Film reviews are usually appended with some form of rating system, a scale designed to enable readers to identify how much or little the critic recommends a film. It comes in different shapes and forms aplenty, but its service—which is that to surmise, at the instance of a glance, the critic or reviewer’s experience with a film—has always appeared, least to me, smudged around the edges. What are review ratings really for? Do they still, at this point, help more than ruin film discussion?

I’m rested on the cushion that is its primary purpose: convenience. Hence, the inclusion of ratings on our reviews. One of F.P.R.’s main goals is to put to the fore the discussion of local movies, and that entails plenty of things, one of which will have to be making the discussion as accessible to laymen/laywomen as much as possible. Ratings instantly reflect the reviewer’s reception of the film, and, ideally, pique much interest in the readers that they are compelled to read on, both of which are perfect for this purpose. It’s easier for the reader, but by no means the same for the reviewer.

Tristan recently got flak for writing a 3-star review of Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa, a film that, based on the pile of internet debauchery Tristan had shrugged off, is generally beloved. This attests to the fact that ratings aren’t just a means to quantify the personal value a film gives the critic or reviewer, it’s also a metric that, thusly, critics and reviewers must justify, as if articulating your thoughts alone isn’t difficult enough. On top of that, at least here at F.P.R., we try to bring both insight and flavor to our reviews. A film critic/reviewer’s life is no way about shitting on or putting films on a pedestal; it’s a massive, unenviable undertaking.

(Quick aside: I enjoyed Ma’ Rosa thoroughly, and disagrees that it has a weak script. Let me also clear up that every review we publish here is that of the reviewer alone; it’s not a team consensus.)

Which brings me to the question of the week: do ratings in film reviews ruin film criticism? I can make a long list for either cases, but we want to hear from you.

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

  • Lou Diaz

    Ratings only matter when the reviewer has clout on the matter. In FPR’s case, ratings do matter a lot because many believe that the reviewers here are well-versed and well-exposed in cinema in general, you guys know what you are talking about, albeit sometimes incomprehensible to some, you still delve in thorough analysis or whatever floats your boat at the moment. To say that it ruins “film criticism” is hypocritical. I mean celeberated filmmakers should know that a film can always be polarizing, no matter how worldly renowned that film is, and there will always be personal biases, no matter how objective one can be, we can’t leave biases when assessing anything that is made of art. Idk, isn’t ratings meant to start discussion to peel every imaginable layer of the film. I mean it should be engaging, yes it may poke some in a surprising (or maybe offending) way, but the point is to start a discussion, the purpose is to engage readers. So to answer the question, no, it shouldn’t ruin film criticism. It should be a focal point in launching a discussion.

    • Thanks for these inputs, Lou. The question in the headline, though, is a hypothetical, and is meant to be a starting point for what will be an ongoing discussion. I agree: ratings shouldn’t ruin criticism so to speak. But my question asks if do ratings hinder or encourage film discussion? I’ve heard plenty interesting answers so far and would love to hear yours. Cheers, mate.

      • Lou Diaz

        I see it as a necessity as it helps certain film enthusiasts such as myself to steer away from poorly-rated films. You said it yourself, it makes it “convenient” for all the people who give a damn about the film if there’s a rating. The danger obviously is in it being too reductive. I, for one, am inconsistent in its use, sometimes my interest is piqed by a certain rating and I tend to read a whole bunch of reviews just to satiate my earnest interest. Other times, I take the rating by heart, and decide with it alone. Always though, It will only affect me if I identify wirh the reviewer or at least consider the reviewer to be relevant (reasons of which vary).

        I have to say (because we are trying to see if there’s a relation between giving a rating and engagement in film discussion), the power of ratings in influencing ‘Interest of Watching’ or to some extent ‘Interest in Film Discussion’ may be related to the number of reviewers giving it a low or high rating. The more it is being rated and reviewed, whether low or high, the higher the likelihood that a film enthusiast will see it. It won’t matter if it got too many lows, if it reached a certain threshold in my opinion it just hits the zeitgeist and it has to be watched (and discussed) just to give one’s two cents and see what the fuss is all about. So there’s definitely a quantitative aspect to it, and for me, it’s in the number of reviewers who give a damn. This, however, makes it more complex as the threshold is indeterminate, and there’s the aspect of time. As all of us know, a film may reach a cult status long after its initial release, and we are seeing films that are not talked about before but because it aged well, it’s now regarded as a must-watch (and consequently discussions run aplenty). It may or may not be about the rating. As other factors now have become more relevant for discussion (i.e. films of a now-deceased legendary actor, renowned filmmaker, or like I said, the zeitgeist).

