Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Wednesday Review Explained

This one's for Ed.

Alright. I've been asked about what kind of scale I use to rate movies, what types of movies I would give how many stars to, etc.

I understand your curiosity. Movie reviews are tricky things, because Art. You see, sometimes you can say objectively: this art is good, that art is bad. A tone-deaf singer, for example, is objectively a bad singer. But so much about a person's perception of a piece of art is based on his or her personal preferences - it's a matter of taste. For that reason, I try to figure out someone's preferences before I place too much stock in their opinions of a movie 'I would love'.

So please remember, when you read a review about a movie, or a book, or music, you should always take it with a grain of salt, because your tastes might not completely match up with the reviewer's. I have taken several film studies, film production, and screenwriting classes at the collegiate and graduate level. None of this qualifies me to review movies any more than anyone else, but it does mean that I have a slightly different way of looking at film, and generally speaking, I'm a bit more critical than most.

I try to give specific reasons why I like or dislike something in my Wednesday Reviews. Unfortunately, that just doesn't satisfy everyone. Cough. Ed. Cough.

So how does it work?

I don't have an actual rubric. I hate rubrics, but that's a discussion for another time.

I don't have a rubric. But I do place more value on some aspects of movies than others. I love things that are highly creative and things that are clever. I also love great acting, good screenwriting, character consistency, and realism.*

Conversely, I do not like poorly written dialogue, stiff acting, audience condescension, stupid or crude comedy, or mindless RomComs.

I was specifically asked for examples of what movies deserve the various star ratings. I tried to make sure I had a few genres per rating:

5 Stars - Pan's Labyrinth, Miss Potter, While You Were Sleeping, Schindler's List
     Edit: Steven expressed surprise at my inclusion of While You Were Sleeping. Here is my reasoning: While it may not be as serious as the others I listed in this category, within its own genre it's definitely 5 stars. Plus it's just a really good movie.

4 Stars - End of the Spear (4.5 stars), The Hunt for Red October, Saving Mr. Banks, The Lord of the Rings, Frozen

3 Stars - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Julie and Julia (3.5 stars), National Treasure, The Hobbit

2 Stars - The Devil Wears Prada, The Hurt Locker, Stargate

1 Star - Titanic, The Notebook, Ella Enchanted, Jurassic Park II

Anyway, that's that. I hope it was informative. Ultimately, my ratings are based on a combination of my nit-picky film-educated eye and my artistic preferences.

Want more details about my ratings? Let me know in the comments.

*Even a fantasy movie needs to be realistic and consistent within its own world.


  1. Good post, but where are the ratings for the Deanna Durbin movies? Especially the one with Donald O'Conner. It's a mystery, sort of like understanding the likes and dislikes of various movie watchers.

    1. Ah, the Deanna Durbin movies. Hmm... You know, despite having two of my favorite songs from those films, the one with Donald O'Conner (Something in the Wind) is one of my least favorite of her films. I'd rate that one at a 2. It Started With Eve would be a 4.5 or perhaps even a 5 among classic movies - I think it's honestly the best quality film that she did. It has elements of the Screwball Comedy with a generous sprinkling of drama. It's quite nice. Mad About Music is a solid 4.

  2. Thank you! This is a great post.

    I wonder what rating you gave Inception. I mention this movie because I felt like Christopher Nolas was telling the audience : I believe that you are smart enough to follow this story.

    1. I completely agree about Inception. I think I'd rate it a 5. I liked it a lot.