Re: To rate or not to rate, a movie? That is the question.
I've been revisiting this subject recently, at least in my own mind. Anybody familiar with my posting habits may recall me as someone who steadfastly avoids the use of ratings, out of a belief that movies are not appreciated on a linear scale and thus cannot be rated on one.
Recently, in a conversation in a movie thread on another forum I visit,
I made the following statement:
I've already gotten into this here a bit, but I think criticism starts with the viewing experience--the pure input of the movie and the pure response of your brain chemistry, at a non-verbal level. It's like laughing at a good joke. Laughter is largely involuntary and instinctive.
For the most part, the intellectual/theoretical stuff doesn't start until you're out of the theater. At that point, you're not trying to figure out how you felt about the movie, because you already know that. The intellectual/theoretical stuff is for figuring out why you felt that way. That's why we could take shots at each other's points all day, but neither of us is going to go back in time and alter the viewing experience of the other. And that experience is the premise of the whole argument in the first place.
[For example,] I'm not interested in changing your mind about Cabin in the Woods, so much as simply attempting to figure out why it didn't reach me. To return to the joke analogy: some people will laugh at the same joke and others won't. You can figure out what those reasons are, but not until after the fact.
The interesting thing is, if you think your way deeply enough into an argument about movies, you start to see how arbitrary any argument is if it isn't based first and foremost in the viewing experience. That's why I think it's important to start with the simple, unshakeable fact: "I liked this/didn't like this, and to such-and-such degree" and go from there.
If you second-guess the importance of your own experience, then you can argue practically anything. Via argument, you can turn the greatest movies in the world into festering puddles of diarrhea, and vice-versa. This is the most important weapon in Armond White's arsenal: developing a cerebral argument that has no obvious connection to how the movie affected him personally.
In making this statement, I believe I may have stumbled across a cogent rationale for the use of ratings, especially in this particularly relevant portion:
Perhaps the rating can't encapsulate the many facets of an experience, not by a long shot, but perhaps it can be useful in evaluating that first simple, unshakeable fact--the general positivity of the effect on the viewer. Perhaps that's how the rating is useful to the person writing the critique, and its use to the person reading it is simply incidental.
So... what'll it be? A 1 to 10 scale? Zero to four stars? Light American lager to wheat IPA?