The Ratings System

As a child in the 70s I watched the odd film on television. On Bank Holidays they showed James Bond (they still do) or Doctor Doolitle 1967 (they still do). On some Saturday mornings I’d go to the flea pit in Withington1 with my brothers where Bruce Lee was worshipped over Chuck Norris (he still is). It wasn’t until the home video explosion of the 80s that I began to take films seriously.

I was a teenager when I came across the four-star rating system used by newspaper reviewers. They served as a useful guide on what to watch at the cinema, on TV or rent from the video library. Some critics had their ratings advertised on the box covers. They were Americans I had never heard of – like Siskel & Ebert. It didn’t matter.  They were critics. They knew what they were talking about.

From the late 80s came the magazines Empire2, Premiere3 and Movieline4. In the 90s came Sight & Sound5 and Total Film6. I learnt the difference between criticism and review. I learnt not to trust reviews. Newspapers will always supersede magazines as a source of information. The ‘papers don’t have glossy photo spreads of supine women with glossy lipstick. Yet in the 90s the newspaper reviews were as discredited as the magazines. The public had become aware of who owned what7.

The whole system was skewed. As a nascent writer I knew four stars was inadequate to rate Shanghai Surprise 1986 and Dawn of the Dead 1978 in the same scale. Then along came the internet and saved the system. The new reviewers were citizen journalists like pioneer James Berardinelli8. They weren’t beholden to editors who were beholden to publishers who were beholden to Hollywood PR machinists. These were opinions by people who paid to see and wanted to like the movies but weren’t obliged to hide the fact they didn’t9

As the internet waddles out of its infancy movie aggregator sites rate films out of (a sometimes de facto) 1-100. This is how it should be. It’s a rating system everyone can understand 100%. We use the same system for currency, academic tests and Maury Povich paternity results.
It’s a system I’m going to subscribe to.

I have hitherto refrained from rating my reviews with a score numerical or otherwise. Cinema as art is resistant to this. To wit who would put a number against William Blake’s The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with Sun? However it must be acknowledged that the movies are primarily a source of entertainment. Ratings are anti-art but pro-entertainment; motion pictures are both art and entertainment. 

Taste, knowledge and perception may evolve and change. I saw The Dark Knight 200810 on release and thought it was wonderful. I saw it for the second time last year and thought it sucked. That is to say ratings are indicators. 

Film criticism is the true opinion.

The Numbers
The following is a breakdown of the possible 100 score I will use to rate a movie. 

To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script11.
Alfred Hitchcock

When I’m actually assembling a scene I assemble it as a silent movie.
Walter Murch12
Stunts/Special effects/CGI

.. we’re living in a time when we’re making – in my humble opinion – the worst movies in history.
Billy Bob Thornton13
Immediate visceral response
Potential for repeat viewing

Perhaps the most important rating that a man can give doesn’t lie in the pages of a movie website. One would have to buy a copy of King magazine14 for that.
1 Cine City, Withington Wikipedia
5 Sight & Sound British Film Institute
8 James Berardinelli Reel Views
9 Premiere magazine Wikipedia
10 The Dark Knight Project Child Murdering Robot
11  Alfred Hitchcock quotes
13 Billy Bob Thornton The Telegraph
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