Reviews on this site
Structure and policy
Since 2002, I rate movies I’ve seen. Since 2016, I rate books. In the early years I studied the stuff and had proper reviews published in Spionen. I don’t believe what Wallace Martin wrote in Recent Theories of Narrative (1986):
Those who talk or write about narratives contribute to the total dialogic context of literature, where the production of words entails the creation of value, through the work and pleasure of understanding.
There is work and pleasure in understanding, and the pleasure is greater than the work. I hope that’s why I write down my thoughts on some of the media I consume. I do it to think. However, I can’t say I “contribute”. To be honest, the review section of this site is just a public, perpetually incomplete catalogue of my notes, hence far from a trustworthy guide. I just apply the following constraints.
The medium of a reviewed work is identifiable from its tags:
- Movies, TV, streaming video etc. have the “moving picture” tag.
- Comics and graphic novels have “sequential art”, Scott McCloud’s term from Understanding Comics (1993).
- Other literature is “text”. This includes plays in the medium of text, i.e. scripts. I do not review performances of plays.
Other media are not reviewed at all, so no apps, albums, concerts, operas, exhibitions, restaurants, podcasts, virtual reality scenes, bikes, buildings, birds or lint.
Except where otherwise noted, I review complete works that I have experienced unadulterated and in full.
I do not review my own work.
I don’t review anything on the basis of badly faded memories. However, I do sometimes write years after the experience, generally upon renewed acquaintance.
I do not review games in any medium, including printed books for wargames and role-playing games, regardless of fluff content. Any opinions on games go into non-review articles like The pulping of Delta Green and Thoughts on Earthdawn.
I do not review advertisements except when people pay to see them, such as The Lego Movie (2014). I make another exception for ads directed by people I like, such as Anno Hideaki, Norman McLaren or Terry Gilliam.
I try to avoid a hard line on notability, but under the completion criterion I very rarely review individual essays or videos produced in series for sites like Youtube, and never anything more fragmentary, like news articles or home video.
For the first 12 years of writing for this website, I did not note when I’d seen what. I started doing so in 2013. In late July, 2020, I added tracking of the date of writing the first version of each review, as opposed to the year of first experiencing it. This development enabled a news feed requested by readers.
Structure of a review
Except on the news page, titles are indexed primarily by time of release, then alphabetically. Associated works—“franchises” in broad interpretation—are clustered except on indices dedicated to rating or length.
Site-wide features such as back references and tags are not discussed here. The following are the visible properties of an individual review as such.
I favour official English-language release titles. I generally include long-ish subtitles but not attributions like Buddha in Africa’s “A Film by Nicole Schafer”, as shown on the title card. I similarly eschew typographic stylizations (the “poster” titles of Alien³, Se7en, Blame!, BlacKkKlansman etc.) and the ugly fashion in US TV where the host will have their name appended to the title even when there is no plan to franchise the show. When a network does replace the host, there’s usually a shakeup in the rest of the staff, but I am happy to find the host’s name in the credits along with everyone else’s.
To spare you the pain of my quirks, some alternative titles are registered and will affect search results, but they are not displayed.
Year of release
Reviewed works are dated in the following order of descending preference:
- Antemortem release, e.g. publication, recorded public performance etc. Where a work was serialized in publication, as on television or in a literary journal, the date of the first release (launch) is used in preference to any subsequent final issue or revised, consolidated novel.
- Finalization, where a record or guess exists that is more credible than the date of a posthumous release. These dates are often approximate, particularly for ancient works.
- Posthumous release. While releases are usually relatively well recorded and fixed as points of reference, they get ridiculous when they’re far removed from any possible modification the author might have made, hence the low priority.
For example, Lovecraft’s “Sweet Ermengarde” is listed as a 1917 work, representing an early estimate of its writing. It was first published in 1943, after the death of the author.
Some works have a detailed release date (the month, sometimes the day) registered in the back end. This will affect the order in which works are listed (see above), but the full date is not displayed.
I rate the subjective value of an experience. This is essentially entertainment value, though I deny the existence of pure entertainment. I am entertained by learning, even about bad ideas and harmful influence, as is the case with Exodus.
The scale is explained in the index.
Creator credits appear right under the rating. I developed them as an extension of the tagging system on this site mainly for reviews of written works, since author names are traditionally favoured over release dates for references to literature.
Cast and crew credits for films etc. are a by-product. They are deliberately very spotty. Please do not use them as a source on who really did what on a production. I add them only when I have some personal interest in one of the creators, and then only for the most influential role he or she played in each production. Other people in the same role are then added for context, so as not to create the impression that the person of interest did all the work in that department.
The role of “writer-director” is applied even where someone other than the director wrote an original novel etc. as long as the director has sole credit for the screenplay as such. By contrast, where a director co-wrote the screenplay with someone else, I will default to give credit for direction only and ignore the writing.
The main body of a review may contain zero or more of the following sections. Like the list of creators, these section have no headings of their own.
Extent of experience
Under the criterion of completion noted above, when I start a novel and do not finish it, I typically don’t review it. By the same token, the source films used on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988) appear separately only when I have seen them on their own terms.
Any exceptions are noted before the subject of the work is described. For example, if I have seen only some seasons of a TV series but not all, or heard only translated narration to a documentary instead of the original narration, that goes in here.
I rarely comment on translations of or into text. I read Swedish and English fluently and will only mention subtitling of audio or translation of text into those languages if it’s from one into the other, e.g. reading an English-language book in Swedish translation. For languages where I am not fluent but can make do (e.g. Norwegian, Danish, French, Japanese) at the time of experience, I tend to mention the perceived impact.
This section will also include the year of my first experience of the work. This is omitted only when the experience fell earlier than 2013 for movies, 2016 for books. It is not updated upon renewed acquaintance, but it is updated upon seeing a more complete version of the work, such as more seasons of a TV series.
Subject of the work
Where it is included, an introduction to the item under review by means of its subject matter is marked by a special border. For fiction, a summary of the plot is occasionally phrased with value judgements.
I don’t attribute much importance to foreknowledge of plot but I hide “spoilers”, which looks like this: Hi. In a review, but not here, you can click or touch such fields to show text.
Any text following the marked subject section is my analysis, rants and fingers randomly hitting the keyboard.