Art is subjective. That means love it or hate it, your opinion is still valid. There is no standardized way to approach art. What there is however, is a level of quality in art, particularly music and cinema, that sets certain pieces apart from others.
This is our attempt to quantify and qualify the quality based on our interpretations of what we hear and watch.
Music is so very much based on personal tastes. It can be challenging to actually say one piece is better than another. But I think if we take a step back it is certainly possible to qualify music based on quality. A song or concert is very much a single organism, it has a life of its own and it must be viewed as one complete piece worth of review. I will of course bring in my own preferences, because that’s what makes music fun. So please take each review with a grain of salt as my personal loves of music are deeply ingrained.
Take when someone loves country for example. I think most of modern pop-country is garbage for a variety of reasons, but I can’t just say “it’s terrible. But what I can say is that it is repetitive, A-B-A-B formula, mass produced, lyrically bland, pandering garbage. You see what I mean? I love Phish because they are great. But I also love Phish because they are extremely talented musicians, working seamlessly in harmony, led by their fearless leader and frontman Trey who is an exceptional guitarist, Fishman on drums, Page on keys, and Gordon on bass, honed by years and years of live performances, and are by far one of the most energetic and exciting bands even today after 20+ years of touring. By the way, Bo Burnham’s special on Netflix is an absolutely excellent take on what makes modern music so formulaic.
Regardless of what you love, here is how I interpret what I hear in concerts or otherwise. The rating is on a 0-10 scale, and decimal points are encouraged, because nothing ever really falls in one place so evenly as many of us know.
1: Terrible. You probably left after one or two songs, or fast-forwarded about 20 seconds in. It’s so bad you tell your friends about it.
2: Really bad. Not your kind of music or anything you would listen to a second time. Boring, cheesy, or just plain bad are some words I would use here.
3: Not good. Really nothing to talk about.
4: Mediocre. Pretty poor, not well done or performed with much care. Lack of talent is evident.
5: Okay. An average experience. Nothing special, but nothing too bad.
6: Good. This is a nice piece of work and had you hooked a few times.
7: Very good. Starting to get into the range of higher quality here. This is a piece you really enjoyed in one way or another.
8: Awesome. This is a fun, groovy show that would bring you back for a second show sometime down the road.
9: Exceptional performance. You loved this show, and you want to tell your friends about it. They crushed it up there and brought an energy to the stage that made the show/performer unique in some way or another. The music was exciting and also moving.
10: A Life-Changing (Or Affirming) Experience. This is a show I will forever remember as being particularly full of energy, fun, exciting, deep, complex and moving emotionally. Everything was deliberate, zero miscues or mistakes. The crowd realizes they are seeing something special. These are the hidden gems that you get once every 10 shows that makes it all worth it.
Movies are in many ways less subjective than film. That is not to say music is not defined by quality and thousands on individual parts, but it is that movies are in the literal sense a technical endeavor. With this more technical approach comes individual parts that are easier to break down and analyze, for example: cinematography, acting, writing, directing, plot, camerawork, etc. Music has this too, but film is just generally longer and more complex from a piece-by-piece standpoint. A film’s musical score can be the subject of an in-depth analysis in itself, for example. Music can be created by one individual, alone. Movies, 99.9% of the time, require dozens if not hundreds of individuals all performing specialized roles to make thousands of parts one whole. I can look at these various technical elements and point to their success or failure in the film, and in this sense it becomes easier to categorize and evaluate.
Here is how I look at movies, on a 1(worst) – 10(best) scale:
1: Atrocious. I don’t know if I’ve seen anything this low in quite some time, but if something is going to be this bad, it lacks quality, acting, story, plot, cinematography, editing and script, and also probably made me angry.
2: Very Bad. Just not good at all. Seems more like a parody of itself than an actual film. Very little thought or care was put into its creation and this is evident in many, many places throughout the film. You probably want to joke about these with your friends.
3: Poor. These are borderline unwatchable. They don’t have anything that draws you in, nor do they make you want to think about them afterwords.
4: Pretty bad. Really nothing to talk about here. You know when a movie is pretty bad because you are bored most of the time and actually sometimes put off by the subject matter.
5: Fair. These movies may have been created with some care, but they don’t make you want to watch again, ever. It just doesn’t have the sticky factor that 6’s and above have. I was bored at several parts and many things seemed out of place or unnecessary. But in some ways the film was interesting and had potential. It just didn’t execute properly.
6: Good. Nothing special or particularly memorable, but it was given a good try and should be recognized as above average filmmaking. Lots of films hang out in this category, but never make it any further, either because they lack that extra “oomph” or they were missing some core cinematic element that makes a movie very good. Maybe they had a few scenes that were particularly great that will make the film stick in my memory a bit, but those are more few and far between than higher-tiered films.
7: Very good. A great experience in filmmaking. These movies may not be as memorable as the rest, but they are still created with care and deliberation. The story is fun, pacing appropriate and characters relatively deep.
8: Great. This is a fun, exciting film. I sat through the whole thing and went to the bathroom maybe once, but I was intrigued most of, if not the whole time. Characters are well thought out, complex and interesting. The pacing is solid, set pieces well created and camerawork creative in some way. There are several scenes that stand out in your memory as being particularly awesome, maybe a fight or two, a car race, a piece of dialogue – something that will keep you coming back for a second viewing at some point down the road.
9: Outstanding. This is a terrific movie. Maybe not in the echelons of a 10, but the next best thing. This is a well made movie in every sense, good plot and a great cast of characters. The style of filming is unique in some way or exceptionally interesting. These movies have twists and turns and create a lot of emotion you can connect to on a personal level. Many of my favorite films fall in this category. These movies usually suck you into the world on the screen and make you connect to them in some way on a deeper level. These are very memorable movies.
10: Masterpiece. This movie has changed my view on cinema in some way, or affected me deeply. Everything about the film is perfect, from the acting down to the most minute details of set design. The script is incredibly well written, and no dialogue is out of place. Each move made by the director is deliberate and intended to achieve maximum effect. The filming style is different and creative. There is no filler, and everything is deliberate. 10/10 are like the diamond in the rough. You so infrequently find them, but when you do, you will never forget it. You are left thinking about the movie for weeks afterwords, sometimes for reasons you can’t explain. But you want to talk about it to anyone who will listen. No bathroom breaks, no stoppages, you watch these movies in one sitting and it grips you until the credits roll.