How ThinkySushi Rates Films

Welcome to ThinkySushi! 

ThinkySushi is a place where I review films.

I deeply love the craft of film making so my reviews heavily reflect an analysis of that craft. But each review is also augmented by a bit of my own personal opinion on the film as a piece of meaningful literature in its time. Ideas and creativity will often sway my opinion strongly. As a result I have a two-part rating system. The first rating is a purely analytical one, representing nothing beyond the film-craft on display. The second is a personal rating which reflects the combination of the technical film-craft and how I feel about the film as a piece of meaningful literature.

For the technical part I will break things several categories which will receive grades to be averaged into a score from 1-5 with 5 being the best. For each category I will explain the grade I gave below in a conversational paragraph.

For the Personal grade I will simply talk about anything in particular that caught my personal interest and explain why it swayed my final rating.

Enjoy and feel free to comment and ask questions.
I delight in dialogue and the difficult question that makes me answer for myself and challenges me to either change my mind, or give a profoundly good defense!  

The Rating System:

Quick Overview
Two scores are given – Technical and Personal

These 5 key categories are always rated 1-5: 
Writing, Acting, Cinematography, Editing, Characters
Any other applicable categories may also rated 1-5 depending on the type of film
Smaller less influential categories can add a + or –
Scores are averaged and rounded to get the Technical score from 1-5.

Personal preferences and thoughts are considered and may augment the score up or down.   

Detailed Rating Description: 

There are five core categories I have found are the most important pieces in each and every one of my filmgoing experiences.

1 - Writing: Dialogue & Plotting
2 - Acting
3 - Cinematography
4 - Editing
5 - Characters: Presentation & Progress  

I have found that each of these items are absolutely essential for all film making regardless of genre, era, style or subject matter.  No matter what form your cinema takes it must do each of these things and do them well. Other things may come in to play, some more often than others! But for me these are the heart.  Do them well and it is hard to mess up too badly, do them poorly and the even if you do wonderful things surrounding it nothing can redeem the mess.    

Now, I believe Two of of those core categories deserve a bit of explanation.

Writing - I have divided this in two for a reason. Dialogue writing is a delicate and subtle skill. It requires a complex understanding of both your characters’ backgrounds, motivations, their world, their position in the story, and the actors’ particular ability to portray them. It should be both pre-planned and living. it should appear completely effortless but effortless is what it must never be. Plotting however, is a different art altogether. Much of it is not spoken, it is tied to the wide shots as closely as the personal ones. It requires the writer to map movements of various items and entities not only across space and time but across emotional landscapes and mental jungles. It has to track how each element of its story moves not just along its own path but more importantly in the minds of the audience to maximize the impact of expectation, surprise, fear, suspense, hope, and heartbreak. The plot writer ought to be a master tactician and the best films are their grand battle plans.

Characters - Characters may seem a strange choice for one of the key elements of film-craft. It may seem even stranger to divide it it they way I have. But I stand by it. The goal of every piece of cinema that I have ever seen is to tell a story. And every story, is a story about someone. In the most extreme examples it may be in the metaphorical sense, but there is always a character. And the nature of that character is crucial to communicating that story well. First the audience must understand who and what they are clearly. If the character is great, or if they are small, the story is designed to be filtered through the lens of their great or smallness, but this can not be unless we are first presented effectively with who and what they are. Character presentation is the crucial first step. Then we follow that character through the story. Now some would use the term “character arc” here but I do not. It is to restrictive. Many characters do “arc” but many do not. Some have the world arc around them. Many of our more ancient characters have a tendency to simply walk through the world and we get to see it through their unchanging eyes. But all characters progress. They bounce around the world, responding to it, rubbing off on it, having it rub off on them, changing them, or them changing it, each in turn. And handling all that progression well is no small feat for any creator.

That said many of these other aspects of film-making can have a powerful effect.  Done poorly can bring a middling film down to the level of the worst schlock, but applied with skill they can raise that same film to the level of astonishing greatness!  Music, Costuming, Sound design and editing Special effects Choreography, Martial arts, Art direction, Directorial Voice, Blocking and stage direction, Setting, And so very many others.  For each film the core 5 aspects will be rated on a scale of 1-5 along with a select few of these other categories which had a sizable impact on the film.  A few of the other categories that had a smaller impact may also give the final score a + or -1 depending on their influence.  Then the scores will be averaged and rounded to the nearest whole number giving it a simple # out of 5.

That will be my basis for a technical score, however this only reflects film craft.  I have found most films are either more or less than the sum of their part.  I have often been surprised by the beating heart found buried in a film that was from every angle of analysis poorly made.  And I have been astonished at the dryness and barrenness soul found in highly polished pieces of pretty pandering Oscar bait. I have seen substance in the strange edge cases and wanted to cry out my love love the unlovable simply because it did no more than surprise me by doing something daring when it could have played it safe. It is these little things that tend to sway my personal enjoyment of a film up or down a category suddenly and without warning.  It is not often it sways it to far.  I do so love the technical mastery of the craft.  But there are times when it does.  And at all times it deserves addressing.  So each film, after I have given it its initial treatment, I will give it another onceover and bring out all those little things, those imponderables of meaning, value, message, and downright intangibility that so often make up the little difference between good and great, poor and bad, mediocre and memorable.  I will then add it to my tech rating to give it my personal and final rating.  And allow you to judge with you find of greater value to you.