Introduction: Grab Their Attention:
One of the greatest downfalls of a movie review is when the writer puts in too much of the plot summary. The only way you can stop yourself from doing this is to practice condensing the story line down to its lowest common denominator. Up until now, you’ve had to do it on your own. However, I just found a site that lets you review films, but only on condition that the whole review is only four words long.
Yes, you’ve read that right – this site allows only film reviews that have four (count them, 4) words in it. Sounds interesting? Well, actually, www.fwfr.com (which stands for “four word film review”) is terribly interesting. In fact, its one of the most fun, and funniest sites I’ve ever come across. Piqued your interest, have I? Well, there’s more.
The Site Itself, Physically:
This is a very quickly loading site, all in browns and golden colours, which has four word film reviews on almost any film you can think of. Their database of films has over 14,000 movies (some of which aren’t even on the B lists), and as of writing this review (January, 2006) they had over 165,000 reviews! That’s an average of over 11.5 reviews per movie.
When you first go to this site, you’ll see a list of UK chart and US chart movies down the left side of the page. Clicking on any of those movies will take you to the reviews for that movie. If you look at the middle of the page you’ll see a brief description of what the site is about and alongside that, a list of the top reviewers on the site (you can click on their names to read their reviews).
Just below that you’ll find ten of the latest reviews. Refreshing the page will give you more of those, or you can click on the “more” button at the bottom of the page. What’s cute about these is that each review is inside what I would call a cartoon dialogue balloon. Below each balloon is the name of the reviewer (clickable) the reviewers rating of the film and the number of votes the review has gotten.
At the upper right hand corner you’ll see one of these balloons with a review. Just below that is a “What Film?” link which will take you to the movie that the review refers to. Next to that there’s a yellow “Clue?” Java script link which will help you guess what movie the review is about.
There’s also a search engine for the site where you can type in the name of a movie to see its reviews. Also, if you haven’t joined there’s a place to join up and a place to put your username and password in. That’s basically what you’ll get when you look here for the first time.
For Lurkers and Members:
For those of you who aren’t interested in joining, you can still visit the site just to look up practically any film you can think of to find a bunch of reviews. You can do this many different ways. You can click on the movie names in the charts. You can click on the guess the movie balloon bubble to find a familiar movie or one you’ve never heard of. You can refresh the page to get a new balloon bubble. You can look at all the newest reviews and click on the reviewer’s names or the movies themselves. Or you can type in a movie name into their search engine to see if it’s in their database. Regarding that last one, please note that if the movie starts with “The” or “A” you might want to leave that off your search.
You should know that you can still vote on reviews if you’re not a member. However, you can’t submit reviews if you don’t join. This is a recent change since previously anonymous visitors could submit reviews but didn’t get any credit for those reviews, nor were they able to claim them if they did join later. All non-member reviews are still listed under ‘anonymous’.
If you decide to join up, this will cost you nothing but it will allow you to keep track of all the reviews you submit to the site, revise your reviews, give more information to the judges about your reviews, and also join in on their forum – which they call a “Four-um”! (Yes, I know.) Of course, you can visit the four-um without joining just to see what’s going on there, which I’ll talk more about later.
You should know that just joining isn’t enough to get your four word pieces of genius added to their site. Each and every review must be accepted by the MERPs – which means “Multi-Editor Review Processing”. That means that there’s a bunch of people (a minimum of three, I believe) who go over the reviews. There are just a few rules about these reviews, the most important of which is that no review can be more than four words long. Mind you, I’ve noticed that symbols aren’t considered to be words so one can sometimes add an “=” or a “+” and extend your review a touch. The only problem is that sometimes it takes the MERPs quite a while to add your reviews – sometimes weeks, due to the high volume.
