Introduction and Methodology
I have a professor here at Laurier who despises Roger Ebert. While he doesn’t think that Ebert was totally useless as a critic, he, as only few have, regards not only Ebert, but appraisal film criticism as a wholly useless “art.” During one of the first classes I had with him he bemoaned a few critics whose reviews from Cannes were scaled on a rating system out of 100. He questioned what the difference between a 65 and a 68 was. Since, I can’t help but think about my own rating system and how absolutely arbitrary it is. I feel that the deeper down the rabbit hole I go with film studies and the higher standard I hold myself to in all writing I do on film, the more sound my rating system has to be. So with that, I used to be filled with the ramblings of someone trying to codify a system that is inherently flawed. And create a system is based in a question; how do you rate art?
I tried a letter grading method (which I now think is pretty dumb) and a star system out of 5 and then one out of 4 which ran concurrently with a more complicated rating system out of 100. But I kept coming back to that prof in my head. I remember when he was talking about Ebert, one of the things he said was that he didn’t care if we liked the film because “I don’t know what that means.” He wanted us to stop thinking about quantifiable ways of dealing with art and to instead look at qualitative ways of dealing with it. And now I’ve taken that to heart and will simplify my model. I’ve gotten rid of my percent system and will take my 4 star system and reclassify it as a system out of 10. I say reclassify because when you think of it, the 4 star system actually had nine ratings (0, 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, and 4) so moving it to a system out of 10 makes things significantly clearer and easier.
1. No film gets a 10 before a second viewing
2. Primary ratings are reactionary
3. Secondary ratings are comparative by director, year, genre, and franchise (if applicable)
4. Comparing ratings between genres is forbidden
10 – Master Class; this requires at least one second viewing before being achieved and is considered the best work of a director, year, genre, or franchise
9 – Extraordinary; highest potential rating for a first viewing and requires best of director, year, genre, franchise qualities
8 – Great; requires technical proficiency, narrative intrigue, and thematic content that create a coherent, interesting, and enjoyable cinematic experience
7 – Good; this requires an enjoyable cinematic experience that cannot rise above generic mediocrity
6 – Decent; this requires an enjoyable film going experience with significant flaws
5 – Troubled; this requires significant positive qualities which are dragged down by overall ineptitude
4 – Inept; this requires two of the following three categories to be drastically problematic: technical proficiency, narrative intrigue, or thematic content
3 – Unenjoyable; this requires a general dissatisfaction with the viewing experience in spite of certain positive qualities
2 – Unpleasent; this requires significant flaws in technical, narrative, or thematic reasoning to be merited
1 – Unwatcheable; this would require a second viewing as well except the thought of doing so is repulsive
Right now I’m in the process of fully adopting this system but I’m enjoying how it removes the flaws in thinking that a four star system fosters.