What is screen criticism?

By Catherine Falalis

The craft of screen criticism focuses on the critique, evaluation and review of screen based texts. These texts are not only limited to films, but can also include television series and web series. The work of screen critics can be used by audiences to determine whether or not to watch a text, or to conclude whether it is suited to their viewing taste. Alternatively, this kind of criticism can be sought out by film or television enthusiasts to discover the different views surrounding the text before or after viewing it themselves. Delving deeper into such discussion surrounding a text can be an interesting way to pick up things which otherwise may not have been noticed within the text and can open the mind to alternate ways of interpreting a text.

The role of a good screen critic is not only to analyse the plot of the given text. While this is a very important aspect of screen criticism, attention and discussion should also be given to elements of mise en scene, coding and motifs, the director’s cinematic traits, character relationships and developments. The screen critic must delve deeper into the text’s context and surrounding factors to give the audience a sense of how the text fits into a historic cinematic and social frame.

The critic’s reaction to the text is paramount to convey within their review. Stating whether they laughed, cried, or were just plain bored can really cause audiences to emotionally relate to what they’re trying to say. Having the courage to say what they honestly feel about a text is what sets some critics apart from others.

A trap that some beginner critics fall into is the act of writing too formally. While it’s important to not ‘dumb things down’ for your audience, it is also wise to get straight to the point when writing a review. A review can be closely likened to a piece of journalistic opinion writing rather than a predominately fact based news piece. Critics can also convey their reviews through broadcast avenues such as radio or television.

The new age critic has found a voice in the online forum. The internet has changed the way screen criticism is communicated, mainly because global perspectives can be sought out almost instantaneously. While this is a great archive for different opinions, criticism has been made on the quality of these reviews, due to anyone with a computer being able to voice their opinion. Sometimes, rather than an in depth analyses of a text, what audiences see and base the judgement of a text on, is a short review about whether to go and watch the text, provided with not a lot of context.

However, arguments have been made that it is about looking in the right places online, to sort out the professional reviews from the ones which are just written by hobbyists. I personally predict that one day, most good and long-form screen criticism will be found online on purposely built websites for such discussion. Due to dwindling numbers engaging in the print media industry, and critics and journalists forced into other avenues of communications, such as online, this will be the likely outcome for new age screen criticism.

I do however believe that film and television magazines are still a popular print option amongst some audiences. Therefore, magazines may stick around for a little longer than their newspaper counterparts for the role of critics.

Whatever forum the communication of screen criticism is fed through, there are a few factors which should remain the same. A passion for film and television, knowledgeable opinions based on feeling or fact, quality writing or reporting and the courage to reveal ones true reaction to a text, provide all the elements for a great screen critic and review.

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