Author: Christopher Zero:
Publisher: Sutro Press
There aren’t many books devoted to film criticism, and according to Christopher Null, author of Five Stars: How To Become A Film Critic, The World’s Greatest Job, this is actually the first handbook for aspiring film critics ever made released.
Null is the founder of the website filmcritic.com, which is one of the largest and most successful film websites on the internet today.
As the author points out, the main focus of Five Stars: How To Become A Film Critic, The World’s Greatest Job is to teach newcomers how to get into internet criticism and build a career from there.
I have to admit that I had concerns if it were possible to condense film review techniques, with all their complexity, into one 255-page informative manual.
But Null’s manual does a lot to dispel my doubts.
Written lively and structured, the book is divided into fifteen easy-to-read chapters that provide an overview of the film industry and tackle topics such as the film criticism market, film history and understanding filmmaking, reviewing concepts and techniques, assessment, starting a career, building a… Film Criticism Website, Securing Free Movie Tickets, Film Critic Etiquette, Handling Your Own Criticism (which is quite amusing) and Job Interviews.
There’s even an appendix that suggests 300 must-see movies for aspiring critics.
While the focus may be on the aspiring film critic, the guide still serves as an excellent introduction even for those of us who have no inclination to become critics.
This becomes particularly clear when we consider the book’s remarkable breadth and its success in articulating the basic ingredients necessary to appreciate films.
For example, an entire section of the book is dedicated to different film genres and what to look out for when watching films.
We provide tips on rating slapstick comedy, satire, sequels and remakes, documentaries, foreign films, classics, children’s films, oddity films.
In addition, zero provides us with a framework for questions to ask when watching movies: did the movie achieve its goal, is the story interesting, how are the performances, how is the direction, what about the support crew, was a worthwhile point here, is it too long and how well does it all fit together?
While these, as Null points out, should not be viewed as a checklist or placement test, they are nonetheless important elements to consider when evaluating a film.
Anyone who wants to know how to review films and what to look out for when viewing film genres would be well advised to read this book. Who knows, you might even be able to show off some of the information you gleaned from the book at cocktail parties when you’re in talks about the latest movies.
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