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Film & Television Studies

Reviews vs Film Criticism

While the terms "review" and "criticism" are often used interchangeably, there are differences between them. Note how motion pictures are often referred to as "films" when discussing criticism, and "movies" when discussing reviews.

Film criticism is the study, interpretation, and evaluation of a film and its place in cinema history. Film criticism usually offers interpretation of its meaning, analysis of its structure and style, judgement of its worth by comparison with other films, and an estimation of its likely effect on viewers. Film theory (e.g. feminist, postmodernist, etc.) often informs the critical analysis of a film. Criticism may examine a particular film, or may look at a group of films in the same genre, or a director's or actor's body of work.

Film criticism differs from movie reviews in several ways: it entails both analysis and judgement; it may be published many years after a film is released; it is usually longer and more complex than a movie review. A movie review documents the critical reception of a film at its time of theatrical or dvd release. It is more "consumer-oriented," placing more emphasis on recommendation than analysis.

Reviews of feature films or mainstream films may be found in online databases, newspapers, and general interest magazines (e.g. New York Times, Village Voice, Cineaste).

In-depth criticism and analyses of some feature films or mainstream films, foreign films, independent films, documentaries, etc. may be found in more scholarly or academic publications (e.g. Film Quarterly, Cinema Journal, Film International).