Grading films with the Medal System

12 grades for movies...

Grades should never be obligatory when reviewing films but they can be helpful, especially since UK cinemas now see upwards of 600 cinematic releases every year – a fact that should be considered when arguing the positive and negative influences of critics’ tendencies towards Best Of The Year lists. Given my own fondness for lists as a way of recommending movies and organising my own thoughts about the cinematic year or decade, grades are a comfortable and provocative tool.

For my reviews I’ve created a system based more on how much I would recommend the film in question to anyone and how much I would wish to celebrate its artistic achievements. This somehow seems more representative of my taste and less definitive than more impersonal A-F grades or stars or marks out of ten. And so I’ll briefly explain the system below:

Platinum Medals are for the sort of masterpiece that might come only a few times in a decade. I would generally hope for at least one such film each year but it’s by no means guaranteed and, as such, these films are obligatory viewing for anyone who cares about cinema.

Gold Medals go to the outstanding films that constitute the absolutely essential viewing of any given year. They are likely to stand the test of time and are all highly recommended to just about anyone.

Silver Medals go to the high grade films that are likely to fill out any half-decent Best Of The Year list. They may not be the best of the decade but it would be a shame to miss out on them.

Bronze Medals typically go to films of minor greatness, flawed masterpieces and generally recommended but not quite essential pieces of cinema. These films are the bread and butter that constitute a good year at the cinema.

Honorable Mentions are reserved for those flawed masterpieces and outstanding curiosities that it might not be easy to recommend to everyone but are certainly worth checking out for a taste of something funky, original and notable in its own way (these films are to cinema what a quirky IPA is to ale and bitter).

The Wooden Spoon is a special award for the year’s biggest movie let-down(s). It’s an literal stick of shame for anyone familiar with the Six Nations Rugby Tournament, an annual battle for rugby supremacy between Wales, England, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy. At the end of the tournament the team with the lowest score will be given an actual wooden spoon and trudge home, rain clouds following close behind them. Like the Platinum Medal, I don’t award The Wooden Spoon every year but it may go to films which promised great things and let me down with some level of distinction, such as Elysium (2013), Argo (2012), Prometheus (2012), Watchmen (2009) and Renaissance (2006).

Worth a Look is my designation for films not deserving of a medal but still boasting qualities to recommend them to their target audience. Call them your take-it-or-leave it selections for the year – films that will entertain you at the least. Well Worth a Look goes to films that are highly recommended despite missing-out on a medal.

So-so or Weak is for the films that won’t be making waves in cinema history, at least, not because of their artistic merits. They’re the mediocrities, failures and missed opportunities of the year and I probably wouldn’t recommend them to anyone.

Irredeemably Awful is pretty self explanatory. Avoid these films at all costs (unless enjoyable garbage is your thing).

Not Yet Graded is a place-holder for films that I’m still working-out in my head. It’s natural and interesting to watch my own opinion of a film change as time progresses and there are some films that simply take longer to digest. In a similar way there are those rare films that simply cannot be adequately assessed alone, such as either half of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2014), a movie that I would dearly like to see as a unified whole before I offer a graded review.

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