October 26:  Four Word Film Review Day

On this date in 1999, a web developer named Benj Clews had a brief but ingenious idea.  Clews wanted to create a web site for movie reviews, but he wanted it to be different.  His idea was to limit the movie reviews to four words or fewer.  That same year he created the website Four Word Film Review, which in the internet tradition of crowdsourcing, invites readers to submit their reviews.  Most of the reviews at www.fwfr.com are not so much reviews as they are new titles, but the fun comes in the wonderful wordplay that results. Puns, alliteration, and adaptations of other film titles are all a part of the creative writing game of making every word count.

For example, here are seven examples of reviews for the film Jaws:

Gulp fiction

Shaw shark retention

Jurassic shark

Shooting barrel in fish

Gil against island

Diet: fish and ships

Amity’s vile horror

Below are ten four word reviews. See if you can identify the titles before you look at the answers listed below:

  1. World’s survival chance: slim
  2. Lion, witch, wide road
  3. Twist ending sleighs me
  4. Song of sam
  5. Ford. Explorer.
  6. If the shoe fits . . .
  7. Humans make bad batteries
  8. Small medium, large twist
  9. Original space ‘n Vader.
  10. Fish finds friends, anemones (1)

Reading four word movie reviews is fun in itself, but there is also something to be learned here. Shakespeare said that ‘Brevity is the soul of wit.’ In other words, the essence of good writing is economy. As you read four word reviews and begin to write your own, you’ll learn that wordplay can be hard work, but the rewards are satisfying for both you, the writer, and your readers. Also read newspaper headlines and notice how headline writers work with the same kind of wordplay to attract the reader’s attention. A good title is vital, so when you write an essay, take some time to write a short, but sweet, title of four words or fewer.

Today’s Challenge:  Four Word – Fantastic Flair
What movie or book would you sum up in four words or fewer?  Create your own four word film reviews. But don’t stop with movies. Write a four word review of your favorite book. Read newspaper headlines and notice how headline writers work with the same kind of wordplay to attract the reader’s attention. A good title is vital, so when you write an essay, take some time to write a short, but sweet title of four words or fewer. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  The four most important words in the English language and in leadership are:  “What do you think?” – Bill Marriott

  1. Dr. Strangelove, 2. The Wizard of Oz, 3. Citizen Cane, 4. Casablanca, 5. Raiders of the Lost Ark, 6. Cinderella, 7. The Matrix, 8. The Sixth Sense, 9. Star Wars, 10. Finding Nemo

1-Clews, Benj and Michael Onesi.  Four Word Film Reviews.  Massachusetts:  Adams Media, 2010.

October 24: Alternative Titles Day

On this date in 1957 movie executive Sam Frey sent director Alfred Hitchcock a list of suggested alternative titles to the film that Hitchcock was shooting. The director has been in a continual battle with his studio, Paramount, over the movie’s title. Hitchcock was determined to go with the one-word title Vertigo; the studio, however, rejected the director’s choice. The list of 47 alternative titles was the studio’s last attempt to sway Hitchcock. It included the following suggested alternative titles:

Afraid To Love
The Face
The Mask and the Face
Shadow on the Stairs Shock
Two Kinds of Women

Vertigomovie restoration.jpgHitchcock stood firm with his choice, and when the film opened on May 8, 1958, the movie marquee read Vertigo. The film starring James Stewart is based on a French novel entitled D’entre les morts (“from among the dead”). Today it is recognized as one of the greatest psychological thrillers in Hollywood history (1).

Today’s Challenge: What’s the Word?
What would be your one-word alternative title to a classic book or film? Like Vertigo, three of the top grossing films of all time have one-word titles: Avatar, Titanic, and Jaws. The challenge of a one-word title is to evoke the quintessential core element that defines the film. Brainstorm some alternative titles to some classic book titles and film titles. You may not, however, use any of the words in the original title. The Wizard of Oz, for example, might be retitled “Rainbow” but cannot be retitled “Oz” or “Wizard.” Create a Top Ten list of your best alternative titles, and if you’re working with a group, hold an Alternative One-Word Title Contest. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day: ‘Vertigo’ was about a murder, a love affair, memory and loss, and a police detective with a work-related injury. The title, however, perfectly captures the queasy, off-balance feeling the film induces in the viewer, as well as the psychological state of the protagonist. -Christopher Johnson

1-Usher, Shaun. Lists of Note: An Eclectic Collection Deserving of a Wider Audience. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2015: 242.