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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"The Social Network."

Peter LabuzaLabuzaMovies.com/The Cinephiliacs:

"Anyone who knows my diary entries on Letterboxd knows I have a strange way of approaching this stuff. First of all, people who are simply tweeting 'Great stuff!' 'Hated the performance!' or the dreaded 'Oscar contender!' have no business tweeting after a movie. Your reactions aren't criticism, they're simply knee jerk reactions that aren't adding anything of value. However, knee jerk reactions are important. The feelings and thoughts you have after you come out after emerging from a film are essential to how one will articulate the experience, even if you backtrack on those thoughts by the time you write a piece (which can be a day later, or perhaps months or years later). Thus, having that initial reaction captured in some form is important. But the trick, just like films, is how you do it. I use a very loose style of haiku form that gives me 4-5 lines to capture the essence of the film. I try and think about the two or three essential takeaways that sparked in my mind watching it, and combine them into something spare and a perhaps a bit cryptic (many people complain that they aren't even sure if I liked the film or not). So if you are going to tweet during a film, use the limitations to push toward artistry (as criticism is an art form after all). Plenty of great critics have made something unique and fantastic out of it. Like all forms of writing, many do it, but few do it well."

Andrew LapinThe Atlantic:

"When I went to our local screening of 'Cabin in the Woods,' the publicist playfully asked us not to tweet out any spoilers. But when the lights came on at the end, a small group of young critics breathlessly cornered the publicist like crazed fanboys and panted, 'I know you can't tweet spoilers, but what if I said, like, 'Go see 'Cabin in the Woods,' but prepare for a shocking ending!'?' Of course, the publicist let them, no doubt because it saved her the hassle of tweeting the exact same thing on behalf of the studio. That's my problem with post-screening tweets in a nutshell, and why I've stopped the practice myself: there's no good way to do it. Either you're just blatantly providing free publicity without any critical analysis, or you're rushing to be the first to pile hate onto something. What's the point of either one? What happened to closely guarding your own opinion until you could hone it into a world-class, fully formed argument? Isn't that what the critics we most admire used to do? We may have an urge to talk, but we also need breathing room, because otherwise we just become one homogenized opinion machine -- just more noise. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard than noise."

Josh LarsenLarsenOnFilm.com/Filmspotting:

"I'm fine with critics sending tweets after screenings as long as it hasn't broken any sort of embargo agreement (which I know can be a fuzzy line). As a Twitter follower, I don't read many of these until I've seen the movie myself and written my own review, which is pretty much the same rule of thumb I have for 'traditional' reviews. As a critic, I label my after-screening tweets as a First Impression, both to 'spoiler-warn' those who might want to avoid what follows and to give myself wiggle room to alter my overall opinion after giving the film that deeper reflection Will is talking about (and any film certainly deserves)."

Will LeitchDeadspin:

"I disagree with everything Will Leitch says."

Christy LemireAssociated Press/What The Flick?!:

"I don't tweet right after screenings for a few reasons. Primarily I'm trying to emerge from the fog and remember where I parked my car and do I have enough money for the babysitter, or do I have to run by the ATM on the way home? But fundamentally, I like to have at least a little bit of time to marinate on a film -- often, the way I feel about it evolves the more time passes and the more I ponder it. Plus, it just seems wasteful -- why share my thoughts early by blurting them out there on Twitter? I'd rather save my opinion for the review itself."

John Lichman, Freelance:

"What is Twitter if not the perfect representation of a capsule review? You can choose to be as flippant or direct as you want. Repeat ad nauseum until your thoughts are clear or all your followers are gone. It's a clear progression from 2008 when the premiere of 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' was essentially being 'live-tweeted.' People were outraged at the 'stunt.' Now those same folks live and die by Twitter reviews, by hosting Twitter-viewing parties and encouraging people to follow them as they watch anything with hashtags. I don't think it's too soon to pan or mock a film if you want to. That's easy. The litmus of a 'Twitter review' is whether a writer has a tougher time condensing into 140 characters. That means there's something worth engaging. Besides, I've gone back and used my Twitter to rediscover ideas and asides to use in my writing. Besides, it encourages debate and pisses off publicists. What's not to love?"

