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The Four Functions of Film Reviewing
The material for this section was derived from the wonderful book Making Meaning by David Bordwell and was supplemented by Debbie Twyman


Film reviews of this type present the reader with the latest news and information about the most recent film releases. These reviews tend to focus on the most significant aspects of a specific film. In other words, these reviews tend to note such "important" information as the stars of the film, the cost of the production (just ask Director James Cameron about that one!), and interesting aspects about the production itself (cool special effects, new techniques, a cast of thousands, etc.). Generally speaking, film reviews of this type tend to fall into two categories -- journalism of opinion (which presents a carefully thought out position on a film backed up with background information and examples) and journalism of taste (a simple evaluation of the film). In depth reviews of films tend to combine these two types of journalism. Students in Film Appreciation should strive to construct in depth reviews.


The primary purpose of these film reviews is to publicize a film and to convince readers to go watch it. Reviewers who engage in this type of reviewing regard themselves as providing a service - certainly to the studio - and to the reader by functioning as a guide to what is currently available at their local multiplex. Warning. Did you ever wonder about those up close and personal interviews with stars about their latest projects - the really glowing warm fuzzy kind that air on your local television station? These are frequently arranged for by the movie studio that is promoting the film in question. They fly the critic out for an all expense paid interview with the star in the hopes that it will garner the movie some positive press for their film. This is the same way that they get those great quotes that they put on advertisements for the film. You know, the ones by critics that you have never heard of. As in all things, let the buyer beware.


Reviews of this kind generally provide a brief description of the film while focusing on the analysis and evaluation of the film's artistic merits. Film Appreciation students who really want to get an A from Ms. Twyman and who want to run with the Big Dogs try to write reviews of this caliber.

Rhetoric (Writing)

Ph.D. candidates and folks who are seriously interested in film often write reviews that border on essays and that are judged as much on their literary merit as on their cinematic content. These sorts of essays are often grouped together and published by academic press or a small independent publishing company. They are not for the faint of heart. Frankly, unless they are written or edited by Pauline Kael or Roger Ebert they should probably only be read by a serious film student. Translated, your classmates won't enjoy these and virtually no one visiting our Web Site is on a quest for writing of this depth, so wait till you get your MFA in Film Studies to forge into this territory. But what the heck, if you feel like attempting this Twyman will be impressed and if you bribe her with enough chocolate she can probably be convinced not to read your essay/review out loud to the class.