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Tuesday, 1 August 2000
1 - Abysmal | 2 - Bad | 3 - Poor | 4 - OK | 5 - Good | 6 - Excellent | 7 - Classic
4 - OK
4 is the pivot and it simply means OK. OK films are those that may keep our attention from beginning to end but they hold absolutely nothing else for us. There's nothing particularly bad to say but there's nothing particularly good to say either. Also, on occasion an otherwise Good film may have a flaw large enough to warrant a lowering of the rating, or an otherwise Poor film has something notable enough to warrant it raised.
For example, films like Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979), Spencer Tracy's Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1941) or Mortal Kombat Annihilation (1997) are just there. They just exist and there's nothing much to say about them.
5 - Good
This is the first step up the ratings ladder. Good films should have something positive to them to make them something more than just OK. This could be a great acting performance or an interesting plot, or just something that sticks happily in the mind. But good doesn't mean great, and these films are missing much that could have made them great.
For example, average films like Road to Singapore (1940) or The Company of Wolves (1984) raise themselves up through their sheer energy or by particular distinctive performances. Others like The Oklahoma Kid (1939) or Dollar for the Dead (1998) might rate higher if only I could buy into James Cagney or Emilio Estevez as cowboys.
6 - Excellent
These are highly enjoyable films that are well worth watching, but they have something to keep them down from a Classic rating. There might be obvious flaws or just some sense that something is missing. Maybe there's a major plot hole or one performance just let the side down.
For example, Gone with the Wind (1939) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) are superb films that nonetheless contain what to me are unforgiveable flaws. Others, like Russ Meyer's highly distinctive Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! (1966) and Mudhoney (1966) are wonderful movies that I somehow couldn't bring myself to give a Classic rating to.
7 - Classic
These films are the best of the best, the ones that people should still be talking about years from now. Classics should have either no flaws or at very least only forgiveable ones. They should be the best of their genres, command respect or admiration and contain masterclass direction, acting or cinematography. They should be the sort of films to want to see again, and should bear up or be at least likely to bear up under repeated viewings. All films in the IMDb Top 250 list ought to be Classics, but to my mind many aren't. Keep your eyes peeled for my stroll through the whole list over the course of 2010 to see which.
For example, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and Casablanca (1942) are essentially perfect films with no discernable flaws. The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971) is certainly not perfect but it outdoes itself by bringing a noticeably unique sense of style to its genre and so its flaws are entirely forgiveable.
3 - Poor
This is the first step down from OK. Poor means that there is something actively bad about a film. It may have redeeming features but these don't outweigh the negative. There could be a performance that's too bad to forgive or maybe an OK film just fell apart partway through. Alternatively Poor films could be Bad films with a single saving grace.
For example, films like Mars Needs Women (1967) or Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) have much to be ashamed of but somehow they're still guilty pleasures. Others are watchable only for one thing, such as Black Dragons (1942) or Murder By Television (1935) which are bearable only because of the presence of Bela Lugosi.
2 - Bad
A Bad film has much to apologise for. However it should have at least something that is positive. Maybe one actor shone above all the rest, or the script was too good for bad actors to do justice to. Perhaps the film is great at one thing, such as action or kung fu sequences or cinematography, but there's nothing else going for it at all.
For example, Maniac (1932) and Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2002) are frankly terrible but the former contains fascinating sequences and ideas that were unheard of in its era and the latter at least has some superb action scenes. On the other hand, some of the principal characters in Simon Sez (1999) were so intensely annoying that they really spoiled what little the film had to start with.
1 - Abysmal
Abysmal films are the worst of the worst. These films usually have no redeemable features at all and could only be appreciated with overdubs from MST3K. On occasion they might have something to say for themselves but have features that are so truly awful that they wipe out everything else.
For instance, films like Reptilicus! (1962) or Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) contain no positive features whatsoever. Other films like Strange Interlude (1932) or Battlefield Earth (2000) have something going for them but whatever that is gets trumped by a single overriding failure. The gimmick of the former backfires so spectacularly that even Clark Gable can't salvage the film, and everything the latter stands for is so entirely ludicrous that I just threw up my hands in despair.
Translating to IMDb Ratings
While this seven point rating system works for me, it isn't a common one. The IMDb uses a ten point system, from one to ten, and I can translate mine across to it easily enough.
My 7-Classic would equal a 9 or 10 at IMDb. The Passion of Joan of Arc would be a 10 but The Abominable Dr Phibes would only be a 9.
My 6-Excellent would become either a 7 or an 8 at IMDb. All Quiet on the Western Front would be an 8 but Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! only a 7.
My mid rankings translate easily. A 5-Good would be a 6 at IMDb, a 4-OK would become a 5 and a 3-Poor would equal an IMDb 4.
My 2-Bad would also be a 2 at IMDb but some would reach a 3. Maniac would be a 2 but Simon Sez would be a 3.
Finally, my 1-Abysmal would translate simply to a 1 at IMDb.