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The Criticwire Survey: Critics and Twitter

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by Matt Singer
February 11, 2013 10:00 AM
2 Comments
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Every week, Criticwire asks film critics a question and brings you their responses in The Criticwire Survey. We also ask each member of the poll to pick the best film currently playing in theaters. The most popular choices can be found at the bottom of this post. But first, this week's question:

Q: In response to this conversation between Dana Stevens and Will Leitch: 

Do you tweet after screenings? Why or why not? And are critics in general too quick to tweet their thoughts after screenings? 

The critics' answers:

Edwin ArnaudinAshvegas:

"I tweet after screenings because most of my followers want my take on films ASAP. The more time they have to plan what they're going to see, the better. I view these brief, carefully-crafted messages as hooks for the reviews to come, and as a reader myself, I support this behavior by fellow critics."

Danny BowesTor.com/Movies By Bowes:

"Before getting to the answer, I'd like to thank Mr. Leitch for being one of a handful of writers who inspired me to think "Hey, I can maybe (sort of) make a living at this," now that I (sort of) do. However, I don't completely share his trepidation about Twitter. While it's true that immediate reactions to screenings can't possibly have the same depth as a review after a couple days' (or even hours') thought, I personally differentiate sharply between how I regard an immediate reaction and a full review. (And to Ms. Stevens' point, the former in no way makes the latter redundant.) When not under embargo, I'll tweet something after a screening, if there's something to say. When I saw 'Limitless,' for example, when it was over and I was walking home I tweeted about it being a coked-up Ayn Rand fantasy, which I still stand by, and expanded on that idea in a review and subsequent essay (which seems a lot of thought to devote to something that was as bad in as unoriginal way as that movie was, but, hey, these things happen). All that being said, I think the value of immediate post-screening tweets is extremely variable. Some people, bluntly, are better at Twitter than others (I'm by no means claiming to be one of the good ones here, I frequently say really, really dumb shit on Twitter and need to be corrected) and occasionally factors other than the movie itself send someone into raptures/rage that lead to over-the-top tweeting afterward. I think the solution at which Mr. Leitch and Ms. Stevens arrive by the end is the best solution: if film critics are annoying you on Twitter, don't follow the ones who annoy you. (But follow me, I'm fun.)"

Christopher Campbell, Documentary Channel/Film School Rejects/Movies.com:

"I do tweet after screenings. Unless the publicists make a big point about them being embargoed. But even then I’ll tend to tweet something without naming the film or being too direct about it. I think it’s okay to get your first impression out there. I don’t see it being much different than the quickly turned around festival review or even one posted at the time of theatrical release. But I always consider everything I write and tweet as a fleeting response. A tweet or a review from me is of the time, and I may change my mind or think more deeply later on about a film. And unlike reviews (though many of mine have been lost to the fallen website or two over the years), tweets aren’t as easily found in searches or archived on review sites, so I’m less regretful of anything I write there. So, the point is, read everything by me and stay current with my latest thoughts on Twitter. Maybe tomorrow I’ll also decide I think tweeting your immediate thoughts about a movie is all wrong."

Sean ChavelFlick Minute:

"Critics tweet too hastily after screenings in the same damaging way that box office reports are released now on Saturdays. Presumptuousness as well as heedlessness are destroying films before they have a chance to find an audience. Nobody thinks before speaking anymore when it comes to the tweets issue. Its all about snarky, smart-ass quips these days. In the old days, critics were thoughtful and reflective."

Marc Ciafardini, GoSeeTalk.com:

"Not all the time, but yes I tweet after screenings. Mostly it's to either tell people it was good or much better than one might suspect and further an extension of the thoughts we give the studio rep in theater lobby. I imagine high profile and respected film critics are the same way so in most respects I have no problem with them tweeting after a film. Ultimately, like most artists do, they are utilizing new technology and keeping up with the times. Basically if you like them, and regularly like what they have to say, then 140 characters of their opinion will not dissuade you from reading the full review once they've finished it. Little off-shoot here, but sometimes critics/reviewers tweet following a film in an attempt to get the word out first. Case in point: any and all film festivals. Unless you're an established personality who people will go to because they value your views in film every little bit of exposure helps."

