My Quasi-New Rating System

Anyone will tell you that rating films is a difficult process. A movie review should obviously hinge upon written content, rather than the rating itself. But sometimes it feels the other way around, doesn’t it? I might write a review that perfectly sums up my feelings surrounding a particular film, yet still ponder my choice of rating. Maybe I felt as though I overrated it, displaying within a scale of 1 to 5 not only what I believed to be the quality of the movie, but also aspects of it that I thought were important or representative of the film’s place in contemporary society; basically qualities of the film that I believed were interesting and made it worthy of a recommendation. Therefore, some films that are not-so-great may receive slightly higher ratings than they seemingly deserve, mainly because I might see something within them that is distinguishable, worth sharing, and has made me feel more enlightened about cinema had I not seen such movies at all.

Meanwhile, I feel as though I rarely underrate films. If I am reviewing something on this site, chances are I had some interest in seeing it, and will therefore see something within it that is worth appreciating. Plus, I simply love movies. Sure, there’s some awful crap out there, and plenty of films containing fundamental issues. Some are worthy of anger, laughter, or a pat on the back for at least attempting something, even if that effort failed. But at the end of the day, I would rather oversell a film than undersell it. Cinema is my language, and although I am quite literate, I still have much to learn. Who am I to dissuade you from learning with me?

So … after all this, what, exactly, am I changing about my rating system? Well, basically nothing. I have decided to start using nifty stars for my 1 to 5 scale, but that’s about it; I simply find the system too reliable to transform it into something else. Yet I still believed that this was a spiel worth sharing, as it has been on my mind for quite some time. And since you will now be looking at stars rather than numbers, I might as well explain the criteria for obtaining each of several possible symbols (at least to the best of my ability). This is, after all, something I should’ve explained a long time ago.


★★★★★ – In my mind, this is a brilliant film. Something that has taught me more about myself, cinema, or the world surrounding me, and no doubt an experience I will cherish. This film is important to an extent far beyond entertainment. It has utilized the cinematic medium to near-flawless potential, and in essence, has become art.

★★★★ 1/2 – A great movie, exemplary in any number of ways. Not quite masterful enough to earn a 5-star rating, but a very well-made film that stands above the rest.

★★★★ – Very good, but possibly weak in multiple areas, those that have prevented the film from achieving greatness. The movie may not aspire beyond this level, and that is fine, too. Either way, the film is strong enough for me to fully recommend.

★★★ 1/2 – Good, but limited. In many circumstances, films of this rating have not fulfilled their potential. They are possibly worth seeing, depending on your interest. Recommended, but not worth going out of your way to see.

★★★ – A mixed review, in some cases, as much of a compliment as it is a criticism. This is often my way of expressing disappointment, or on the flip side, acknowledging something that aspired to great cinema, and unfortunately, missed the mark. These films may have many weaknesses, but if your interest in the film overcomes your recognition of what it fails to accomplish, then do not be discouraged to seek it out.

★★ 1/2 – Mediocre; in other words, not worth your time. I may point out aspects of the film that are genuinely strong, but chances are, they have not been enough to carry the film to a point where it deserves your hard-earned cash.

★★ or ★ 1/2 – No, no, no. Overall, a very poorly-made film, not containing much thought or feeling to take away, and in nearly all cases, not one that I enjoyed. Go fly a kite instead.

★ – A blatant disgrace to cinema, and a rating I have yet to use since starting this blog nearly 9 months ago. This rating represents the worst of the worst, and I pray to use it as sparingly as my mental classification will allow. It may be impossible not to enjoy some aspects of a film this terrible (how could you resist the charms of Plan 9, for instance, or not fall instantly in love with Birdemic?), but just know that if I give anything 1-star, something is very, very wrong.


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