Monday, March 17, 2014

Criticwire: Preparation for Reviews

Q: How much of a duty do you feel to research a review? Do you need to have seen all of "Veronica Mars" before writing about "The Veronica Mars Movie," or be familiar with the writing of Stefan Zweig before reviewing "The Grand Budapest Hotel"?

A lot depends on the movie itself – and whether I feel the need to do any additional work outside of watching the movie itself. For example, before I watched the Robocop remake, I went back and watched Paul Verhoeven’s original to refresh my memory – I try to do this with remakes as often as I can. For some movies based on books, I like to read the novel beforehand – but WELL beforehand. So for example, I finished Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, which Paul Thomas Anderson is adapting and the movie will be released in December, about a month ago. I like to read the book, and have that knowledge to be able to compare, but not right after – which I think can often bog you down in too much detail. By the time I see Anderson’s movies, I’ll remember the basic story, style, themes and feel of Pynchon’s book, without getting so caught up in every little change Anderson made from book to screen.

For the two movies cited above – I didn’t go back and watch all of Veronica Mars before seeing the movie on iTunes this weekend (a review will be posted sometime this week). I was a casual fan of the show, and wanted to see the movie, but I didn’t donate to its Kickstarter campaign – and even had I wanted to, I didn’t have 60 hours to dedicate to re-watching Veronica’s previous adventures before seeing the movie. I don’t think that hurt much. And no, I have never read anything by Stefan Zweig – I didn’t even know Anderson’s newest movie was inspired by his writing until a few weeks ago. I probably would have picked up something by him had I known earlier, but I didn’t. I did watch all 7 of Anderson’s previous features though (retrospective to be posted soon) before seeing his latest (hopefully sooner rather than later).

There’s also the question of time, availability and cost. I work a full time job unrelated to this blog – and have two kids and am an avid L.A. Kings fan - , so I don’t have time to read every book, play or article being adapted, delve into every older version and watch the complete TV series of something like Veronica Mars. I also don’t have access to every one of those things – in part because sometimes they’re not easy to get, and in part because even if I can get them, the cost prevents me for doing so (essentially, if a book is the library, I’ll get – if not, probably not).

The most interested I’m in a movie, the more prep-work I will do. Sometimes that’s a lot, but for most movies I see, I don’t do all that much prep work. A movie is its own thing – and while perhaps knowing Zweig for example may deepen my understanding of The Grand Budapest Hotel, the movie still needs to work on its own terms - which you can tell simply by watching it.

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