Germain Lussier/Film:

"I tweet immediately after screenings. I feel like most of the people who follow me are following me for movie-related reasons so that's the kind of thing they want to read and I'm happy to oblige. However, I totally agree some pause is needed for a full review of a film. Many times an enthusiastic initial tweet will be toned down when I go from 140 characters to 1400 words. Hopefully the people on Twitter understand this."

Joey MagidsonThe Awards Circuit:

"I'm going to contradict myself here in a way, because while I do tweet my quick take on any non-embargoed screening I attend (especially if I'm at a film festival), I sometimes think we as critics are too fast with our thoughts after screenings. I tend to either write my reviews the same day as the screening or a number of days after, and that in between time has moved me in a different direction sometimes. I'm unlikely to change my habits, but I do realize that sometimes a bit more contemplation would be a good thing."

James McCormickCriterion Cast:

"To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question. To be honest, depending on how much I loved the film I have just seen or how much I hated it, I might tweet out a slightly coy tweet to allude to my feelings. But do I do it often? Not really, because of many reasons. One, I like to formulate my true feelings for a film and don't ever want to necessarily rush to a conclusion. Even when I gave a bad review for 'TRON: Legacy,' I waited until it settled into my subconscious and I sat down to write the review. Instead of hate tweets, I received hate mail. At the same time, when I'm at a film festival, I like to make sure our site gets enough face time when it comes to the films I'm seeing, so at Fantastic Fest it seems to be fast as you can when it comes to your thoughts on a film. So I don't think I have a definitive answer to the question. It's more of a preference for each critic and how you feel about the film and if it deserves your immediate attention and the people you follow as well."

Mike McGranaghanThe Aisle Seat:

"I always tweet after a screening, and if it's a movie I feel very strongly about one way or the other, I tweet while the end credits are still rolling. I like to give my followers an immediate impression of the film I've just seen, but it also helps me begin the process of organizing my thoughts. I also try to use a tweet as a 'teaser' for the review itself. For example, after the first opening day screening of 'Movie 43,' I tweeted that it was 'monumentally awful' and 'easily the worst thing anyone involved with it has ever done.' To find out specifically why I felt that way, my followers had to read the full review when it was posted about 90 minutes later. I do think tweeting too much can be detrimental; after all, we don't want to give all our thoughts away on Twitter if we want people to read our reviews. Still, I think tweets can effectively give a taste of the critic's opinion while still whetting the reader's appetite for the full article."

Jana J. MonjiThe Demanders/Pasadena Art Beat/Examiner.com:

"The Age of Twitter
Film criticism sound bytes
Journalism junk food

When I see a movie, I seldom tweet my immediate reaction. Sometimes, I might do some research as I did for the infamous "Cloud Atlas" about which I wrote two articles: "A Hovering Accusation of Racism" and "The Evolution of Asian Eyebrows: A (Dia)critical Contemplation." I'm not so much a fan of Twitter in the sort of rush to be first one-upmanship kind of game that seems to have taken hold of some writers. Seeing a movie at a press screening is not a scoop. Such a viewing is not breaking news (unless if involves a tragedy like a shooting). I hardly see a purpose of tweeting about a movie I've just seen and by doing so, reducing a review of a movie to 140 characters. Those 140 characters are fine for haiku (5-7-5) or tanka (5-7-5-7-7), but 140 characters hardly allow for complete thoughts beyond 'Thumbs up, thumbs down' or a number of stars or popcorn symbols or in the case of a bad movie, 'It sucks.' These are conclusions and not complete thoughts or arguments. When you consider the time producers, actors, writers and PR people put into each movie, you should be willing to give the whole enterprise more thought than the one-minute it takes to post on Twitter. To be a critic should mean more than wanting to be the first with an opinion out. Being a critic should also be about crafting a composition, raising questions and informing your audience.

When tweeting at will
Please don't litter on Twitter
Be a wit not twit"

Amy Nicholson, Movieline:

"There are critics I adore -- adore to bits -- whom I'm forced to dodge after screenings because they can't wait to tell me how much they hated the movie we just saw. I'm a slow processor. Kind of. When I love a film, that's immediate and I'll take to Twitter straightaway to start building buzz. But with a mixed reaction, the sediment takes a while to settle. I avoid the insta-haterz until I know where I stand, and I avoid blurting out a first response that I might not mean in the morning. Shout the good, be certain before the bad. It's a policy that works for films, and, well, everything else in life."

