Readers of this site have asked about what basis I use to tell if a movie is good or not.
So I figure, since MovieLens is batting 19 out of 20. I can safely say that the computer knows my movie rating system. So I might as well be a little more consistent.
First of all, when I see a movie, I don’t go into a mathematical calculation to determine its rating.
First I give an overall rating 0-5 (0 being I’ll never see this movie to 5 being this is the best.movie.ever!)
3, on this scale is like a 60% on a test. Not very good.
- So a 5 = 100%
a 4 = 80% (Good Movie)
3 = 60% (Not a good movie)
2 = 40% (Bad Movie)
1 = 20% (AWFUL Movie)
After I give a gut check overall rating, I look at what made it good (and bad), and then evaluate my overall rating based on the below criteria.
(Here is where it gets complicated, as I have a lot of criteria) I don’t use these numbers, but the numbers should give you a good idea of how I weight things.
- Story 50 pts
- The story is the most important part of the movie. What I mean by story is the tale the movie tells. Is it a good one? (A down and out renegade, expatriated from his home country, living as a saloon owner in WWII era French-North-Africa, and how he deals with the appearance of his long lost broken hearted love and the dark underworld of smuggling against the Nazis. That is a good story.) As opposed to: (A blind guy in a red demon suit, with uncanny powers to “see” with his other senses in his battle against crime) This is NOT a good story.
On the same lines, if the story is more important then the actors, the movie is a good movie. If the story is just second fiddle to the actors trying to look good, this is NOT a good movie.
- The plot differs from the story, just as spices differ from the main dish. The plot can either help or hurt the story. Plots can often include plot swerves (A personal favorite of mine), or climatic clashes with the main character and the antagonist (be it man, animal, environment, or themselves). Conflict and Angst are often big plusses for my movie rating. Conflict which makes people look like complete idiots is a BIG minus.
Also, the use of what I call “grey Characters” is a good bonus for a film. A Grey Character is a character that is both good and evil, or neither good nor evil. They are often quite skilled in being bad, and end up working for good. (Han Solo is an adequate example: He’s a smuggler, but ends up fighting with the “good guys” in the Star Wars trilogy.)
Additionally, when plots involve some unconventional protagonists and antagonists, this can work well for my enjoyment of the film. Also, the level of “Sneaky Bastardness” a film offers is a HUGE factor in my appreciation of the plot.
- The Count of Monte Cristo had GREAT plot and development.
Ace Ventura‘s conflict was just asinine.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is an excellent example of character driven plot. If you look at the film as just three main characters, and Bogie is the antagonist, you will be disappointed. But if you look at the film as 4 main characters and the GOLD as the Antagonist, the film is seen in an entirely new light.
- Actors have a powerful role in a film. They have the impossible job of assuming another role and attempt to make it believable. A movie with very detailed characters is something to behold, while at the same time, a movie with a plethora of vanilla characters is long and tedious.
At the same time, a movie where the Actor cannot get into character (Or the character is just a carbon copy of the actor, or another role the actor played previously) is hardly enjoyable for me. This is a danger of type casting.
- 12 Angry Men offers 12 unique and very well defined characters; so much so they don’t use names. Their individual personalities are more then enough to distinguish themselves in this well written story
Jurasic Park: The Lost World was almost entirely devoid of characters. It was a bunch of people on an island, trapped with Special Effects dinosaurs. Development was shallow, at best.
Bad Boys II was a miserable experience for me, as the TWO MAIN Characters were Will Smith and Martain Lawrence. Not Detectives Burnett and Lowrey. No, they were unmistakably Smith and Lawrence going by different names. In fact the names didn’t matter, they could have been named Smith and Lawrence, and it would not have changed the movie experience for me.
- A lot of people have often complained about some comments I make about a particular movie, with a retort of, “Have you never heard of suspension of disbelief?”
When I hear that I just shake my head ruefully. If a movie was GOOD, I would not have to suspend ANYTHING. The movie would MAKE me believe what was going on.
- Armageddon was a complete load of tripe. They took fantastically impossible things and shoved them down the audience’s throat to create a story. They didn’t use the story to make the audience believe these fantastic things (and impossibilities in the physical universe), they just wanted a high impact blockbuster.
The Matrix on the other hand was a fantastic fantasy wrapped in a well written story. The Wachowski brothers didn’t require any suspension of disbelief. They made a movie that took an impossible concept and made it easy to swallow. That, my friends, is a good movie.
- I’m all for having a good time at the movies. A movie that makes me laugh is a good movie. (But notice the weight is much lower then the previous criteria). But at the same time, not all movies can be happy. There is a lot to be said for movies that are tragic. When a movie is both, that is truly something.
- Life is Beautiful is the perfect example of the perfect mix of Comedy and Tragedy. I cannot think of any other film that even comes close to the emotional flexibility of this movie, and that alone makes the movie a sight to behold.
Caddyshack is a pure comedy that covers pretty much all the bases. The Story is weak, but the humor factor saves this film. Fletch also falls here. Both are well written, and almost timeless in their quotability.
The Animal was just a lame attempt at a funny movie. No writing, No Drama, just lame jokes and slapstick comedy.
- Note the low factor. Yes, I admit. Special Effects are pretty darn cool. But if a movie is NOTHING but Special Effects, well, I feel ripped off, of both my time and money.
Okay, that’s a pretty good summary. This is hardly a concrete list of criteria. There are some movies where this criteria just doesn’t work, but its a good frame work for me to start with. Others disagree. Some of my friends are special effects junkies. Me, I’m a story junkie. Give me a good story, one to watch over and over, and you’ve won me as an audience.
One thing I have noticed in my short life of movie appreciation. Older movies have some pretty great stories, and great character actors. Now a days, movies are all about actors and not the story.
Just my humble opinion.
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