Monday, August 07, 2006

Things that Need an International Standards Group, No. 1: Ratings

If you open up Time Out NY, you may be surprised to find out that they give up to six stars in their reviews. Six. Six Stars. Then you have the Times Dining section, which, on a Michelin-like scale gives up to four stars, but getting one means "good" (Confusingly, readers on the website rate on five star scale, with completely different meanings. Look here. See!). New York Magazine gives five stars...but is also on a Michelin-style scale (where, in typical New York Magazine form, five stars equals "ethereal, almost perfect." Almost! Ha! Like: "Nothing could live up to the Platonic ideal of what a restaurant should be."). Then you have movies, which are usually up to four star reviews...except when they aren't, Netflix with five. There are also only three possible states to two thumbs: two up, two down, one up/one down. But one of them belongs to Roeper, so you can immediately ignore it. The other belongs (or belonged?) to Ebert, and you can just read his (up to four star) reviews. Rolling Stone has up to five stars for everything (including terrible albums by great rockers). Then you have the up to 10.0 review offered by Pitchfork (Art Brut's most recent album got an 8.9. Eight-point-nine. That's just fucking priceless). The up to 100 review for most game magazines. The much-cribbed three-star Michelin guide. Metacritic, which converts everything to "out of 100," anyway. The helpful, but not quite objective Allmusic with up to five. And the Village Voice...with letter grades - for music, anyway.

I propose: An International Standards Group for all criticatorial services. I also propose that said group force all publications to either adopt a standard four star or Michelin three star rating system. What most of these places refuse to acknowledge is that a four star review means something (and not just in a 4/4 = 100 kind of way). It has a certain cultural meaning. "This is a four (or three or two or one) star movie" makes sense to me. "This is a five out of six star movie" does not make sense. Dear critics, at your core, you provide a service. Don't make my understanding of your service more difficult than it should be.

1 comment: said...

Quite effective info, thank you for the post.