Sean’s First Post: Film Grading System

Children of Men is the perfect example of an A+ film.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I want to introduce myself to a new audience on Indies Unchained. The blog is new and exciting. We all have so much we want to say about the industry, films, the process of filmmaking, etc. I live in Boston and get to see a lot of free advance screenings of Hollywood and Independent films. Because of this we decided one of the things I’ll do is write reviews. I’m excited to share my opinion about films with as many people as possible, but I realized a lot you have absolutely no  idea what kind of films I like. With my first post on Indies Unchained I’ve decided to give you some context. I will introduce my grading system and also present a couple films that received these grades.

Something you’ll come to realize is my feelings about a film truly come from an emotional or gut feeling first, and an intellectual place second. For some reason my feelings about films makes sense when I use a letter system. It’s specific, but also just vague enough. In the end, grading a film is an entirely subjective experience and most of you won’t agree with the grades I assign. My response? Good. We all interpret cinema in a different way because we are different, unique people. So lets go over my criteria for film grades.

  • An A+ is a film that I consider a masterpiece. It engages me in an emotional and powerful manner while simultaneously affecting the way I think about the world, myself, and others without obvious manipulation and over the top sentimentaility. Another important factor is their use of cinematic language. There’s something truly special about the way the film was made (cinematography, editing, production design, etc). These films blow me away in every way, and they are rare. Examples: Children of Men, Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind, Where the Wild Things Are, Let the Right One In.
  • films are great, but there’s usually some small thing holding it back and I can’t always explain why. Or maybe I didn’t like half the film, but the second half was just so emotionally powerful and raw I loved it so much it became an A film. Examples: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Fish Tank, Blue Valentine, Hunger.
  • A- are excellent, but like A films there’s just something holding me back a little. Maybe I don’t agree with its’ politics in some way. Maybe I didn’t like all its’ aesthetic choices. Maybe it strokes my intellectual fancy more than my emotional one. Like always, it’s hard to explain. It’s just a feeling. Honestly, I go back and forth a lot of whether a film is a A or A- for me. For example, this year Melancholia, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Shame, Drive, and Attack the Block have consistently swapped grades depending on the day. Examples: Never Let Me Go, Zodiac, There Will Be Blood, Little Children.
  • B+ films are very very good. They are usually very well made, but typically are more intellectual than emotional for me. I tend to respect these films more than I love them. Examples: The Hurt Locker, The Kids Are Alright, Burn After Reading, Inception.
  • B films are good. This is still a good grade. I will always recommend a B film. They’re definitely above average and I really enjoy them. Honestly, this is usually the kind of grade reserved for a very very well made Hollywood film. Something like The Town. It’s usually kind of escapist, but sometimes that’s okay when it’s well made. Examples: The Town, Ides of March.
  • B- films are okay. Still above average, and I’ll definitely recommend them. Like B films, they are usually well-made, and I respect what they do, but they don’t stick with me. Examples: An Education, The Dark Knight, The Incredibles.
  • C+ films are above average, but I’m not going to go out my way to recommend them. They tend to be films that have outstanding reviews but I feel meh about. Examples: Watchmen, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Bronson.
  • C films are average. Good by Hollywood standards, but nothing special. Examples: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Drag Me to Hell, Youth in Revolt.
  • C- films are starting to get into bad territory but there is some redeemable quality that stops me from hating them. Examples: Paper Heart, Rabbit Hole.
  • D films are just bad. The acting is bad. The dialogue is cheesy and hurts my brain. Or, it’s insanely boring Oscar bait/Pure emotional manipulation.  Honestly I don’t give this grade much at all. Usually I can find some redeemable quality some where. Examples: The King Speech (I loathed it), Let Me In, Halloween II (Rob Zombie).
  • F films hurt my soul. Examples: Southland Tales, Dinner with Shmucks, The Box, The Game.
This is the criteria I’ll use to review films in the future. Next week I’m posting my 15 favorite films from 2011. Each film will include a letter grade to give you better idea what kind of films I really love. I have some posts about specific critiques in the near future, so hold tight.

One thought on “Sean’s First Post: Film Grading System

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