        It’s hard to tell if a certain rating of a reviewer encourages or hinders discussion. If I will base on that alone, I mean all things placed in a vacuum and the only factor at hand is the ‘rating’ of one reviewer, it doesn’t hold much weight. It will not have a great impact on my perception of the film or arouse a need to engage in a discussion about it. Sometimes it will, but more often than not it is a combination of many things. So for me, by that alone, we can’t suppose any relation between the two – “a rating” and “interest in film discussion”

        • “This, however, makes it more complex as the threshold is indeterminate, and there’s the aspect of time.” Interesting. Though I think that in this case both the rating and the review itself are ephemeral. What was hated this year may be reappraised a few years later as a work ahead of its time. A silver lining: it’s a cause to keep discussing films. As in everything else, time is a friend and a foe to film discussion.

          Thanks so much for this input, Lou. Appreciate it.

      • Lou Diaz

        On a lighter note, I may have lost myself again in the sea of my own words. I’m not quite sure if I hit your question right this time, or am I not addressing it at all haha apologies

  • allegroassai

    > Tristan recently got flak for writing a 3-star review of Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa, a film that, based on the pile of internet debauchery Tristan had shrugged off, is generally beloved.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think people panned Tristan’s review because he gave a mere 3-stars rating. (I’ve read quite a lot of those feedback, at least on FB.) There were many others who also wrote that they didn’t like “Ma’ Rosa”, but no one called them out for it. My understanding was that people criticized his review because it was a badly-written piece, not because of the ratings he gave the film.

    • I didn’t (bother to) read the whole thing to further comment on this, but on the subject of giving a film a three-star rating, I receive comments on the reg about why is Film X is given 3 stars, whilst Film Y, which the reader must have presumed lesser of a film, given 3.5 stars. This is where my question stems from. Do you guys think ratings in film reviews hinder its objectives (to dissect and to discuss the film itself)?

      The mention of Tristan’s review is to support the notion of the difficult undertaking of writing film reviews, because on top of trying to craft an insightful, well-written review, you also have to append it with some form of metric, which, whatever happens, must be justified through the review itself.

      On the subject of Tristan’s writing, I have to say I disagree. That doesn’t mean I agree with the many points he made clear in his review, though.

  • Epoy Deyto

    I may have been guilty of doing this ratings system on my own reviews before, haha, but here’s my current take on this:

    I personally don’t think of the rating (star, number, what have you) system on any reviews is exclusively related with any form of criticism, though, it might seem to the readers that the reviewer’s rating is the summary itself of the review/critique.

    For a long time, ratings has become the reaction/review itself (as old as Ebert, maybe? Even older? I don’t know), it would even seem that the write-up would be irrelevant since the numbers will show how the reviewer perceived the work. The write-up became a mere support, a justification of the rating. And this, what I think, is the danger here. The rating system has become more of a market valuation – and the write up became the product description.

    Ratings bring a closure to the review instead for it to be an open discussion, regardless of how many disclaimer and instruction of letting you know what the readers think. It’s only a matter now of whether the reader agrees or not with your rating.

  • IskolarNagbayad

    Ratings are mere consumer guides, to allow your readers to find quality, treating them as mere consumers. But film criticism, the body and the focal point of your film review, is the critic making sense of what he just watched, and understanding that he and his co-moviegoers/readers are active participants of the cinema. It may come to a point where ratings will stand as a brick wall on the discourse you are presenting (as Profs Rolando Tolentino and Patrick Ocampo attest, every review should be a discussion between the critic and his reader), but the text still rules in letting the audience know why they should watch a film or not, or what the relevance of this film is, or what they can get from a single moment they devoted to the dark house. So really, film criticism still works without the ratings (eg Pauline Kael). The devil is in the details.

    I don’t know where Tristan’s case comes in. I believe the “internet flak: was not about the rating but about the content of the review.

    • allegroassai

      “I don’t know where Tristan’s case comes in. I believe the “internet flak: was not about the rating but about the content of the review”

      ‘Yun nga eh. Maisingit lang talaga sa article, ano? 😛

    • I agree. Ratings, though somewhat indirectly, deflect the reader from what’s really important–the review itself. But, reading through the feedback we’ve got here and on our socials, it seems that a good size of our readers appreciate the presence of a rating.

      Re: Tristan, let me point you to a previous comment.

      “The mention of Tristan’s review is to support the notion of the difficult undertaking of writing film reviews, because on top of trying to craft an insightful, well-written review, you also have to append it with some form of metric, which, whatever happens, must be justified through the review itself.”

      It’s really has nothing to do with the notion of getting flak based solely on giving a rating. It’s a matter of being able to satisfy your readers by presenting your review and the rating without much disconnect, which, some readers obviously felt there is, but that’s really all subjective. That said, I should probably reword my article, though, if it’s being perceived differently from how I intended.

      Thanks for chiming in, man. Always great to discuss.