The Ratings

The rating system on JW – an explanation.

Well, we don’t much like stars or marks out of 10 around here. To me, a star or numerical grade doesn’t work very well for the following reasons:

1. It distracts from the review text (which is where you can really get a sense of the reviewer’s opinion).

2. It pigeonholes films into preset notions of worth.

3. Nobody takes the time to figure out what star grades really mean.

I got the idea of a custom letter grade review system from They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? While it isn’t perfect, it bypasses in large part the problems inherent in stars and numbers while adding a personal flavour to my reviews and to the site. I figure that this way, people will be more interested to find out what I mean from the grades I give.

So, here’s an outline of each rating in a little more detail.

(E) means essential.  In other words, these are films that I consider to be essential viewing for everyone that loves movies.  Each one has probably impacted on my life in a profound way, or at least wowed me with a fully realised cinematic vision.

(H) means highly recommended.  Bubbling under the highest level, these are films that are still outstanding and worthy of just about anyone’s time.  Generally, they don’t have obvious flaws; they just lack a certain something that would push them into the realms of the extraordinary.

(R) means recommended.  Films that are brilliant but flawed will fall here, as will first-rate examples of films that are bound by genre constraints and those that achieve somewhat more limited ambitions.  At any rate, I admire them enough to recommend.

(W) means worth a look.  Far from getting into the lower end of the ratings, these are often films that have fascinating elements but lack an overall quality that would elevate them.

(C) means (be) careful.  These are films that I feel the potential viewer should be aware are severely limited by one or a number of factors before choosing to watch them.  Often, they’re finely made and decently acted pictures that have such a boring script or uninspired vision that I couldn’t honestly recommend them; other times, there’s something particular that I enjoyed enough to think on.

(N) means no.  Not worth your time. Don’t bother. Watch something else.

As with everything, this system can evolve, and if you have ideas that would improve it – or any feedback at all – do leave a comment below. (At present, I’m unsure whether to continue displaying ratings at all.)

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