Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

Artistic Quantification

Cinema critics, many of them, use a rating system. Ratings range from letter grades, through star ratings to a simple 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down'. Cinema, at it's best is a powerful art and at it's worst an exercise in patience cultivation. In my perspective, any cinema falls within that range. But to place a cinema in that range based on stars or grades is not something a critic may particularly enjoy.

I saw 'Saving Private Ryan' yesterday, probably for the 11th time. It was as gripping and devastating as much as it impacted me the first time. It hasn't lost it's punch. To me that is a great movie. Giving it an A+ or ****/**** and writing a paragraph doesn't do justice to the great piece of art it is. But most of the mainstream audience seem to be interested in it. Sites like rottentomatoes thrive on this quantification phenomenon. Only movie lovers will read all the words in the full-page review, whereas the browser, whose memory retention is two odd hours (just enough time to remember the details of the movie and to forget about it when he's out of the theatre) needs a concrete output, where the movie sits for an exam conducted the critics and they all evaluate it for the browser.

I don't think many thinking critics respect their rating system. They do it because their editor wants to present a one-line opinion to their browser, followed by that detailed analysis, if you're really into it, and the critics do it as a part of their job. For a freelancer like me, rating is an undesirable and unwanted element of cinema reviewing. I have no editor to report to. To me, it is the equivalent of assigning a number to a Picasso's painting (that is, if I knew how to appreciate painting). You look at it, absorb it, and then talk to your friend or write about how wonderful or imaginative or inventive or pathetic the painting is. There is no point in telling your friend "I would give it a 6 out of 10. That's how much it's worth."

2 Responses to “Artistic Quantification”

  1. # Anonymous nevermind

    Both of us know we dont understand painting very much....worse thing is we learnt it the hard way Chicago!  

  2. # Blogger Prasad Venkataramana

    Well, may be you didn't understand a thing. I was able to see the beauty of those water lilies by Monet - the dirty white canvas in the background, the glistening effect of the sun through the clouds seen in the reflection of the water, and .... holy crap. It really sucked!! Thanks for sharing my pain the other day.  

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