The Young Fan’s Guide to Cinema – Part 3

Travis Newton

So you’re young, and you like movies.

Well, most everyone likes movies. But let’s say you like movies more than the average person. You’re a fan. Great! Me too.

In this multi-part series, I’m going to write about how young fans can get more out of their movie-watching experiences. In last week’s entry, I wrote about how you can increase the cinematic variety in your life by getting into smaller movies and alternative distribution platforms like VOD and limited theatrical release. In this week’s entry, I’m going to write about how you, as a young fan of cinema, can find out what’s new and exciting in the world of smaller and alternative releases.

Find a Champion of Smaller Films

The last thing I mentioned in last week’s column was the Recent Discoveries page of the iTunes Movie Store.

iTunes, though not the best VOD platform for everyone, does a swell job highlighting new small and indie releases that deserve your attention. Right on their main movie page is a section for new indies. Many films released on VOD arrive on multiple platforms: if it’s on iTunes, you’ll likely find it on Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, Playstation Network, Xbox Marketplace, and more. The only complaint I have about those other platforms is that they don’t make as big a point of highlighting small films. Google has a “New in Independent” section, but it’s hidden away on the Independent genre page. And that’s silly, because “Independent” isn’t actually a genre. (There’s a whole tangled bird’s nest of arguments about that statement that I’ll get into sometime in the future.) But by promoting smaller VOD releases on their main Movies page, Apple is a better champion for smaller and alternative films. They fight for the cause (if only a little bit harder).


If you’re not an iTunes user or would prefer another way of discovering new alternative releases, I’d suggest finding a respectable professional news source that reports on and reviews them. We do a bit of it here on Fandom, but it’s not really our focus. You could try IndieWire or A.V. Club. There are a ton of great news outlets out there that highlight smaller films. But no matter where you go, find a film critic (or critics) there that you like and respect.

Critics as Champions of Smaller Films

Now, herein lies an issue: a lot of people don’t like film critics or film criticism. That’s perfectly understandable. There is often a clear divide between how critics and average moviegoers react to films. Critics can also be mean. They frequently traffic in snark and snobbery. I say this as a person who writes critically about films — I know the type.

But if you want to stay current on all the cool stuff going on in the alternative film scene, it’s imperative that you find a critic you can jive with. Good critics don’t write off sci-fi and horror films as schlock. They don’t wholly dismiss comic book superhero movies as drivel. That’s not to say a good critic can’t have biases, but a good critic acknowledges their own biases. Good critics have broad tastes and have a deep love of film, blockbusters and indies alike. A good critic is concise, thoughtful, and doesn’t outright insult the artists who made the movie.

A good critic doesn’t just talk about movies or television from a standpoint of narrative. Just like a good literary critic, they have to be able to talk about technique — the arrangement of the words on the page, and how they affect the reader. A good film critic has a hunger for filmmaking knowledge and understands cinematic language. A good film critic knows that problems with movies aren’t easily distilled or easily blamed on a director, writer, or performer.


Now, I must acknowledge one of my own biases here: when I say a critic, I don’t mean a person who exclusively records review/reaction videos from their bedroom or office and posts them on YouTube, or writes their reviews on a tiny blog. It’s fine when people do that. I encourage people to do that. And I can’t deny people the validity of their opinions. But I think there’s a lot of value in finding a critic who is an established, experienced writer employed at a respectable publication. I know I’m being a snob, but hey — it’s a bias of mine. It’s okay if you don’t agree.

It’s important to find a critic who champions smaller films because it’s so damn important to acknowledge smaller films. So, so many good movies get overlooked and underseen simply because they’re not going to open worldwide in thousands and thousands of cinemas at once. But it’s also important to find critics you like because fewer and fewer publications can justify the expense of having a full-time film critic on staff.

Again, it comes down to us. If you and I want more cinematic variety in our lives, we have to seek and be okay with smaller films. And finding a news publication and a few trustworthy film critics is a strong step.

The next strong step is to avoid Rotten Tomatoes at all costs. I’ll explain why next week.

Travis Newton
Travis Newton is a Fan Contributor at Fandom. He began writing about movies and TV for in 2012, and co-hosts The Drew Reviews Podcast with Fandom Entertainment Editor Drew Dietsch. He’s partial to horror movies, action games, and Irish Breakfast tea.
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