Want some weird advice?

You want some weird advice? Go to YouTube and watch Cinemasins. They're a comedy channel that nitpicks (or "sins") popular movies. A lot of the sins are jokes, but just as many are pointing out real problems the movie has. If a character does or says something stupid, they'll bring it up. If they're relying too heavily on cliches, they'll say so. One of their most popular running gags is when people run away from something rather than running to the side and out of its way, to which they say "Looks like ____ went to the Prometheus School of Running Away from Things." How does this help you? I've been watching them for years, and now whenever I write I find myself thinking "If this were a movie, what would Cinemasins say about this part?" That helps me weed out the little nitpicky problems they like to complain about. It doesn't help fill in plot holes or fix my characters, but if you fix enough little things it can still feel like a big thing, you know?

Personally, I would hesitate to use CinemaSins as a bar for helpful criticism.

You want some real nitpickery, see the Everything Wrong With Everything Wrong With videos. :P

The channels that get their knickers in a twist over Cinemasins crack me up. Cinemasins isn't a review channel, it's a comedy channel, and they're very up front about it. Trying to discredit them is like trying to discredit MST3K or South Park.

I don't like CinemaSins personally. I'm not a fan of that style of videos.

I like criticisms in the form of video essays. I've found Lindsay Ellis quite the darling to watch when it comes to film.

Honestly, I can't think of a worse place to look for writing advice than CinemaSins.

It'd be one thing if CinemaSins just pointed out goofs or inconsistencies or plot holes. It's another when they misinterpret films, forget basic things, actively contradict what is being said or shown, and/or deliberately engage with a text in what amounts to bad faith. It's worse when they mix legitimate issues in with issues that they make up on the spot.

In fact, given that CinemaSins is generally based around a sort of willful blindness to the conventions of film, I feel it'd be an easy enough argument that, in fact, looking to their methodology would make anyone a /worse/ writer as it erodes the critical thinking processes that allows someone to understand and comprehend metaphor, subtext, allusions, thematics... I could go on.

I'm a relentless critic, but constant criticism doesn't necessarily prove anything and, more to the point, there's an art to critique. You need to stand by it, you need to be sincere. Now, of course, we live in an age where the reigning zeitgeist is a sort of ironic detachment, which CinemaSins embodies: the fact the creator backpedals and goes straight to 'actually, we're a comedy channel' (they're not) when confronted is proof of that.

For example, imagine if someone questioned my reveiws here and I immediately went to, say, 'oh, come on, I'm just playing a character of a nitpicky serial reader, I'm doing this for comedy, I'm not actually reviewing...' And then I just kept doing it.

For example, what's wrong with a character saying or doing something stupid? What're the criteria? What if the character is /supposed/ to say or do something stupid and it is, in fact, intentional? What's wrong with cliches? They're unoriginal, of course, but originality is a matter of perspective. A cliche is a tool, it can be used well or it can be used poorly.

On reflection, I suppose I should say that it's good to get writing advice where you can get it, and if it helps you it helps you, but you also need to be careful about the mindset the advice cultivates. What is the sort of film that CinemaSins would say is good? The answer is, of course, none of them - and that's the problem.

Well, if you want a YouTube channel that presents writing advice/critique in a humorous way, you could do worse than this one.

I'd also add that CinemaSins for all it's fun quite frequently picks apart very well written and well structured movies for not adhering to a very specific point of view. Taking writing advice from that is like looking at cracked to find out what your political leanings should be. Or indeed taking your common sense from South Park.

Which isn't so much discrediting it as saying that a comedic channel, as you so rightfully point out, isn't exactly a critique or review channel.

Terrible Writing Advice however, is indeed quite terrible. In a good way. Which I guess makes it un-terrible?

Edit: What I sometimes find quite jarring about Lindsay Ellis (and I realize this is coming from me being strictly non-american) is her tendency to take many movies and contexts into account only insofar they are connected to US-traditions. She is good, no question about that, and has many interesting insights for topics that are quite complicated. But she tends to extrapolate a very specific american-centric-liberal view into a universal view. Which at least in her review of Shape of Water and Bright I found a bit disappointing. Worth arguing over, but disappointing nonetheless.

Terrible writing advice is the best.

lol cinema sins is the last place anyone should be getting advice

I look at it this way: fixing the things Cinemasins complains about won't fix the book by any means. Just like ironing out a single wrinkle in a really wrinkled blanket won't make it look better. But if I iron this wrinkle, then that wrinkle, and those wrinkles, eventually the effect becomes noticeable. I'll still have to patch those big holes in the fabric eventually, but ironing out the wrinkles DOES still help make it look better.

Attempting to 'fix' anything cinemasins would complain about would make even more of a mess, at best you end up with a bland boring product.


That's the director of a movie CS did actually responding. He's a better source than I am as to why their videos don't really provide anything of actual value to film discourse and discussion. I never watched the movie myself, but I can understand the frustrations that must come from someone taking your work and start blatantly lying about the content in order to make a couple bucks off some ad revenue.

@nippoten, that guy is a douche. Co.plaining about being featured on Cinemasins is like complaining about how you were depicted in SNL's Celebrity Jeopardy skit. It's all for fun and if you're actually offended by it then you're the one with a problem.

And even if they're funny nitpicks, CS does still pick up on a lot of real, albeit minor issues. Like overuse of cliches, characters knowing things they shouldn't know, or hearing things they were too far away to hear. Things that sacrifice feeling like real character actions or interactions for the sake of pointless, unnecessary drama.

