Posts Tagged ‘rating and grading’

With Flying Colors: My Film Grading System

August 6, 2008
The Four-star rating has become the most widely used by professionals – notably my two favorite critics, Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli – and has become a near-must for respectability. Since I am neither professional nor respectable, I have opted to use a 5-star rating system. It gives me greater leeway and allows for more specificity, separating the bad from the good and the good from the great and the great from the mind-blowing awesome.

To further buck the trend, I’ve coupled my rating system with a letter grading system, ranging from ‘F’ (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Queen Of The Damned) to A+ (The Godfather, Unforgiven). That way, there is a difference between a very, very good film meriting 5 stars and an ‘A’ (The Life Aquatic), and a great one of 5 stars and an ‘A+’ (Magnolia). This allows me to dole out a handful of 5-star ratings every year, while reserving my highest grade for those all-too-rare films that are rapturous, veritable religious experiences.

Last year I gave out two 5-star ratings (Michael Clayton and Hot Fuzz), one the year before (Pan’s Labyrinth) and none in 2005 (at least until I re-examine the charms of Batman Begins). This year I have given two thus far, including one A+, my first since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby (still my reigning choice of the decade ‘til date).

In total, I have given out 6 A+’s this decade for just over 20 five-star-rated films. The ratings and gradings work hand-in-hand, with the gradings elevating or tempering the degree of the rating, and works roughly as thus:

5 stars: A (Excellent) or A+ (Brilliant/Masterpiece)
4½ stars: A- (Great but Flawed) or A (Top Notch)
4 stars: B+ (Very Good) or A- (Very, Very Good)
3½ stars: B (Above Average) or B+ (Pretty Good)
3 stars: B- (Not Bad) or B (Pass Mark: Rated ‘Fresh’)
2½ stars: C+ (Barely Worth It) or B- (Touch-and-Go)
2 stars: D (Very Poor) or C (A Flop)
1½ stars: D (Not Fit For Cable)
1 star: F (Epic Failure)

Think of it sort of the sharps and flats in playing music; after all, many will tell you that writing reviews is an art unto itself (then again, many haven’t read my reviews…).