Review No More


I started writing movie reviews in the summer of ’09, shortly after graduating from high school. It was something I had been wanting to do; I had really gotten into movies just a few years before, and writing reviews seemed like a way to not only express my love for cinema, but also make it tangible. So there I was, hunched over my laptop, drumming up a 416-word review of the animated 101 Dalmations to post on “Movies,” which was Flixster’s Facebook application at the time (if you recall being given 50 movie titles to rate out of five stars on that application, then you have a good memory). I found the process fun and rewarding, and I spent the rest of that summer cranking out reviews. Thus began a journey that took my newfound hobby from “Movies” to the New University, UC Irvine’s college newspaper, and then from sentence-long Facebook statuses to here at MediaBrewPub. Now, I’ve decided it’s time for that journey to come to an end.

Late last year, I was sitting in a theater waiting for a movie (I can’t quite remember the title, though I think it was Nocturnal Animals) to start when something struck me. An alien thought of ‘I can’t wait for this movie to be over’ flashed through my mind. I brushed it off, telling myself that I was, after all, about to watch a movie that I wasn’t particularly excited about but felt compelled to do so. Plus, I did have some errands to take care of after the film. Imagine my bewilderment, then, when that same thought came to me again and again, even for the movies that I had been anticipating. It seems silly to say it, but there were times when I feared that my love for cinema was nearing an end. Whatever the case was, I knew that something was up, and I had to get to the bottom of it.

Writing reviews is a commitment. To some, the process may consist of just watching a movie and then writing about it, but there’s more to it than that. It involves making the time to watch the movie, and for me, I often schedule it in advance. Is it a limited release? If so, how many theaters will it open in? When will it expand into more theaters? If it’s a wide release, then I try to catch it on opening weekend, preferably a Friday. Once it enters my calendar, then it’s time to formulate a writing schedule and determine a publication deadline. If the movie is making waves in its opening weekend, the deadline should be the following Wednesday, maybe Thursday. Any day beyond that, and it could be out of the conversation. Then comes the actual act of watching the movie. As I follow what’s unfolding on screen, I take note of things that stick out, whether it be a moment, a performance, the music, etc. Afterwards, I jot down an outline, and from there, the actual writing begins. And that takes time. I always have an online dictionary and thesaurus open so I can be selective about the words I use. My sentences need to be not only clear, but honest to me. The whole review needs to flow well, and the rating I give it must make sense. Once a draft is written, it undergoes several rounds of editing and fact-checking. When I’m satisfied, I locate photos to accompany it. After all that, it’s time to publish. You’d be forgiven for thinking this is very demanding, but this is the standard I held myself to.

It took me a while to realize that the alien thought stemmed from my determination to write a review after watching a movie. Writing one requires a lot of time and energy from me, regardless of whether I have fun with it. I thought that writing shorter reviews in the form of quick takes and capsules would help, but they couldn’t keep that unwelcome thought at bay. Even taking a break from writing reviews didn’t help. This in turn led me to another realization about this pastime of mine.

Eight years ago, the hobby of writing movie reviews came to me at the right time. I desired a means of expressing and living out one of my greatest passions, and that fulfilled it. During college and beyond, it led me into my film and media studies major and helped forge many a friendship. I’ve learned so much from the process, and I’ve certainly progressed in my development as a writer. Now, the hobby I thought I’d never live without has run its course; it has taken me as far as it can. The thought that had run through my head all those times? It was a sign telling me that it was time to let go and move to better, greater things. But I didn’t want to believe it. Instead, I forced myself to write reviews, and the longer this went on, the more going to the theater and watching a movie felt like an obligation instead of a sacred practice that brings me comfort. After recognizing how much my persistence is dictating my life and negatively affecting my love for cinema, I’ve decided to move on. This is my final post on MediaBrewPub, and my Blade Runner 2049 review from yesterday is my last ever movie review.

What’s next for me? Since I am no longer writing movie reviews, I have time and energy to spend. There are certain activities and matters I’ve kept on the back burner for some time now, and it’s safe to say that I’ll be directing my attention to them. I’m not necessarily done with writing, but I plan to channel that into something more personally worthwhile, something that I can learn from and enjoy. One thing’s for sure, though: my love for cinema thankfully remains intact. If anything, I look forward to going to the theater, watching a movie, and savoring it – all at my own leisure and never feeling like a burden nor an obligation.

I’m proud to have been a part of MediaBrewPub, and I’m grateful to have had a space where I could write and publish reviews and opinion pieces for my friends and random people to read. I would like to thank Simon for inviting me on board as we launched this blog. Perhaps it didn’t end up what we hoped it would be, but we gave it a shot, and I’d say we had a good run. I would also like to give shoutouts to my fellow writers Andrew, Morgan, and Jason. I’ve always enjoyed reading their posts and co-authoring e-mail throwdowns with them, and I’m surprised at how much I’ve learned from them. Last but not least, thank you, dear reader, for all the times you’ve visited this blog and read what we had to say. Hopefully you don’t hate us.

As Andrew would say, cheers!