When we talk about films, we need to be specific. We can't just say that a film was great or okay. If someone asks you what you thought of a film, you need to use the right language. When discussing a film, we can talk about the story and the narration. The story includes the characters, their problems or situation, and the themes. The narration deals with how the story is told, using the film techniques such as camera shots, lighting, music, setting, props and costume. Here is a suggested framework for writing film reviews: A. Story 1. Characterisation * Who are the characters? * What do they look like? * What makes them interesting? * What do they say, do and think? * What motivates them? 2. Plot The plot is what happens - the main action and the actual situations. We also need to talk about any themes or messages which are conveyed. B. Narration There are many techniques used by film-makers. If we divide these into what we see, what we hear, and what we infer, it's easier to understand how they work. What do we see? Film directors decide which bits of a story they are prepared to show us. They do this by: * Shot size - how much of an image is seen by the camera and the viewer. This allows the audience to see facial expressions or gestures in detail if it's a close-up. * Camera angle - how this is positioned tells the audience how they should feel about the subject. An eye-level angle, for example, shows the subject accurately and might emphasise honesty, evil, etc. What do we hear? What we hear as we watch a film makes a great difference to how we feel about what we are seeing. * Sound effects - these impact on the film to help create atmosphere. For example, if a waiter drops a glass that smashes on the floor, the director wants us to see him as clumsy. This has a direct impact. If it's just noise to show a restaurant is busy, and we don't see the waiter but only hear the glass breaking, this helps create atmosphere. * Music - this creates mood. What do we infer (the hidden message)? * A director cannot possibly include everything that happens. To overcome this problem, many symbols are used. They imply the missing information. For example, to portray an evil character, he or she might have dark clothes, severe make-up and lots of shadows playing over their face. Lighting plays a very important part in the making of a film. * Setting or location allows us to infer a lot about a film. The opening shot is therefore very important. * Costume and make-up often allow us to make assumptions about the characters as to what type of people they are. Now that you have the right jargon (specific language), you should feel confident talking about a film's merits or weaknesses. Here are a few expressions you might use: Example: Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones On plot: After a failed assassination plot on Senator Padme Amidala, Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker is assigned to protect her while Obi-Wan Kenobi investigates ... On characterisation: The non-human characters often steal the show from the humans, but the action sequences are spectacular and you find yourself holding your breath more than once, hoping they all make it out alive ... Portman's performance (as Padme), however, comes across as flat and unconvincing. On special effects: Eye-popping special effects: eye-popping means astonishingly great visuals. Effects which blend (mix) so well into the scenery that we start to look past the wonder of it all.