Billy DonnellyAin't It Cool News:

"In the past, I have tweeted post-screening, although I completely understand the argument that doing so is in a way stealing from yourself. There is only so much one can say in 140 characters, and, in thinking about it, without the context of what one may like or not like about a film, winds up being nothing more than a quantifiable opinion no different than using grades or scores. I think you're trying to serve your readership/followers by offering up an opinion in this climate of information immediacy, but it does run the risk of getting people to not read your full reviews if they can just get your perspective from a tweet. There is a degree of self-importance that comes with tweeting about some films being seen way in advance of their release, as if to say 'Haha! I'm seeing it before you are.' I feel that plays a bit into this need to tweet things right away, acting as a status symbol that someone may be at the front of the line when the rest of us have to wait. But, furthermore, the creation of these Twitter consensus or opinion does wind up building some high expectations that are sometimes difficult to meet for others who don't have the opportunity to see a film until later in the process. On numerous occasions, I've had a film fail to meet the 'greatness' that I've been unable to avoid hearing about (via Twitter, of course) through no fault of my own. Once that bar is set, it's awfully difficult to skirt it, no matter how hard I try, as there is only so much I can do without having my memory wiped. In essence, Twitter can be a blessing in order to share information and opinions, but, in many instances, also a curse."

Edward DouglasComing Soon:

"I will tweet after screenings at film festivals because that's part of my coverage of the film festival and people who follow my feed will want to know my opinion immediately rather than wait until I can write something. I very rarely if ever tweet after screenings at home because I'm normally under embargo or they're just too far out from release, and it would be a betrayal to the publicists who trust me with early screenings to get out and slam the movie on Twitter rather than taking some time to think about them and giving them fair warning via a reaction. I also like to think about movies before writing about them, something that doesn't happen when you have to formulate an immediate opinion for Twitter. Oh, and also I'm not paid to tweet, nor does the site paying me to attend these festivals/screenings make anything from me tweeting rather than posting something on the site."

Alonso DuraldeTheWrap/What The Flick?!:

"Admittedly, I tweeted out instant reactions at Sundance because it seemed de rigueur, but generally, I like to let my thoughts simmer for a bit before I crank out a review. I trust most of my gut reactions, but sometimes I might be too high (or low) on a movie in the moment only to have my opinion find a more even keel a day later. As for other critics -- eh, whatever they want to do. We all have our own way of evaluating, and if people feel like getting on the horn immediately, that's their right."

Jessica ElgenstiernaThe Velvet Café:

"I don't have the habit to tweet my immediate reactions after watching movies. It might have happened a few times, but then it's been out of thoughtlessness and not as a deliberate decision. There are several reasons why I don't tweet. One is practical. Once the movie is finished you're supposed to leave the room so the staff can clear the floor from popcorn. They don't want you to hang around in an otherwise empty room and there's not much space in the entrance room where you comfortably can stand and tweet along without people bumping into you. And outside... well, I live in Sweden, it’s too cold! Another reason is that I often haven’t got anything to say about the movie. I’m unable to make a snapshot call on what I think. I need at least a few hours for it to sink in. The final reason, which is most important, is that tweeting isn’t my main medium. I’m a blogger at heart and that’s where I want to put my energy and creativity. If I blow off steam in short tweets, I’m afraid it will be harder for me later on to build up my inner pressure and feel the urge to write as an outlet. I don't judge critics who do instant tweeting after watching movies. To each one their own. But if it's a movie I plan to see further on, I skip reading those tweets since I want to see it without too much influence from what others have made of it."

