Ty Burr: Film Critic

Professional explains how he does what he does


By screenshot

Ty Burr is a movie critic for the Boston Globe.

Justin Nguyen, reporter

Journalists cover a wide variety of subjects. Ty Burr, a Boston Globe journalist, focuses on movie reviews.

Burr spoke to scholastic journalists in spring 2020 while everyone was at home because of the coronavirus.

Burr said writing articles critiquing films is a process. First is research. Burr said he watches a movie somewhere between a day or two weeks before the review has to be turned in. Watching a movie as a movie critic requires you to focus on two things at the same time.

He focuses on the movie as an audience member.

“I want the movie to happen to me the way it happens to you, the way it happens to anybody going into the theater wherever you see it. Just let it do what it wants to do and not think about it,” Burr said. 

The other half of his brain, however, is taking mental notes, like  “Hmm. That performance is really good.”

After watching the movie, Burr said he has to think about how the information he has received from watching the movie as an audience member and a critic will be incorporated into an article. He must analyze the film, “ figure out what standard the movie is setting itself to meet and decide if the movie has truly met those standards.” 

“If it wants to be just a really scary horror movie with nothing else on its mind, is it a really good scary horror movie with nothing else on its mind?” Burr said.

He said movie reviewers must take a position on the movie because a movie review is an editorial after all.

Beyond his opinion, Burr said he must discuss the plot while avoiding spoilers as much as possible. Information and background should also be included in the article. The writer has to be considerate about the reader, such as thinking about if the reader is going to watch the movie with their kids. This information adds to the review by providing a base that could help the reader understand the movie more. This way, the article benefits the reader instead of them just hearing the writer’s opinions.

He said people tend to think being a movie reviewer is easy.

“Everybody thinks they can write a review. Everybody’s a critic. You come out of a movie, you talk to your friends about it, you’re engaging in criticism,” Burr said. “What I try and do is also offer a lot of information for the reader.”

Burr summarized how a movie review should be written by comparing the task to a taco.

“I try to think of a review as a subjective opinion in a taco wrapper of objective context,” Burr said.