On your 3 reviews...
Prey is, without doubt, your strongest review of the three. It was the most fluent and had the fewest apparent errors (keeping in mind that I was just "reading" your reviews and not "dismantling" them). For me, it was the most stylistically appealing, announced itself with a strong, encouraging hook, and made interesting points throughout its entire length. Yet as good as the opening was, the ending just ran out of momentum. Or rather, if just "felt" as if you ran out of momentum when writing it (which, given the scope of this finale, is entirely understandable). There's something about lines like "But I'm beginning to ramble" or "I've said enough" or "In conclusion" that ruins an entirely functional conclusion, which is essentially what happened at the end of the Prey review. Even without retooling the entire final paragraph or adding more substance to it, all you needed to do was cut that one pesky line for your writing to be much tighter. Instead, the fact that you became exhausted while writing it becomes all too apparent.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King review was a bit clumsier of a read, however this might be because my lack of familiarity and general disinterest in the material kept me at a disadvantage. It's the sort of review which assumes a rather distinct level of comprehension with the material in question at the beginning ("Yes, they omitted Tom Bombadil and plenty other parts of the story we love so much." <- Who or what the hell is Tom Bombadil?) and reiterates it at the end. And don't misunderstand me, I understand and appreciate what (I think) you're trying to do by setting up a review that comes full circle by its end, but I think you went a small step too far with your jumping off point into the material where it may seem alienating if the subject is entirely new to it (like myself). If you left out specific details in the beginning and ending paragraphs and focused more on tying the game to the movies as opposed to what makes the movies and the game different, it would have been more approachable, and I would have responded more favourably.
This leaves me with Elements, your weakest review if only because there are no images to clue me in on what exactly you're talking about. I understand the gist of it (browser card trading game, RPG elements, ridiculous grind, paper-scissors-rock mechanics, luck of the draw, etc.) but without a visual aid or two, I found it difficult to ascribe any real meaning to the points. I don't know what else to say about this one, really. Okay, so your writing voice lost the "objective" element of an "objectively colloquial" style from one review to the next, and I picked up on more niggling errors as the words drifted by, but that's about it. Like I said, I appreciate the scope of the finale and the effort of writing three full reviews for the same occasion, but there's always some tidying up of the writing to be done (which is something I'm no stranger to and can even drive me ballistic at times.)
(Incidentally, I can't help but feel that the quality of my responses to your reviews deteriorated over time, too. Interesting...)
Anyway, I had originally planned some sort of massive contribution to this thread which engages everyone in a sort of "The Philosophy of User Reviews and Criticism in General" debate, but decided against it. All I really hope to contribute at the moment are my quick thoughts on the three reviews and hopefully a well-deserved bump to the top of the forum again. Sorry that it took me a month and a half to take care of this, but as the more time went by, the more I thought was expected of me.
I do have more I want to say, mind you. I'm just going to be a bit more informal with the way I say it. Normally, I would try and present all my thoughts and opinions into a coherent narrative of a post, but in the interest of saving my time and sanity, I'm afraid bullet points will have to suffice.
On burning out...
I also feel burned out when it comes to reviewing, except my problems are with more of the logistics of my process. Since March, I've been keeping track of how long it takes me to write something, be it an essay, review, or forum comment, and I've discovered that I average about 300 words an hour. I have no idea whether or not this seems like a quick or slow pace, but what's important is that it strikes me as being terribly sluggish. If I write a 1500 word review, I can expect to spend five or six hours on it. If I write a 5000 word essay, that's three quarters of a day. This is a long time to spend on leisure pursuits, especially when I have a full time job and studies that I have so far utterly neglected to stay on top of over the summer, so I often procrastinate or just not bother.
When I wrote my Countdown to Inception series, I made a point of keeping the word count down to 500 and the time down to an hour, but went above and beyond that for nearly the entire thing. The Inception review itself was around 1400-1500 words and took me nearly four hours, so I often feel that I make no progress as a writer. And really, I guess this is what it boils down to: progress. If I may be entirely honest, I haven't felt like I've grown as a writer or critic since May 2009 (or December 2009, if I'm feeling generous). I keep on learning more and more, but what kills me is an apparent inability to employ my knowledge efficiently. I do believe in practice makes perfect, but at this point,I'm not sure whether I've hit a wall or if I'm running out of room to improve (moreso the former than the latter, I would think).
On our User Reviews community...
When Pimppeter2 addressed this...
the common trend seems to be more towards establishing a name or brand as opposed to taking a serious approach with the material. So while there are fantastic folks like BlueInkAlchemist, domble and Pimppeter2 (as well as joethekoeller himself) maintaining a regular presence with a reliable series, you've also got a flood of users taking a cue from the aforementioned fellows who will trumpet their brand new reviewing series with no quality, experience, or pedigree to support them. What is this?
