[And now, for something completely different...]
Back when I was in junior high, I noticed that certain movies tended to get the same stars, unless they were incredibly good or incredibly bad. I had debated never publishing the list, but then I was watching a special on VH-1 on how the stars got started and I figured I may as well as write it up for comparison...The basic point to the system was that some critics were easy to predict how many stars that they would give certain movies; because of this, I basically decided that no critic should be allowed to be a paid critic for more than five years, unless they signed a contract that allowed a mob to tear them to bits after ten years (exceptions, obviously, would be allowed, but I think it would make reviews more of a “Should you see this movie?” as opposed to “Is this movie good for you?”, and eliminate words like “doyenne”, “zaftig”, and “mise en scene” from the review section and keep them in the arts section...
Oh, and don't worry about the system if it seems that an Oscar Award-winning movie seems to be short-changed; try a few examples and you should see that it works out okay. Also, any movie that gains more than five stars is considered five stars, and any movie that gets less than zero stars has zero.
[BTW: Where does VH-1 find those people? They kept pointing out that you can't get any real career going if you have done a horror movie, any kind of sex or nudity, or have been in a music video; yet, it seems that almost every star, especially the mega-stars, have done it. If you doubt it, pick a name and then do some research (start at the Celebrity Nudes Database (www.cndb.com) for some very illuminating information). They also spout off the stupidest things (may favorite has got to be that Japanese companies sign contracts with American stars that specifies that the commercials can never be seen in the USA, AS THE COMMERCIALS ARE BEING SHOWN; if it were true, how can show the commercials on an American program? Personally, I just think that the stars do it because the commercials are just so fun to do, and they just can't do them in the states because of idiot publicists....]
First, type the movie in the least favorable genre. The types are drama, historical, horror, westeren, comedy, sci-fi, and fantasy. This determines the base number of stars.
“Horror” movies are pretty cut and dried, but come in three types: Gore, Comedy, and Young Star. In theory, the idea is that someone is in danger of being killed. Gore movies are fun, kill the entire cast (or most of it), and tend to have an allegorical base (ie, there is a definite theme); Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Comedy horror movies make fun of the genre, generally ignoring their own premise (comedy horror movies tend to ignore the established conventions of horror movies, relying more on what non-horror fans consider the conventions): Scream. “Young Star” movies are those which publicize the cast more than the movie itself, and in which, ironically, no one really dies: Urban Legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer. Critics don't like movies that are fun to watch (even though you would have thought that they would love movies in which jocks get killed), but like it when the genre makes fun of itself. Base Stars: Gore: 0; Young Star: .5, Comedy: 1
“Fantasy” is any movie that features magic (even if it has some sort of pseudo-scientific explanation), regardless of historical era. It can also feature non-human races, quests, and medieval organization, but the magic is the key part. Critics dislike fantasy movies because they believe that they pander to some base instinct (the movies do tend to feature violence, idealism, and the ethos is black/white; critics tend to hate fun movies). Note that this includes any movie that features mythological themes, “everyday magic” (like wishes that come true), or religious themes where miracles occur (critics tend to be fanatic atheists for some reason). Base Stars: 1
“Sci-Fi” is any movie that features some sort of scientific mumbo-jumbo. They can also feature non-human races, military or pseudo-military organizations, and missions with big rewards, but it's the cyborgs, big ships and chrono-cataclysms that are the featured element. Critics apparently hated science class back in school, as well as movies that explore the human condition without depending on regular humans. Base Stars: 1.5
Comedy: These are movies wherein you are supposed to laugh. In general, however, critics place most humor at the low level of interest; they tend to forget that making a comedy requires a lot of skill from the writer in order to work once you get past the body fluid and burlesque stage. By the same measure, movies that make fun of the movie business or are based in dark humor tend to do really well (this is where it starts to get into the dividing line between what normal people are looking for in a movie, and what critics are looking for in a movie). Base Stars: Scatological/Drug Humor: 1; Funny: 2; Dark Humor: 3
Western: Hollywood in general seems to have a love/hate relationship with movies; they love them because they're fun and easy to produce, but hate them because of the perception that they are too simplistic. For this discussion, a “western” is any movie that features the Old West (Alaska or the states west of the Mississippi from roughly 1860-1915 (ie, between the Civil War and the WWI)). The emphasis is on anti-heroes doing good, however incidental. Critics dislike them because they are a remnant of Old Hollywood, and rarely seem to be done right or seem to sappy. Base Stars: 2
Drama: Dramas are movies in which people talk, get slapped, and die tragically. The basic point is that it's not funny, and the science stays within the realm of what most people can understand. This is also a catch-all category; any classical material (Shakespeare, anything Greek, even Jules Verne) counts here as well, regardless of whether or not the material fits better somewhere else (note Jules Verne). However, there is a difference between cheesy drama (think something that you would see on Lifetime or as a movie of the week) or serious (virtually anything else). Base Stars: Cheesy: 2; Serious: 3
Historical: In essence, it actually happened or could have happened. Critics invariably like these because they can do research and find all the trivial ways in which the movie is right or wrong. Base Stars: 3
The first modifier is the cast mod: Look at the IMDB listing of only the actors/actresses that appear on the movie poster and average the stars from the last movie and divide by 4. Do the same for the director, screen-writer, and producer, for each category. Then total the four and subtract 2, adding 1 if this is the one of the first four movies for more than half of those involved). It may seem like a bit of math, but it just makes the star rating more accurate. If they don't have anything prior, assume 2. If someone is in more than one category, they count for all possible categories, with an added 1 if the director and writer are the same person). The formula is:
((Average of Actors/Actresses)+(Average of Writers (+1 if also directing))+(Average of Producers)+(Average of Directors (+1 if also writing)))/4-2+1(if most of those are new to the movies).
Now look at the country of origin: Add another +1 if it's European (critics love European movies, on the idea that Europe invented it, so they obviously know what they are doing), and -.1 if Australian or Asian (silly newbies!).
And then there is subject matter: Rape gains +.5, graphic sex +.5, assumed sex (ie, just thrusting and maybe partial nudity) -1, and kids/animals -1. Violence comes in two flavors: Extreme violence that is meant to demonstrate how cheap life is or that violence is ridiculous gains a +1. If it's otherwise just violence, no matter how nasty, it's a -1 (note that this applies to most Gore horror movies and Fantasy movies).