The thing is that people need to be very clever to get as much into four words as they can, and these reviews can be very funny – filled with plays on words and puns galore. Of course, sometimes you might not understand the joke, but if you don’t then that’s your problem. Then again, if you want to understand a review that isn’t making sense to you, you can click on the movie name and from there click on the link to the IMDb site that’s provided. This may or may not reveal the missing joke. And of course, you may be very clever and write a review that the MERPs don’t get. Then they’ll reject your review. You do have recourse to this by giving them an explanation, but don’t expect them to automatically accept your clarification. Sometimes you just have to let it go and just delete your review.
Unfortunately, you will get no rewards from this site, except for the feeling of personal achievement when you’ve gotten a review added to the site, and even more so if people actually vote for your reviews. By the way, there’s no knowing who votes for you, and there’s no way to vote for your own reviews. You also can’t vote on any one review more than once. So you can’t cheat the system – you’re out there on your own with only your wits to declare.
Getting Noticed, Pleasing Crowds:
This site has lots of people writing reviews and tons of reviews on it. With so many people on the site, you’re probably wondering how you can get noticed. Well, when you get a review added it will show up either on the front page or inside the latest 100 reviews. Of course, if the site is active (meaning if the MERPs are working) those spots can fill up fast. One way I’ve found to get noticed is to get involved in the Four-um. (And like with the site itself, if you don’t join the site, you can’t contribute to the Four-um.) This is just an added bonus place for members to have some extra fun. They have all sorts of contests there you can join in on. For instance, they have a Four Word Tasteless Obituary (FWTO), where you can eulogize any actor, dead or alive. For instance, my eulogy for Kate Winslett was “Life didn’t go on…”. They also have a Four Word Porn Title (FWPT) contest, where they give you an actor and you have to make a porn film up. My best so far was for Michael Caine, which was “The Italian Blow Job”. These are weekly contests and as the end of the time come up, all participants have to vote on their three favorite. Again, all you get for winning one of these is personal Kudos.
There’s another contest where twice a week you can put five of your reviews up for consideration to the group and post the link. This is called the For Your Consideration – Treasure Hunt (FYCTH). To put reviews up for consideration all you do is click on your own “My Reviews” and you’ll see that underneath your reviews there’s the number of votes you have, an edit button and the word “cons”. If you click on “cons” then that changes to “uncons” and your review appears on the left under the “Considered” list. When people hit your name link, those five will show up first. If anyone wanted to see mine right now, they’d go to “http://www.fwfr.com/user.asp?id=8700” and what they’d see is my list of five consideration reviews and my statistics.
Another way to get noticed is to make an accolade. An accolade is a group of films that you put together on a particular theme. If someone gets reviews approved for all the films in your list, they win a virtual trophy. How does this get you noticed? Well, if any of your reviews are part of an accolade, you’ll see on the left hand of your “My fwfr” page that you’ve got accolades to do. If you go to that accolade you’ll see who made it, and can read and vote on their reviews. I’m not sure how many people actually vote that way, but its fun to see if you can achieve an accolade and just as much fun putting an accolade together, to see if anyone can achieve it.
There’s more I could tell you about this site, like your statistics, personal messaging other members, the new films list, and bonuses, but I think I’ve given you a whole lot of the basics and a good deal of extras that beginner members would need to know.
Four Word Conclusion Part:
You’re probably thinking that all of this sounds a bit complicated. Still, if you take a look at the site and fool around a little bit you’ll get the hang of it quite quickly. I’m afraid that on paper this site sounds far more complicated than it does in real life. Basically, this is just a fun site to visit and click around on – one that will make you laugh out loud or groan in pun-full pain. And if you sign up with the site and start submitting your own reviews, you’ll find out just how hard, or easy, it is to condense a film into as few words as possible. Maybe, if you visit this site you’ll see why I think a paragraph is more than enough plot summary for any film review – in fact, if you could make it to only four words, you’d be a real winner in my book. Highly recommended (but careful, it’s a highly addictive site)!
PS: You might be surprised to hear that some of the contents of this website will soon going to be published as a book. More about that in my upcoming interview with creator Benj Clews and his right hand man, Michael Onesi.