I’ve run The Stop Button at various levels of pretentiousness over the years. So not having star ratings was something I thought about a lot. For whatever reason, whether someone I knew who liked movies was LaserDisc level or just someone who respected OAR (even if they still watched P&S), everyone had a take on star ratings. Four was too few in the early nineties, I remember. Five star systems get introduced. Then there as Entertainment Weekly. Letter grades.
Okay, I guess the level of movie enthusiast I’m thinking is someone with a movie book. Maltin, Video Hound, even Blockbuster. Not just people who caught “Siskel and Ebert.” Had to have a guide book.
Most of those guides had slightly different systems. For example, does the guide have zero stars. Does it have half stars.
I’ve recently decided the thing I hate writing about the most is the ★★½. I used to really like ★★½ movies. They almost made it. It’s rare you don’t enjoy them most of the time. But I don’t think I’m watching enough good movies to be watching so many ★★½ ones. Today I wrote about The Trouble with Harry and Mikey and Nicky. They’ve got two major similarities–short present action and terrible editing due to production conditions. Both dark comedies. Harry is ★★½. Mikey is ★★★★. Loved writing about the latter, didn’t like writing about the former.
I think I even like writing about a nice average ★★ movie more than something almost better.
Movie fanning used to be so much more niche in the video store days. The Internet’s changed it. Made it worse. But the technology has also let people see many previously hard-to-see films easily. The Thing didn’t get any respect for twelve years. LaserDisc started the ball on the Carpenter redemption (because his mid-nineties movies sure weren’t). The movies got new eyes on them, often better eyes.
I didn’t care what anyone had to say about film once I realized people were willing to sell themselves out on Phantom Menace, which–unfortunately–wasn’t after the first time I saw the film. It wasn’t after the second. Or third. Or fourth.
It was the fifth. And I’d had very different discussion on the film between fourth and fifth. I was rinsing the proverbial Kool Aid perhaps. (For a long apology about that film, click here).
And I checked out on mainstream critics and mainstream successes. Always a Soderbergh, always an Eastwood, always Woody Allen (because I sucked), Wes Anderson, some other directors. Del Toro for a bit. Then I got crankier and stopped going to the theater and waited for DVD. Then I started putting off the DVD. So now I’m years behind. 2002 as near as I can tell. I haven’t seen About Schmidt yet. I’m backed up.
Then I found some good movie blogs–so late aughts–and then film twitterers and then film critics. Because it’s worth reading again. Movies kind of went to shit from 1999 to 2007. Film criticism did too.
But it’s gotten better again, which is good because there’s so much possibility with DV. There can be multiple creative periods simultaneously, like early seventies mainstream drama released the same day as some late eighties franchise entry. Almost. Action on streaming needs to get better. But still. Three months after it’s in the theater, it’s on streaming so… it’s getting there.
And there’s going to be crap too. Christian movies have been posed for a break-through for years; gay rights and Trump definitely delayed it a bit and maybe killed the breakthrough, but it could still happen. Old white man critics tried to make it happen with Mel Gibson and that war movie. Cory Booker apparently thinks he’s got a chance at being President. Anything is possible.
But all these things will be happening simultaneously. Canada produces okay movies now. Like technically okay. They don’t look like second unit footage from “Sesame Street.” The acting’s good. Thanks to technical innovation, film school, and better competency actors doing crappy projects, mediocre has gotten a lot better than it used to be. There’s probably a buoy and tide metaphor here and I just can’t right now.
I have no idea where I was originally going with this post. But out to sea at this point seems the best choice.