Ben Neumann ’14

2002 saw the release of three of the most disappointing movies of my lifetime: Men in Black II, Star Wars Episode II, and Die Another Day.  As a ten-year-old already fascinated by movies, I hadn’t yet experienced disappointment at the cinema, so that year was a bit of a baptism by fire for me. At first I refused to acknowledge how bad those movies were, still clouded by the haze of my previous anticipation. Then, when reality set in, I felt betrayed: why did those movies build me up just to let me down?

I began investigating why I liked or didn’t like certain movies and tracing how each movie I saw achieved its emotional and intellectual effect on me. In other words, I became a critic. For years, Rotten Tomatoes was my go-to websites, and in high school I was the official film critic of the school newspaper. During my first year at Princeton, however, I had an epiphany: If I fancy myself such a movie expert, why don’t I apply my so-called knowledge to making actual movies?

Three years, four internships, and a few screenplays and short films later, I’ve decided to pursue a career as a literary agent or development executive after I graduate. I’ve realized that I’m more of a fan than an artist, so I want to help provide filmmakers the support and resources they need to do what they do best. But before I do, I’m really excited to return to criticism having gained inside knowledge how the sausage is made. Also, I’ve fallen in love with television over the past three years but haven’t had a chance to explore the medium critically until now.

I don’t expect every movie to be Casablanca or every show to be The Wire; instead, I try and judge a work based on whether it achieves what it sets out to do, be it lowbrow comedy or serious drama. I’m also a bit of a fanboy when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy, but I never give something a free pass just because I’m excited to see it, although the ten year old inside me always tries.

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A Film and Television Review