Friday, April 12, 2013

Introducing My New Star Rating for Film Reviews

Actually, I announced it in a recent podcast, but I realize not everyone listens to those shows.  I've decided to alter my star rating that I include in my film reviews.  I wrote a piece a few months ago explaining that I went with a 5 star rating system because I felt it was the best way to create an easy to view value to a film.  My belief was that a 4 star system was far too short of a rating range and would cause several films of varying quality get attributed with the same value.  It also put me in the spot of giving more films 4 stars than at the time, I felt I should.  I also realized doing a percentage or a rating out of 10 was far too wide a range, and I'd start to lose track of where I ranked each film.  I was comfortable choosing a 5 star system because it seemed the right amount of length to give me some breathing room but also not lose track of the value rankings.

Well, I'm moving over to 4.  I tried it before, and I felt it too hard.  I also decided that one of the best purposes for a star rating is being able to compare it with other reviews. My main reason for switching is that most of the major mainstream critics use the four star system.  It'll give you an idea how I perceived a film compared to some of the more respected critics if I use the exact same system.  Plus it was Roger Ebert's rating system, and so this would be another way to honour him during my film criticism career.

Of course, the review is the most important part, and my star rating won't have any purpose without an explanation of how I arrived with my rating.  There are a lot of factors that could earn a movie 2 stars, and obviously, most readers would get enraged if such a rating would be bestowed upon their favourite film.  My written review will explain why the rating was low, as well as how I actually perceive the film.  A low star rated film could still have things I appreciate, but it just failed to resonate with me.

To help clarify my new system, here is how I view the value of each rating.

* A poor film that likely will only be enjoyable by those who crave lousy cinema and want something to chuckle about with buddies late at night.

** This is likely a film that has a few redeeming points, but the picture usually ends up either being overly generic or hindered by a few huge flaws.

*** A really good film that I'd happily recommend to any fan of movies.  It also will have great repeat viewing quality, even if it isn't redefining its genre.

**** An unforgettable picture that becomes an instant classic and either transforms or births a genre.  This is the film you want to watch yearly and will think about months after seeing it. 

1/2 This is added to any rating when it is a step above a rating but not quite ready to reach the next level, such as a **1/2.

This is one of the harder rating systems to use.  But its frequent use makes it the best one if comparing ratings is deemed important.  I think it is, or you wouldn't have things like Rotten Tomatoes in existence.  It is probably going to be a bit of a process for me to master, but I also like the fact it will force me to commit to how much I value a film.  The prior system gave me a lot of different options, but this time I'm forced to decide if a film is a classic or not.

It also means I'll be giving out way more 4 stars than I'd have given 5 stars in my previous system.  As Ebert believed, the star system isn't sacred.  A great film deserves four stars even if slightly flawed.  In the end, this whole process is about embracing the magic of cinema.

I'm open to any feedback and comments, and would love to hear what you think.

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