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88... no, 87: The D'Angeloes and the 100-Point Scale
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 07.19.2003 1:06 pm    Post subject: 88... no, 87: The D'Angeloes and the 100-Point Scale Reply with quote

I'm continually amazed that so many online personal film sites have adopted the 100-point rating scale. I have yet to encounter a reasonable defense of the system, although most seem to come down to an obsessive need on the part of the reviewer to slam an art form into a mathematical formula, quantifying every aspect of a film--as if that were remotely possible.

These D'Angeloes (formerly the D'Angelo Disciples) all seem suckered by their leader's insistence that what's important about film criticism is carefully ranking works into objective lists. I can't fathom why this is supposed to matter. Have they all gone mad? I suppose I would go crazy, too, if I had to find ways to justify such minute divisions. Art just doesn't work that way for me--there are so many variables (literally hundreds of thousands) involved with reacting to a work that it is impossible to arrive at a number that is thoroughly accurate. It is essentially arbitrary and meaningless.

I, for one, have no interest in debating with myself precisely how much I liked Capturing the Friedmans more than Winged Migration. Why does it matter that one is an 88 and the other an 86 (and how could I explain the difference)? How does that help me or a reader? Where's the value in methodically measuring that gray area, which is constantly shifting? What's wrong with allowing ties, even if that means awarding one "B-" after another? The grade isn't what matters anyway.

The vast majority of valuable national critics refuse to award any score at all, and the rest seem unconcerned about the grade. Rosenbaum, for example, uses a 4-star scale but never awards halves--he limits himself to a true 4-slot division. Why do the best writers reject or limit the grading? Because that kind of shorthand is essentially irrelevant to good criticism. Which raises my basic question: why are so many self-professed film lovers reducing their passion--and by extension, the art form--into fanboy obsessiveness?

"Shucks, if only the director had held that tracking shot for another second, I could bump the score up another digit... "

Eric
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 07.19.2003 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I find it wuite unreasonable, also, but D'Angelo himself admits that there is a +/- 3 margin of error to his system. But who the hell wants to bring math into reviewing?! 8)

I, also, don't often read reviewers who do not give grades before seeing hte movie the review is on. I like to see a grade, just as a guideline for viewing in general, but I don't want to see the various points the reviewer makes about each movie, to affect mine prior to viewing. I've always found the 4-star system the best (including halves), but then again, that's the only system I followed for the first few years I began to see movies.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 07.19.2003 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't particularly like scores either. I mean, there are movies I enjoy more than others that I respect or appreciate. How does one take that into account? For instance "Schinder's List" is doubtless a better movie than "Re-Animator," but which do I actually enjoy watching more? On a five-point scale, if I were to award the former a 5 in acknowledgment of its status as a great movie, and the latter a 5 in acknowledgement of its entertainment value, does that put both movies in the same catagory? Would it be fair to dock points from "Re-Animator" simply because it's not as "significant," "important," or "challenging" as "Schindler's List?"
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 07.19.2003 9:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
Would it be fair to dock points from "Re-Animator" simply because it's not as "significant," "important," or "challenging" as "Schindler's List?"


According to the D'Angeloes, that must factor into a final score (although I'm guessing that each individual critic would weight that specific factor differently). You raise a good point; that's not a dynamic that I would wish to quantify. Here's another: What value is there in debating with myself which is greater, Sherlock, Jr. or The Passion of Joan of Arc? For a multitude of reasons, they cannot be reasonably compared. More importantly, why can't I love them equally? Why is it necessary to pick a favorite--and then to also measure by how much it is my favorite?

Is it fair to presume that the D'Angeloes are all of a piece, a group of intertextual critics (some very talented) that intend to rarely deviate from that sole critical theory?

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 07.19.2003 9:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark Dujsik,

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Why did you choose the 4-star system? Have you ever considered the 100-point scale?

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 07.19.2003 10:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I, also, don't often read reviewers who do not give grades before seeing hte movie the review is on. I like to see a grade, just as a guideline for viewing in general, but I don't want to see the various points the reviewer makes about each movie, to affect mine prior to viewing.


I can definitely understand your point about the average filmgoer wanting a quick shorthand that doesn't give away specific critical attitudes. But isn't a rating essentially meaningless without explanation? And for obsessive guys like you and me, do we really need a quick guideline before we watch? I'm going to see Bad Boys II no matter how negative the reviews are, even if it is only out of a sense of critical duty. (I plan to carry a supply of Excedrin.)

Eric
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Michael Scrutchin
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PostPosted: 07.19.2003 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The 100-point scale is insanity. I don't get it.

I remember somebody bringing this up on the Cinemarati message board recently, where Mike D'Angelo and lot of other film critics hang out, and the responses in defense of the 100-point scale didn't convince me.

I've always liked the academic grading scale, but assigning grades to films is still completely arbitrary and relatively pointless. Like Eric said, a rating without an explanation is pointless. If you've been to other big movie forums on the Internet, you've almost surely seen an over-abundance of threads with titles like "Rate my favorite movies!" which consist of nothing but people assigning grades to movies, but without any discussion whatsoever. What's the point? Am I missing something?
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 07.19.2003 11:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
And for obsessive guys like you and me, do we really need a quick guideline before we watch? I'm going to see Bad Boys II no matter how negative the reviews are, even if it is only out of a sense of critical duty. (I plan to carry a supply of Excedrin.)


