Monday, 24 May 2010

Why I Write Spoiler-Free Film Reviews with No Love "LOST"

Me on the fateful day of watching the pilot episode of "LOST". Photo credit: my sister Jamie

Sunday May 23, 2010 was the perfect day to write this. Why, you ask? Because it was a day I kept Tweetdeck & Twitter closed, I didn't log on to Facebook, and when I inadvertently checked IMDb and Zap2it I closed them and quickly vowed to stay away from them for the rest of the day. Why did I do that with sites & services that I use every day? I wasn't having an internet free day, but self-imposed social media and tv/film blackout as it was the night of the last episode ever of "LOST". And I was determined to get to that last episode of the epic 6 season journey without any spoilers.

This post is 100% spoiler-free, by the way.

I was a latecomer to "LOST". I remember when it started and everyone was all yakkity yak about it but it didn't hold any appeal to me. I even saw 2 episodes of season two with my sister Suzie way back when and we spent more time talking and explaining the freaking show than actually watching it - it was way too much to understand coming in late. Then, last April during my sister Jamie's reno she shared the secret that she and her husband were watching it on DVD. And then she shared the first episode with me. Then the second. Then lent me the DVDs, which I burned through watching the series unfold as I knitted into the wee hours of the night. I was hooked.

I was in love with "LOST". But, I had to keep it a secret. I was seasons behind everyone for months so I had to keep it under wraps. One image or comment could give something away from seasons ahead. More than once I ran away from my TV if they played a commercial and I literally stapled pages together in Entertainment Weekly if they had a story on the show. Any kernel of information could shatter a house of cards being perfectly and purposefully built in front of my very eyes. I didn't want to hear theories, explanations, definitions, casting.... nothing. I wanted to watch it unfold and see the story as it was meant to be told.

But, now I can let that go and share my love of the show. I can scream it, I can shout it. I LOVE YOU "LOST"! I really do. Do you want to know why?

Yes, this post will continue to be 100% spoiler-free.

I love "LOST" for its great storytelling. For keeping us guessing, even when we didn't know we would be guessing. I love "LOST" for providing us with a multicultural, dynamic and talented cast. I love "LOST" because it has characters to love, characters to hate and characters we hate to love & love to hate. I love "LOST" for being consistent. Yes, consistent - I now that sounds boring but it ain't! I love "LOST" for being gusty. For being more than a little zany.

So, why the heck am I writing about "LOST" on Movie Moxie? It's TV not film, right? True. But, one of the reason I love "LOST" so dearly is because it is one of the only things I've seen in recent history where people actively try to be spoiler-free. They know how good the show is, and don't want to ruin the experience for others. This is something I work on and strive for with every review I write and every post I make. It's not easy, but I'm committed to it and I think it's worth it. From my very first film reviews of In The Heat of the Night I wrote "Although I thought I would end up posting movie reviews that included spoilers I just can't do it for this film". That day I wrote more reviews for Ong-Bak & Night Watch / Nochnoi Dozor, and I still didn't do spoilers. After a while I realized never wanted to do spoilers. Ever. It's been 4 years and over 600 film reviews later, and I've stuck with being spoiler-free the whole way.

Why spoiler-free? Well, I've never had a film experience enhanced by having the film spoiled to me. Never. I've also never heard someone say "I'm so glad I knew the ending/twist/reveal." either. But I have had and heard people talk about having a film spoiled for them, and it's not fun or nice. I've certainly never heard of it encouraging someone to see a film, and isn't that what talking about film or reading reviews is all about? I review films with this objective in mind: that from the perspective of the reader, they will be able to determine whether or not they'd want to see the film. It can certainly still be a challenge, as it was just last week writing a review of Harry Brown. But it's still worth it - because lo and behold one of the commenters mentioned having that film spoiled to them somewhere else along the way.

I go to great lengths to try and avoid this. Last year was a huge challenge on that front and I literally ran from a friend who was going to tell me an anecdote about Star Trek less then 2 hours before I made it to see the film without knowing anything about it. I ran. I apologized for it later, and the story wouldn't have been a spoiler, but I wasn't willing to chance it.

I can understand why people want to share the details of things they are excited about or feel strongly for. Discussing a film in depth is after all one of the funnest parts of being a film fan. But remember back to that moment when you saw a big reveal? The beauty of that moment was all the build up and careful maneuvering to get you there. Let us get there too, so we can have that moment.

The good news is, you can talk about films without giving too much away. It's a completely learnable skill. To start simply, ask the person if they've seen the film. If they have - go nuts. If not, try mentioning what you liked about it thematically, instead of specifically. Compare it to another film perhaps, in terms of style or pacing. What was the spirit of what you enjoyed about it, or hated it? The setting (other than occasion SciFi film) is usually safe to share. Character descriptions can be safe too, as long as you talk about them from the perspective of the character at the beginning film (if it's linear narrative). You can talk about how the film made you feel or if you'd like to see it again. You can say what the perfect setting would be to see it, or if who you saw it with and if you agreed with your opinion of it or not. Also, who might like it and why? It's about context, not content. And don't be afraid to put a hold on the conversation if you think it's going too far. You can always decided to chat about it again once everyone has seen the film.


"LOST" in 6 Seasons brought me 3 Sweaters, countless teas, many tears and many memories


Suzie Ridler said...

LOVE this LOST post! And spoiler-free topical post! Shannon, you so rock! I love coming here knowing that the potential future stories for me to share in a safe place. Spoilers suck and I am scared that I will hear something about Lost before I can watch it next weekend. (I deserve a hero cookie for that.)

Seriously, I love that you are able to do such fantastic reviews completely spoiler free, that is an art form of movie reviewing that is super rare and should be celebrated. It's why I come here and go no where else for movie info.

Oh I just love this post and what a great pic of you! How on earth did you do it? LOL.

Six hundred movies?! Holy cow, Shannon. Way to go!

J said...

< tap tap, this thing on >
Excellent article Shannon. Spoiler free reviews are hard to come by now-a-days. Too often I see reviews that telegraph the entire film. Whether this is due to laziness or perhaps a lack of experience, it still results in a lost opportunity for the potential viewer.

It's nice to know skilled and knowledgeable film journalists such as yourself are out there. :)


Unknown said...

Well, your secret was well kept! Jeez, I can't believe you never let on! lol

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