I have enjoyed watching films for as long as I can remember. The reason why I decided to review films is because through critiquing, I feel that I can understand them better, and through that understanding I can tell people how good or bad that film is.
There was a time when I used to walk to the cinema, watch one (sometimes two) films, sit in a coffee shop, write my review and then go home. Before I did all this, I used to research how well the movie was doing critically and get a sense of the buzz via social media. The cycle in my mind was working because I got a feel of people’s different perspectives, and when I gained mine I found the entire scenario interesting. That is, until recently.
In the past couple of years, I have found reviewing films way more frustrating than ever. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy it, and any excuse to escape and find time to watch a film. However, I am becoming much more aware of reviews sounding all too similar, and offering the same score. It is almost like if the first cluster of critics come out and say the newly released film is good, bad or average, then the next cluster of critics follow suit, and so on. I find that the growing habit of following the trend in the critical community is on a major incline, to the point where I do not find it as fun to read a review or have the conversation with a critic before watching a movie.
This not because I feel influenced, not at all. In fact, I feel less influenced but more concerned about the legitimacy of film reviews. I want to be able to go on aggregate score websites in the future and trust the database. I want to be able to trust other critics, no matter how small or large their reputation is. This is by no means a moan or a grumble, more of an observation. It got to the point where I started noticing this trend more often, and I had to double-check that my review was not too harsh or too praiseful. If you have listened to our podcasts, more specifically our reviews round-ups, then you will understand the frustration and why.
Due to all of the above, I have changed my policy and I find that watching and reviewing movies is way more relaxing and enjoyable. The policy is simple: do not read reviews, and try to avoid as much buzz on social media as possible before watching the film. Okay, so avoiding social media is extra difficult, but what I used to do is see a tweet, sense the excitement and research how everyone is receiving the film. Now I see the tweet and I just move on. It is that simple. I have found that having this policy has made me into a more open minded critic. I feel sensible and legitimate when publishing my reviews. It is hard at first. There were a couple of times I was itching to open Rotten Tomatoes and see that mighty Tomatometer score, but after a couple of weeks of going cold turkey, I felt a bit freer. The shackles were off. My opinion is only my opinion. I’ve become my own critic.
And if the reason you follow trends is because you are scared of what others think, then get rid of that mentality quickly, because in that case you will never stand-out in the crowd as a legitimate critic.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.