Well, yes, but I do follow critics when there's a lot out. When I can only see a few movies, I want to see good one's. I normally agree with the majority of critics, so I do use their general opinion as a guideline. When I can, I see everything, no matter what they say...but I think slapping a negative or positive score onto them is almost nessecary.

I do like the Washington Post system (Red light, yellow light, green light), which simply says whether to see it or not.

And, of course, I read the review in full after I see the movie. Whenever I can, I like to have a "virgin moviegoing experience" though, because I think the films are more effective that way. If I had not known the premise of Whale Rider for example, I would've liked it more (even though it's still the best film of the year so far, in my opinion). I think many reviewers tend to talk about the films story, instead of actually explaining their likes and dislikes, this is why good reviewers are few and far between. This is one of the reasons I like James Berardinelli. He hardly ever even talks about the plot of the film, without noting so beforehand.
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filmsRpriceless
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PostPosted: 07.20.2003 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

D'Angelo is probably my favorite critic currently, although like many of you, I cannot understand the 100 system. I have been thinking about trying it to see what it is like, but I don't think I'd be able to, just because I like trusty old 4 star system so much. I've been using it for a long time now and it hasn't failed me yet. I also noticed that a lot of online critics and fans of m'da now use his system like Jeremy Heilman for instance, who used to use the 4 system I use.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 07.24.2003 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the Cinemarati link, Michael. I was browsing their discussion on this topic, and ran across this quote from Jeremy Heilman, who, regrettably, not long ago adopted the 100-point scale:

"If I only saw 20-30 films a year a 10 point system might be fine, but since I see a few hundred a year, I think it calls for a more detailed breakdown."

Again, I must ask why a "more detailed breakdown" is necessary. For either the writer or reader, what aspect of film criticism, analysis, history, or theory is truly, accurately helped by such division? I'm baffled.

(Incidentally, like Heilman, I spend a lot of time keeping up on current and historical film. I watched more than 500 films in each of the last two years, but I have never felt compelled to "breakdown" my responses so that I know exactly how much I liked each one in comparison to every other one. Such scoring simply doesn't matter to me--perhaps because I'm more interested in the work as an individual stimulus.)

Eric
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 07.24.2003 12:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's another quote from the Cinemarati board, from Mike D'Angelo: "It's simply an overall indicator of enthusiasm, and handy when (a) you haven't written a review or (b) the reader hasn't seen the film and wants a sense of how it's been received but does not at this stage want to learn even vague details... The 100-point scale may seem needlessly precise, but try assigning a dozen B's in a row and see how frustrated you get." D'Angelo also explains that he never spends more than "three seconds" determining a score.

Initial thoughts:

Isn't a star or letter grade an "overall indicator of enthusiasm" and equally satisfy the needs of points A and B?

Sounds to me like the only justification for the scale is to help the critic sort and rank--which again raises the question about what defines good, useful criticism. Is the main function of a critic to merely rank works against one another, or to provide perceptions about them? D'Angelo's gripe "try assigning a dozen B's in a row and see how frustrated you get" seems to suggest that he places more emphasis on the ranking function than he ought to. That's particularly disappointing, since his perceptions are often very worthwhile.

If D'Angelo doesn't mull over a score--which is good, of course--doesn't that invalidate the rankings? If it's just a general idea of his response, why an 86 rather than 88? Why not just a "B+," which is certainly a reader-friendly grade? I have to assume that the answer is that D'Angelo is less interested in the reader than in playing a personal--and essentially meaningless--ranking game.

Eric
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 07.24.2003 3:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd never read any reviews by D'Angelo before, so I thought I'd trot on over and take a look-see. Well, his "Signs" review totally won me over. I'm bookmarking his site, 100-point rating system or not. Smile
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 07.24.2003 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the exact thing is to measure movies like South Park against let's say Amelie. Some critics may give those two movies the same rating on the 4 star scale, but I think the 100 point scale is more adequate for that. Still, though, if a person reads the review of someone on a four-star scale they'll find out how much that critic liked movie-a over movie-b.

One thing I still don't understand is D'Angelo's 100 point to letter grade conversion. If you browse his archives by letter grade, 68's are Bs, and such. So it's not just based on percent.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 07.24.2003 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I think the exact thing is to measure movies like South Park against let's say Amelie. Some critics may give those two movies the same rating on the 4 star scale, but I think the 100 point scale is more adequate for that.


Doesn't everyone assume that a score is relative to the work, its genre, and its ambition? Isn't that grey area built into every scoring system? Is there anyone out there that actually thinks a 3-star review for Bad Boys II means the same thing as a 3-star review for Capturing the Friedmans? I guess I fail to see how the 100-point scale offers anything new in that regard. The only way it could be meaningful is if the numbers were truly exact, an accurate objective quantification of the critic's response. But that, of course, does not apply to art and is neither possible nor desirable.

Night Watchman--I agree about D'Angelo's writing. He's terrific--although at times a tad too snarky and dismissive for my tastes--which is why I'm so disappointed that he uses a ridiculous assessment scale. All those D'Angeloes out there ought to mimic his analysis skills rather than his scoring system. (I remember laughing out loud at his Sleepy Time Gal review, not just because it was hilarious, but that it was perfectly accurate, too.)

Eric


Last edited by beltmann on 07.25.2003 1:45 am; edited 1 time in total
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 07.25.2003 12:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I would assume so, but hey, are there any more valid reasons to use the rediculous 100-point system? Laughing
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