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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student

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OPINION: The art of the Letterboxd review

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I’m not exaggerating when I say that Letterboxd is my favorite app. I’m on it nearly every day, even when I haven’t watched a movie. I scroll through reviews, look at my friends’ accounts and add copious films to my watchlist. 

Okay, maybe I have a bit of a problem. 

If you’re not familiar with Letterboxd, it’s a website and app used for logging and reviewing films. It’s a great way to discover new films, track which ones you’ve watched and look at your friends’ reviews. I am more than a little obsessed with it. 

I’ve been using the app since 2019, and my review style has changed considerably since the beginning. Over time, I think I’ve discovered the ideal way of writing Letterboxd reviews and how you can capture the specific magic only contained within the perfect review. 

[Related: OPINION: The pandemic of live-action remakes]

First, let’s start with the joke review. This category has range. You can be outright facetious, like Demi Adejuyigbe’s “Dune” review about Stephen McKinley Henderson. You can drop a hilarious one-liner, like the now iconic “This happened to my buddy Eric” “Joker” review. Or you can, you know, comment on the film, like user kársten’s review of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” that reads “easily one of the top 5 movies about taxes.” 

Letterboxd is a great medium for comedy, and some of the funniest things I’ve ever read come from the site. But please, I beg you, if you’re going to make a joke review, actually make a joke instead of simply observing or questioning the film’s plot. Yes, I am guilty of that sin myself, but I try to make it comedic by exaggerating the events or tying it into something larger. The power of comedy is at your fingertips – use it wisely. 

Another style of review is the essay. It’s the more classy, “serious” way of using Letterboxd for the film majors and the self-proclaimed cinephiles. There are essays about films people hate, like user esther’s review of “Dear Evan Hansen,” and others about films people love, like Philibert Dy’s short piece on “Parasite.” 

I call these “essay style” since they’re considerably longer than most typical reviews. If you’re planning on writing some essays – and there’s nothing wrong with that – don’t just repeat what other people have said in the reviews. Put your own twist on it and use your own lived experience with the film – good or bad. Experiment with a cool form. I say this mostly because I usually get bored halfway through reading most really long reviews. 

Lately, my personal philosophy surrounding reviewing has been cataloging what I feel fresh off of the end credits. I’ll usually include a joke, but also an honest reflection of my feelings at the time. It’s nice to look back and see what I thought about films I experienced months or years ago. 

All this being said, there’s really no “right” way to use Letterboxd. It’s a medium for self-expression and fun. Don’t take it too seriously and you’ll have a good time. Write for long enough – four years, in my case – and you’ll come across a form that feels satisfying. 

[Related: COLUMN: What happened to the 90-minute comedy]

There’s often pretentious users on the site who complain about people reviewing things the “wrong way.” To them, one-line jokes aren’t “actual reviews,” and anyone who thinks otherwise is an uncultured fool.  

But you don’t have to do it any way but your own. It’s meant to be an expression of yourself. If anything, my only suggestion of the “right” way to use the app is this: follow people. You’ll find infinitely cooler recommendations by following people with similar interests to your own than just searching blindly. 

This isn’t even exploring the complex world of list challenges – shoutout Hooptober – and the cult of the starless review. Beyond all that, the way to capture the magic of Letterboxd was inside you all along! Do what’s fun to you. Just — for the sake of my sanity — use the heart button consistently. Please. 

Danny William (they/them) is a freshman studying media. They implore you to follow them on Letterboxd at the username @deepwizardry, where they likely violate all the rules they gave you. 

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