Rudie ObiasShockYa:

"It depends on if there's an embargo, but I always tweet my response to a movie after I watch it. Of course, I don't spoil anything from the film but I think giving a general overview of a new movie is completely in bounds with film criticism in a digital world. I think it's perfectly fine to share your opinion or reaction to a movie without spoiling it. There's a reason why people follow me on Twitter and it's not to know what I'm eating for breakfast. I firmly believe it's the user's responsibility not to pay attention to Twitter or social media if they don't want to know anything about what's going on in pop culture, the movies, or the news. If you don't want to know anything about a movie, take responsibility and stop using Twitter."

Zac Oldenburg, Having Said That:

"I'm someone who rarely posts a quick opinion on twitter and I agree a lot with what Leitch is saying. I think groupthink and a need to find an early consensus is one of the negatives Twitter can have on film criticism and that aspect I certainly do not enjoy. I think the other writers I follow has been trimmed down to a core group specifically because of this reason and I trust the tweeting nature of those I follow so that I shouldn't ever get too hung up on this matter. To what Stevens is saying about spoiling the writer's review and risking losing those eyes who feel like they already have your opinion I cannot quite get as on board with. The people that feel like they got your opinion in 140 characters were probably never going to read your review anyway and for those that do read your reviews a tweet can be an intriguing teaser drawing them to read your review to figure out what that tweet really means.  I think Adam Quigley (@alwayswatching), Guy Lodge (@guylodge), and David Ehrlich (@davidehrlich) are some of the best at this and whether it is in print or podcast they almost always get me excited to hear more of their opinions through a simple tweet. They can also be quite funny as well."

Matt RorabeckMovie Knight:

"Being the social media junkie that I am, I am guilty of tweeting after most screenings I attend (unless embargoed). I do believe my followers enjoy the brief reactions to the films and will still stop by and read a fully thought-out review even after reading some simple reactions on Twitter. I believe both Twitter reactions and full reviews are valuable in this day and age, and what's great about Twitter is that someone does not want the mini-reviews they can choose to ignore them or very easily unfollow. Although some initial tweet reactions to screenings can be rather hyperbolic (both positively and negatively) I don't think critics are too quick with their thoughts after screenings. We're all in this industry because we are passionate about the medium and Twitter is a great place to share that passion. Full reviews are the place where we are professionals and if our thoughts happen to change from our initial 'tweet' reactions after we've thought about the film a little more, then that's perfectly fine."

Josh SpiegelMousterpiece Cinema/Sound on Sight:

"I do tweet after screenings, typically, when there’s not some kind of embargo on the film. Whatever compulsion I have to do so is wanting to share something to those people on my feed instantly, though hopefully not to an extent that I’ve negated the point of a review. Regarding that point from Ms. Stevens and Mr. Leitch, I don’t totally agree that being pithy about a film on Twitter will automatically make a full review pointless. It all depends on the person writing the tweet and review; hopefully, that person wouldn’t rely on one witticism to make their review stand out. (The more tweets you write about a film you’ve just walked out of, though, as Mr. Leitch mentioned, the less likely this is possible, of course.) To the last question, I’d say critics are only too quick to tweet after screenings if they’re doing so just so they aren’t left behind by their colleagues. But I do think tweeting after screenings can have value -- it’s not an either/or issue for me."

Luke Y. ThompsonTopless Robot:

"I'm very old-school about this, a function of having started at print media, I think. My belief is that when an employer pays you for a review, one of the things they are paying you for is the privilege of being the forum in which your opinion is first publicly stated. I also feel like if someone tweets out their opinion, half the time I don't need to see their review any more. If I am not assigned to review something, I might tweet. I remember the days when my parents would wait to see what the newspaper critic said before choosing a film, and that anticipation -- I like holding on to that, a bit. I think instant reactions can help provide a more accurate description of a film, especially if it's not a very memorable one, but sometimes a more considered response is appropriate."

Anne-Katrin TitzeEye For Film:

"No, I don't. Tweeting has nothing to do with reviewing films."

Ignatiy VishnevetskyMUBI:

"For me, talking about a movie -- with colleagues, fellow moviegoers, etc. -- has always been an important part of the process. However, there's a difference between private conversation and public writing. While I'm ready to talk about something as soon as the credits roll, it usually takes me at least a day or two before I'm ready to start writing anything like an opinion. Sometimes I'll tweet observations right after a movie: a scene that I especially liked, a reference point that came to mind, and so on. But as for actually voicing a 'this is good' / 'this is bad' sort of opinion, I prefer to withhold that kind of stuff until I'm putting together the review. Judgement takes time."

