Monday, November 30, 2009

What reviews should be all about, IMHO

I visit a lot of book / movie review sites - sometimes intentionally and sometimes not so. In many of these places, I find that often a synopsis disguises itself as the 'review'. Which is not what I wanted to read. Led me to wonder... What is a review? What do people expect when they look for a book/movie review?

My assumption is that a reader who stops at a review has not yet got hold of the book or seen the movie. So naturally the first thing he would want to know is, "Is the book/movie any good - is it worth my money?"

Which is what I look for in reviews, and which is why my reviews are the way they are. I sometimes do not even speak about the theme. My reviews only speak about what I felt about it. What I dis/liked about it. What to look out for in the movie. Probably that is not what others would want...

However, one of my friends who read my review of Slumdog Millionaire, said that it helped her set a base, otherwise she would perhaps have not sat through the movie at all.

Check out my Book Reviews and Movie Reviews here.
Let me know what you expect when you come across a review?

4 comments:

  1. I think a review should contain information about the setting of a book or film and the characters, but not a complete synopsis and certainly no spoilers. A reviewer probably shouldn't tell much more about the plot than appears on the book jacket (but DVD covers often reveal way too much!).

    A review of an established author, musician or filmmaker should also have some focus on whether the work is typical of that artist or a departure. In other words, it should not just address whether the reviewer liked it, but also whether those who liked (or disliked) the artist's previous work will find this to be in the same vein. (For new artists, there could be comparisons to established artists, but it's not as critical a factor.)

    I like a personal tone in a review because it is a way of admitting that "your mileage may vary" and we are just hearing one opinion and not the voice of God. At least in the States, the newspapers have lost sight of this, firing their local reviewers and running random reviews from the wire services. As a reader, how do I know if I like the same things as this reviewer, if I don't see that reviewer all the time? In the old days, for instance, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver had a reviewer who loved all foreign films, so you knew that his review of a film with subtitles was useless, because he'd like it no matter how bad it was -- but his reviews of American movies were quite good and could be relied upon. This is an advantage of blog reviewers, because once I get to know the sorts of things you like, I'll know how to get the most out of your reviews.

    One trend -- and Roger Ebert is the leader in this --is the review that you read after you've seen the movie, to see if you agree with the reviewer. I think these are pretty worthless, but they're very popular, and Ebert will tell you the ending of a movie, even if it is a surprise ending, because he assumes you've already seen it. Because this type of review is so common today, I don't read reviews of anything I'm planning to see.

    (Alas, a lot of media today is no longer focused on telling you things you didn't know and, instead, works to help you feel like you are cool because you agree with the writer. But that's a rant for another day.)

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  2. Thanks, Mike. I just realised how narrow my view was!

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  3. The rules apply differently in your case, because your blog is not entirely reviews - it's quite personal. I would read your reviews as if you were sitting here saying "Oh, you really have to see this movie!" or "I bought an album the other day. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet ..."

    And since much of what you review is (A) not available here and (B) steeped in Indian culture, it's a little bit of a mental exercise anyway. But if I found myself in India or in a major US city with lots of Indian movies at my fingertips, you're the person I would want to have coffee with the next day, so you could explain some of the things that I didn't catch.

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  4. I'd be delighted to do that, Mike :)

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