Hooked on Movies aims to change face of film criticism

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Photo Credit: Nathan Dinh | Daily Texan Staff

Many creators’ greatest ideas come from everyday mishaps or friendly conversations. For radio-television-film junior Ben Lively, one of his greatest ideas came from an online article about film criticism’s unvaried demographics.

“For a job that you would expect to require diversity, it really didn’t show in the demographics,” Lively said. “People our age are some of the biggest demographics to see movies, and it should be more diverse than just white guys.”

Lively then brought this info to business junior and high school friend Zac Powell, who also saw fault and potential in this startling information. Their collaborative efforts produced Hooked on Movies, an online platform officially launched on July 7, where students from all walks of life can contribute to the homogenous field of film criticism. Powell, who serves alongside vice president of media Lively as Hooked on Movies’ president, said that the organization’s reviews also hope to serve as a guide for students weary to spend money on potentially dissatisfying films.

“Our money and our time are more valuable than they have been ever before,” Powell said. “If you have people that align with some of you, you can at least have a bit of a better idea that this will be worth my time, this will be worth my money.”

Only requiring college enrollment and two reviews a month, Hooked on Movies’ participation isn’t limited to just UT students. Students from at least seven universities, such as Oklahoma State and Florida State, contribute to the group’s growing pool of reviews, an aspect that Powell said adds to their mission of diversity. 

“If we have on a broad level everyone that’s reviewing just from UT-Austin, they will still be somewhat influenced by what Austin brings,” Powell said. “But then, if you get people from different southern schools, northeastern schools or California schools, those are going to bring different perspectives as well.”

Hannah Mathes, radio-television-film and public relations sophomore and Hooked on Movies director of social media, said the collective’s setup allows her to express herself without fearing judgment from other film critics. 

“I can feel comfortable to like a movie that isn’t genius but I can say, ‘Hey, this is worth a watch because I enjoyed it’ or ‘I learned something from it,’” Mathes said. “It’s not about the camera lens or the editing software — it’s about connecting to people.” 

Breanna Ellis, biology sophomore and Hooked on Movies staff writer, said that the platform gives her creative opportunities that her high school did not.

“There’s not a formula of what a review is supposed to look like in high school,” Ellis said. “I feel like I have more freedom to actually be honest.”

Despite their success, Powell worries that a limited film background might deter potential writers from applying for Hooked on Movies. To dispel their concerns, Powell said that a lack of film expertise is exactly what they’re looking for. 

“We’re not looking for established critics,” Powell said. “We’re looking for the average college student or the average moviegoer. If you’re worried that you’re not as well-versed in movies or you’ve never really done film criticism for, that’s exactly who we’re looking for for this site.”