Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spoilers to follow (in a different post)

I've had my blog for almost nine months now, and I am considering making a change.

Not a radical change, mind you. But as I reflect on the things I've been writing about, I realize that I have not been writing about film as much as I originally thought I would.


I haven't been writing about film? What the hell have I been doing, then?

Well, you may have noticed an inordinate number of posts about things tangential to the films themselves. Titles. Movie posters. Trailers. Patterns in career choices by actors and directors. Granted, if it's a movie I haven't seen yet, that's all I have to go on. And I feel firmly that I want this blog to have the function of discussing upcoming releases. Gives the blog more currency than if I am just telling you about watching Freddy Got Fingered or The Pride of the Yankees.

But another important component of this blog should be discussing the content of films -- especially films most of us have seen. Discussing theories about how characters are similar in a director's body of work. Talking about whether a third act in a certain movie is a cop out. Debating the effectiveness of a particular plot twist.

So why don't I do it?

One word: Spoilers.

You see, as a critic, one of my cardinal guiding principles is to keep from revealing spoilers. In one sense, a film review can be viewed as one giant spoiler -- by saying whether a movie is good or bad, you're helping people decide whether or not to see it. A negative review of a film you're excited to see can be the ultimate way of "spoiling" it. I have friends who don't even want to know whether I like a movie a lot, or just a little, because they don't want their viewing to be biased. Depending on the movie, I sometimes do the same.

But more commonly, we consider spoilers to be information revealed about a movie that prevents it from being viewed from the perspective the filmmaker intended. We all know what a spoiler is -- I don't need to tell you that you'd watch The Crying Game much differently if you knew from the start that the chick was a dude.

And so, as a critic, it's my job to make sure you don't know that. And it can be hard, because sometimes, a twist plays a crucial role in whether a movie is worth recommending or not. Sometimes you have to talk yourself in circles, use abstractions, to kind of half-indicate there is a twist, without saying it out loud. Even the simple fact that there is a twist -- regardless of what that twist may be -- is usually spoiler enough. It causes a viewer to be suspicious of anything that's presented to them in a straightforward way, and renders the eventual reveal of the twist anticlimactic. Far too many critics are careless about how they talk about spoilers -- you don't even have to say what the spoiler is to ruin it.

I've taken this informal critics' code with me to this blog. I've tried to make this blog a safe zone, where you did not have to worry about landmines of unwanted information. Some like-minded publications have taken to issuing warnings, either in the body of the piece (Warning! Spoilers to follow!), or as a banner above the piece (Warning! This piece contains spoilers!). There can be nothing more frustrating than reading a piece that fails to include one of these warnings when it's direly needed. You're reading along, minding your own business, not expecting anything juicy to pop up and bite you, and Wham! You find out Darth Vader was Luke's father.

So why can't I use these warnings in this blog? After all, I am a critic -- it's possible you might like to know what I actually think about the movies I see.

A perfect example came recently when I saw District 9. Whereas numerous critics were rhapsodizing about how it was the most important piece of science fiction filmmaking since Star Wars, I felt quite differently about it. In fact, although I give the film a thumbs up overall, I have a litany of complaints about it that make it a close call. What better place to air these out than my blog?

Except I was worried about spoilers. I was worried about ambushing you, my readers, with commentary/plot reveals that you didn't want. And perhaps, on some level, I was worried about you skipping the piece and forgetting to come back to it once you'd seen District 9. Which is patently ridiculous, when you think about it. The surest way for you not to read a piece of my writing is for me not to write it.

And why should I care if you read all my posts, anyway? If you are reading even some of my posts, you are doing better than 95% of my personal acquaintances. (Hey, blogs just aren't for everybody).

And so begins a new venture:

Actual film criticism appearing on this film critic's blog.

Don't know when the first piece will appear, don't know what it will be about. But the monkey is off my back.

And now it's on yours. Get ready to be spoiled.

1 comment:

Don Handsome said...

spoilers are overrated.

I think its good to be courteous and mention that you may be revealing spoilers about a film, but as a critic isn't it your job to discuss the entire film? And if you must reveal plot points to discuss an entire film, then it must be done. Readers should be allowed the out of a spoiler-warning, but I also think that many movie goers make too much about spoilers...films aren't reality shows where the person who gets sent home at the end of an episode is the entire point of watching, nor are they sporting events where finding out who wins is the entire point in watching...I would argue that a film that is ruined by spoilers is not a worthwhile film.

I think freeing yourself of that need to remain spoiler-free will only open up your criticism and allow you to be more effective at it. Go for it.