Eric D. Snider

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Archive for November 26th, 2007

Roger Ebert explains why some movies ‘only’ get an A-

Monday, November 26th, 2007

A sentiment expressed frequently by commenters here at EricDSnider.com is this one: “Why did this movie ‘only’ get an A-? Your review doesn’t mention anything wrong with it!”

Two recent examples. On “The Bourne Ultimatum,” someone writes, “I thought this movie deserved much better [than] a B+.” (Considering the scale only goes up two more notches, to A- and A, I’m not sure that “much” better than B+ was really an option. That’s like saying you wish something cost “much” less than a nickel.) And on “Lars and the Real Girl,” a reader says, “Now, I’ll go back and read your [review], and may learn why you thought the film deserved only an A-.” (“Only” an A-? You people are tough!)

In both of those cases, the reviews are entirely positive. There’s nothing in the text to indicate that I thought the movie was lacking in any way. So why not a perfect score?

As is often the case, Roger Ebert has expressed the answer to this question much better than I would have. In a recent “Answer Man” column, he received this question:

I often find some of my very favorite films are ones you give 3 1/2 star ratings. I’ve never read a review where you explain what costs these movies the last half star…. How do you decide on those?

And Ebert explains it thus:

I wish that I didn’t give star ratings at all and every review had to speak for itself. But 3 1/2 is a very good rating, meaning all a movie lacked was an ineffable tingle at the base of my spine.

Exactly. An A- or B+ movie, if there’s nothing specifically wrong with it, simply lacks a certain something — something you can’t necessarily put into words, but something nonetheless.

I used to be much more liberal with my A’s. If you look in the archives, you’ll find I gave them out more frequently when I first started reviewing (mid-1999), and less often starting in about 2004. It used to be that if I couldn’t think of anything particularly wrong with a film, I gave it an A. Now my attitude is different. It’s not enough that a film doesn’t have anything noticeably wrong with it. It needs to have something strongly right about it, too.

‘Snide Remarks’ deals with giving

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Welcome back! I hope you were able to turn Thanksgiving into a five-day weekend, the way the Pilgrims intended. I don’t know why Thursday was originally chosen for Turkey Day, but it was a genius move. It leads naturally to taking Friday off, too, and heck, you need Wednesday for a travel day, so you’re pretty much down to a two-day work week. If you worked last Wednesday and/or Friday, you’re a chump. Do you hear me? A chump!

Anyway, this week’s “Snide Remarks” is rather embarrassingly entitled “You Panhandle the Truth!” (audio version is there too, and also here), and it’s about donations and charities and things such as. Enjoy, won’t we?

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