Christian Movie Review Editing Lesson #2

In Round One of “Christian Movie Review Editing Lessons,” readers had a lot of fun discovering just how much could be done to improve the review in question. So now, in the name of excellence, here’s Round Two.

When I visited a popular Christian fim review Web site last week looking for reviews of The Forgotten, I came across this one. But I had difficulty finding anything that I could quote from it … anything that amounted to a well-written statement addressing the quality of the film. Here’s the concluding paragraph of the review:

The Forgotten has as many chase scenes as any Batman film. The camera gives the plot away, whether intentionally or not. What the film does have going for it are a few startling rather than frightening moments. What could have been a genuine horror is reduced to a footnote. Julianne Moore does the proper amount of emoting and so does Dominic West, but that leaves the rest of the cast with nothing to do. Most of the scenes are shot in darker-than-average rooms, and the lack of continuity in one scene is especially irritating as the actors walk into a room in daylight and then through the windows of the next room, we see it is night outside. You will think of Psychology 101 in different terms after The Forgotten.

If the Web page in question has an editor, what should the editor do to improve this paragraph?

 

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Anonymous

    I now know who the critic is. Figured it out. And this paragraph’s fairly representative of that critic’s typical review. In their bio on a mainstream site, it says they’ve been a film reviewer for 21 years, and are part of a big city’s critics’ circle. This doesn’t speak well of the critic’s publication, that they allow such stuff regularly.

  • Anonymous

    My head also hurts. Badly. To improve this paragraph, the editor should definitely fire the reviewer, if that’s possible. This review would be a lost cause, but at least further abominations would be averted.

    Where to start?

    The paragraph is a disorganized mess–it’s as if someone threw together a bunch of random, poorly-worded comments and observations about the film. What makes it worse is that it’s a concluding paragraph!

    “The camera gives the plot away.” Huh?

    What’s “a genuine horror” mean, and how does it get reduced to a footnote? Did the author mean “a genuine horror SCENE”? How does that comment follow from the preceding sentence?

    “Rather than frightening” should probably be offset by commas.

    What’s the “proper” amount of emoting? Why does doing that “proper” amount leave the rest of the cast “with nothing to do”?

    “Most of the scenes are shot in darker-than-average rooms, and the lack of continuity in one scene is especially irritating as the actors walk into a room in daylight and then through the windows of the next room, we see it is night outside.” What the heck does this have to do with anything? The sentence runs on–the first clause seems to have little to do with the second. Also, the first clause should read, “Most of the scenes WERE shot…”

    How will I think of Psych 101 differently? I thought we were just talking about seeing night through the windows of a daylit room.

    Ugh.

    –Caleb

  • Anonymous

    I just rewrote it… sadly that is my idea of editing. (NOTE: I have never seen or even heard of the film in question, just going along with the original author’s mood):

    “While The Forgotten is marred by unoriginal chase sequences and a predictable plot, it does manage to surprise the viewer on occasion. Still, fans of genuine horror films will find that most of the movie’s scares just get lost in the noise. Julianne Moore and Dominic West play their roles well, but the remainder of the cast just ends up looking bored. The underexposed look of the film creates the proper mood, but poor continuity and editing make the experience more laughable than frightening. At times, The Forgotten shows a lot of potential, but it ends up failing to deliver any real scares.”

    What I think was wrong with the original paragraph:
    - Not at all fluid. Sentences were too short, resulting in a “jerky” feeling of reading. The order the ideas were presented shows no logical progression.
    - The choice of grammar is some spots didn’t sound “professional”. I know there’s an English term for the correct tense to write in, but I don’t remember the word.
    - Emphasis was placed on the wrong areas. The continuity problems were the only thing he gave an example of, and the example kinda fell flat.
    - Comparision to Batman films… well, what can I say.

    What’s wrong with my paragraph:
    - I haven’t seen the film. ;)
    - It trails off near the end. The last sentence should be the most quotable, but I took too long trying to think of a good way to describe a film I’ve never seen and settled for a weak last sentence.
    - Flow. There is no natural flow between once sentence and the next. I think this is a carryover from the original paragraph, as I was following the original author’s list of topics.
    - Too many “film reviewisms”. I used a lot of phrases that I read in lots of reviews, and that bugs me. Most specifically “the cast looked bored.”

    FWIW I’ve never written any sort of formal film review before.

  • Julie

    I teach freshman composition at a state university in CA, and that paragraph looks like something my students would produce. Wordy, disorganized, vague. Props for running a spellcheck, though, and keeping the quality just above that of an Amazon review.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Martin, that’s a fair comment. Actually, in Blogger, if I cut-and-paste text from another site, it erases the italics format. So I’ll have to go back in and re-insert them. Besides the italics issue, everything else is included unscathed. Sorry about that.

    - Jeffrey

  • Martin

    Jeffrey, you’ve made this paragraph look worse than it actually was by losing the italics on the film title. Whatever else you can say about the review and the site where it was published, you can’t say that they don’t italicize titles.

  • Martin

    What the editor should do would depend on whether the editor has a machine gun handy.

    This paragraph is so bad that I find it hard to believe that the site actually has an editor. A paragraph is supposed to have a thesis sentence, followed by other sentences that support the thesis. (In a well-constructed review, there might even be a second paragraph that examines an antithesis–and a third paragraph presenting a conclusion!) Instead, this writer has scattered about four different thesis sentences throughout the paragraph, then stirred in sentences that support yet other theses—sentences that should by all rights be in some paragraph other than this one. If you printed out a well-written review and cut each sentence out as a separate scrap of paper, then dumped the scraps into a hat and drew them out at random, you could hardly come up with a paragraph more disjointed than the one in question. I see that the writer bemoans the lack of “genuine horror” in the film; perhaps he or she is offering this review as compensation.

  • Anonymous

    Oh dear.

    “The camera gives the plot away”? Was the camera supposed to conceal the plot? My head hurts.

    Personally, I find it useful to read anything I write out loud to myself before posting it. A lot of things that look good on paper the first time sound surprisingly bad when read out loud.


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