Earlier today, I was reading back through some of my more recent reviews (as I tend to do in my spare time), and I came across this quote under the Visuals section in my review for Baby Driver:
“This is easily the highest score I’ve ever given in this category”
And that got me thinking… was it really the highest score I had ever given a film for its visuals? Was it my confidence, or was it my unwillingness to actually go back and look that caused me to say that? Today, I did go back and look. In fact, I looked through every single review I’ve done to see the various highs and lows that I’ve dished out over these nearly two years. Here they are:
So, I was proven wrong for the second time this week… it hasn’t been the best week. I gave Baby Driver a 9.6/10 while Mad Max had already received a 9.8/10. Luckily, this is not a case where adjustments need to be made, because I think Mad Max is a film that deserves to hold that spot on this chart for quite a long time.
On a more serious note, this project did tell me a few things about my possible shortcomings as a critic. This is something I’ve always been aware of, and it’s probably something you’ve picked up on if you’ve read a lot of my reviews; but I put a lot more work into the Writing sections of my reviews than I do any of the other categories, and it becomes obvious when you look at how much longer my Writing sections are on average compared to the other three. I do this because I want to be a writer; it’s the area that I feel most attuned to, it’s the element that I am the most comfortable picking apart and putting back together. Because of this, it was no surprise to me when I did the math to figure out my average score for each category.
Writing Average Score = 5.6
Acting Average Score = 7.5
Visuals Average Score = 7.3
Music Average Score = 7.2
Just in case you didn’t pass 3rd-grade math, my Writing section’s average score was almost 2 whole points lower than the other three categories, which were all within three-tenths of each other. This is because I tend to punish films more harshly when I consider them to be average or below average in the quality of their writing. Again, this is no surprise to me.
What was surprising to me is that my average score for Visuals did not find itself comfortably in the mid-6’s, nestled between my Writing score and the naturally inflated scores of the Acting and Music sections.
“Naturally inflated”? Allow me to explain. If you read my reviews often, then you might have noticed that several of my reviews conveniently leave out a Music section. Also, you might have noticed a lack of detail in some of my Acting sections. Well, it’s time for a confession: these are the two categories that I often have the least stake in. As a result, it is not uncommon for me to not have anything to say about these elements. When this happens, I try to avoid doing a music section altogether (because I think it is the element that an average movie-goer pays attention to the least), and I try to quickly get through the Acting section so I don’t waste your time. A lot of the time, this means that these two categories are often inflated in their scores. Take a look at these numbers: I have given a Writing score below 5 to 22 different films, but I’ve only given a Music score below 5 to four films, and an Acting score below 5 to two! On the flipside, I have given five films a score of 9 or higher in the Writing section, while I have given twelve films similar scores in Acting, and nine have made the mark in Music.
This is just one of my several failures as a writer and wannabe critic. Does it mean I am going to work to improve? Yeah… maybe a little. The thing is, I won’t change who I am for the sake of “being fair.” What I will do is try to be more upfront and honest about what is going into my reviews. I do think there is a trend in the numbers that says I’m getting better at this, but a lot of my early reviews were heavily influenced by these inflated scores. I mean, seriously, I gave The Force Awakens a 9.5 in Acting… a 9.5!! That’s a score that says “someone’s winning an Oscar for this.”