THE REVIEW PROJECT :: Let's Do This
I'm working on some longer stuff that I can't reveal yet, so my comics output is going to be pretty anemic throughout the winter and early spring OF 2012. In the interest of continuing to post and be creative and keep my brain working, I'm going to start a new thing this year: in 2012 I'm going to review everything.
Well, not everything, but most things. Every book or comic I read, all the tv shows I watch, movies, video games, etc. The only exceptions will be the super non-distracting stuff I watch while I'm working--for instance, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Although if I feel like saying something, I suppose I still could.
I'm not a critic. I'm not even a high school graduate. So I don't have a rigorous critical acumen; I'm not trained or highly educated. I'm not even particularly interested in writing criticism--but I am interested in how criticism works, not only within a creative community, but for the writer as well. Looking deeply at a piece of art, whether it's "low" or "high" art, will probably teach me much more than anyone would get out of reading my dumb reviews of it. That's my hope, anyway.
But most of the time, when dummies like me try to review things, they just end up looking for and pointing out whatever they think is wrong. Which I guess is appropriate once in a while maybe, but seems intellectually lazy somehow. The obverse is as bad, maybe worse: reviewing the work of friends or peers or people you're afraid to offend, heaping it with praise, finding everything of value you ignored in similar work by strangers.
So to that end, I've made up some rules, to try and keep things interesting, both to me and to whomever may find themselves reading these things:
NO SPOILER WARNINGS. Should be self-explanatory. If you're worried about spoilers for something, then don't read a review of that something. Reviews should serve a purpose other than building suspense or advertising the work they're reviewing.
RESPECT THE ATTEMPT. It's hard to make even bad art. Most of us don't make things, even bad things. It's easier to throw bricks than to build houses, even bad houses.
RESPECT WHAT YOU MAY NOT KNOW. As I said earlier, I'm mostly self-educated. Which means I don't know a lot of stuff, and thus miss a lot of stuff, especially "references" or "nuance." Even the most well-prepared, delicately flavored dish will be wasted on someone who only eats hamburgers. It's important to recognize that your palate is not trained to recognize all the flavors there are out there, for good or ill.
CONSIDER CONTEXT. Is a work timeless? Chained to a specific time? Is it episodic? Does it lack value on its own, but add to or expand the larger work it's a part of? Or group of works? Or a movement, a school of thinking or ideas? Should we consider a thing from many angles at the same time? Should we consider it from many contexts? Should we end all sentences with ???
LOOK FOR VALUE. This is good advice both in reviews and in the real world; not to mention a huge challenge for me. Looking for value is a lot harder than looking for fault. Your eye will naturally find whatever's wrong with something--the eye is drawn to inconsistency. But the fault in something is often what elevates it, what complicates it, and what makes us talk about it. And, in terms of art, that's what I'm most interested in--the impact a thing has on people. Specifically, on me.
Okay! Reviews will go up as I do them, on no particular schedule. Some will be complete, others will be as I have ideas about something--for instance I'm not going to break down TV shows by episode, but would probably do them in clumps, etc. Or long books, or video games--I'll write about them however I feel driven to. I hope you enjoy this project. I'm looking forward to it myself!
I've gone ahead and posted the very first review, of the new Sherlock Holmes movie, here. You can see all the review posts to date under the REVIEW PROJECT tag.