Previously, I had rated films using the four-star rating system popularized by Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide. However, once I'd spent several months using Entertainment Weekly's letter grades, I found that I prefer that system's greater flexibility, and so I've officially made the switch. (For those who miss the star ratings, I've noted in the "legend" below which rating would correspond to each grade.) Please bear in mind that the grades are intended not to indicate how "good" or "bad" a particular film is, but how much I personally liked or disliked it. As a general rule (and professional assignments aside), I only see films that are well-received by professional critics, so almost every film reviewed here is admired by a lot of other people, regardless of what I thought. Just because I don't like a film doesn't mean that I don't recommend it.
The key to the grades is as follows:
A I genuflect in awe. Exceedingly rare. (****) A- I want to see that again, more or less immediately. (*** ½) B+ I'm mightily impressed, with some reservations. (***) B I have no regrets. A job well done. (***) B- I'm torn, but more hit than miss, I think. (** ½) C+ I'm torn, but more miss than hit, I think. (** ½) C I didn't like it. Sorry. (**) C- I didn't like it at all, and I'm not the least bit sorry. (**) D+ I want my damn money back.(* ½) D I want to at the very least verbally abuse the director. (* ½) D- I very nearly walked out. (*) F I walked out. Exceedingly rare. (zero)
Now seems like a good time to mention something that my regular readers
have probably already noticed: I'm a very tough grader. If I give a film
a 'B+', I liked it a lot. (Last year, B+'s wound up dominating my
top ten list.) I imagine that 'B-' is the grade that you'll see most
often, and a 'B-' picture is well worth investigating, even if that grade
does inevitably seem dismissive. Even the 'C's generally have some
merit. Take a look around, and you should quickly get a sense of what I
mean by each rung on the critical-shorthand ladder.