Ever since I began writing about film online, I’ve felt compelled to use some sort of visual rating system. Although never a fan of the simplistic “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” of Siskel and Ebert, I felt using a rating out of ten gave me a sort of critical framework for comparing films to each other. But lately, I’ve been questioning the value of such a system. When I see otherwise sane people deciding what film to see based solely on a numerical score (even, or maybe especially, one out of 100!) from Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, it disappoints me. And yet, I’ve been rating films this way for years. Well, no more, at least here.
I’ve come to realize that for a variety of reasons, I’m doing a disservice to readers by slapping a number at the bottom of my reviews. For film lovers, it’s too tempting to skip to the rating and not bother to read the analysis and reasoning behind it. And for filmmakers, whose work I’m usually happy to help promote, the number can sink an otherwise well-reasoned review. Filmmakers may be reluctant to link here or even quote from one of my reviews if the number isn’t at least a 9 or a 10. Somehow, that feels unfair to everyone involved.
So, at least for the foreseeable future, the numerical ratings won’t appear here. I still rate everything I see on IMDB, but that’s more for calibrating my own internal critical sense. I don’t see it adding much value here. What do you think? Are numbers and stars and percentage scores and even thumbs useful to anyone other than the most casual of filmgoers?