# Movie critic explains star rating system

I just finish reading this article from a local movie critic. I found it to be interesting insite into the mind of a critic.

I especially thought that her list of axioms, rules, and laws were neat:

Can you think of any suggestions or addendums to her list?

The Password is 1234. Any movie where the alleged hacker dials up a computer like an ordinary user and makes a lucky guess at a password to wind up in the bowels of the operating system with complete administrative control — minus a whole star. At least.

10… 9… 8… 7… Any movie where the hero defuses the bomb with one second left on the clock — minus one star. If he had to pick a wire to pull with a fifty-fifty chance of success — minus another.

When I rate movies by stars, I only award a perfect score to perfect movies. At Netflix, for example, I only rate a film 5 stars if it belongs on my lifetime top [whatever] list. If it’s good, I rate it 4. If it’s about average, I rate it a 3. If it misses a lot of opportunities to be decent and ends up being pretty skippable, I rate it 2. If I mostly didn’t like it, it gets a 1. If I hate it altogether it’s not worth my time and I don’t rate it at all.

Ebert, as an example, has been trapped by his thumbs-up/thumbs-down routine into a binary system, so he divides his 4 stars: 2 for no, 2 for yes. So if it gets a thumbs down, he starts with 2 and works down. If it’s a thumbs up, he starts at 3 and works up. Unfortunately, this means that any movie he recommends, even with qualifications, ends up with 3 stars. He sees this as just this side of No; I see it as one star away from Citizen Kane. To me, a rating of 3 stars means you’re saying that this movie only needs one star’s worth of improvement to be absolutely perfect.

This is why the star rating is not always the best system.

You forgot two-and-a-half stars: sometimes Ebert gives a 2-1/2 star film thumbs up, sometimes it’s a thumbs down. For example, on this week’s show, he gave Rent a “marginal thumbs up,” he had given it a 2-1/2 in his Sun-Times review. He explained this in his book Questions for the Movie Answer Man, adding, “What is needed is a sideways thumb.”

While I wouldn’t use Ebert as a guide to what movies I see, I like the thumbs up/down concept in principle. You’re either going to see a movie or not see it, so really you just need to know whether or not it’s worth it.

Getting back to the original post:

The Rebel Rule. If at a crucial point in the story the movie deliberately goes against convention, even if it’s unsuccessful, it gets a bonus star.