Today I thought I would share a personal story of mine. People have asked me what got me into reviewing films. I was introduced to watching movies from my parents as they would rent me films they thought I would enjoy as a kid. Some of these films included classics like the Universal Monster series or bombs like Kazaam. My parents never gave me a full opinion on what they liked or disliked so I had to figure it out on my own. While I was figuring out what makes a film good or not, my parents encouraged me in my writing. As a kid one of my favorite times in school was being able to write in a journal. So, growing up I never saw me combining the two.
I remember I was at my local library one day browsing through the various sections and I ended up in a section talking about films. While glancing the shelves, something caught my eye, it was Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide. I grabbed it from the shelf and opened the book to skim the various pages. In it I saw all these titles of all the films he had seen. To say I was impressed was an understatement. I thought to myself, this guy has watched a lot of movies! I couldn’t believe at how big the book was and how tiny the print on the pages were. Not only did he have all the films listed in alphabetical order, he gave his opinion on them all! As a kid, I thought this was amazing! Like I’ve said I never really knew about film critics and I immediately took the book to checkout and started reading it on the way home.
At that moment, I finally realized there were people out there that gave their views on certain films. What I liked about Leonard Maltin was that his reviews were short and to the point. He also had the basic star grading system and for the very worst he would give it a bomb grade. I knew it had to be horrible if it didn’t receive any stars! To me he had to be since he had a giant book to fill and there were new movies coming out every year. I couldn’t get enough of the guide and kept checking it out from the library when I could. That guide inspired me to start reviewing the movies I watched myself. I got out my pencil and some paper and started writing film reviews. If I needed an actor or director reference I would use the guide because the guide had it all.
So, what does this all mean? Leonard Maltin was the inspiration I needed to get into making film reviews. I don’t think I would’ve ever gotten started writing reviews if I didn’t pick up his guide from the library that day. To me he was knowledgeable and had seen a lot which impressed me as a kid. If I needed a second opinion on something I would go to the guide for something. I remember watching a movie with my family and would always go “Let’s see what Leonard Maltin thinks!”
Sadly 2015 was the final year his movie guide was released. Due to the rise of the social media age, not many go out and buy film review books. He reviews films on his website and runs a great podcast with his daughter called Maltin On Movies. He’s done lots of work for various other magazines, television channels, and has written many interesting books on film. Check out his work if you haven’t and he will always be my favorite film critic.