Kenji FujishimaThe House Next Door:

"I often do tweet after screenings (unless, of course, I've just come out of a press screening and have been expressly embargoed from doing so) because I think there's something to be said for noting an initial response to a film; in some ways, that's at least one part of the lifeblood of film criticism. That said, I don't always make it a priority to tweet responses to a film right after I've seen it. As is the case when writing long-form film criticism, there's also something to be said for giving yourself time for reflection and consideration before posting something -- whether a full review or just a tweet -- for posterity; your initial response to an especially challenging piece of cinema may not end up being exactly the way you feel about it a day or even a month later. Of course, others may not feel quite the same sense of weight with even a tweet-review. More power to them, I guess."

Jason GorberTwitch/Filmfest.ca:

"I do, actively, and with regularity and sometimes even with a modicum of wit (@filmfest_ca, in case you wish to follow) tweet after a screening, usually after a few minutes of contemplation. I don't spend my time during a screen thinking of Twitter zingers, nor do I do the same regarding my eventual review. I find particularly at festival time Twitter provides a great way of keeping track of your experience with a film, getting my initial reactions down before you see another film that day that may color your initial impression. Sometimes the experience changes upon reflection, but it's dishonest to ignore how you initially felt about a given work (I've got an entire article about this regarding 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' up at Twitch). Frankly, I'd rather see quick Twitter quips than reading ahead of time full reviews of a film that I'm already predisposed to see, as the more fleshed out arguments would do far more to sway potential reactions. Leitch's arguments seem to suggest that Twitter reactions are bad, but reading trusted critics ahead of a screening is perfectly fine. The fact remains that the so-called "humblebrag" is clearly evident even for full reviews, given our world of shifting embargoes (often different if your in another country or not at a given festival). A set of Tweets, like a capsule review, is a tool to encourage someone to see or avoid a given film. Formal reasons tend to come later, but in the heat of a festival, simply having some sort of direction to choose from the smorgasbord is often quite a helpful thing.

As for the the larger argument about whether this is giving away things for free, many of us critics are severely underpaid as it is, and we're constantly vying for a build-up of reputation via mechanisms such as social media in order to crack into the very small community of salaried professional critics. What's more disconcerting is the number of fellow colleagues that sometimes belittle those that don't have it quite so juicy, either blocking individuals with whom they disagree or strictly having conversations between their own small community. Twitter isn't supposed to be cliquish like (the evil) Facebook, it's a community: part broadcast, part discursive, and the way that some critics wield their position is positively draconian. The only reaction to a film that's too quick is to have your mind set before you've even seen the thing. No tweet, no review should shape your reaction to such an extent that it interferes with both your job as a critic and your role as an audience member. I'd like to think that my post-film tweets aren't kneejerk snark but bite-sized guidelines to help an audience seek out a given film, an appetizer to the larger meal of critical discussion that I believe my long form writing helps provide."

Bill GrahamCollider/The Film Stage:

"I tweet and Facebook after lots of movies. But a lot of the time I'm under an embargo, especially on social media, so I don't in that case. I think Twitter can make you instantly say things you might not agree with later. It's instant, unfiltered, and often unthinking reaction. However, you can give some insight into a film if you put forth some effort. Simple adjectives like 'great,' 'awesome,' or other empty words don't usually serve any purpose. However, I think we can agree that some people are being overly sensitive to their profession. There is a way to add to the conversation, and halt it in its tracks. As with most things, it's in how you use it. The other side is that some people may be more inclined to read 140 characters versus a full review. And if you pump out a full review quickly, maybe a quick plug of that might entice even more people to read your piece."

Melissa HansonCinemit:

"Social media is all about trending, so the only real way to benefit from tweeting (getting followers, retweets) is to be ahead of the pack. Tweeting about something directly after a screening does allow for the most coverage, but there's usually not real substance. For me, it's only after reflection that a true assessment can be made and by that time, there's no point to tweet about it because no one else is. Review embargos are lately also applied to Facebook/Twitter/etc, as it should be. A tweet can have a much higher impact than a review and studios are beginning to realize this."

