Saturday, May 29, 2010


In the midst of this year's festival, a lot of people are posting ranked lists of the movies that are playing. Depending on the reviewer, ratings are sometimes quite specific to their tastes. In cases where someone has the same taste as you, their rankings can be useful in determining which films you will like or dislike. Otherwise, not so much.

No film is perfect, they all have problems. I try to rate films based on my appreciation of their artistic merit and then my personal likes or dislikes. A movie's originality and ability to hold my attention are important.

Here are some things I look for in a film:

* How original (or formulaic) is the story?
* How good is the acting?
* How good is the cinematography?
* How good is the musical score?
* Is the running time appropriate?
* Did it entertain me (and hold my attention)?
* Would people who watch a lot of film like it?

About music: Due to cost of licensing music, the final theatrical release of a film may have a different soundtrack than the festival version. It's especially true for low budget independent films.

About documentaries: This genre can be very formulaic, but that's OK. I expect to come away from a documentary with a greater understanding of its subject matter. A film that covers a subject for which I hold little or no interest but still manages to entertain me is usually an indication of a good movie.

About numeric ratings: I use a 1-5 scale with 0.5 increments. 10 point scales frighten me, so I don't use them. If I rate something > 2.5, then it's worth seeing.

Opinions can change over time. Rating a film the minute I walk out of a theater doesn't work well. I often miss a lot of the meaning and symbolism. Comparing notes with someone else who also saw the film can, to a limited degree, change my opinion of it.

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