How to Watch a Movie Like a Film Critic
Awards season can feel like showing up for the first day of school without doing the summer reading: Your friends are talking character development, plot, conflict — and you’re left in the dark, suddenly wishing you’d put in a little more effort.
But you’re hardly alone if you haven’t seen (or even heard of) some of this year’s Oscar-nominated movies. The divide between mass and critical appeal has fast expanded over the past few decades, according to a New York Times analysis, with the year’s biggest box office hits now rarely receiving a nomination for best picture. Titanic was the highest-grossing film of all time when it won best picture in 1998. At last year’s awards, by comparison, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water, which grossed $195.2 million worldwide, took home the top honor, while the year’s top-earning flick, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, raked in a cool $1.3 billion and wasn’t nominated.
“You don’t really need to know anything about cinematography to recognize when something makes you laugh or makes you think.”
Award voters and critics value elements like plot intricacies and dynamic camerawork, but those things can seem inaccessible to the average viewer. Still, even if your genre of choice is the Fast and Furious franchise, it’s not too late to approach movie watching with a more critical eye. Below, the pros explain how to take in a film — any film — the way they do.
Take cues from the first 10 minutes
You’ll know pretty quickly what kind of movie experience you’re in for, says Vulture film critic Emily Yoshida. Are you seeing something that’s heavy on dialogue and story, like Spotlight, where you’ll need to hold onto what the characters are saying? Or is it a film like Roma, where much of the story is told through visual subtleties? “You figure out where the action is in terms of what the filmmaker is trying to do,” Yoshida says. “That determines how you actually watch it.”
Put your phone away
This one’s obvious, but it’s important enough to say here. Suppose you’ve paid $11 to…