Eric HavensDownright Creepy:

"I'm not particularly proud of this, but in the spirit of honest responses here it goes: I only really tweet directly after a screening when that response is completely negative. I find when I enjoy a film, or even appreciate it, I want some time to really think about it and form flushed out thoughts and opinions. When I hate a film, however, I seem to be more than willing to spew some snarky witticism onto Twitter. I suppose that, at a very basic level, a negative reaction very rarely evolves into anything but a negative review. That makes me feel some confidence in my lovely 140 characters of snark. But now I am rethinking everything."

Peter HowellToronto Star:

"The very nature of tweeting tends to conspire against considered thought, and it's hard to climb down from an ill-considered tweet. So I prefer to tweet mini-reviews only at festivals, where I give an early impression of films that I will very likely be seeing again months later, when I can write something more substantial. It's difficult to be definitive in 140 characters, although I've seen some people who can do it well."

Jordan Hoffman, Film.com/ScreenCrush:

"I think Twitter reactions are great. I read 'em and I do 'em. I also recognize that thirty seconds after you see something -- especially at a festival premiere or at the Zeigfeld with the stars saying 'thank you' -- your first blush reaction can be suspect. I've reversed my opinion between the time of the post-screening afterglow and actually writing my review more than once. Sometimes that even makes it into the review; how it can *seem* exhilarating but not stick to the ribs. Still, I engage in Twitter reactions for what they are: I'm in this business because I'm enthusiastic about film and if an anticipated title is being seen by people I want to know what they think now now now. This doesn't negate further, richer criticism for me in the slightest. I'm not worried about groupthink because I have my own opinion and I know which critics I trust. There are critics I read and follow and when they dismiss something I know it's good and when they say it is brilliant I know it is garbage. That's a whole other issue, though, and, no, I'm not going to name names."

Sean Hutchinson, Latino Review:

"As far as I know I've tried not to tweet directly after screenings I'm assigned to review for the precise reasons Stevens and Leitch say detract from the general cinema-going experience for others. Tweeting about a movie tends to implant a false sense of expectation in people who want to see a movie, however much they are able to clear their heads and go in with an open mind. I remember colleagues of mine who were present at the New York Film Festival secret screening of Steven Spielberg's 'Lincoln' last year who immediately tweeted afterwards that it was middling at best with drawn out and boring character studies, and led me to believe that my initial hesitations about it being merely Oscar bait were true. Once the movie opened I finally saw that it wasn't mediocre, but one of the best films of the year. I think the tendency for critics to tweet their initial responses, especially with the onslaught of recent Sundance Film Festival reactions, falls into what Stevens explains is the 'conferral or social value on the person for having been at that event,' and most of the time misses the mark as a legitimate assessment of a film's worth. On the other hand it fulfills the tendency for the critic to use social media to be up to the minute with interesting film news for their readers. If done properly I think tweeting about movies can balance on the edge of meaningless, rushed reactions as opposed to justifiable shorthanded additions to the overall film conversation. Waiting to gather your thoughts and patiently weighing the film as a whole is better than spewing your instantaneous opinion in 140 characters or less five minutes after the lights go up."

John Keefer51Deep.com:

"I have a flip phone so tweeting right after a screening would require me to borrow someone else's phone and given my history with texting inappropriate things to people on other people's phones I would be unable to engage in this practice.  But if I were to I would only tweet loving, kind and wonderful things about a film I just saw and loved that would look something like, '-name of film-LOVE! BEAUTY! CINEMA!' and if I saw a film I didn't like I wouldn't say a thing about it because then you just seem like a jerk because you can't get into the why's and whathaveyou's. I also need to get into screenings."

