After doing research on countless infamous film critics from the likes of Robert Ebert to Adrian Martin, I realised that though they are all remarkable and renowned for their work, there wasn’t much more I could say about them that hasn’t already been said. It is for this reason that I have decided to focus on the lesser known film criticism work of one of my favourite everyday critics; Chloe Leeson.
Chloe Leeson is the founder and editor of the film criticism blog entitled Screen Queens, alongside fellow Rotten Tomatoes published critics Hannah Ryan and Millicent Thomas. Screen Queens is a blog created and written with a specific focus on the exposure of women-centric and women-made films and Leeson posts a wide range of content ranging from “feminist criticism to mixes and everything in between.” (Leeson, 2018)
Leeson first captured my interest with her film criticism article on Poltergeist (2015). After watching the film myself, I found that I couldn’t quite put into words how I felt about it, however Leeson’s article managed to successfully highlight the main themes of that film in just the interesting title of her piece: ‘Poltergeist: On squirrels, tropes and the standard haunted house’. After looking in to more of her work I found that this type of three-themed summary in the title was a common motif for all of her pieces. This type of introduction is incredibly effective as it immediately captures the reader’s attention and highlights the main points of her piece in a way that makes you question themes you never thought of while watching the film, such as just how big of a role squirrels played in Poltergeist.
A further aspect of Leeson’s critical writing style that stood out to me is that her phrasing of her analysis of the films were not overly wordy or pretentious. Leeson’s writing is filled with casual language, anecdotes and occasional swear words and she often draws comparisons to help the reader visualise what she means. This is seen in the Carrie (2013) film criticism where she explains “It was taking the DePalma adaptation, sprinkling a little glitter on it and adding Vampire Weekend to the soundtrack” (Leeson, 2018). By using these types of comparisons to describe her ideas, Leeson puts her own voice into the piece she is writing and this allows the viewer to connect with her and understand a little more about her with each article.
As Screen Queens highlights, Leeson’s writing focuses on feminism in film, therefore it is no surprise that Leeson has an entire section on her blog dedicated to films directed by women. With the use of the hashtag #directedbywomen, Leeson posts reviews on many controversial films, such as Obvious Child (2014) directed by Gillian Robespierre. The article on this film describes the topical abortion narrative as “A very real, tangible and gendered experience is politicised and continues to act as a means to restrict women’s rights.” (McNaughton, 2018). The fact that Leeson allows for a safe blog space that discusses the importance of women’s issue in films is a huge step-forward for women in the industry.
What really sets Leeson apart from other film critics and reviewers, Leeson does not focus on the content or summarise the film but rather highlights the significances and connotations behind each film. This can be seen in her piece on Michael Inside (2018) as she highlights that the film “tackles the disturbing undercurrents of organised criminality and the unforgiving prison cycle on a recognisable young boy that could easily be living at the end of your street. Berry’s social realist picture is an eye-opening and affecting view of the problems facing working class Irish youth today” (2018).
Leeson’s analysis allows her to identify the issues in each film and discuss them in way that shows people that film criticism is much more than just watching movies and talking about them. Her career may only be young however her writing and social awareness is far beyond her years.
Leeson, C 2018, About, Screen Queens, viewed 20 September 2018 <https://screen-queens.com/about-us/>
Leeson, C 2015, Poltergeist (2015): On squirrels, tropes and the standard haunted house, Screen Queens, blog post, 22 May, viewed 20 September 2018, < https://screen-queens.com/2015/05/22/review-poltergeist-2015-on-squirrels-tropes-and-the-standard-haunted-house/>
Leeson, C 2013, CARRIE REVIEW: On Cyberbullying, Vengeance and….Vampire Weekend?, Screen Queens, blog post, 8 December, viewed 20 September 2018, < https://screen-queens.com/2013/12/08/carrie-review-on-cyberbullying-vengeance-and-vampire-weekend/>.
Mcnaughton, C 2018, #DirectedByWomen Obvious Child: Abortion as the subject of a romantic comedy, Screen Queens, blog post, 12 September, viewed 20 September 2018, < https://screen-queens.com/2018/09/12/directedbywomen-obvious-child-abortion-as-the-subject-of-a-romantic-comedy/>
Leeson, C 2018, Michael Inside- Stripped-back Irish prison drama is a forceful exploration of the cycle and toll of incarceration, Screen Queens, blog post, 13 September, viewed 20 September 2018, < https://screen-queens.com/2018/09/13/review-michael-inside-stripped-back-irish-prison-drama-is-a-forceful-exploration-of-the-cycle-and-toll-of-incarceration/>.