What I want to change is the way people look at movie as not just entertainment, but art that expresses the historical values and issues in society. To do that, we need to take off our nostalgia goggles and look at a movie for what it is. Therefore, I took the liberty of putting this chart together that helps me to assess a film while I’m watching it, critiquing it from an objective standpoint that concerns its moral values.
First off, I have this split into five sections:
- Producer 50 pts.
- Director 40 pts.
- Writers 30 pts.
- Actors 20 pts.
- Technicians 10 pts.
Each one is worth an exponentially growing number of points that total 150, which is an easy way to break down the points that would generate a grade (15 letter grades, 150 total points possible, you do the math).
I have them laid out by their importance, the most important factor to a movie receiving the most possible points, the least important receiving the least possible points. So the producer would be considered the most important factor to a movie, since he’s the one who greenlights the project and attaches a director to it, controlling the financial business side of the picture throughout its production. Then the director is next in line, as he is responsible for the creative vision. Then the screenwriters are next, since they lay out the story that would soon be translated on screen. They’re not any higher though because a screenplay is known for going through countless revisions throughout the production and post-production process. Then there are the actors, whom a great screenplay and great director can either make or break. Then finally is the technicians who do the behind-the-scenes work, which includes the camera crew, set decorators, sound crew, editor, etc.
Relational Benefit __/10
Subject Matter __/15
This is the most important of these deciding factors. It decides everything else about how the film is approached.
It all starts with the worldview. Every movie, even if only made to make money, has a specific message on how we should be looking at the world. Zootopia has a worldview that believes racial hatred and prejudice causes all the problems that cause us to forget our history. The Revenant believes that revenge is in God’s hands. The Marvel Cinematic Universe believes in uniting together to fight against forces of destruction. It may sound difficult at times to decipher what a movie’s worldview is, but I found an easy trick to discovering it. Just take the final shot of the film, the final line of dialog in the film, and the movie’s title:
Final Shot+Final Line+Title=Worldview
For instance, I’ll take an old classic I don’t have to worry about spoiling, The Wizard of Oz.
Dorothy on her bed in Kansas surrounded by her family+“There’s no place like home.“+The Wizard of Oz=Home is where your loved ones are, not in a magical outside world with a supreme being.
Or another example, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Luke, Han, and Chewbacca being honored by the Rebellion+“He’ll (R2-D2) be alright“+Star Wars=We’ll be alright in our technological era of warfare as everyday men rise up to the challenge.
After the worldview is deciphered, I move on to the film’s overall message, which ultimately is its worldview. But I have to consider three things: is it a strong moral message that will help people help others rather than selfishly build up themselves? Does the film have a strong relational core that will benefit the relationships of the audience? Is the message well delivered in a simple yet powerful fashion?
In the case of Fifty Shades of Grey, it is a morally damaging picture that encourages female enslavement that will do more harm than good in marriages and relationships. The message it’s attempting to deliver fails to come out, as it is overwhelmed by pornographic imagery and dreadful dialogue, so this would be its score:
Relational Benefit 0/10
From here, I move on to the film’s subject matter. This means what the movie is about. Sometimes it’s perfectly clear, like how 12 Years a Slave is about historical treatment of slavery in the early 19th Century. Sometimes it’s more ambiguous, like how Independence Day: Resurgence is about worldwide fear of destruction from terrorist organizations.
In the case of the latter, it is a general survey of how people have reacted to destruction and terrorism in the allegorical form of alien invaders, but here was certainly more that could have been done to draw that parallel. While it is strongly relevant to us today as it probably will be ten or twenty years from now, it doesn’t do enough to capture the conflict within humanity. So this would be the score of Independence Day: Resurgence:
Subject Matter 7/15
Then finally, I analyze who the movie is for and how it appeals to that audience. For something like the Transformers series, it is specifically targeted to teenage boys. While the appeal is most certainly there for their tastes, the way the characters react to certain situations do not speak true to what teenage boys feel. But would parents want their sons to watch these types of movies, which spark so much violence, cursing, sexual content, and offensive stereotypes? Not likely. So this would be the audience score of any of the Transformers movies:
Now, with a score set for the film’s message, subject matter, and audience, I total them up to give a score out of a possible 50 for the Producer.
World Building __/10
From there, I judge the film by its director.
