When I tell people I’ve co-edited a book called Four Word Film Reviews, the reaction is usually the same – confusion. Most people can’t believe you can sum up or review a movie in four words or less.
But the book, which I co-edited with Benj Clews (founder of the Four Word Film Review website), is proof that Roger Ebert’s and Leonard Maltin’s 800-word reviews are about 796 words too long. A good writer can say a lot with a little.
“Not super, not bad” for Superbad. “Transforms $9 into disappointment” for Transformers. “Heath Ledger’s clowning glory” for The Dark Knight.
Get it now? All it takes is a few examples and people start to understand.
Anybody can come up with a four-word film description, such as “Big boat hits iceberg” for Titanic or “Balloons lift senior’s home” for Up. But those are easy and boring.
The real challenge is to create a four-word masterpiece. The book is filled with funny puns (“Icy dead people” for Titanic), double meanings (“Inflation causes housing crisis” for Up), clever word play (“Shrink shrinks Damon’s demons” for Good Will Hunting), and opinionated reviews (“Four? Yes. Fantastic? No.” for The Fantastic Four). Some reviews aren’t reviews at all, merely four-word jokes (“I bet Kramer wins” for Kramer vs. Kramer and “Actually, mission is possible” for Mission: Impossible) but they make readers laugh so they were included in the book.
Novels can be summed up quickly, too. Here are a few examples of reviews of movies based on books:
“Apes understand. I didn’t.” 2001: A Space Odyssey
“Orwell’s notorious P.I.G.” Animal Farm (1954)
“The Good-Buy Girl.” Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)
“Much credit to Isla.” Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)
“Stephen King unleashes terror.” Cujo (1983)
“Pitt turns life around.” The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
“The Immaculate Deception.” The Da Vinci Code (2006)
“Greatest Story Never Told.” The Da Vinci Code (2006)
“Hanks: You’ve Got Grail!” The Da Vinci Code (2006)
“Wolf in Streep’s clothing.” The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
“Room with a spew.” The Exorcist (1973)
“Doctor making a living.” Frankenstein (1994)
“Better Rhett than debt.” Gone With the Wind (1939)
“A Farewell to Farms.” The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
“Students take up spelling.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
“School for wiz kids.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
“Slaved by the Bell.” The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
“Claude Rains is unwatchable.” The Invisible Man (1933)
“Gone with the Fin.” Jaws (1975)
“T-rex isle dysfunction.” Jurassic Park (1993)
“Peter Jackson shoots JRR.” The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
“Sequel with familiar ring.” The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
“Three. Ring. Serkis.” The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
“You’re watching Big Brother.” Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)
“Nut tries to bolt.” One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
“Typical male never matures.” Peter Pan (1953)
“Nicholson: stark raving dad.” The Shining (1980)
“Teens have necking issues.” Twilight (2008)
So my fellow Query Tracker writers, if you are looking for a break from cranking out your 100,000-word manuscript, try writing a few four-word film reviews and submit them to www.fwfr.com.
Who knows, you may be published in the next FWFR book.
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You can find out more about Michael Onesi on the FWFR website. The book can be purchased on Amazon and in bookstores across North America.
See ya on the forum, Michael!