Popular Culture Journalism (JOUR494): Class recap for Dec. 3 — reviewing the reviewers

Continuing my end-of-semester metaphor — this is what it’s like:

Today, however, we turned our attention to the criticism/reviews that students filed this semester. The TV recappers — Heather Jurva, Levi Hunt, Caitlyn Walsh — had to file five, 500-word recaps of consecutive episodes, and did so quite ably. Levi nitpicked “The Walking Dead,” even as he praised it; Caitlyn hilariously broke down this extra-loony season of “Dexter”; and Heather called “American Horror Story” on its own BS and took it to task for being such a mess this season.

We moved on to the reviews: Three “Lincoln” reviews, plus “Red Dawn,” “Looper,” “Trouble with the Curve,” “Rise of the Guardians” and “Life of Pi.”

Albums? Yes — Mumford & Sons, Taylor Swift, Philip Phillips, Lupe Fiasco and the Evens.

The rest? An art exhibit called “Evanescent”; a novel called “Storm Dancer”; the Pearl Jam concert to get votes for Montana Sen. Jon Tester; Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Kennedy” and, last but not least, an energetic review of “Borderlands 2,” a video game, from Tom Holm.

That’s just a sampling of what was turned in on Oct. 3 and Nov. 26. The reviews were okay — and I gave full credit to students for turning them in — but only two or three truly stood out. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Writing reviews is hard, hard work. It’s one of those jobs that looks a whole lot easier than it is. Still, I encourage everyone to keep honing their critical skills. In one way or another, you’re going to need it — maybe not as a paid cultural critic, but certainly in this crazy-mixed-up world we live in, with its Yelp!-style consumer reviews, etc. Having an articulate, meaningful opinion is the currency in this culture, whether you’re in the pages of the New Yorker or trying to explain your reaction to a presentation in a business meeting. Abstractions (“it was good”; “that was awesome”) are more empty than ever. People get ahead now by being sharp and by keeping up.

For Wednesday, Dec. 5: Our last class. Bring Kleenex. But most of all, file your final assignment no later than 5 p.m.

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