Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Critics Critiquing Critics

posted by Nell Minow

Critics complain about having to decide how many stars to give a movie. There are times when it does feel very arbitrary to try to assign stars or letter grades to a film. And sometimes I think it creates more confusion than it dispels. My view is that you can only grade a movie within the context of its own aspirations and its intended audience. Otherwise, every review is going to begin, “Well, it’s no Citizen Kane. I also rethink my grade when the movie comes out again on DVD.
Eric Childress of CriticWatch provides his annual dissection of the worst movie critics, those who can’t write, those who don’t know anything about movies or about reviewing them, and worst of all those who will say anything (and I mean anything) about any movie (and I mean any movie) in order to get their name in an ad. I breathed a sigh of relief when the only mention of my site was a positive one but nevertheless resolved to do my best to stay away from his list of overused adjectives. (Note: some strong language, understandable under the circumstances.)



  • Wendy

    That was a very positive comment towards you and an amusing post. Thanks for the heads-up. I look to you not just to see whether the film is family appropriate (actually–not at all for that as my daughter is not yet two, but I look forward to your family oriented thoughts in the future), but because I really mesh with your taste in films. We get to movies so rarely, I want to make sure something is worth seeing, and I know your review is my best bet.

  • Alicia

    Hi, Nell. Eric Childress’s selection of bad quotes by critics is funny – I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side!
    I love your reviews of all kinds of movies, not just family-oriented movies.
    Regarding the star system (or the grade system) I rather like the star system. (I already posted about this on the “Crunchy Con” blog, and as I said there, I’ve probably spent way too much time thinking about this, but it’s fun.)
    The grade system you use is probably even better because it allows more nuance, but I’m more used to the * system because of the hours spent browsing Leonard Maltin’s movie book.
    I think the star system is useful in deciding whether to watch a movie or not. Generally, if a movie gets ** or lower, I think of that as “don’t waste your time.” ** stars is supposed to be average, but I think of it as “thorougly mediocre, with nothing special to recommend it.”
    ** 1/2 – Average, but with a little something extra, such as great production values or good performances. Two and a half stars is sort of the “damning with faint praise” category. I think of it as the “if you don’t have anything better to do, watch this” rating. Unfortunately, many well-reviewed movies fall into this category.
    *** – Good – worth seeing at least once or twice, but not exceptional. 3 stars is also a good rating for entertaining movies like “The Fugitive” or “Titanic,” that, while not great, are good “comfort movies” that can be watched many times. Good horror movies would mostly fall into this category.
    *** 1/2 – Excellent, but perhaps just misses being a classic. Lots of excellent films that can be seen more than once, but may not stand the test of time to become classics. “Michael Clayton” would be a recent example.
    **** – Classic. Movies that stand the test of time and seem to grow in stature.
    Thanks for letting me ramble on – but this is a subject I love thinking and writing about.
    Happy Friday!

Previous Posts

Should Movie Audiences Text to the Screen?
It is annoying enough when someone near you in a movie theater takes out a cell phone to text. Imagine how it would be if you then saw the text on the screen. That's what a Chinese theater is experimenting with in what they are calling "bullet screens." The idea is that what you are there to enjo

posted 3:59:17pm Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

Back to School Guidelines for Parents on Kids and Media
Screen time is a treat, not a right. It’s a good idea to make sure that it comes only after homework, chores, other kinds of play, and family time. Make sure there is some quiet time each day as well. The spirit is nourished by silence. All too often, we try to drown out our unsettled or lonely fe

posted 8:00:27am Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

After the Ice Bucket Challenge: Two Upcoming Movies About People With ALS
The Ice Bucket Challenge has brought a lot of money and attention to a devastating illness, ALS or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's Disease for the the New York Yankee who had to leave baseball when he was afflicted with ALS. Two upcoming films about people with ALS

posted 7:00:17am Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

Thursdays in September on Turner Classic Movies: The Jewish Experience on Film
This month, TCM has an excellent series of films about the Jewish experience, every Thursday. TCM proudly presents The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film, a weekly showcase of movies focusing on Jewish history and heritage as portrayed onscreen. Co-hosting the films each Thursday is D

posted 9:21:56pm Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »

Start the School Year With a No-Screen Week
A new study shows another good reason to detox from all screen time now and then, especially for kids.  Children who take a five-day break from all screens are better at reading real-life facial expressions to understand the emotions of the people around them.  Psyblog described the study, which s

posted 3:56:33pm Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.