourne Supremacy) or prevent them from suspending their disbelief (such as the problematic rendering of creatures in Star Wars I & II or King Kong).

As such, the two things to remember about the visual look section are: style and suspension of disbelief. Although we break it down into different segments, your primary goal is to be able create a unique look for your film and to be able to choose effects and visual cues that aid in the suspension of disbelief.

The specific segments are as follows:

  1. Set Design/Costuming - This covers the use of designed backgrounds, color palettes, and costuming to create a unique look for your film. This is worth 25% of the Visual Look points.
  2. Camerawork - This covers the use of interesting camera angles, moving cameras, zooms, and depth of field adjustments. This is worth 25% of the Visual Look points.
  3. Lighting/White Balance - This covers how well the subjects and background are lit and balanced. This is worth 25% of the Visual Look points.
  4. Editing/Special Effects - This covers transitions, title sequences, and effects. While this is also worth 25% of the Visual Look points, it may be weighted higher or lower in special circumstances.

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