Max Weiss, Baltimore Magazine:

"I don’t tweet about films I’ve screened for a few reasons. One, I’m apparently the last working film critic who actually honors the embargo. Two, as Dana says, I want to use all my best one-liners in my review (I still think full-length reviews are more valuable than tweets, but then again, I’m old school like that). But Will nails my biggest problem with those 140 character reviews: they’ve made it nearly impossible to go into a screening without a preconceived notion of the film. Usually, by the time I get around to seeing the film -- remember, I live in Baltimore -- I’ve already read the tweets, the backlash to the tweets, and the backlash to the backlash to the tweets. It’s hard out there for a social-media-loving critic."

Andrew WelchAdventures in Cinema:

"It depends on the situation. I don't typically tweet anything after a press screening, because either there might be an embargo or because I don't want to give away my opinion too soon. I'm not at the point in my career where people are clamoring to hear what I think, so I want to save everything I can for the review. The only exception to this is where I've just seen something that I won't be reviewing. On Friday, I was at the Texas premiere of 'Blood Brother,' the big documentary winner at Sundance, and I did tweet after that because I was only seeing it for the sake of seeing it and not to review it. As to whether other critics are too quick to tweet, it's not my place to judge. Sometimes I genuinely want to know, and if I can know now, then great. But, that said, is there a chance I won't read their review because I already know what they think? Yes, absolutely. Sometimes you just don't need to know much beyond the question of whether it was good or not."

Chase WhaleTwitch:

"I don't usually tweet after advance screenings of theatrical releases (unless I really liked or hated it), but I do after every film I see at a festival. My first reactions are for followers who aren't able to attend a festival but want to know about films I'm seeing. Especially since most films that play at festivals don't release for a long time, or, in rare unfortunate cases, at all. Like every critic, I'm collecting thoughts about a film as it unfolds in front of me. As long as the tweet is coherent and thought-provoking (the opposite of 'It's awesome!' or 'It sucks!'), tweeting a reaction after a film ends should be encouraged. This helps gain buzz for the festivals and the films playing (negative buzz is still buzz. The kiss of death is absolutely no buzz). First reaction tweets will always be an ongoing argument. Some will point fingers, saying certain critics are just trying to be first (in the finger-pointers’ defense, that's sometimes true), but I think it's perfectly fine for a writer to tweet their reaction immediately after seeing a film. Most of the time, the critic will reviewing that film anyway, so their followers will end up reading their full, well thought out breakdown. Or followers can ask a critic to elaborate their tweet on Twitter -- God won't kill a puppy for having a conversation on there. Everyone should let go of the 'They are just trying to be first!' mentality. It's exciting for a critic to get their thoughts out to their readers. If they happen to be first, good for them. If they're last, their dedicated audience will still read what they have to say. That's what is important to me -- the ones who read my work regardless of when it's posted."

Stephen WhittyThe Star-Ledger:

"I understand the impulse, after a particularly stupid movie, to fire off a quick one-liner. But really, what sort of insightful or even vaguely useful thing are you going to say about a Wes Anderson movie, or a Coen Bros film, in 140 characters? Our reviews, and the world's attention spans, are short enough as it is."

Mark YoungSound on Sight/New York Movie Klub:

"I almost always tweet after a screening, because I firmly believe that your first opinion coming out of a theater will mirror that of a reader who is considering spending money to see the movie in question. For me, the review mostly exists to explain where that first thought came from, and why."

Alan ZilbermanBrightest Young Things/Tiny Mix Tapes:

"I never tweet my first impressions after a screening. The reason why is practical: it's usually kind of late when the screenings are over, and I'm in a rush to get home. Also, I never start a review until I've slept on the movie. A positive first impression may sour or vice versa, which in turn could make the hypothetical tweet obsolete. The only exception to this rule is when I'm at a film festival, where I'm already seeing three to five movies a day. Hype is part of what drives a festival, so it follows that I join that machine."

The Best Movie Currently In Theaters on February 11th, 2013:
The Most Popular Response: "Side Effects"
Other Movies Receiving Multiple Votes: "Django Unchained," 
"Zero Dark Thirty," "Argo," "Amour."

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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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