To be honest, I feel partially responsible for this. I started Pimpin Reviews with my first review with that name, though at the time, it was custom to have [Username] Reviews: _____. I felt like Pimppeter2 Reviews: ___ sounded wayy too stupid, so I shorted it. I didn't add the banned until my Fourth(?) review, becuase that when I decided I was going to seriously do this and try and improve. At the time, the only others with custom banners were Dom and Wanderfreak. But hey, it seems like not only banners but now pictures too have become standard, so at least its a good trade off.
So yeah, I have to agree with Meat. Try writing quality reviews first, name brand comes after. I'm sure people who read both mine and Maets reviews still have more admiration for Maet (seriously, my favorite film critic ever) than for me simply because he writes amazingly. Good writing will get you known more and remembered than popularity will. So novice reviewers, if you're reading this: Writing good reviews comes first!
... I can't help but feel like my interview wasn't the best place to voice this thought/opinion/concern (in fact, if I may be entirely honest, I think I owe you an apology for using my interview more as a soapbox than anything else [sorry]). Reviewers who create banners and brands for themselves won't endear themselves to me for that novelty alone, but with that statement, I was really only addressing a symptom and not the problem itself.
My main problem with the state of amateur criticism today still stems from the whole ThatGuyWithTheGlasses method, the foundation of which is less critiquing and more complaining (yes, there is a difference). And while I can't honestly say that site is the source of this evil, it surely must be one of its more dominant manifestations. People who recapitulate the main points of the subject, focus on minute details, and turn molehills into mountains. They don't really have an intention aside from their own egos (in fact the whole process strikes me as being rather anarchic) and their work is so sloppily executed and presented that I'm left wondering what the appeal is in the first place.
Yet somehow, it's popular. Self proclaimed geeks of popular culture flock to it, either propagating the cancer or thinking they can do better themselves. The effect of which trickles down to our User Review board, where coarse, vulgar, and atrocious reviews made by nerds in need of an ego boost seem to permeate the board (DJmagma begin the worst offender in recent memory).
This all must sound very elitist, and I apologize for that. My main point is that the sort of reviewer we see these days reviews more for their own ego than anything else. I'm an amateur too, but I strive for quality over quantity, with the intention of working towards being a better writer and student. Becoming some sort of internet icon is the last thing I want to do, so I'm honestly not terribly bothered if my review drifts by unnoticed. Yes, it would be nice to get attention, but attention isn't why I do it.
If you're interested in this whole "Popularist vs. Elitist" debate (aka: Roger Ebert vs. Armond White), click here. It's a subject I've been thinking a lot about recently, and something on which I'd like to see some additional perspectives.
On posting comments to User Reviews
This thought follows a similar vein as the last one, but it is more with regards to how we (as the User Reviews community) should respond to other reviews. Essentially, what it boils down to is this: I have absolutely no idea how to behave on this board anymore. Seriously.
Time was, I would just chip in your standard "good/bad/nice/excellent/great/fantastic/awful/terrible review!" comment without a second thought. Then I came to realize that I could get away chipping in as much without even reading a single word of the piece, so I began to include my own thoughts on the subject ("Yeah, ____ was a pretty good movie/video game, and I like it too. Nice review!", for example). After that came a time where I decided to write and post the sort of comments that I would like to receive in my own reviews, which tended to be either content heavy or critical of the writing; something like NewClassic's red pen treatments, except isolating flaws instead of overhauling the whole thing. Then I began to understand how it could be perceived as rude and arrogant, so I eventually gave up doing that. Now I've come to a point, having exhausted posting curt compliments, my own thoughts on the subject, and individual treatments, where I just don't bother posting at all anymore. I don't know what people are looking for in their comments, and I don't know if I can find the time to deliver that even if I did. I can sort of see others having the same problem, since BlueInkAlchemist is clearly no stranger to the "I'm running out of ways to say well done" variety, considering the way people tend to respond to his own reviews and what has been confessed in this thread.
Although in the end, perhaps it's just me being neurotic. I've been struggling with my own need to make every single word I write/type/speak count, which is why I've sort of withdrawn from the community. Don't get me wrong, I spend as much time as ever browsing the User Reviews (maybe even more), but I've honestly reached a point where I just don't know what to say anymore. You can rest assured that I'm reading your work, but believe me when I say that I'd leave a sign if only I knew what that sign should be.
I'm on vacation...
Finally, I just want to say that I'm thinking about taking a vacation from this whole "internet business." I really desperately need to climb back on top of my studies, and between the internet, university, and my full time job, the interent is without doubt the link that would be most beneficial to sever. Let's consider the Countdown to Inception my grand project for the summer, and I think I owe it to myself to sign off for about a month. If the next Review Wars go on without me, then so be it. In the meantime, I'll be trying to stay offline from tomorrow until August 20th (except for the periodic checking of my gmail).
The goal for today was actually to watch and review Salt and announce my intention at either the beginning or end of the review, but figured that I owe joethekoeller the long overdue comment I promised him six weeks ago. So here it is, and I hope you enjoy my further thoughts and an almost certainly welcome bump back into the spotlight.
Congratulation, joethekoeller, and I hope that you and everyone else returns to reviewing soon.
(Edit -- Wow, this comment was really lengthy after all... Sorry about that...)