On Film Criticism, Reviews and the Importance of Supporting Independent Film

On Film Criticism, Reviews and the Importance of Supporting Independent Film. How does film criticism work, and what is the importance of reviews in this industry? I’m still trying to figure it all out, and I’ve been doing it for over 12 years now. But I will say this, online reviews, and online film communities are crucial for the film industry, but even more importantly? They are critical for Independent films. Without a robust Indie Film community that supports their own? The Independent Film Flywheel (IFF from here on out) would be dead and gone forever… and what would be left? Megalith Films, you know, films that are cobbled together camels that come from the parts of pure breed racing stallions.

Today’s post is a little off my norm. But it comes from a snippet of a conversation that happened over on the THiNC. Discord server, and a few other comments that were sent my way because of my “overly generous” rating on the movie, When I Consume You. “100%?!” Come onnn! I even had a buddy at my office give me all kinds of crap about that one. But we will get to all of that in a moment.

First though, what is a movie review? It’s basically a summation from a trusted reviewer that gives the viewer an indication of whether or not their $15 and their 2 hours will be time well spent. A film review also discusses the analysis of the inner-workings of a film, and it indicates whether or not the various component parts work well together. The acting, the cinematography, the editing, the sound design, the music, the special effects, etc. etc. Do all the various parts come together as one and make a excellent overall product? But, I would argue, the film reviewer eco-system, is even more critical to the survival of quality films than ever before. Why? Maybe you should watch this explanation for the tectonic shift in the way films are made, and why exactly certain films are not made anymore at all. Just watch this first section where Damon explains how much is necessary to make a “low budget”, $25 million Hollywood film.

Now, seeing as though Hollywood is now admitting that they cannot make the movies they used to make solely because of promotion costs, and distribution costs, and basic budget costs, and they way these interleaving forces compound one another. So, Hollywood is driving towards homeostasis – sameness – and they are admitting that that is what they are doing. They have to. They can’t afford anything else.

Which brings us to my larger point here… which I’m sure I’ll over drive home if you give me enough time. There are reviews. A fair and balanced look at a film that tells you what you are walking into… and I would argue, they don’t exist. There is no such thing as a fair and balanced movie review. Honestly. Doesn’t. Can’t. (Similar to how the news medium exploded and went 90 different direction, but all directly tied to a specific political base.) And this is true in the movie review world as well. You probably don’t know this, but many film review sites are PAID to promote films… as opposed to “fairly reviewing” them. Okay. Fine, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. But, ultimately, the goal is to provide an insight to those readers, an insight they couldn’t have had about this film otherwise. For example, even the gaming industry has realized that reviews are important elements of success. Just think of the many online casino reviews for New Zealand, Europe, or even the US. They allow users to choose the best sites and apps to play their favorite games by giving them detailed information about bonuses, promotions, and payment methods, even before registering. Similarly, here at THiNC. I write reviews for an entirely different reason. And I want you to know about my bias before you continue reading any further.

Why do I write movie reviews? I actually only grudgingly rate movies. I would prefer not to. My 10/10 is your 2/2. It’s impossible to create a fair scale that will work for the two of us. And that’s just looking at you – the reader – and me, the writer. Now, what about that clod right over there —–> (sorry clod.) It’s really a difficult thing to achieve. But I do it so that you know how I, Taylor, think about the movie in question… and maybe if you’ve been around long enough, you know what that 8/10 might mean.

Personally? I write film reviews for an inverted reason. You might think that I do it for you, the reader. But I don’t. If it helps you, then that is really great. But personally, I write movie reviews solely because I want movies to get created that will challenge that Matt Damon formula above. That equation is literally choking out the types of films that we love to chew on, and consider, and play with. But there is a place that has tossed that equation out the window. And that is Independent films.

WAIT A SECOND – THAT’S AN HOUR LONG CLIP! Yup. And you are missing out if you do not watch every single minute of it.

Mark Duplass is a demigod. And if you didn’t have time to watch the entire thing – basically what he is positing, is that you are your own Calvary. By bootstrapping the hell out of your film idea, by enlisting your friends, and borrowing equipment, and funding it to the tune of $10k, you will be able to save your movie all by yourself. And then, when Hollywood shows up at your door to “help” you will already be done. You will have distributed it yourself, marketed it yourself, created it yourself, and you won’t need them anymore because it’s already done.

And that is who I’m here for. THiNC. is 100% about these guys that got a Home Equity Line of Credit on their house, quit their day job, and made their passion project because it’s been burning a hole in their brain for 25 years. This is what I want to promote. Why? Because their film is weird, and different, and it’s a totally different level of brilliant. At least it wasn’t Frankensteined out of race horse parts anyway. So, yes, this is what THiNC. is all about. Passion projects. Cool ideas. And love for film.

So, do you want to hear what makes a 100% movie happen here on THiNC. when I am rating a film? I am almost entirely about the idea. Was their idea well thought out, well-scripted, and does it logically follow? That is a movie that is on target for a 100% here. Is that acting mediocre? Maybe. Are the sets just blah, and the special effects non-existent? That’s okay in my mind.

Too abstract for you? Okay. Take the film, Infinity Chamber. Travis Milloy literally built his “Infinity Chamber” in his garage out of cool looking parts and modernist assemblies. It cost him something like $10k to pull it together. I can’t remember from my conversation with him exactly, but it was something like that. He then pitched Christopher Soren Kelly to join the project, and thankfully he agreed. He then placed Kelly in the box, and filmed his movie. And, because the idea was stellar, and Kelly was amazing… we were given a BRILLIANT film. What would a mainstream movie review rank that film as? 2.5 out of 5 maybe? 3 on a good day? What did I give it? 5/5. Why? Because the idea was stellar. The screenplay was a Russian Nesting Doll of complexity. The surprises came fast and furious to the ending. And NO ONE in Hollywood is making films like this anymore. Nobody. Why? Because they can’t find $100 million at a box office to support them. So, instead, I write my reviews that support Travis Milloy. I follow Christopher Soren Kelly, and when he makes the movie, Tangle, on his own, I’m there to support him too. Right? Otherwise, these films don’t get made because readers like you wouldn’t hear about them.

So, if you find yourself wondering why I just gave that little itty-bitty film 5/5, with 2 actors, a scorched VHS looking production quality, and CGI without the wire removal… now you know. I do it because we all need to rent that Scorched VHS looking film. We need to hand it to our buddy at work, and tell them to buy it on Amazon, and get moving on creating a Laser Disc version for them. Why? Because it generates much needed interest, and much needed momentum that will literally save this guy’s house. It’ll literally save his marriage, and help him create the next film that is pop-corning in the back of his brain.

That is why I write here. That is why I tell you about the films that I find. And THAT is why I rate the movies the way that I do. Hopefully that makes just a little more sense? And if not, come chat with me about it. I’d like to hear how we can do it better together.

Edited by: CY