A blog for dum ideas that are too long to fit on my Facebook status

The Thinking About Thinking About Movies Post Rises

Okay, this is the last post in this series on movie critiquing.  At this point, I don’t even know if anyone has read them entirely.  It doesn’t matter really.  This is almost more for me to flesh out my thoughts when considering movies.  Things are easier to apply sometimes when you write the rules down on paper or record them on the Internet.  Speaking of recording on the Internet, Netflix and its rating system have got me thinking about how to rate movies when you need to take a hardline.  Netflix uses a 5 star rating system with each star corresponding to a different feeling ranging from: hated it, didn’t like it, liked it, really liked it, loved it.  Roger Ebert uses a 4-star rating system.  Entertainment Weekly and other sources uses letter grades.  If you are thinking about movies, there should be a way to easily sum up what you thought about it right?  However, it’s not really that easy when you consider the first post of this series.
Roger Ebert, american film critic.

He doesn't even like the star rating system that he uses. Image via Wikipedia

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

What does 3 stars on Netflix really mean? Image via CrunchBase

I mostly rely on Netflix’s five star rating system.  It’s easy to rate movies that you either hated or loved.

Examples of movies I hated are: Romero’s original “Day of the Dead,” “Melancholia,” and “Next.”

Some movies I loved are: “Spellbound,” “Hoop Dreams,” and “Shaun of the Dead.”

The problem arises when we get to the 3 star category, which Netflix called “liked it.”  Now, if I “like” a movie, it should mean that I thought it did a good job being about its logline.  Okay, I can handle that.  Does it also mean I would watch it again?  Not necessarily.  Example: “The Game” by David Fincher.  I liked it for what it was, thought it was good for its premise, but couldn’t really imagine watching it again.  But I liked it.  “Agora” a Roman drama with Rachael Weisz, I liked it but really have no interest in watching it again.  Conclusion: appreciating a movie does not automatically qualify it as re-watchable.

Okay, so maybe that’s hot too hard to understand.  But here’s an example that I struggled and continue to struggle with.  The “Human Centipede” movies.  If you don’t know what the premise of each of these movies, you have either not been on the Internet or only hang out with VERY CONSERVATIVE people.  I have been both of the movies so far and according to Netflix, I rated them each 3 stars, meaning I “liked” them.  But did I really “like” them?  Did I even think they went about their loglines well?  This is the most extreme example I could think of, but that’s why I’m using it.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

3 stars for this. Probably makes me a weirdo. Image via Wikipedia

The first movie was repulsive in its idea, but not as graphic as everyone made it out to be.  For a movie about a crazy Germany doctor who wants to put people together, it was done in a fairly surreal way.  I never had to turn away, might have even laughed a couple of times.  I didn’t “like” it, I wouldn’t watch it again, but I thought it was what I expected, so I didn’t “didn’t like it” if that makes any sense.
The second film was actually very disturbing.  Made in black and white, it actually just gave me an intense feeling of dread and I DID turn away several times.  I didn’t “like” it anymore than I “liked” the first, BUT I thought it was about it’s subject matter in a “better” way than the original.  But I didn’t “really like it” because of that, so I can’t give it 4 stars.  Therefore, these two movies, which made me feel two different ways, about two similar (yet different themes) get the same star rating.
So what’s the point of all of this?  The proper way to think about a movie is not a letter grade, or a star rating (although I will keep using this because I don’t have a better shorthand and that’s really why star ratings exist) but to think about them in terms of how they were about what they were about.  That requires at least a paragraph of thought.  To sum up, the best way to talk about/rate movies is to think about them in terms of what did it set out to do and how did it go about doing that?  The actual “liking” of the movie to me, is irrelevant, as is its repeated viewing potential.  When someone asks you, “How was it?” your/my answer should basically consist of:
Well, it’s a ________ done movie about ________ because they _________.  No stars, no numbers, no thumbs, no letters.  Just your thoughts in their purest form.

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