Blog: #02 My Scoring System.

Once I knew I was going full-time with film reviews I knew I needed to establish what method I was going to use for the scoring. I’ve seen letters (A*-F) used, stars (5*-1*), out of 10 scores, out of 20 scores and percentages, and I tried and tested a few with my first review to find what felt right to me, and I decided on stars, but with a slight twist. To me, the four biggest thing to look at when judging a movie are its plot, its overall presentation, the writing and its acting, and I decided to score the film out of five in each of these categories then to use those scores to come out with an average. The reason being is that I feel analysing each of the four main categories allows for a film I consider to be poor (Moonlight) to still be accurately reflected and recognised for what it does well.

However, because I’d never done film reviews (or at least scored on a regular basis) before the struggle initially was finding my own bar. The first film I caught in the cinema to begin this venture was The Mummy (which has been nominated for many Razzie awards, so good place to start), and shortly after The Mummy I watched a lot of older films (mainly the Best Picture Oscar winners) and went to the cinema as often as I could; that initial month I was non-stop watching films because the more I watched, the more I learned what my scoring would be like. And I chose the Best Picture Oscar winners as a start as these films are supposed to represent the best of the best in film (although I will be writing a blog piece on those winners leading up to the Oscars), and this contrasting with poor films I was seeing in the cinema (although July was a good month to start with, there were some dull films) really helped. The problem was, the elusive 5* film.

I had assumed by watching the Oscars I would come across a film I rate as the full 5* and have that as the benchmark for all future films to be compared to. But, doing this has helped me realise what a cynic I am, and I found some faults with nearly every film, thus the 5* rating was never met. I’ve since reviewed 160 films and still yet to meet this 5* film, and it seems that the longer it goes on the more pressure I have for when I finally award it. With my mindset, if a film has a negative attached to any of the categories it’s now immediately down to 4* at the highest (I always start on 5* with a film and work backwards), and for a film to be amazingly well acted, look and sound breathtaking, with amazingly well written dialogue and a plot so engaging I fall in love with it sounds, to me, like a film that doesn’t exist. (None of this applies to animated movies, which aren’t scored by the average of the categories, instead just having a flat 1*, 2*, 3*, 4* or 5* score, and Coco did achieve 5* in the animated category).

After about 50 films, and realising this 5* film was a myth, I was quite content with having the 1* and 5* be scores never met, just an imaginary score held that is attainable, but improbable, however the 1* scoreline has been met three times so far (The Room, Stratton and a film review yet to be published). And to fully explain what I judge on with each of the four categories:

  • Plot: this category houses two things: how well the plot moves (how clever it is, how well paced it is, whether there’s any surprises along the way) and my overall enjoyment of the film. The reason I group these two together is because I generally find that if I enjoy a film, it’s because it’s well paced with a good plot. While it’s not always the case, if you generally want to know how I felt about a film, this category usually homes my own personal preference score (there are exceptions such as Revenge of the Sith which scored 3* for its plot despite me not liking it).
  • Acting: self-explanatory, really. Judged on how well the actors act, and how well they portray the characters they’re acting (there have been films, such as Stratton, which was punished because I didn’t believe them as the characters, and films such as Back to the Future, which was praised because they embodied the characters).
  • Writing: again, pretty self-explanatory. This category judges how well a film’s dialogue is written and how well everything flows in the film; some films have so much going on there are poor ways of manoeuvring characters around because it’s so convoluted, and that generally relies on the writing of the film.
  • Presentation: the easiest category to score in. Presentation takes into account a film’s editing, directing, special effects, costume, sounds; and with modern films mostly looking amazing this film offers poor films (such as The Mummy and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) a chance to come out with a somewhat respectable score despite their poor film.

I can’t see any problem with this scoring, and it at least affords you to see what’s good and what’s poor about it (in my opinion, at least) rather than seeing me score Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets simply as 2 ¾* without a reason as to why it’s so high. And at least with those who read this, you can know have a bit more of a deeper understanding of what each score kind of includes from the film. That’s all I wanted to scribble about today, so, until next time, farewell.

Steve J.

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