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Posts for October 16, 2021

Star Ratings

Thinking about what I mean when I give a star rating.

Giving star ratings to things I’ve watched, read, etc, is not something I ever did until I started using Letterboxd. It looks like I started logging films in September 2019 (the August ones were a bulk mental dump when I first set up my account). I didn’t start them automatically posting here until the November, and I’m sure I’ve missed one or two along the way.

My initial thought was just to log the films that I watched, as an aide memoire as much as anything. But Letterboxd encourages you to give the films star ratings. I’ve been doing that, but all the time I wonder what exactly I mean by them.

Which sounds like a strange thing to say. I made the choices, after all: I set the rating. Surely I knew what I meant when I did it?

And that’s true enough on each occasion. I know what I mean when I give the rating. But that’s the thing: it’s what I meant at that time. All it means is what I thought of the the film at the time I added the entry to Letterboxd. I’m not trying to make a statement about what is good in absolute terms. I’m just saying something about what I thought about the film at that time.

I like to think that I judge each film on its own merits. At the very least, I try to judge it in terms of what it’s trying to achieve. A five-star drama and a five-star comedy are very different things. It won’t be very meaningful to compare the ratings I’ve given to different films and see if there’s a hierarchy of my preferences. Though it is fair to say that any film with five stars is one of my favourites.

While Letterboxd encourages star ratings, it pleases me that you don’t have to give one. Unlike, say in some online surveys, where zero is not an option. I don’t know, though, whether a Letterboxd ‘no stars’ should count as ‘zero stars,’ or just the choice not to rate it. I intended the latter with Can’t Get You Out of my Head, as I made clear in the post.

It seems that I rarely watch anything less than three-star, though. Either I’m very discerning, or I only watch things I know I’m going to like.