Monday, July 1, 2013

"Ratings are Relative"

The late film critic Roger Ebert once said this about how he would rate stars on his reviews:

"When you ask a friend if Hellboy is any good, you're not asking if it's any good compared to Mystic River, you're asking if it's any good compared to The Punisher. And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if Superman is four, then Hellboy is three and The Punisher is two. In the same way, if American Beauty gets four stars, then The United States of Leland clocks in at about two."

And he brought this up during his review of War of the Worlds on Ebert and Roeper:

So what does Ebert means when he says ratings are relative?
When I first heard this explanation of this statement from Roger, I actually think he's not really talking about the ratings itself, but how to properly compare movies fairly, so actually in the War of the Worlds review, I think he actually failed to answer Roeper's question whether would he recommend this film over The Longest Yard or the Honeymooners. But I think what he's actually saying is that when comparing movies you have to compare apples and apples, so he's saying that Longest Yard and Honeymooners shouldn't be compared to War of the Worlds, because they are totally different kinds of films, apples and oranges. Similarly, he means that films like Hellboy, a comic book film, should be compared to other comic book films like The Punisher and Superman, and not a drama like Mystic River, because films need to have a common ground before they can be compared.
So what do I think when we say ratings are relative? Actually what my personal thought of this concept is actually something that Ebert also pointed out in the War of the Worlds review. There is a reason when people read a movie review, they actually read the review and not just see the rating that the critic gives, because as Ebert said "there are gradations and contexts that go on." Movie critics don't just give a rating for a movie and that's it, people have to look why the critic gave this rating, so that the critic can justify the said rating. For example, a critic might acknowledge that Transformers has a lot of action scenes and explosions and may satisfy the action junkies, but he/she would still give a negative review because he/she didn't like the story, and people shouldn't start raging and trolling at that critic because his/her negative review doesn't mean that the movie is bad, full stop, it's just that he/she personally didn't enjoy it because the story wasn't well written, but he/she acknowledges that action fans will still love it. That's why Ebert says you have to look at the context of the review first before you start judging it immediately.
So from this, we actually learn 2 things when reviewing movies:
1. We should compare movies that at least something in common in order to be fairly compared with.
2. Ratings don't mean anything unless you see it in the context of the review.
So in conclusion, I hope we have learnt something from Roger Ebert when we review movies here, so let us all be civilised here and be respectful to the reviews, and read them thoroughly before doing anything irrational like trolling or spamming in rage at certain reviews because we give a rating that you don't agree with. Thanks a lot for your time reading this short analysis. 

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