Cinema Stanzas: Rhyming About Movies by Betty Jo Tucker

​Cinema Stanzas: Rhyming About Movies showcases film poems incorporated into the author's reviews of various movies ranging from big blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Martian and The Revenant to small independent films such as The Lives of Hamilton Fish, In the Dark and With Child. Genres represented in Cinema Stanzas include: drama, comedy, horror, mystery, musicals, thrillers, romance, sci-fi and action. Some rhymes in this book are a bit harsh, but no poets were harmed physically during its creation. Cinema Stanzas: Rhyming About Movies is meant to be a fun resource for fans of both movies and poetry.

I blame both filmmaker Robert Altman and tap dancing for my journey into the mysterious world of poetry. A rather incongruous pair, right? So I've got some explaining to do. For many, many years I functioned fairly well as a practicing movie addict and somewhat conventional film critic. Then one morning way back in 2002, I sat down to write a review of Altman's Gosford Park. As I looked at the blank page, my toes started tapping rhythmically - and to my great surprise, a poem about the movie danced onto the page. Here's the first of five verses:

You're invited for a weekend at a country estate.
Pack your finest duds, wouldn't want to be late.
Arriving in the drawing room, you're surrounded by class.
Who's who and what's what, you are dying to ask.
Doin' the Gosford Park shuffle.

Now, freeze frame that for a minute while we go back farther in time. During my teens, nextto the movies I loved tap dancing best. It got me through some very hard times while growing up. I enjoyed the beat of tap routines and even felt more in tune with the universe when I practiced or performed them. And the lyrics of those popular tunes I danced to fascinated me. 

No wonder my poems rely heavily on rhythm and rhyme and give me such pleasure while writing or reading them out loud. In fact, if you read the entire Gosford Park Shuffle poem out loud to me right now, I would be tap dancing along to the sound of your voice, especially if you emphasize the poem's beat and rhyme scheme.  

Although that review earned praise from a number of readers, I still continued writing traditional film critiques until A Prairie Home Companion, another Robert Altman film, appeared on the scene. Altman is one of my favorite directors, so it pained me to pan Gosford Park, even in a poem. Here was a chance to give this terrific director some well-deserved praise! And so Ode to A Prairie Home Companion came to life, accompanied by more toe-tapping.  

Since then, I've written 70 film poems - all included in Cinema Stanzas: Rhyming About Movies --which represents a small portion of over 1,000 reviews contributed to various outlets. However, because my film poem/reviews receive such enthusiastic feedback -- and because I enjoy writing them so much -- I find myself turning to this format more and more lately. Still, it remains a mystery how the poems come to me. I do, however, try to heed the following advice from a real poet. 

Tell all the truth but let it slant. Celebrate the ordinary and be choosy. - Emily Dickinson

Love the Poem-Review, Betty Jo! It's our very first review for Ovation and it comes in such a lovely and unexpected such a unique and unexpected shape. And yet it catches the spirit of the film, in some magical way! ---Henry Jaglom, Independent Filmmaker

May I have permission to read your poem about The Martian to my writing class? Great rhyming there. Top notch. --- Richard Jack Smith, Film Critic and Author of Incidental Gold

I always enjoy your reviews and now that you are adding poetry, they are enhanced. --- Ronald Hull, Poet and Author of The Kaleidoscope Effect

Well-done review of Spy. I loved the poem as well. --- Donna Maris, Author of Angel Falls.

I love your Ovation poem. --- Tanna Frederick, Actress

Cute Spy poem and great review! --- Olivia Wilder,Radio Host and Artist

Can we get you booked for your annual critic review and personal Oscar picks? I would also love for you to read your poems for your favorite and least favorite films of the year. --- Priscilla Leona, Producer and Host, QuestionReality Radio Show​
Betty Jo Tucker serves as editor/lead film critic for ReelTalk Movie Reviews. She also writes film commentary for the Colorado Senior Beacon and is the award-winning author of Confessions of a Movie Addict and Susan Sarandon: A True Maverick. She hosts a radio show, "Movie Addict Headquarters," on BlogTalkRadio. Using the pen names of Harry and Elizabeth Lawrence, Betty Jo and her husband Larry co-wrote It Had To Be Us, a romantic memoir now in the early stages of film adaptation. She is also a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society and the Online Film Critics Society.  
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than reading the beautiful prose of film critic Betty Jo Tucker. Her reviews and poems remind me of the finest things that cinema can be. Also, the writing proves doubly illuminating due to her life experiences which inform every turn of phrase. Only a handful of professional critics have mastered the transition from sobering review to artistic expression. Betty Jo is one of them. ~Richard Jack Smith
Betty Jo Tucker's Cinema Stanzas is a compilation of 70 movie reviews enhanced by her original poems of the approximately 200 movies that she and her husband Larry view each year. Following an amazing forward by Phil Hall, Betty Jo wastes no time and jumps right into the reviews, one right after the other.

Her writing style of each review is free-flowing and very easy to read. She really knows her actors, directors, screenwriters and other movie contributors very well, including details that make each review both interesting and helpful for someone who might wish to view the movie. She doesn't rate the movies with stars or up-and-down thumbs, but using various means she clearly lets us know her opinion of each film before see-through writing.

Last, but not least, are the poems that accompany each of these reviews. The beautifully rhyming poems are short and sweet and fit each movie like a glove. She has a natural knack for writing them that is reminiscent of Charles Osgood, delightful, sometimes quite funny, and certainly on point with the film, its characters, and plot.

Even if you don't go to the movies, Betty Jo's Cinema Stanzas is a delightful read just to pick up and browse.

~ Ronald W. Hull, author of War's End and six other books, including his autobiography.

In the world of cinema, it’s considered an honor to have your movie rhymed by “the movie addict.” This is a fun read and a great addition to any film lover’s collection. --- Publicist Gail Parenteau 

I found Cinema Stanzas funny, witty and charming as well as informative. It made me want to catch up on my movie watching. --- Comedian Nancy Lombardo

Betty Jo Tucker’s reviews and poems remind me of the finest things that cinema can be. Alongside her Confessions of a Movie AddictCinema Stanzas has become my bible for informative and entertaining reflections about mankind’s greatest art. --- Film Critic Richard Jack Smith 

Cinema Stanzas is excellent from the cover to the last page! --- Artist Judy Joy Jones 

Betty Jo Tucker has a flair for light comic poetry in the style of Ogden Nash. This distinctive touch enhances her reviews, providing a delightful way to consider film. --- Author Phil Hall