When it comes to film criticism, it is standard to have a rating system of some kind. Critics do this, not just to tell an audience how good or bad something is, but to compare these works with others. To let the readers know how much a critic liked “Ed Wood” compared to “Persona.”
The rating system I have chosen is by grades, much like the system of grades most people know from elementary school. With an A+ being the highest and an F- being the lowest, though skipping E for some odd reason.
I went with grades because I felt it was a system that wasn’t used nearly as much as numbers or stars. I see way too much 4.5/5, or 3 stars out of 5, but hardly ever any letter grades. It is a system most people are familiar with, and if they aren’t it is easy to catch on.
I also like to think that, as a critic, I’m a teacher grading papers, at the films I review are said papers.
Egotistical? Maybe, but I have a vivid imagination and it’s fun.
However, one thing that I do differently from most other critics is my depth of the system.
On average, it seems like most critics will give an “okay” movie a 7 out of 10, or 3.5 out of 5 or 3 stars. Which in my system would be roughly a B- or C+. I’ve always found this head-tilting.
An “okay” movie, which is on par with an average movie, should get an average grade. As in, right down the middle. 5 out of 10, or 2.5 out 5. In my system, that would be a C.
To give you a better idea of what each grade means, here is a description of each ranking.
F- Terrible movie. Little to no redeemable qualities and thoroughly unenjoyable. Avoid at all costs unless you want to use this for torture. Example: “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen.”
D- Bad movie. Very little going for it and was more bad than good. Did not enjoy it, but there might be enough for some to enjoy. Don’t waste your time with this unless you are really bored. Example: “Men In Black 2.”
C- Okay movie. Middle of the road, neither good nor bad. Usually gets some things right, but also gets others things wrong or is just thoroughly unimpressive. Some people might find enjoyment out of it, so it might be worth checking out but that depends on the person. Example: “50/50.”
B- Good/Great movie. Much more to enjoy than there is to hate about it. Has a few flaws that bring it down but the good outweighs the bad and is a deserving of a watch for one reason or another. Example: “Prisoners.”
Note: B- and some B’s are good, but other B’s and B+’s are great movies. Depends on the movie.
A- Fantastic movie. Little to no flaws and was an unforgettable experience. A true masterpiece that will not be forgotten any time soon. Make time in your life to see this movie. Example: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
Within each letter grade, there are three separate divisions, of minus, middle and plus. The ones with a plus are the most desirable of the letter grade, and the minus ones being the worst, but still good enough not to fall into the lower letter grade. The middles are, as expected, right down the center of that particular letter grade.
I will freely admit that it is incredibly difficult for me to hand out an A to a movie. As the description stated, it is reserved for truly wonderful movies that transcend being just another movie.
To give you an idea of how finicky I am with handing out A’s, I have currently rated 1,140 movies or shows on Netflix, where I have rated everything that I can possibly remember seeing at some point in my life. Of all those movies, I have only rated 56 of them at five stars. Most of them are four or three stars, but that should tell you that I look at many variables when it comes to the highest possible rating.
Granted, when I watch at movie, I immediately go into it with a positive mindset, wanting the film to succeed and impress me. From that point on, it is entirely up to the movie on what grade it will get. If it fails to do so, the grade will drop drastically. If it exceeds my expectations and has me constantly enthralled, the grade will skyrocket.
Just an example of one of the 56 movies I've rated five starts on Netflix.
There are many variables that go into what grade a film will get, including set design, atmosphere, score, acting, tone, consistency, themes keeping my attention and curiosity and so on. The most important aspects I look at are story, characters and the overall impression the film left me with. A movie could have wonderful atmosphere and tone with topnotch acting, but if the story left me unimpressed and the film left a bad taste in my mouth, then odds are it is going to get a low grade, probably a D+.
Such is the way that my rating system works. Is it a perfect system? No, but I don’t expect it to be perfect. Part of the reason I use grades instead of numbers or stars is because I’m much more comfortable with it. This system works for me and I feel it is easy for others to comprehend.
To me, that is all that matters.