From what I could tell, when people talk about a movie they just saw, they usually talk about it through how it made them feel. Pixar movies have a tendency to make people cry. 90’s family films have a tendency to give people warm fuzzy feelings. 70’s crime dramas are known for getting people furious about certain causes. Then there’s the whole horror genre in general. Moviewatching is emotion; and no one working on the film has greater control over audience manipulation than the director. He is the one who controls the screen and paces everything in a way he deems appropriate to moving the story along. So judging by the five basic emotions established by Inside Out, these are the emotions that I judge a film for utilizing:
You feel JOY when the mother and daughter are together pre-posession
You feel SADNESS when the mother wonders what will happen to her daughter
You feel FEAR for what other demonic forces exist out there
You feel DISGUST when she vomits out pea soup onto the priest’s face
You feel ANGER by the hate-filled words coming out of the possessed girl’s mouth
Therefore, I find it important to foremost judge a director by his utilization of emotion
Then there are three things to consider: the direction he gives the actors, the way he creates the world on screen in a way that makes sense, and how he controls the elements on screen. In the case of Mad Max: Fury Road, the director gets enough out of the actors for them to perform realistic stunts, but not enough to make them feel like real human beings. But his attention to detail in the post-apocalyptic world and the elements on screen are masterful and unbelievably detailed. So this would be my score for the movie:
World Building 10/10
Then I do exactly what I did with the producer, this time with a possible score out of 40 for the Director.
Character Arcs __/5
World Rules __/4
Next up is the quality of the screenplay.
It starts with how the screenwriter lays out the arcs of each character: does everybody go through some sort of needed inner change by the end of the film? Does the main protagonist go through the most amount of change? How are these changes shown?
In the case of The Little Mermaid, King Triton, a secondary character, goes through the most change. Meanwhile Ariel, the main character, goes through no change at all, and gets exactly what she wants in the end without learning a thing. So this would be the film’s score:
Character Arcs 1/5
The next sections concern portrayals of the characters: gender, race, and class. Are the male characters positive representations without being self-demeaning? Are the female characters active in the story with clear thoughts and opinions? Does the movie pass the Bechdel Test not just with women, but men as well? What nationality are all the characters? Is it a responsibile depiction that celebrates differences? Is there a consciousness toward international relations that is appropriate to the story? What about class differences? Is money handled responsibly by the upper, middle, and lower classes?
A lot of these questions are indeed subjective, and many don’t have a clear answer to them, but coming from my judgment, here’s my assessment on Frozen:
Essentially, my conclusion is that Frozen does show a lot of favoritism towards the two female characters, but there is also not one decent male character to counteract that. The portrayals of Norwegian civilians are very Americanized, not including Oaken, the overly chipper merchant with a heavy accent. But the class presentation is much more responsible, depicting how Elsa is following any little girl’s dream to obtain royalty, but instead cowers back in fear because of the responsibility it entails, whereas the people in Arendelle suffer from her behavior.
After assessing the gender, race, and class depictions in a movie, I move on to defining how the rules of the world are defined.
As much as I hate to say it, Toy Story does not align with clearly-defined world rules. There are too many instances where logic is tossed out the window in service to the story, and it makes the overall scenario extremely unbelievable. So as much as I adore this movie, this would have to be its score:
World Rules 1/4
Then finally, I analyze possibly the easiest of all the factors to judge: the dialogue.
Maybe just taking a glance at one of these lines of dialogue would be enough to give an idea of what score out of 5 I would give each movie:
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. There it is, that's a straw, you see? Watch it. Now, my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I... drink... your... milkshake! *slurping sound* I drink it up!" –There Will Be Blood
"What killed the dinosaurs? The ice age!" –Batman and Robin
"–Surely, you can’t be serious.
–I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley." –Airplane!
"I did not hit her, it’s not true. It’s bullsh*t. I did not hit her. I did not. Oh, hi Mark." –The Room
So yeah, this one speaks for itself.
Then I do what I did with the other two, this time with a possible store out of 30, I set a score for the Writers.
Per performance: __/10
This one is a little tricky. At this point, the number of benefactors to this category all depends on the movie itself. It means I judge every actor and actress who plays a significant role in the movie, giving a 1-10 rating of their performances. I then rank the actors in order of their presence throughout the film, the most present being at the top, the least at the bottom. To make it easier to explain, here is one I set for a movie that has only three actors: Ex Machina.
Domhnall Gleeson: 5/10
Oscar Isaac: 8/10
Alicia Vikander: 9/10
Since there are three actors here, I consider what their highest total score could be, meaning I exponentially raise the value of each performance from bottom to top. So this is what their value would be like:
Domhnall Gleeson: (5/10)x3
Oscar Isaac: (8/10)x2
Alicia Vikander: (9/10)x1
From here, I define what X would equal if 40/60=x/20 (I know, just when I thought I was done with algebra!)
