This week we explored reviews and techniques that can be used to write a review. One activity we did to understand how to review in a more professional standards was to look at photos or pieces of art and then write questions about the piece to then debate over the possible answer. One painting we did was ‘American Gothic’, some of the questioned debated included:
- Why is he holding a pitch fork?
- Why is looking at him?
- Why do they both look miserable?
The debate that followed, allowed us to understand how you should question a piece so you can see the smaller details rather than just the big picture. Doing this enabled as to write more detailed reviews.
To get an idea of how to write reviews we researched some professional pieces based on the subjects we decided to write about. One of which was Grayson Perry’s art we saw last week. I researched reviews about Perry’s work and found one of the art we saw from The Guardian:
I see Perry as a profoundly moral artist, which may sound a slightly strange designation for a figure known chiefly by the headline-grabbing label, “transvestite potter”. But these are deeply moral, indeed earnest, works – a mode which is, in itself, unfashionable. Irony, after all, is the default mode of so much contemporary culture. The opposite approach, I feel, is more productive. Aesthetics and ethics are related in complex ways, which make art less comforting than the art market would have us think.
Perry has instinct. He understands that working-class taste is about display and comfort and bling and play. Of course it is ridiculous, some of it. It is nasty and ostentatious at its worst, and as sentimental as we see in his depiction of it (The Agony in the Car Park). But there is a generosity there – an ability to live in the moment.
This talked a lot about Perry himself and what she personally thinks of him. Most of what she says is nice towards Perry however when it comes to some of his work, the journalist describes as “nasty and ostentatious at its worst” showing that even though she likes him as a person, she is still honest with her audience in saying that she knows that some of it is bad or at least not to her liking. Reading this made me understand that even if you like a person, when it comes to reviewing their work you have to be honest with your opinion. This being because you don’t want people to buy or see something that you really think isn’t that great but because you like the person it was created by you just say you like anyway. Plus the journalist is trying to convey the idea of were Perry is coming from, such as she writes: “Perry has instinct. He understands that working-class taste is about display and comfort and bling and play”this might not be true in some ways, but she is still showing her opinion to her readers, which is the main part of reviewing.
Taking the professional piece in mind, I wrote up my own review based on Grayson Perry’s work.
Grayson Perry Review:
The Beaney House of Arts and Knowledge in Canterbury currently held a free exhibition of Grayson Perry’s ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’. The Vanity of small differences includes six tapestries, each unique and beautiful in their own way. What makes Perry’s work so different from typical artist is his incredible talent of being able to tell stories in such realistic and human way that he is so different from so many artists now a day.
Each tapestry telling a different part of one man’s life, from birth to death, a common story of ragged to riches but with a much more modern take on the story. Every time you look at one of the tapestry’s you see a new feature of the alluring works of arts.
Perry is an artist that can really mesmerizing a viewer and draws them into to closer and read closer into the potential meanings of his fantastic artwork.
You can see that my review takes a similar structure to the professional piece however mine is gives a sort amount of information to the reader and then moves on to what I think of the work itself. I express my personal opinion in a more forward way rather than only hitting at it, doing this allows the reader to fully understand what I mean. Also something I didn’t really do in my piece, unlike the professional, was that I didn’t really explore what the tapestry could really mean. The professional review goes into much more depth about what the art could mean and who it’s trying to aim at. I didn’t do this because I wanted it to be just about what I thought of the work, rather than the meaning.
We also had to do reviews about subjects we chose out ourselves. My first one was on the film ‘Pulp Fiction’. To see what others thought and how journalist wrote their own, I researched reviews on the film giving me an idea of how I should write my own and the way to structure it.
Indeed, Pulp Fiction operates in the hinterland between reality and movie reality. Into a cadre of movie archetypes — the assassin, the mob boss, the gangster’s moll, the boxer who throws a fight — Tarantino injects a reality check that is as funny as it is refreshing. Whereas most crime flicks would breeze over the rendezvous between Vincent and Mia, here we actually get to go on the date— polite chit-chat, awkward silences, bad dancing — before it spirals off into a drugged-up disaster. Just as Dogs is a heist film where you don’t see the heist, Pulp is a boxer-takes-a-dive flick where you never see the bout, opting instead for conversations about muffins and Deliverance-style rape. Moreover, after Vincent and Jules take back Marsellus’ briefcase, rather than cutting to a cop on their trail, we stay with them and revel in their banal banter as they dispose of a corpse (the genius of Keitel’s Wolf in this effort is a moot point — how much intelligence does it take | to clean a car, then throw a rug over the back seat?)
Through its tricksy plot structure, very few films capture such a rich sense of an interconnected crime community. Of course, this extends even beyond the parameters of the film itself to Tarantino’s other movies — that Vincent Vega has a brother better known as Mr. Blonde hints at a whole nexus of underworld activity — and to the whole crime genre itself. As Butch kills Maynard, Marsellus Wallace warns Zed he’s going to get some henchman, “To go to work with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.” In Charley Varrick (1973), a character named Maynard warns a bank manager about the very same method of torture.
These extracts from the full review on Empire focus more on the direction made by Tarantino but in doing this he still is able to give his opinion on the topic. Plus the journalist is able to convey his thoughts without giving much of the story away in great detail, with the choice of words and structure he gets his opinion across perfectly. You can also tell that he is passionate about what he does.
