So you want to be a film critic? In 15 easy steps


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This presentation was given to a university class on Latino Culture and Religion. The professor wanted me to provide the students with input on how to write a film review. I started by showing trailers for several Latino-themed films such as The Milagro Beanfield War, From Prada to Nada, Mi Familia/My Family, Voces inocentes/Innocent Voices, Fools Rush In, They Killed Sister Dorothy, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, The Burning Season, A Better Life

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So you want to be a film critic? In 15 easy steps

  1. 1. So  you  want  to  be  a  film  cri2c?   Sr.  Rose  Paca8e,  FSP   January  30,  2014   H8p://   See  Slide  #35  for  the  short  cut  
  2. 2. About  this  presenta2on   •  This  presenta2on  was  given  to  a  university  class   on  La2no  Culture  and  Religion.  The  professor   wanted  me  to  provide  the  students  with  input  on   how  to  write  a  film  review.  I  started  by  showing   trailers  for  several  La2no-­‐themed  films  such  as   The  Milagro  Beanfield  War,  From  Prada  to  Nada,   Mi  Familia/My  Family,  Voces  inocentes/Innocent   Voices,  Fools  Rush  In,  They  Killed  Sister  Dorothy,   At  Play  in  the  Fields  of  the  Lord,  The  Burning   Season,  A  Be8er  Life  
  3. 3. Tell  us  what  you  really  think   •  •  •  •  •  •  It  s2nks!   I  loved  it!   Wow!   Waste  of  money!   Best  movie  ever!   Worst  movie  ever!  
  4. 4. Why?  
  5. 5. Criteria   •  •  •  •  •  Know  what  you  know   Know  what  you  believe   Who  is  God  for  you?   Know  who  you  are   Ar2culate  
  6. 6. More  on  criteria   •  Develop  criteria,  a  point  of  view;     •  A  unique  perspec2ve  that  unifies  your  life   experience,  faith,  imagina2on,  educa2on,   hopes,  and  dreams;  see  everything  around   you.     •  Don’t  just  copy  what  everyone  else  is  saying.  
  7. 7. Values   •  Over-­‐arching  ideals  that  guide  your  life   •  1.   •  2.   •  3.  
  8. 8. Theology  of  Cinema   •  “You  will  need  to  know  what  you  believe   about  God  as  well  as  God’s  ongoing,  eternal   communica2on  with  us”       -­‐  Meredith  Gould  in  the  “The  Social  Media  Gospel”  
  9. 9. 1.  Watch  movies  or  “films”  
  10. 10. 2.  Know  story   Know  storytelling  and  film    Study  film  history   Understand  genre  and     How  cinema  works  as  art  and  movies  as   consumer  products;     •  How  cinema  func2ons  in  the  person,  in  audiences   and  society;     •  Understand  the  commercial/consumer/profit   aspects  well.   •  •  •  • 
  11. 11. The  meaning  of  the  films     rises  from  the  rela2onships  of  the  characters  with  one   another,  their  society,  their  environment  and  beliefs.       It  is  in  these  stories’  exquisite  expressions  of  human  love   that  God  is  revealed  for  the  characters  and  for  the   audience.       Ineffable:  too  great  to  be  expressed  in  words      
  12. 12. 3.  Interrogate  films   •  Ask  ques2ons     •  e.g.  the  U.S.  Military  consul2ng  on  films  –  how   does  this  change  what  the  film  means?  Does   it?  (Iron  Man,  Act  of  Valor;  The  Hurt  Locker)    
  13. 13. 4.  Write  every  day   •  250  words,  one  side  of  a  page  type-­‐wri8en  
  14. 14. 5.  Context  vis-­‐à-­‐vis  content   •  Context  is  everything   •  Content  analysis,  which  may  be  useful  for   parents  of  young  children,  is  not  film  cri2cism.  
  15. 15. 6.  Don’t  rate  by  thumbs,  numbers,   stars,  fruit  or  vegetables   •  It’s  a  cliché   •  It’s  lazy  
  16. 16. 7.  Mediate  the  film   •  Mediate  the  film:  what  does  the  movie  mean   •  How  do  image  and  sound  work  together  to   create  meaning?     •  What  do  the  visual  and  musical  symbols  and   mo2fs  mean?    
  17. 17. Sacramental  imagina2on   •  Your  job  is  not  to  censor  but  to  mediate  the   film  through  the  lens  of  your  humanity  and   your  Catholic  Chris2an  religious  imagina2on  –   your  sacramental  imagina2on.  
  18. 18. Cinema  as  sacrament   Cinema  makes  visible  invisible  reali2es   •  Transcendence   •  Grace   •  Encounter   •  Senses   •  Imagina2on   •  Spirituality  
  19. 19. Sacramentality  is  seeing  the  face  of   God  in  the  world   •  In  the  face  of  the  poor,  the  dying,   the  hungry,  the  oppressed   •  And  in  the  faces  of  the  decadent   and  morally  bankrupt   •  “Audiences,  knowingly  or  not,   compelled  to  look  more  deeply  at   humanity’s  search  for   meaning”  (cf.  Nancy  Usslemann)  
