I think it's high time that I gave an explanation for how I rate movies.
We're all familiar with the 5-star system, but I meet with objections over the low stars that I frequently give movies...even if I enjoyed the film! So I thought it would be helpful to give an explanation. After all, if you don't understand my philosophy behind the stars, telling you how many I give a movie won't be helpful.
I have observed that the standard course of action is to start a grade at the top. E.g., you begin with 100 points on a test and whenever you get a question incorrect, points are deducted from your grade. If you get every question on a test wrong, you will not have a zero. You will have a failing grade, but you will likely have a grade that rests in the 50s.
A grade of 50 (out of 100) ought to indicate that you correctly answered - that you know half of the material. Instead, it means you learned nothing?
Another example. I used to judge debates, seeing the problems with the aforementioned system, I determined I would start every debater with 3 stars in rating their effectiveness. (There were several components to this.) I figured: 3 out of 5 stars is an average presentation and argument, if I start them there they can earn additional points, or lose points. I thought to myself - at least then, the stand out debaters will shine in their ratings, instead of being lost in the crowd of average speakers who didn't do anything wrong, but weren't stellar.
After each debate we rated, remarked, and moved on. The sheets were turned in, and there was no changing our ratings or comments. But this system still had problems - the folks who did better than average, did a pretty good job, got high marks ... and then came the one or two that really stood out in excellence. I was forced to give them the same ranking as the pretty-goods. I couldn't give them more than 5 stars.
It was shortly after this experience that I decided everyone should start with nothing and that ever star would have to be earned. In judging, there are sometimes those who really bomb and you can't give them worse than one star, so it's not perfect. With movies, I can definitely give less than one star. So far, I've only done that once. I hope I don't have to again.
The movie market is seemingly flooded with 4 and 5 star movies. If there are really that many that are that good then the scale should be adjusted. In the time to date that I have been reviewing movies on my blog, I have never given out a 5 star review. I have given out 4 star reviews (3 of them), and 3 placed somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. 3 have 3 stars, and 3 are between 2 and 3 stars. (If you're counting, that's a total of 12 movies that rate higher than a 2.0. Out of 25 films.)
13 of the 25 movies I have reviewed through yesterday have earned 2 stars or less from me. Only 6 have earned higher than a 3.0.
Am I a harsh critic? Maybe. But if you take a look, I enjoyed a number of those movies, and have seen most of them more than once. But just because I enjoy a movie doesn't mean that it is superb. Art doesn't have to be a Michelangelo for it to be appreciated (otherwise my home decor is in trouble!).
Also, just because a movie receives a higher rating, doesn't mean that I'll desire to watch it more. It means that it met certain criteria or exceeded expectations elsewhere. Iron Man 3 ties for the 2nd highest ranking of any movie I've reviewed to date (3.75). That does not mean I want to see it a lot. I'm just not that into action, but it delivered in fantastic dialogue and strong development.
Each movie is unique. As much as possible, each movie is evaluated on its own merit. If the stars I assign to a film aren't helpful to you - skip them. I don't mind. Just don't think of a 3 as an average C. Realize instead that, right now, it's in the top third of the class.
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