Adam KempenaarFilmspotting:

"I don't have a set system, or any strict rules I adhere to. If I have something I think is halfway compelling to say, I'll say it. But I'm much more likely to dash off a quick comment about a film I know I don't plan to review/discuss in detail. The last thing I want to do is lock myself into a certain position publicly when I have yet to sort out all of my thoughts privately. Who knows -- maybe my initial reaction will change significantly in the review writing/note taking process? Additionally, just as I prefer to come into a movie with as open a mind as possible, I think it's probably best if listeners not find themselves 'filtering' my comments through some perceived stance before they've heard me (try to) articulate my entire reaction."

Glenn Kenny, MSN Movies/Some Came Running:

"Jeez, Matt. Now we have to do HOMEWORK to answer the questions? I suppose I should be grateful you didn't make us watch the whole thing, which I see runs for like 45 minutes. Looks SCINTILLATING, as Lex G. would say. Anyway, I tweeted something after the screening of 'Like Someone In Love' to the effect of 'Wow, outcall in Japan is WEIRD' which is neither a witticism ('You'll need them;' speak for yourself, Stevens) or even really an observation; just my idea of a quasi-Dadaist wisecrack. I don't use Twitter as review-preview tool. I generally use it as a forum for wisecracks, quick communications between me and some like minds, 'pataphysical observations, and links.

I was having coffee with a well-known writer of sufficient fame that if I were to drop said name it would indeed seem like name dropping, and he observed, semi-jocularly, 'You occupy a unique position in New York media,' that position, being, apparently, of the most dyspeptic human being in social media. I think I should have told him to follow Scott Weinberg, but instead I tried to defend myself. 'But,' he said, 'with someone like Natasha Vargas-Cooper, when she bragged that she'd never seen that Renoir film, did it occur to you that maybe she was joking?' 'Well,' I said, 'it might have been a joke, but the intent behind it was entirely serious. 'Fuck you and your subtitled art film.' Why am I supposed to take that as a joke?' So on the conversation went, and I started to feel bad about being blocked by Important Figures and so on, and I said, 'Well, yeah, I guess I should try to be a better citizen on Twitter.' And he smiled and responded 'But to what end?' Yes, exactly. Anyway. Why are those yo-yos (sorry Will Leitch, you're not a yo-yo but for the purpose of this sentence you're gonna have to be) wearing lavalier mics AND speaking into handheld microphones? Reminds me of the line in 'Once Upon A Time In The West' about guys who wear belts with suspenders. Also it looks completely fucking goofy."

Dan KoisSlate:

"Yes! I mean, I don't write as many weekly reviews as many others on this list, so I'm often not scooping myself. But I really enjoy tweeting a quick off-the-cuff response. But that is rarely an evaluative response -- I don't think it serves anyone to tweet 'That movie was a real piece of shit! #piecesofshit' immediately after seeing something. Instead, I want to tweet something (and read tweets from others) that frames or recontextualizes a movie in some new or unexpected way."

Gary KramerGay City News:

"I do not tweet after screenings. If I can summarize a film in a tweet, what's going to prompt someone to read my review? If I'm going to tweet about a film, it's going to be to direct folks to read my interview or review @garymkramer."

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2 Comments

  • Matthew Spangler | February 12, 2013 3:04 PMReply

    Just thought I'd answer Mr. Kenny's comment about the two mic's...its b/c the lavalier mikes record the sound directly to the camera systems for the video and the handhelds provide the audio for the room so people can hear them clearly across the PA.

    That way the sound is optimal (and doesn't have a buzz from the room that handhelds create) because its unpredictable to capture audio as they raise and lower their mics to talk to the crowd. Pretty common practice for many live recorded sessions (although maybe the lav's could have been hidden a bit better).

  • Arch | February 11, 2013 10:33 AMReply

    On my way to read all of this.
    Meanwhile correct me if I'm wrong but it seems to be the survey with the most answers I've seen. Did you change your "methodology" or is it just, as one can guess, a very popular subject?

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