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The Things We Think and Do Not Say – A “Plot and Theme” Mission Statement on Film Critique

I have enjoyed movies for the majority of my life. I think my first memories of movies were seeing Oliver and Company in the theater at the age of three, and watching Star Wars at a similar age and mishearing Darth Vader’s pleas to Luke as, “You don’t know the power of the Duck Side”. Fortunately, my understanding and enjoyment of movies has matured somewhat since then, and in this blog I will make a concerted effort to review and discuss movies in a serious, artistic, and hopefully informing and fun way. In an ideal world, I will not disappear into my own ass.

In this blog, you will find four basic kinds of posts pertaining to films: news items, reviews, essays, and aesthetic pieces. News items will simply be short pieces containing my opinion on recent movie news. Reviews will be short, off-the-cuff discussions of newer movies after an initial viewing.  They may also be more detailed, directed treatments of older films after multiple viewings. These reviews will focus on the basic aesthetic elements of storytelling and film: plot, theme, characterization, and style (which, for film, includes things like cinematography, acting choices, music, among many other aspects). Not every post will include all of these, but I will address them depending on what each film deserves. Reviews will end with a general recommendation as to whether I think this movie is worth watching, but I will refrain from any kinds of letter grades, numbers of stars, or 1 to 10 rating systems. I don’t want reviews of films to be reducible to a single character, and I generally dislike the combative and comparative nature that develops after multiple graded reviews are published.

There will also be film essays which will be longer pieces dealing with either a particular aspect of a single film and its contribution to the piece of art, or some treatment of many films organized by some specific factor. For example, I could write an essay on three Christopher Nolan films that deal with how man’s mind deals with reality – and whether the mind is to be believed (Memento is an obvious starting place, but we also get Insomnia, and Inception). Alternatively, I could write on how two films approach a particular theme or question from two opposing viewpoints. The unifying principle could be an actor, a director , a particular subject matter, or even something as simple as films in a trilogy. The distinction between a review and an essay will be kept clear: reviews are meant to gauge the work in total and provide an overview of the artistic merit as a film whether new or old, whereas essays are meant to focus on particular aspects and expand them – either in one film or across many. Sometimes essays will tackle interesting thematic topics and be well-edited and re-written to high quality. And sometimes they will be more off-the-cuff and fun.

The final kind of piece will be more philosophical and deal with the aesthetics of film in general, particularly from the perspective of the school of romantic realism. There are many topics to cover here, including defining exactly what I mean by that, but I would like it if posts of this nature were kept to a minimum (I am thinking 60% of the posts will be reviews, 30% essays, and 10% aesthetics). I am not an aesthetics philosopher, and I know precious little about film theory (though I am learning!), so I don’t want to make every other post about some aspect of the art of movie-making. Posts of this type will not focus on a particular film but instead discuss concepts of film-making in a more philosophical nature. These posts will establish the philosophical groundwork which can be expanded upon with specific examples from other pieces, and hopefully allow me to explain my particular viewpoint on various issues.

Now, we come to spoilers, which will always be an issue when discussing movies. Initial-view reviews will be as close to spoiler-free as I can possibly write them, as I believe that it is important to be able to convey the strength of a film and provide a recommendation without giving away major plot points. Reviews of older films may include some spoilers, but I will endeavor to keep them to a minimum, and only include plot points that are critical to the evaluation of the movie. For example, if I were to review The Sixth Sense, I could certainly write a review with no spoilers, but I believe that such a review would suffer horribly from that decision. As such, I would include major plot points in the review to make it stronger. By contrast, essays and aesthetic pieces will have no regard for being spoiler-free. These pieces will be more in-depth and will likely require discussion of very specific aspects of a film, and as such they may need to take advantage of every important plot point possible. However, you will not need to simply remember these “rules” as I have written them – if there are significant spoilers in a particular post, that will be evident somewhere in the piece; I don’t want to screw anyone out of the fun of watching a movie for the first time, no matter how old it is.

Finally, I close with a pledge about the quality of the writing that you will find in this blog, as well as my overall goal. I am not going to be content with merely telling you that I like or don’t like a particular film. In truth, whether I like a film or not is hardly important at all – I am more concerned with whether the film is good. I am aware that the emotions that a film can generate will differ from person to person, and I do not mean to hold my interpretations or evaluations as the only correct answers. I will endeavor to analyze specific cinematic aspects of the film, and use them as guide for judging the artistic merits of a film. As such, each post on this blog will be generated, stored for a period of time, and then edited before being posted. I do not want a post to be flippant and sloppy, but a finished product. Even movie news items will be looked over and edited well before posting.

My hope is to make this blog a space where lovers of movies can come to read quality reviews of new films, discover discussions of older films that they may have missed (or loved!), and be exposed to some of my ideas regarding particularly interesting aspects of the moving pictures, all in a forum fostering open discussion. I will endeavor to create that space, and welcome any rebuttals, suggestions, and other discussion points in the hope that everyone who chooses to participate will come away feeling a deeper and more poignant understanding of what makes movie-watching so incredibly rewarding.

So, with that in mind, please enjoy the writings, ideas, and discussion found within the pages of Plot and Theme, and I hope you will provide feedback, suggestions for new posts, and lively discussion in the comments section below. Have fun!


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Derek Jacobs

Chicago,IL 60606

A website

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