He wasn't complaining about being featured on CS, he's venting frustrations about the fact that they had gotten some if not many details wrong about the film, like no other scene having rain despite their claim that there were other key scenes that have rain, or actually mistaking the name of a character. They were reaches or cheap shots literally designed to pad out the video because the system YouTube has in place favors longer form content. And the farther you have to reach to get something, whatever you get back is proportionally lesser in value.

Here's direct quotes from the director as well:

'I love film criticism and I love reading negative reviews if the author makes compelling and well written arguments.'

'To anyone who thinks this video makes me mad or hurts me. It doesn't. I just wanted to point out a few obvious examples that are just wrong.'

Doesn't really sound like complaining to me.

Humor is subjective, and so are nitpicks. Try to take out every one you perceive, and someone is going to find more that you think aren't conducive to improving the work, because didn't you just get them all? It's an downward spiral that no one wins and improves nothing.

Well, what now, AdamBolander? Is CinemaSins just a comedic channel or do they provide commentary on "real issues"? You can't have your cake and eat it.

Not saying CinemaSins is not a nice channel or anything like that, they do funny videos and I do enjoy them, but they have a very, very narrow and specific focus. Kind of like people coming from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality to Worm and complaining about less than pitch-perfect-scientific treatment of the supernatural. Which is just plain useless. I don't watch Marvel Movies for their gritty realistic treatment of power struggles in society and I don't watch Star Wars for a realistic treatment on science and space.

Realism is not the be all end all, or every movie would look like a Dogme 95 movie. And thank god they don't. Some stuff in stories and movies is there to set the focus somewhere else - and lots of that is "sinned" by CinemaSins who take a narrow and sometimes dogmatic view of realism which isn't necessarily productive for entertainment. Or even most kinds of movies. God, that would be boring.

And just a friendly reminder: Please don't start name calling. You do you, and if you get something out of the channel, that's awesome. But don't go around calling people responding to criticism in a constructive way douches. Especially not if they are content creators.

Why can't it be both? Nitpicking is their thing. They dig for problems and inconsistencies that normal viewers won't even notice or care about. That makes them funny because they're making mountains out of molehills. But if you're a writer who wants to tell the best story possible, knowing those nitpicks and now to work around them might be somewhat interesting.

Comedy can be a way of providing criticism, sure. The thing with CS is that they don't do that. Humor requires at least some tether to reality for it to work, not always, but in the case of CS, since they're pulling directly from a work as a foundation for their jokes, there has to be some kind of baseline level of accuracy. But as that director I linked showed, and plenty of other videos and archives can attest to, they reach or outright have to get things wrong in order to develop a joke. They make up problems and inconsistencies in order to have a video out for that week. So, if there's no basis for their humor, where are the jokes coming from? If they can't get that right, it's going to be a lot harder to convince someone CS has any value as far as film criticism goes. The level of credibility is simply not there.

However, the heart of the thread isn't CinemaSins, at least I don't think so. My best guess is the main point is to be wary of what audiences might or might not nitpick? Correct me if I'm wrong on that. And sure, keeping in mind the small but still crucial details of a story is important, especially when you're writing one, but trying to get ahead of your audience is tricky, and you are never going to be able to fully or accurately guess what the reception is going to be. Focusing on the small stuff too much, and it's easy to forget the bigger picture.

As far as the topic of nitpicks goes, especially the minuscule, made up ones by the likes of CS, they're hardly worth thinking over. Like you said yourself, normal viewers won't even notice or care.

They don't dig just for problems and inconsistencies that normal viewers won't notice or care about, and honestly, I'd be curious to see a video where they actually did -- they make them up.

Here, I'll do a CinemaSins take on Greedo meeting Han Solo in Mos Eisley. "Ding! This guy doesn't just immediately shoot Han Solo despite super obviously threatening to? Jabba must hire some pretty terrible bounty hunters... Ding! One-liner before shooting someone cliche." Or we can hop a few minutes earlier to Luke and the bad guys at the bar. "Ding! Naive young person bumps into two bad guys cliche." Let's go to the start of the film. "Ding! Empire doesn't just shoot down the escape pod because 'no lifeforms' despite the fact droids exist."

If you followed this 'advice', you'd end up halfway down this path where every character is this absurd hyper-rational decision engine and not a character. Now, to be fair, a lot of serials do fall into this trap but it's probably because texts are approached with this easier, surface-level approach from the louder members of the audience.

You say things like: "Like overuse of cliches, characters knowing things they shouldn't know, or hearing things they were too far away to hear. Things that sacrifice feeling like real character actions or interactions for the sake of pointless, unnecessary drama" but don't actually talk about what any of this means, or what a story looks like without them.

This guy breaks it down pretty well: https://youtu.be/ELEAsGoP-5I

I mean, its fine to give your work another look through and fix things you find troublesome, but people are always going to find the most miniscule thing to nitpick or misinterpret no matter how tight the work.

Like I said, people who bash CS crack me up. They're a comedy channel that sometimes makes good points about the movies they're "reviewing" but people still get sticks up their butts because the silly, shallow comedy show that never pretends to be anything but a silly, shallow comedy show poked fun at their favorite movie. If you don't like it, that's fine. But please get off your high horse and quit pretending you hate it because it's morally bad or crap like that.