  20. 20. 8.  Think  sacramentally   •  Sacraments  are  outward  signs  of   invisible  grace   •  Cinema  reveals  inner  reali2es  through   outward  visual  and  aural  signs   •  What  inner,  transcendent,  transforming   grace,  signs  of  the  divine,  are  being   revealed   •  Have  you  seen  a  film,  had  a  cinema2c   moment,  that  you  saw  the  face  of  God?  
  21. 21. Sacramental  signs  point  to  inner   reali2es   •  •  •  •  They  engage  our  senses   They  can  be  seen,  smelled,  touched,  felt,  tasted   They  engage  our  emo2ons  first  of  all   Call  us  to  reflec2on,  conversa2on,  unity,  ac2on  
  22. 22. •  These  existen2al  ques2ons  are  always  present   to  humanity  but  some2mes  it  takes  a  cultural   parable  to  make  us  aware  and  a8en2ve  to   these  very  ques2ons.    
  23. 23. 9.  Know  what  it  is  to  be  human   •  •  •  •  People  of  character   Who  live  empathy   Who  walk  first  in  the  shoes  of  someone  else   Who  do  the  right  thing  even  when  no  one  is   looking  
  24. 24. 9.  Know  your  audience   •  •  •  •  Who  you  are  wri2ng  for   Keep  that  audience  in  mind.    But  don’t  write  for  their  “taste”   Leave  room  for  them  to  reflect  on  your   perspec2ve  through  the  lens  of  their  own  faith   and  life  experience.  y.  
  25. 25. 10.  Trust  your  readers   •  Your  job  is  not  to  tell  people  what  to  think   •  But  to  invite  them  to  engage,  to  ac2vely   par2cipate  in  the  cinema  experience;     •  To  think,  choose,  and  make  meaning  for   themselves.    
  26. 26.   11.  Know  the  difference  between   cultural  sensibili2es  and  morality     •  Language   •  Image  
  27. 27. Conscience   •  Conscience  is  our  true  home  
  28. 28. Conscience   •  Not  to  live  by  one’s  conscience  is   homelessness  
  29. 29. Dilemma  and  Drama   •  The  most  interes2ng  movies  deal  with  the   dilemma  between  following  or  not  following   one’s  conscience   •  The  consequences  of  one’s  choices  on  one’s   life  and  the  lives  of  others  
  30. 30. 12.  Never,  never  review  something   you  have  not  seen   •  •  •  •  It  is  not  honest   It  is  a  disservice  to  your  readers   You  can  write  “about”  it  but  not  “review”  it   Thoughrul  vis-­‐à-­‐vis  emo2ons  and  rants  
  31. 31. 13.  The  film  is  not  over     un2l  the  last  credit  rolls   •  An  en2re  film  can  turn  on  the  last  five  minutes   e.g.  “The  Lives  of  Others”  
  32. 32. 14.  Experience,  feel,  think,  write   •  How  do  I  feel  aser  experiencing  this  film?   Why?   •  What  does  it  evoke  from  me?  Why?   •  What  were  the  visual  and  audio  mo2fs?  Why?   •  What  did  they  point  to?   •  What  did  I  expect  from  the  film?  Why?   •  Did  it  meet  my  expecta2ons?  Why  or  why   not?  
  33. 33. •  •  •  •  •  What  was  it  about?   What  does  it  mean?   Did  the  director  do    well?   Cinematography:  it’s  all  about  the  light   Music  and  sound:  direct  hit  to  the  body  
  34. 34. 15.  Read  reviews   •  Internet  Movie  Database   •   •  Opinions   •  
  35. 35. Film  Cri2que  Template   •  •  •  •  What’s  it  about?  (The  story)   How  well  is  the  story  told?  (Sight,  sound)   What  does  it  mean?   What’s  your  judgment  of  it  and  why?   Or:    Did  it  meet  your  criteria?  Why  or  why  not?    
  36. 36. As  with  the  Scriptures,  It  is  in  and  through  the   complexi2es  of  our  human  experience  that  the  face   of  God  is  revealed.  Cinema,  and  even  movies  at   2mes,  tell  stories  of  grace  and  God’s  love.     What  is  truly  human  is  truly  of  the  Gospel;   What  is  of  the  Gospel  is  truly  human          –  Va2can  II  Gaudium  et  spes      
  37. 37. Sister  Rose  Info   •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  Sr.  Rose  Homepage  (digital  business  card)     H8p://         The  INNdustry  with  Sr.  Rose  on  the  IN  Network  (Loyola  ProducBons)   h8p://­‐inndustry-­‐with-­‐sister-­‐rose       Sr.  Rose  at  the  Movies  blog  at  Patheos   h8p://       Sr.  Rose's  blog  at  NaBonal  Catholic  Reporter    (print/online)   h8p://­‐rose-­‐paca8e       Sr.  Rose  Goes  to  the  Movies  Reviews  at  RCL  Benziger   h8p://       "Reel  Time"  in  St.  Anthony  Messenger    h8p://  (print/online)       US  Catholic,  “Culture  in  Context”  (print/online)  h8p://­‐rose-­‐paca8e-­‐ fsp-­‐27785       Reel  Spirituality,  The  Brehm  Center,  Fuller  Seminary,  Print/online, reelspirituality/film/ar2cles/show/contributors/sr.-­‐rose-­‐paca8e/         LinkedIn    Rose  Paca8e,  FSP       Facebook:    Rose  Paca8e          TwiPer:    Sister  Rose  Goes  to  the  Movies