This article first appeared in the January print issue published in Dec. 29.
Has this happened to you? After watching a movie (or film), you or someone else in the audience, once the end credits begin rolling, inevitably say, “I don’t know how this got such a high rating. That was awful!!!” Having seen over 10,000 different feature films in my lifetime, I’ve heard – and said – this a lot. For years, I waited for a new method of film criticism that says more about a motion picture than thumbs, tomato meters, stars, letters, or random numbers. A method that says more about why a specific movie/film was produced and released, with legitimate context in assessing its quality. No new methods have been created until now. Through my years of work and research associated with my Ph.D. studies at The European Graduate School, it is time to finally put this technique I have created into practice.
Enter the CineReview, a new way to see cinema (a term I use in the least pretentious way possible), criticism, and ultimately, aggregation (think an accurate Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic). The CineReview will inform readers by creating an environment where the reader can explore the review of a specific motion picture by a critic in its entirety as the first option, without truncating or prohibitively encapsulating the review—a common practice for review aggregators. This also eliminates the dependence and overemphasis on a hierarchal system and never-ending debates over what is singularly the best release or releases of each year. Top ten Lists can be fun, but they should never limit what you see. This is why so many works of cinema get lost in the shuffle for years and rediscovered decades later.
The work’s intent is of utmost importance, even more so than the work itself. Why was this motion picture created and distributed? What did the filmmakers and/or studio intend on the presentation of the work in a public setting, home theater, or portable device? What purpose does the work inherently serve? Was it created simply to entertain? To make money through box office grosses, product placement and toy sales? Or was it made as a prestige motion picture, catering to the film critic’s sensibilities as to what makes a serious film worthy of awards and praise? Or is the work genuinely attempting to elevate the art form stylistically or thematically?
The genre of the work is equally important to the CineReview of a motion picture. The genre will establish a context for the reviewer’s thoughts on the motion picture, as well as orient the reader by providing a designation and categorization of the intent of the reviewed work of cinema, anchoring the meaning of the review beyond the preexisting and arbitrary means of stars, buckets of popcorn, and numeric evaluations. Once the genre and sub-genre(s) have been established, the critic will view the motion picture and assess its value as both a movie and a film. This assessment will utilize common, easily translatable English phrases to convey the rating of the motion picture to the reader in the way we already talk about cinema. These descriptions, referred to as ratings, employ a natural adjective ladder.
See the graphic (on this page) for a diagrammed breakdown of what CineReview ratings will be used. The highest rating for the CineReview is Amazing Movie/Amazing Film, with the lowest rating being Awful Movie/Awful Film.
Some questions you may be asking at this point: Can an amazing movie be an awful film? Can an awful movie be an amazing film? The answer to both is…YES! Because movies are typically meant to entertain and (hopefully) make money, and films ideally elevate the art form of cinema, a motion picture can be amazing and awful simultaneously. Again, it’s all about the intent of the filmmaker and/or studio.
Review aggregators aren’t the enemy. Film critics aren’t the enemy, nor is modern American film criticism. The enemy is complacency and designations that routinely misinform the public. From a review aggregator perspective, a clear understanding of the rating criteria and what the results actually mean is no longer the primary function. The CineReview looks to change that for the audience.
I am very excited to share with the readers of the Hendersonian (and on my website at www.mcmanuswoodend.com/cinelogical) this new perspective on how we watch, critique, and decide what motion pictures are worth your money and time.
Henderson resident McManus Woodend is an Assistant Professor of Digital Media at the University of Southern Indiana and has worked in film, television and commercials for more than 20 years. To see some of his work, visit www.mcmanuswoodend.com.