Star Ratings

Star Ratings

250+ posts into ccpopculture, I’m beginning to reconsider my initial decision to avoid star ratings entirely. 200 words isn’t a lot, and finding space to talk about what’s interesting about an artwork while also assessing its quality is difficult – my reviews regularly include an awkwardly shoehorned “Recommended” or similar.

But star ratings are problematic. They’re reductive, for one – plenty of people ignore the contents of a review in favour of an often arbitrary rating. Given that I predominantly review things I enjoy, they’d be severely skewed towards the top end.

Star ratings are notoriously weak at distinguishing entertaining trash from flawed art. For example, I found Wrong Turn 2 more entertaining than Upstream Color, but I wouldn’t for a minute describe the former as “better” than Carruth’s film. Do you rate something on how entertaining it is, how well-made it is, how original it is, how successful it is at achieving its goals (even modest, genre ones)? Without clarity, ratings are often meaningless.

I remain undecided; I’ll probably introduce such a system in the near future, but the details remain unclear. What are your thoughts – do you use ratings? What are the pluses and minuses of the system you use?

9 thoughts on “Star Ratings

  1. I held out on using ratings for a while for the same reasons as you – I didn’t want people to just ignore the review and skip to the end. However, I caved eventually and I think i’s been worth it. If someone doesn’t have time to read the review then that person can at least check out the score and it also makes it easier for people to judge their own views against other people’s for comparison. I normally just have a gut feeling about what rating I’m going to give a film, I’m not sure exactly what I base it on!

    • Yeah, I suppose it’s impossible to be too scientific about it – gut feeling about how much you like (or don’t like) a film/show/album is really what it comes down to. Personally, I’m worried I’d be too generous with films (in particular) I’ve just seen – I tend to have a more critical perspective once some time has passed! I suppose there’s nothing wrong with re-evaluating films though – even Ebert did it.

  2. I do ratings based on whether or not the movie entertained me. But, since I try and talk about mostly non mainstream things, I feel the need to constantly explain why I would give something like Hatchet 2 a five and put something like Funny Games on the Most Unclean list. I LOVED Hatchet 2 and despised Funny Games – but it’s my site so I can do what I want : ) I’m not some syndication.

    • That makes sense! Genre films are definitely tricky because something that genre-fans might love doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone but, like, everyone loves Goodfellas (also that reminds me that I’ve yet to see a single Hatchet film).

      Part of my problem is the word limit – it’s pretty easy in an Extended Cut to explain a rating, but sometimes 200 words means that my review won’t really be a review, and it might be hard for the reader to understand why I’ve given a particular film 2 stars rather than 3, etc…

    • Then again, I guess I’m going in with the perspective that star ratings should be useful for people to decide if they should see a film or not. I guess they can just be for how much the reader likes the film – I mean, I’m going to understand that what you give 5 stars might not be 5 stars for everyone, given the films you like!

  3. On our site we have never had a consensus on a ratings system (the downside to sharing a site is dealing with others trivial opinions). At different stages we have had different views on rating systems. We originally were using an AV Club system of A, A-, B+ etc, because we liked that there was a huge range, but felt it made no sense in an Australian context. We have also posted reviews with star ratings and also reviews with no ratings at all. I personally prefer the star system because I tend to be more interested in analysing the choices the ‘artists’ have made as apposed to determining whether or not the product is good. I usually then summarise in 1 paragraph if I personally enjoyed the end-product or not, so the Star system, along with that paragraph, then give me the chance to say whether i liked, disliked or was totally indifferent.
    But I often have long winded reviews, I try to limit myself to a word count but I never have the discipline. So we are in very different circumstances i guess.

    • Thanks for the extended response! I’m a big fan of reviews that simply don’t require a star rating/other kind of ranking, which is why I originally didn’t bother with any, but it’s pretty tough in 200 words to be interesting and give some indication of quality. Now, not every review has to indicate the quality/entertainment value of a film, but if it’s a new film I like to give readers some sense of whether they’d enjoy seeing it or not (not so bothered with older films). There are certainly many films that I don’t necessarily like, but are interesting in one way or another (say, an amazing performance by an actor in an otherwise forgettable film).

      I really like the F to A+ scale, actually – perhaps because I’m a teacher myself! One of the disadvantages of the star rating is that it’s not consistent across publications – 3 stars from one website/newspaper might indicate a good film, or it might indicate a thoroughly mediocre film elsewhere. Whereas most people get the grading scale – a B+ is really great but not quite excellent, a C+ is a slightly above average film, etc. Problem for me is that I don’t really want the huge range: I know that I tend to overrate films right after seeing them, and the difference between, say, an A and A- is so slim that it might just depend on the mood I’m in. I’m leaning towards the grading system at the moment – that is, star ratings that stop at 4 stars, because once a film is great you can read the review to decide if it’s excellent or a stone-cold classic.

  4. Pingback: Introducing ccpopculture’s Ranking System | ccpopculture

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