Coffee, film, urine, review…

Reviewing Films – 2.1

Director – Becky Long

Starring – Robbie Fowler’s long lost son…

Running Time – Long enough now

The scent of ground coffee is a wonderfully reliable welcome. Ten minutes earlier I was ordering my own contribution to the 10 o’clock bouquet. Now I’m sitting, waiting and observing as americanos, lattes, mochas and cappuccinos are accompanied through glass doors by Dublin’s cast of venerable film critics. Once in, they scatter around wooden tables and chairs. Some share friendly exchanges, some keep themselves to themselves.

This morning’s venue is the IFI in Temple Bar. The routine here is much the same as at any other screening venue, the only difference being the film shown. It will most likely be something intended for the ‘cultured’ eyes of an arthouse audience so, as one might expect, there are a few faces missing. Nobody wants to read about art, they want to read about movies, so these chilled IFI mornings don’t see the same coverage that commercially driven pictures might.

Eventually we get the nod from the resident scruffy guy who, if you ever go to the IFI, you’ll know as the one who always finds a way to make you feel a little thick when you’re at the box office buying a ticket. His gesture means that the film is about to start so up the stairs I go, off to Screen 2 with my fellow pundits of taste. After polite exchanges around seating arrangements and whatever is topical and amusing to the eight or ten middle-aged, middle-class men who collectively are ‘the regulars,’ our fodder will play.

Two hours later and we’re done. Reviewing starts here. Well, it actually starts at a urinal. Pretty glamorous. At any one press screening, at least two thirds of the congregation are male and it is at the urinal trough(s) that the alpha males begin reviewing, albeit through toilet oratory. They’ll all end up writing similar things and this ritual urination is the start of that. Sure, they might give a star more here or a popcorn less there but, for the most part, it is all standard fare. I try to shut off, perhaps concentrating on the flow. That may sound weird but, in reality, options are limited, and you must at all costs avoid listening for fear of becoming one of them by sickly osmosis.

I mention these men and their ‘skills’ for an actual reason, a reason beyond my own jealousy of their positions as full-time ‘film journalists.’ Writing a review is not necessarily a difficult task, but writing a good review is something that requires a little thought and skill. The implication here is that I’m deeming myself to be a good reviewer. I’m fine with that. I’m also happy to distinguish myself from them. Considered and intelligent analysis is what is the aim, despite what you may think while reading your Sunday papers. For TN2 we have 500 words to judge each film we see so there shouldn’t be any excuse not to communicate some real insight into the picture in question. There is nothing wrong with writing with humour, drown it in rubbishy irony that will make the arts block cackle if you wish, but at least do the film the honour of some kind of genuine criticism.

The end product is that your review is in TN2 the next week alongside three others who put in the same graft you did. When you read it back it’s always better than you thought it was when you hit “SEND.” Becky must have polished it up. So then you do it again, hoping that in the future you’ll get to see something truly great, for free, on a Tuesday morning in the IFI. Jackass 3D is out this year and I’ve got my fingers crossed…