Most newspapers rate movies on the star system. Four to five stars are printed, and from none to all of them are colored in. Supposedly, the more stars colored, the better the movie.
The star ratings are usually accompanied by deeply informative words like “Tour de force”, “Non-stop thrill ride”, “Laugh-out-loud funny!”, “Oscar worthy”, “Deeply moving”, and so forth.
These ratings have some value to us civilians, but because of their predictable nature, they are not that useful to movie studios.
What we would like is a rating system created by us civilians that studio executives could use to predict how much money a movie will make, and will let them make better guesses of when to pull a stinker off the shelf, or to let a surprise gem flourish longer.
Here is that system.
To the nearest dollar, we announce how much we would pay to see a movie.
Positive numbers mean we open our wallets, negative numbers mean we have to be paid.
For example, for me anything that stars the egomaniac midget Scientologist Tom Cruise or “Laugh-out-loud funny!” Adam Sandler starts at $0, and usually goes down from there.
I haven’t seen Valkyrie, the Tom Cruise as-a-good-little-Nazi drama. But I estimate it would cost somebody $15 for me to watch it. Thus, my rating is -15.
To be clear: a movie studio would have to pay me to sit through two hours of the preening Cruise, so I could try and guess how high his lifts are. Now I think of it, make my rating -25.
Star Trek is rebooting. I’ve seen the trailers and fan sites, and admit my geekhood. My rating is 12. I would not pay more than 12 bucks to go and see.
They’ve remade The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and from the posters alone, I rate this as 0. That is, if it was free, I’d probably sit through it.
Mutant Chronicles pulls me in both directions:
In the year 2707, war rages between earthâ€™s four giant corporations as they battle over the planetâ€™s dwindling resources. In an era marked by warfare and social regression, the earth is on the verge of ruin, destruction is everywhere; battles explode on every ravaged continent. Amidst heavy combat, an errant shell shatters an ancient buried seal releasing a horrific mutant army from its eternal prison deep within the earth.
Oh my. Evil corporations. Social regression. Hollywood never explored those angles before. On the other hand, a “horrific mutant army“! You just cannot go wrong with a mutant army of any kind, especially a horrific one. So my rating is 5.
Cheery Blossoms, “The story of Trudi and Rudi, a long-married couple who travel to the German countryside to visit their children only to realize that theyâ€™re emotionally distant and unavailable.” gets a solid -50. Yes, even lower than Tom Cruise (at least some Nazis get Schwarzeneggered in that movie).
I was all set to give Inglorious Bastards, directed by Quentin Tarantino, a good 8, just for the name. But then I saw, “Starring Brad Pitt.” Back to 0. Too damn many pretty boy male actors these days.
Fanboys about a “group of young, passionate STAR WARS fans on a cross-country quest to break into George Lucas Skywalker Ranch and watch STAR WARS: EPISODE 1- THE PHANTOM MENACE, before its released” wins the 8.
Anything involving crazed, emotionally stricken ex-soldiers starts at -100 and goes down fast. If it stars the smug George Clooney or the traitorous Jane Fonda, I add an extra -400.
Naturally, these ratings can be indexed to inflation so they can be compared year to year.
Just one rating is not much help to a studio, but many would be. Executives could take the distribution of those ratings and easily use them in deciding how many theaters to show the movie in, or how much more or less advertising dollars to spend, and so on.
It takes a little practice to get good at making these ratings. You have to really picture yourself going to the theater, sitting in a darkened room and watching, for the full two point five hours, Everlasting Moments, which is “[b]ased on a true story [and] follows the story of Maria (Maria Heiskanen), who is married to an alcoholic and womanizing dockworker (Mikael Persbrandt). Her husband leaves the worries of family responsibilities entirely to Maria.”
Once the full horror of the experience impresses itself on your mind, you can easily see that the rating would be -60.
Same thing for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I can easily see myself jumping up and down on the chair as Wolverine slices off body parts of the bad guy. A solid 10.
The new ratings can also be used to price DVDs. My top rating is 15, because I wouldn’t spend more than 15 bucks to see any movie. For me, DVDs should begin around that mark. Again, the distribution of ratings would be used to set the price.
The negative aspect does what the star system could never do, because all movies that got 0 stars appeared to be the same, which they clearly are not. Same for those that got all four or five stars: there are still differences in these movies. The dollar rating systems neatly captures these.
While you are pondering these magnificent benefits, I’ll be deciding a price for Public Enemies, where the “Feds try to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s.”