So yesterday I logged into my computer at about 7:30 local time and discovered some overnight commenting, which is pretty normal. We’re all in different time zones and on different schedules. One of those comments, though, was not exactly in the realm of normal for me.
The commenter was hot and bothered, proclaiming that the review was not really a review at all but rather a “running retelling of a story” and, therefore, phooey!
The comment was valuable in itself as an example of an angry D.W. Griffith fan in the wild and I immediately captured it in a bell jar for future study but the synopsis thing actually opens up a really interesting topic: how much of a synopsis should reviewers include?
First of all, let’s acknowledge that all films are not created equal. Someone who reviews new movies in wide theatrical release can assume some knowledge on the part of their readers. We don’t necessarily need a blow-by-blow of every scene in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to get the film’s flavor as we are surrounded by previews, ads, etc. Plus, modern audiences have grown steadily more adverse to spoilers– to the point of paranoia!
However, any film off the beaten path does not have the same level of recognition. Many of the silent films I review are forgotten by the general public and some have never been made available on home video. And as I like to discuss the overall structure of a film’s plot, I usually include a fairly meaty synopsis. (The comment in question was on Lady of the Pavements, a film that is a festival fixture but is not easily obtained by the average Jane.)
Further, reviewers have different styles and lengths of coverage. I prefer longer reviews with a 1,000 word minimum. (My biggest is the hefty Ben-Hur, which clocks in over 15,000 words. I was mad to do it, it took months but I’m pretty proud.) As a result, I do include a healthy chunk of plot in my reviews. Other reviewers are masters of the miniature, packing information and insight into punchy 300-500-word packages. Obviously, they would not have room for lengthy synopses.
Bottom line: I feel that synopses are useful to me personally but everyone has different wants, needs and styles.
So… How do you feel about recapping plots in reviews? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Write ’em? Never touch ’em? Please share!
Oh, and have a poll! (This poll is never going to close and the results should be immediately viewable to participants. Let me know if you have trouble seeing them.)
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