In this equation, it would be easy. 60/20=3, so 40/3=13.33, meaning X=13.33. But now I round it to the nearest full number, as to better simplify the scores without any unneeded decimals, making the total Acting score for Ex Machina 13/20.
Makeup (or) Animation __/10
Production Design __/10
Music (i.a.) __/10
VFX (i.a.) __/10
Then I do the same thing with the technicians, as inspired by many of the Oscar categories.
First is the EDITING, as the editor is the one responsible for everything we watch and in what order.
Next is the SOUND, as we are always hearing things on screen, even if everything is pitch black.
Next is the CINEMATOGRAPHY, as it controls all that we see on screen.
Next is the MAKEUP, or if the film is animated, then ANIMATION.
Next is the COSTUMES, or if the film is animated, then CHARACTER DESIGNS.
Next is the PRODUCTION DESIGN, which applies to both live action and animation.
Next is MUSIC, which doesn’t apply to all movies because some rely solely on adapted music.
Last is VFX, or Visual Effects, if the film uses any.
Each of them I judge for quality on a 1-10 scale. It’s something that you would need a technically trained eye and ear to know what to watch for, which I gladly from four and a half years of schooling towards a Bachelor’s Degree.
Here is an example of my process in this section, on the ambitious Birdman:
-It is almost seamless in the way it appears to look like a continuous take, there wre just a couple of moments where the transitions were too obvious.
-It sounds stressful, chaotic, and frustrating like how the theater should sound from the mind of a struggling actor.
-It’s stunning to look at, and unbelievable to see the single-take camerawork.
-All the characters have hair and skin tones that match their characters, it’s very easy to tell who they are just by looking at them.
-Maybe not the most memorable costumes I’ve seen, but they get the job right in communicating character and mood.
Production Design: 8/10
-Maybe it’s a little too "Broadwayish" for my tastes, but it fits the mood of each scene perfectly.
-Oh my! Drums! Never heard anything like it before!
-The flying effects look flawless, and the CGI at the end of the second act bring chills even if it still looks fake.
Now that I’ve got the scores set, I do what I did with the actors, this time, with the 8 categories I laid out here (if there’s no visual effects in the movie, then it’s 7 categories).
Making this the total score of the technicians: 329/360
Then I again do what I did before, except this time, with a possible score out of 10:
X=9.13, which rounds up to 9
Therefore, 9 would be Birdman’s total score for the Technicians.
Well, that’s it. No more judging! Now comes the easiest and most fun part: adding it all up. Here, I take the score I got for each of the five main sections and add them up. Then whatever the total overall score is, I refer to this chart below for a letter grade:
Overall Grade for Score:
In the end, I have what I feel is an accurate assessment of a film’s quality based on the factors that truly matter. I helps me with the writing of my review, and gives me a better sense of what’s really worth recommending, regarding or disregarding its clear flaws.
Yeah, I know. This is a lot to take in, and I may have overwhelmed you with all the information I threw out there about how I judge a movie. You may be thinking, „What they hey? I can never hope to do this! Too much work! Why can’t I just enjoy a movie for what it is?“
Well here’s the good news: you don’t have to do a thing with this! In fact, you can even forget everything I just told you and just go back to watching movies with your brain on autopilot.
"But Trevor," you may ask, "why did you go through all the trouble to share your process with us?"
Because I want you to know how my mind works when I watch movies. Having autism doesn’t mean I am limited in what others deem as "normal," it doesn’t even mean I am less than anybody else. My purpose in this blog post is to share with you all what goes on in my head, and how I organize my complicated ideas in a way that makes sense to me. I care deeply about the way people react to movies, and want to do anything within my power to influence the ways people think about the movies they watch. So what better way for me to ignite my passion than what I know I’m already an expert at? Just keep in mind though that what I just said to you is not special only to people with autism. You are an expert at something that people all around you are seeking for. Don’t ever try to pursue something just because it will guarantee you a good household income, don’t even pursue something you hate just because your parents had dreams for you. Think about what YOU are best at, think about what others would run to you for help on. Then, think about what you cannot stop thinking about, what media topics make you absolutely furious? Once you have those things figured out, just put two and two together, and viola‘: there’s what makes you unique. There’s what will leave the change you want to see in the world. It’s just a simple matter of thinking, passion, and love.
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Thank you so much for reading, happy watching!