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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

frequently asked questions: “Why can’t I write 1,200 words on every movie I see?”

A few people have complained over the past day or so that my reviews are too short lately. By that they mean that some of my reviews are too short for their liking, and by that they mean that they wish I had written a thesis on a film they wanted me to write a thesis on, and that I had not wasted my time writing a thesis on a film they didn’t particularly care to read my thesis on.

Here’s the thing: I don’t always have a lot to say about some movies. Some movies simply don’t move me or inspire to say much at all. I don’t see the point of forcing a review of 600 or 800 or 1,000 words when I’d have to gin something up to get to a particular word count. And I can guarantee that you wouldn’t want to read something like that, either.
I try not to write the same old kind of shit you could read at any other movie-review site. I’d like to think that my readers would know they’re reading one of my reviews even if my name weren’t on it. I know some people don’t think film reviews are “creative” work, but for me, they are. And there’s only so much of that kind of work you can do before your brain needs a break.

That said, though, I think I cover a helluva lot more movies than most other professional critics… even the ones for whom being a professional movie critic is lucrative enough that they don’t have to do any other work. A magazine like Entertainment Weekly or a newspaper like The New York Times or a Web site like Cinematical.com might cover all the new wide releases and some of the smaller ones with feature-length reviews every week, but they’re not all written by the same person. I suspect that among the more popular critics, only James Berardinelli and Roger Ebert (and maybe not even Ebert these days, given his health issues) cover as many movies as I do. If I’m wrong about that, please set me right.

I wish I could write more long reviews and cover even more movies. I really do. I don’t know how it could be possible at the moment, though. Work as a film/TV/pop culture critic makes up only half my living at the moment… and that’s a substantial improvement over earlier years, when I made hardly any money at all at this. I work more than full-time hours at this, but than I still have to do other work in order to subsidize it. It’s hard to be creative when you’re exhausted. (And I’ll tell you this: I know for a fact that many other “critics” who run their own Web sites have other means of support that ensure they don’t have to do any other work… and they’re still not worth reading.)

I’m not complaining. This is the fact of living a creative life for most creative people, whether you’re an actor or an artist or a writer or a musician, even if it’s one you don’t hear a lot about: You have to work another job for money to support your creative work, because hardly anyone makes a living as an actor or an artist or a writer or a musician, even when you’re good enough at it to make some dough at it.

And I appreciate that so many people seem to like my creative work so much that they want more of it. And I can promise you, you’re getting absolutely all I have to give right now.

(See also the FAQ “Do you make a living from this site?”)

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