After reading the professional piece I tried writing my own version based on the same film.
With iconic actors Samuel. L. Jackson and John Travolta along with the incredible director, screenplay writer and actor Quentin Tarantino at the helm of this masterpiece, it was no surprise that it was such a huge success.
Telling the story of two hit men, a gangster’s wife, a boxer and a pair of bandits that all seamlessly intertwine to create one perfect story. The film includes cameos from Harvey Keitel to Quentin Tarantino himself, this film has some of the greatest actors and director of all time in it. The music itself sets each scene flawlessly for the atmosphere its successful creating. One scene that will never be forgotten due to the perfect choice of actors with Travolta and Uma Thurman is the diner scene in which they dance to the fantastic ‘You Never Can Tell’ by Chuck Berry, making this scene potential being the most iconic scene in movie history.
With the movie not really having one focused story and not being in chronological order, it still manage to make the audience understand the impeccable story. Even when the Wills kills Travolta half way through the movie, at the end Travolta is still alive. Meaning that even though the audience is aware his dead at the end, they are left with the lasting image that he is still alive in their minds. Not only did Tarantino break the tradition of movie timelines, he did in such an astonishing way that himself and this movie will last forever.
You can see that I give my opinion in short-term in the first line and as I go on I talk more about the success of the film. Plus a focus on one scene in particular as it has become such an iconic scene it also shows what I think of the scene by focusing in the music choice and what it does to the atmosphere. Without giving too much away I do also talk about how the film not being in chronological affects the movie and how it really makes it stands out against most films. I wanted my opinion to come through by my chose of words, so rather than using generic words I went for words that express my opinion without being to explicit.
To get more practise and understanding in review writing we wrote another review based on a subject we chose ourselves. I chose to write a review based on the album ‘Illuminate’ by Shawn Mendes.
Shawn Mendes: Illuminate
With only his second studio album and at the age of 18, Shawn Mendes has taken the world by storm with this incredible album. Stepping away from the typical boy-band or pop genre, Mendes takes a more acoustic and subtle rock take on his second. With inspiration like John Mayer and the remarkable Bob Dylan, Mendes created a beautiful album: ‘Illuminate’ at just the age of 18.
The lyrics and music written by Mendes himself shows that he has a skill that many young musicians today do not hold. With songs like ‘Treat you better’ and ‘Mercy’ hitting the charts, along with ‘Illuminate’ being number one on the billboard charts he really is one of the strongest performers of today’s youth. From songs like ‘Understand’ that even have spoken word in it, it shows that Mendes has a very strong poetic side to him.
Mendes impeccable vocal and instrumental skills allows him to take the stage by storm with his immense talent. Performing astounding songs like ‘Bad reputation’ and ‘Don’t be a fool’ that truly show’s of his mesmerizing voice, with having little instrumental backing. Mendes is truly one of a kind along with his latest album ‘Illuminate’ that take’s a turn that many singers now a days do not take. Illuminate is a beautiful album that should be listened to any one who enjoys acoustic music with a very strong and magical voice.
You can see that I speak very highly of his album and himself. I also talk about who he is different from most because I wanted to make it clear that he isn’t the stereotypical solo artist but someone who does it his way and for that stands apart from the typical pop culture of today’s musical world. Once again I used words that weren’t so typical to get my point across in a more obvious way through the words rather than written loads about the album and repeating what I’ve said. If I were to improve what I’ve written I would have spoken about the songs rhythms and how the music is not repetitive, that each song has something that the others does not.
I also found a professional piece that was also about the same album.
Shawn Mendes – 18 and releasing his second album – rose to fame three years ago singing six-second cover snippets on Vine, mastering the micro hooks that define current popcraft from the inside. His own songs often start with his guitar (his debut album was titled Handwritten), at once as disarmingly intimate as a singer-songwriter confession and as layered with melodic and rhythmic bait as a Major Lazer single. As a growing audience has demanded something more personal from their hits than self-empowerment slogans (thank Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, and include Tove Lo and Justin Bieber’s guitar-centric “Love Yourself”), he’s been poised to take center stage.
You can see that this piece from ‘Rolling Stone’ also talks highly of him and gives information to the reader about his rise and music. This writer compares to artist which I do not, I talk about how he differs from most artist nowadays. I also liked the structure of this review and wanted to convey that in my own piece, with the word choice also being a very strong , which I also tried to mimic in my own way.
- Grant Wood, (1930), American Gothic, Available at: http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/6565 , Accessed on 23rd November 2016
- Suzanne Moore, (2013), Grayson Perry’s tapestries: weaving class and taste, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jun/08/grayson-perry-tapestries-class-taste , Accessed on: 21st November 2016
- Ian Freer, (2016), Pulp Fiction Review, Available at: http://www.empireonline.com/movies/pulp-fiction/review/ , Accessed on: 22nd November 2016
- Pulp Fiction, (1994), Quentin Tarantino, Miramax, A Band Apart, Jersey Films
- Shawn Mendes, (2016), Illuminate, CD, Island Records
- Joe Levy, (2016), Review: Shawn Mendes’ ‘Illuminate’ Brings Personal to Modern Popcraft, Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/review-shawn-mendes-illuminate-w441551, Accessed on: 23rd November 2016