The Fault In My Stars.

Film For the past few years I've been keeping a Letterboxd account, which due to the volume of films I watch (usually every night after dinner) has been invaluable as an aid memoir. Recently I wasn't sure which of the films I'd seen about Operation Anthropoid (a mission to assassinate some prominent Nazis), Anthropoid or The Man With The Iron Heart. Turns out it's both, but images and elements from the two have merged in my memory to such a degree I assumed that it all must have been from one or the other.

Today's entries are For Sama, Waad Al-Kateab's Bafta award winning memoir of the siege of Aleppo and John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection, Julien Faraut's meditation on film making and the tennis player's erratic behaviour.  Both are incredible in their own way, but like similar film review websites Letterboxd forces the user to apply a star-rating, a process which is fraught with anomalies in this polarized society because each user will have their own measure as to what constitutes a five star film down the one star.

To check in with the professionals, Empire Magazine explain how their star ratings are measured at the front of their review section:
✮✮✮✮✮ Excellent
✮✮✮✮ Good
✮✮✮ Okay
✮✮ Poor
✮ Awful
Which lacks a certain nuance.  This has changed over the years.  A 2007 issue suggests:
✮✮✮✮✮ Classic
✮✮✮✮ Excellent
✮✮✮ Good
✮✮ Fair
✮ Tragic
As you can see, Classic has been removed and the rest of the rating descriptions have been given an upgrade (Fair and Okay meaning arguably pretty much the same thing).  This rather makes a mess of their online review archive because older ✮✮✮ films are deemed Good but viewed through a contemporary lens they're now only Okay.

None of which has been of much help to me, and neither has this short Wikipedia article about the star ratings used by other publications, with the later Roger Ebert utilizing a 0-star to 4-star rating and Leonard Maltin sticking between 1-4 which always looks a bit inconsistent on film posters when other publications have ✮✮✮✮✮ which carries an identical weight.  As with Letterboxd users there isn't a standard rule, which doesn't really matter for the masterpieces but puts the only ok movie in a fraught position.

Here is the scale I've worked towards:
Amazing.  Would watch again and again and recommend to everyone.  Will probably buy it.

Amazing.  Don't need to watch it again soon but would still recommend to everyone.

It's fine.  Could have been amazing but has a fatal flaw in there somewhere which turned me against it.


Here are the films I've watched so far this year and my ratings from Letterboxd:
Ready or Not
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

For Sama
John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection
Toy Story 4
Varda by Agn├Ęs
Little Monsters
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Anna and the Apocalypse
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Late Night
Long Shot
Miss Americana
Pain and Glory
Instant Family
The King
Earthquake Bird
The Two Popes
Mrs Patterson
Fast Color

Mystify: Michael Hutchence
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound
Ad Astra
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
Hail Stan?

The Hustle

As you can see the scale forces me to be more generous with my ratings than professional reviewers. No one star reviews here. For the record my one-star films since joining Letterboxd are:

Alice In Wonderland (1933)
Song of the South
The Image Book

There are twenty-five two-star reviews, the most controversial of which is probably The Irishman which for all of its technical marvels I found incredibly tedious.  Casino is still the only good Scorsese directed gangster film.

Except I've forced myself into these boxes.  For the most part people tend to have two ratings for films, just as they have for everything:
Liked it.

Didn't like it.
There'll be a certain amount of squirrelly searching for a middle ground. People will talk about the things they liked in The Rise of Skywalker or some other offering from a favourite franchise but ultimately you either liked it or you didn't. I didn't and gave it ✮✮✮ matching Empire's assessment (which must have been difficult after dedicating four or five covers to its release over the past year or so).

Which is why a thumbs up or down rating, while lacking in nuance is probably the most honest of all the potential ratings systems.  It's just a pity that services like Netflix tend to use it as a measure of taste rather than criticism.  Just because I don't like The Rise of Skywalker doesn't mean I don't still love The Last Jedi, one of the best films of the last decade.  But that's a discussion for another time.

1 comment:

  1. I like "classic". I wish they'd held onto that. To me, five stars is something I can see myself still considering a favourite 10 years down the line, making it a rare rating indeed. Curiously, none of the publications I work for have ever given me any guidance as to how they see the meanings playing out - though there must be some, as the most well-known one I write for has knocked a point (out of 10) off on a couple of occasions...