If you want the gravy…

…You've got to get the biscuits!

Introducing the New Rating System

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I’ve decided to change things up a bit here. For several years, I’ve been using a four-star system, with **** as the best and “Utter Shite” as the worst. It’s a good system, but it occurred to me that a change might be in order.

I’ve decided to switch to a five-star system, where the ratings will be distributed thus:

  • *****: 90-100
  • ****½: 85-89
  • ****: 75-84
  • ***½: 65-74
  • ***: 55-64
  • **½: 45-54
  • **: 35-44
  • *½: 25-34
  • *: 15-24
  • ½: 10-14
  • Utter Shite: 0-9

The net effect of this is to make my highest and lowest rankings more exclusive. Which is not to belittle the films I scored 87 and 88, but is it unfair to say that a great but imperfect film like Snowpiercer is not necessarily in the same strata of greatness as, say, 2001? Is it wrong to say that the badness of Gigli is less absolute than the badness of Black Devil Doll from Hell?

And the new ****½ rating brings what were once low **** films and high ***½ films together into a happy family of excellence–but the kind of excellence that makes a year-end Top 10 rather than an all-time Top 10. 87s and 88s are relatively plentiful. 90+ films are rare. They are, to quote the cartoonist Bob Mankoff, the “crème de la crème of the crème de la crème”. Only the very greatest films qualify; in many years you could count them on one hand.

It’s not a perfect system–that Argo may now be considered a **** film (at least until I rerank it) is a bit hard to swallow. But that’s what you get when you institute a system like this. You have to take the bad with the good. And I’m entirely willing to do that.

I won’t retroactively change the ratings on my previously published reviews, but I will update the lists of yearly rankings to reflect the changes. The new ratings will first be applied to my reviews of Foxcatcher and American Sniper, coming later this morning.

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