Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How I Review (and Rate) Movies- With 20% Extra Examples!

By Andrew Braid

Being a huge fan of film as a medium (and just being a huge nerd in general), I naturally tend to see a lot of movies, ever-increasingly so in theaters. So compared to what would be considered the "average" moviegoer who will see about 12 or fewer movies in theaters per year, I have personally seen 45 films to date (and believe me, there will definitely be more by the time my top 10 list for 2013 rolls around). That doesn't even count for re-releases like Jurassic Park 3D or movies that I saw more than once in theaters (and yes, I really did end up seeing Iron Man 3 in theaters 4 times, thus doing my part to help pay for Robert Downey Jr.'s new yacht, which he doesn't really use per se, but just likes having around in case he needs it).
Unless he's just too cool for a yacht (ie. probably).

However, seeing how I am not a paid professional movie critic (yet... we'll see where the winds take me), the money that I do have to pay to see most of those movies does come out of my own wallet. Therefore, I must always consciously choose what I want to see, whereas professional critics will get press screenings before the movie's release date for the sake of reviewing it. Whether they like it or not, they get to see everything that comes out because they have to. Since I by necessity have to try and be more conscious, I regularly check reviews and buzz and previews and the like before deciding to see the film (if it isn't a film I've already decided well ahead of time that I want to see). As a result, I tend to see many good films, many great films, and some excellent films. The dollars spent on steaming piles of crap, meanwhile, stays relatively minimal, though every now and then I'll still make a reluctant, begrudging, or even outright inexplicable ticket-buying decision.
Not this inexplicable, though.

So why am I writing this? Why am I taking up your (assuredly) precious time? Because I have been told before (often by my mother-yes, I am referring to you) that "You like everything!", or that "You think everything is good!", when the truth is far from that. Just because I tend to see a lot of movies that I like (because I actively choose to be a well-informed moviegoer), in no way means that I like everything, and even less that I am some "easy critic".
 At least, I don't see myself that way. Look, my major's in Film Studies, not Psychology.

And hopefully I'm not that (above) either.
So my first (posted) review so far was about Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, a truly remarkable, awe-inspiring cinematic experience that should absolutely be seen (and on the big screen in 3D) if you haven't already. I gave the film a 10/10, my highest score, one which I will make very clear that I do not give out lightly. Sure, you may see me give a good number or 7s and 8s, and the occasional 9, maybe even a 9.5 if I particularly loved it. But a 10 is reserved for the absolute best of the best, films that I find to be not only damn near faultless, but that leave a lasting impact on me long after seeing it, whether it's just once or 3 times, or 5, or 15. It must go above and beyond expectations, offering in some shape or form something that feels new, unique, distinct, or may just be groundbreaking. It has to absolutely floor me, blow my mind, and be just astoundingly (often meticulously) well-crafted on every conceivable level- story, screenplay, acting, character, direction, visuals and cinematography, music and score, editing, pacing and more, all blending together in near-perfect harmony. It must be, in my eyes at least, a masterpiece, deserving of memory as a classic, a film to be treasured in memory.
So yeah, I don't give out a 10 very often. In fact, of my top 10 films for 2012, only 3 of those films were considered worthy of that highest score (Argo, Zero Dark Thirty and ParaNorman, in case you were curious). 2011, which honestly wasn't all that great an overall year for movies in my opinion, only had one film that I would have rewarded a 10, and even then it's rooted partly in more personal reasons.
So to give you a clear idea of how I rate movies, here is my personal grading system, on a 1-10 scale:

10 - Incredible, pretty much flawless, arguably a masterpiece. At the very least, it is exquisitely crafted and makes one hell of an impact.
Recent Examples: The Social Network, Up, Black Swan, How to Train Your Dragon (don't even think of disputing that last one, if you dare)
Come on, admit it: you're just as psyched for the sequel as I am.

9/9.5 - Excellent, often incredibly entertaining. Faults are very minimal, often negligible (though I will remind you that this can be a matter of perspective).
Recent Examples: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Parts 1 and 2 respectively), The Avengers, Django Unchained

 8/8.5 - A generally great film. Often offsets a handful of problems with its stronger assets, evening out into an overall fun experience. These scores are most often influenced by personal taste, perhaps more than any other range of films.
Recent Examples: Iron Man, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Evil Dead (the 2013 remake)

7/7.5 - A solid, generally good film, held back by a few noticeable issues just enough to prevent it from reaching great territory. Often reserved for well-executed yet unambitious films, or "dumb fun" blockbusters (depending on overall entertainment value and actual technical quality).
Recent Examples: Men in Black 3, Horrible Bosses, Get Smart (easy joke incoming in three, two, one...)
I am so sorry.

6/6.5 - A decent or average film, usually one that is competent yet unremarkable and mostly generic, or has some elements good enough to salvage the whole feature from some major issues.
Recent examples: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Safe House, Rio

5/5.5- Films that earn potentially the most dreaded of all reactions- "meh".

These films collide promising potential and some good enough moments or elements with some major, often obvious faults, creating a singularity- a black hole of me just not giving enough craps to really care about it. These films are passable, generally forgettable and not really warranting of much discussion.
Recent Examples: World War Z, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Sorcerer's Apprentice

4/4.5- Flat-out mediocrity. Doing just barely enough to avoid being flat-out bad, these films are often huge disappointments that squander much of their potential, or prove bad in ways that are at least interesting enough to keep it from being boring, thus making it still look better by comparison to the true turds on the cinematic porch.
Recent examples: The Hangover Part III, Twilight (just about all of them, really), Hancock

3/3.5- Flat-out bad, even with one or two small silver linings. The beginning of the true descent into cinematic crap.
Recent Examples: The Lone Ranger, The Lorax, Paranormal Activity 4, Cars 2
In hindsight, the dead crow on Johnny's head wasn't a very subtle metaphor for the movie's quality.

2/2.5- Awful. Often have some potential for at least decency, only to fail on just about every possible level.
Recent Examples: Green Lantern, The Twilight Saga: New Moon (this one really was just utter s***, pardon my censor), Your Highness, X-Men Origins: Wolverine

1/1.5- Terrible. Just... just terrible.
Recent Examples: The Love Guru, Apollo 18, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Tourist

0/0.5- Yes, I can and have given out scores below a 1/10. These are catastrophically awful films, films that sully the very idea of the medium as an art form. This score is reserved for films that are the cinematic equivalent of war crimes.
Recent Examples: The Last Airbender, Dragonball Evolution, Sex and the City 2
Never forget.

So we good? I'll take your uncertain silence as a "yes".
Well, now that that's out of the way, expect a new review to be up sometime tomorrow night! Thanks for reading!