Farewell to the 50

July 8, 2010 by Simon Kinnear in Opinion with 0 Comments

The new Total Film is out today, with a smart redesign that’s really re-energised things. Some aspects are minor tweaks, other completely new sections, but I’m impressed. And yes, I’m biased, but still.

Best of all, the dreaded 50w DVD reviews have been taken outside and shot. As a contributor to the mag, I can attest that these are the hardest things in the world to write. How do you sum up a film in so few words? Ironically, it takes longer to write – like sculpting, there’s a lot to chip away to find the essence – but the fee is lower because it’s based on the final word count. Double bugger.

However, I ‘spose I should be grateful, and here’s why. I used to slave away at these things, to the point where I may as well have banged my head against the page in the hope that my blood would magically pool into the required number of words. Severe case of writer’s block, every single time.

And then one day, as I was agonising over how to convey the gist of Gonzo, the documentary about Hunter S. Thompson, I realised that the mighty Raoul Duke wouldn’t have given a shit about the precise wording. He’d apply gut instinct and raw talent, dash the thing off without a second thought and drive off into the desert with a shotgun and some mescaline to blow the shit out of the vultures.

That Epiphany probably made me a better writer, and since then I’ve treated the relentless goad of those irritating 50 words with the contempt they deserve. It took a little while longer to shake off the drug habit.

Fast forward to now, not quite Future Day* but close enough. The new-style reviews are meatier, with what looks like a 100 word minimum for DVDs and Blu-rays. It feels – hell, it is – more substantial, and as both contributor and reader the enhanced scope for insight and debate is really welcome.

As for my input? I’ve got a couple of not-as-small-as-they-used-to-be reviews of cult curios Profound Desires of the Gods, Antonio Das Mortes, and Wizards, as well as longer pieces on the Clash of the Titans remake and Take 100, an insanely heavy but otherwise insubstantial new tome on new directors.

Finally, I’ve also written the blurbs for six-out-of-100 of Total Film’s Cool List of iconic scenes, characters and myriad other movie-related things. Challenge time: can you guess which bits are mine?!

* I’m saying nothing about this week’s Back To The Future kerfuffle, save that the timing made writing this article that bit more fun to write.

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