Tag Archives: review

Writing a Critical Review

For my next assignment in English class, I am required to write a critical review of an aesthetic object of some sort. These types of reviews are commonly found in magazines, journals and newspapers. They span from targeting specific audiences such as teenage girls reading Seventeen to reaching a broad range of readers like the feature section of The New York Times.

I often read such reviews to aid in my decision of whether or not to go to a particular movie or visit an exhibit in a museum. I look for articles written by authors with similar interests to mine and those who seem to have an authority or area or expertise on a particular subject of interest. I also look for an intriguing opening, use of humor and other attention grabbing tools such as images, etc.

Earlier I wrote a few blog posts about my ideas and possible subjects for the review. I thought long and hard, because these types of compositions are particularly of interest to me. I like to go out and experience some aspect of culture such as a theatre/dance performance, movie or restaurant/lounge. All of these are possible topics for such a review. However, I finally decided to write about the musical Rent.

Rent came to life on Broadway a decade ago, and yet there is something so intimate and strong about it, that it continues to draw crowds. Now that the movie version came out, it is much more convenient for viewers to enjoy the magic of Rent in their homes, with the convenience of managing the performance with the touch of a button. In my essay, I plan to bring out the positive aspects of both of these mediums, and the common themes that tie both. Of course, I would have to discuss any flaws I observe as well for a full coverage.

Attached are my invention activities outlining my ideas. They follow multiple guidelines for a critical review. Feel free to look over them and comment.



More Reviews

In English class, we are learning how to write reviews, which is why we’ve been watching movies and alongside reading their reviews. This week we are reading a few more examples of reviews that critics write.

I’m not one of a video game player myself, but I realized that I don’t need to be a fanatic to read a review of such a game. Jonah Jackson’s review of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind gave an overall positive feedback of the game, but also had some negative criticism intermingled within. These highlighted imperfections didn’t take away from its constructive vibe. In fact, the admission of the flaws made the review more believable because nothing is one-sided, just simply black or white. I was more likely to accept the author’s expert advice on the game because his appraisal was multi-dimensional. The interesting and unusual thing about this review is that it was written more as a bulleted list of observations rather than the traditional prose writing. Jackson has mentioned the key names and subdivided the review into categories upon which he had judged the game, and even provided a brief summary at the end.  

The second article I read was a review by Christine Romano. This was also a unique piece because it critiqued another author’s argument. In her essay, Romano pointed out the weaknesses of Jessica Starsky’s article “Children Need to Play, Not Compete.” While the main point of the review was to counter Starsky’s argument, Romano was sure to remark upon the strengths of it as well. She recognized the validity and consistency of the article up front, commending its depth and breadth of reliable sources cited. In order to bring forth the weaknesses of however, Romano doesn’t even need to come up with an effective counter argument. All she needs to do is to reference the places in Starsky’s article that don’t have enough proof or are incomplete otherwise. Since Starsky doesn’t take other points of view into account, her line of reasoning is less believable because of its one-sidedness. Romano’s review brings these discrepancies to the readers’ attention, thus achieving her means.

Review of “Good Night, and Good Luck” Review

From the beginning A.O. Scott’s review of the 2005 movie Good Night and Good Luck, called “News in Black, White and Shades of Gray” opens with an evaluative critic’s stance of the overall effect of the film. Scott notes the setting, brief background, and directing style in the opening lines of the review.

Throughout the review, Scott is concise and on-point with his observations and comments about the plot and the direction of the movie, describing only the vital details and including the pertinent names of characters and directors. Only after watching the movie myself did I realize how skillfully the rich material of the film was summed up within the limited amount of words in this article.

For example, this is demonstrated just in the scope covered by his first sentence, which reads, “Shot in a black-and-white palette of cigarette smoke, hair tonic, dark suits and pale button-down shirts, ‘Good Night, and Good Luck’ plunges into a half-forgotten world in which television was new, the cold war was at its peak, and the Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of tobacco was still a decade in the future.” This sentence contains a multitude of information. Not only does it vividly illustrate the setting and background for the film, it also heightens the reader’s interest to read on.

Scott mentions in passing the special filming technique called cinéma-vérité style, which is closely associated to the way a documentary would unfold. It is a simple and realistic, and often behind the scenes, flow of montage, with very few fancy editing tricks of blending or fading. Additionally, Scott briefly describes the gist of the climax and only alludes to McCarthyism as the underlying tone of the film. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy comes alive by the movie’s resurrected clips of his historically accurate speeches. Scott also compares the film to Clooney’s prior production, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and views the two as companion pieces.

It is obvious that Scott dedicated his time and effort gathering information to develop a stance and strengthen it. He composes interesting characteristics of the film, evoking more meaning with fewer words. Referring to the choice to film the movie in black and white he writes, “that layer of the story is, as it should be, in stark black-and-white, but there is a lot of gray as well, and quite a few questions that are not so easily resolved.” In his last paragraph, Scott is determined to show that he is an admirer and supporter of the film, whose themes were rightly explored by the directing.