The Haiku Review Template

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Lifting Fog will soon be no more. But should some poor sap want to perpetuate the vaunted “Haiku Review,” we have the tools you need to make it happen. What value is wisdom not passed on?

When we started out, man…we had dreams. Lifting Fog was going to become a true cultural gathering place, a digital coffee shop that TRANSCENDED “blog.” You wouldn’t check out Lifting Fog; you’d just be stuck in it whether you wanted to or not. Like real fog! Or dogshit!

Cultural historians will confirm this never happened. But despite our just not being that good at blogging, we did manage to launch a few recurring features. “The McCrazy Files” charted all the batshit confrontations that have always and will always occur at fast food restaurants. Five times “Lifting Fog Live” took us outside our living rooms and toward events with other human beings, mostly concerts.

Then there’s the Haiku Review™.

Now, a typical (Henning) non-review post is born through pretty rigid routine. On a designated “blogging day*,” I’ll first pop over to This LA Life. “Did you even spell-check this, Tim, you neanderthal?” I’ll say to the sad pit in my stomach. From there it’s on to major news sites before quickly detouring to Videogum and, more recently, that Whatshouldwecallme Tumblr. Laughs. I stare at the clock. Close and re-open Gmail 40 times. Then in the span of about fifteen minutes I write a post about library bums or something. The last ten of those minutes are spent coming up with an accompanying tweet.

*Which has never, ever happened

A Haiku Review™ is, if it’s even possible, more formulaic than that. Yes, we’ve reviewed 30+ movies of varying types and genres. But look closer at those posts. Now closer. Close-lier. Boiled down to their essential elements, they are all pretty much the goddamn same.

Haiku Review: ‘Generic Whatever Movie’

Say something funny
Follow up with a bon mot
Haikus 101!

This first paragraph attempts to relate some personal experience or long-held movie “truism” to the film at hand, in this case ‘Generic Whatever Movie’. Since many readers will not want to click past the jump to follow, these few sentences are your best or only chance to say what you have to say. Make some BIG, combative claims (“You heard wrong — ‘Citizen Kane’ is, in fact, an abomination”) while you compare this movie to other movies that may or may not be anything like it. ‘Precious’ joke. Try to keep the Star Wars references to a minimum — you can throw some in later.

(Keep reading!)

Next comes PLOT, which you’re free to offset with an annoyingly self-deprecating “So — the plot” or “By now you’ve heard exactly what happens in this movie, but for the sake of…” Try it on! Relate the action of the movie as simply — and, if you’re feeling spicy, as erroneouslyas possible, reducing major dramatic turns to misguided jokes about Kony2012.  Something something masturbation. “And that’s when you realize what the movie’s really about” is a great way to keep up momentum even if it’s not at all true.

NOW, two paragraphs in, you’re going to want a picture of some kind. People hate all that boring text with nothing to break it up. Give them something good! (And for GOD’S SAKE caption it.)

Eyebrows!

Any reader that has made it this far is by now hooked on your every word, so you’ve got a little wiggle room with your first true “review” paragraph. Spend some time dancing around this thing, which hopefully you’ve seen. Talk about something that was “astonishing for its cinematic power” or, conversely, how “no one is seeing this movie for what it truly is.” Which direction you take — and there ARE others — depends on what kind of movie you hopefully saw. Something like ‘Bridesmaids’ with near universal acclaim is just BEGGING for a contradictory Haiku Review™. Something like ‘Small Micronesian Indie Comedy’ can only be accompanied by the expression “quietly revolutionary.” There’s creative freedom with these reviews, sure, but it’s 95% math.

(Pause for assenting reader nod.)

You’ve discussed the movie in pretty general terms up to this point. Now it’s time for some SCENE ANALYSIS, and the name-dropping of a film theorist of your choosing. (Bazin is safe but dependable; Kracauer might be off-putting to some of your readers. Use your judgment.) If you’re not sure what scene to dig into, think: which one had the most camera shit going on? Which was the yell-iest? Neither will let you down. Describe the scene you’ve chosen in insane detail: what kind of pants the actors are wearing, how much purple is in the shot (“that there’s no purple anywhere in the shot tells us everything about these characters”), etc. Role-play for a second and imagine yourself in the scene. What would you say to Robert Pattinson? How would your eyes twitch? You’re free to make this another paragraph entirely if you come up with some really weird material.

“HOLD UP!” you shout. “Shouldn’t I warn the reader about any spoilers here? Aren’t I ruining the movie by revealing that Trevor killed the senator’s wife, and used the money he stole to finance his sex-change operation?” First, great question. And second — NO. The Haiku Review is a “review” in title only. What you write under that banner…it’s so much more. To cram in a SPOILER ALERT is to babyproof your criticism, and this is no place for babies. This is a coffee shop for cineastes.

Picture #2. ‘Jersey Shore’ reference if you can make one.

"Cabs ah heeeyahhh!!"

2-3 paragraphs separate you from the end of this review which, by now, you’ve gotten totally sick of. But you still owe your readers quality film deconstruction! When you’re tired, you know it’s time to start throwing out every word and expression in your bullshit arsenal. Don’t have any? Here, take mine!

  • “rife with”
  • “borderline European”
  • “never plays it safe”
  • “what does this work ask of us?”
  • “glamorizing an undeniably heinous act”
  • “step outside of yourself for one second”
  • “should you decide to take a trip down the rabbit hole…”
  • “esoteric”

It’s basically Magne-poetry at this point. Keep rearranging until something sounds okay.

And finally, the conclusion. Rather than tie all those loose threads above into a coherent final statement, it’s far easier to open with an ellipses (…) or slate-wiping shout (“ALL THAT SAID…”) that negates or otherwise calls into question everything you’ve just written. Readers appreciate a writer who’s right there with them and never arrives at a definitive conclusion. It’s like an open-ended conversation!

You're free to just do whatever with this last picture.

THERE. You’ve successfully written a Lifting Fog-branded Haiku Review™, and continued a grand tradition of half-assed inquiry, ill-informed journalism, and just wrong cultural analysis. You’re my son now. And I love you.

One more note: if you’re following Lifting Fog’s timeliness standards and find yourself writing this review 6 or even 18 months after the movie was released, you’ll need to fight the voice in your head that says “this is no longer relevant.” Kill it with something, maybe alcohol, and press on. The people need to know.

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