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Our New Rating System

posted Jan 15, 2013, 4:49 PM by Kaya Savas
When F.M.M was first launched in 2009 and even when the thoughts of it were still percolating in my head, it was always the rating system that gave me the most difficulty. Sure finding the right name was hard (seriously, there are not many combos of F’s and M’s out there and “film music” was always going to be in the name), but once I started saying film music media aloud it stuck. The design and layout of the site was easy since I always wanted to be as straightforward and simple as it can be, yet still a little sleek. But it was the damn ratings that took me a week or so to nail down. Many reviewers use numbers on a scale out of 10 (boring). I’ve seen a letter system (such as A+ and C-), which if used seriously is usually code for the reviewer being pretentious and in their eyes the all-knowing authority on the subject matter. I assure you that we don’t see things that way and we’re not grading other people’s work as if we are the teacher and know the one and correct way to do it.

The stars seemed perfect because it allowed for a general metering that reflected how the score affected the reviewer. We are telling you if we liked it or didn’t, if it resonated with us or not and why. We will articulate aspects of the score that worked or didn’t, and we all have the listening experience plus filmmaking knowledge to do so. A lot of critics will say “this score is good” only because they have some fixed idea of what a good score is, sort of like a “10” or an “A+” in their book. That’s why the star system works, almost like a little emotion meter.

So, to the point. I thought 4 stars didn’t give us enough variation in the ratings. 2012 saw tons of 3 star ratings with a ton of 3.5 star ratings that were too scared to go to 4 stars in fear of being overly generous with perfect ratings. Plain and simple, we’re adding a star to the ratings to give us the ability to be more precise with the ratings. Here’s what they mean and the guide we follow as reviewers:

The score is an empty abyss of nothing with no emotional resonance. It actually detracts from the story it’s telling and fails to craft any cohesiveness. So bad that the movie would have been better with no score. The equivalent of TV static.

The music just fills space but doesn’t really do anything else. The score lacks focus, emotion, character, structure and literally becomes background noise. You don’t remember it the second it’s over and have no desire to ever revisit it.

There is some sort of shape happening here. You’re not sure what because it’s mostly a mess that’s void of anything substantial, but you feel some sort of structure. It may have very minimal appeal. Enough to give it one full notch for doing 1 thing right.

Everything a 1 star rating holds, but it has a little glimmer of hope. You see the ideas all in their separate pieces, but none of the pieces really fit together. Nothing about the score absorbs you and you’re fully aware that you’re listening to a score. Nothing takes hold of you.

A score that can stand on solid ground with the help of the picture. On it’s own it feels a bit wobbly and you feel it lose focus often. However, there is a narrative working within the music and it has some likable qualities. You may have enjoyed singular moments, but as a whole it’s forgettable and you won’t likely revisit it.

This is a totally serviceable score. The word “decent” would be appropriate to describe it. It has enjoyable qualities and can stand on its own slightly. It does everything a score should, but never does anything special that hooks you.

A good score. This is a score that emotionally resonates with you. The music has a strong voice behind it and the composer(s) execute it very well. There is a seamless flow in the narrative where emotion is created naturally. A score that makes for a satisfying and well rounded listen.

A very good score. This is everything that a 3 star score is, but has something extra special. The golden touch of an excellent composer perhaps or a very unique voice behind it. The score stands on its own successfully yet adds deep layers to the film’s narrative. This score is rich in character, setting, plot and emotion that flows freely through it.

An excellent score. This is a top tier effort that you would make a special place in your heart for. It is a shining example of what a score is supposed to do. Everything about it is wonderfully executed and you were left thinking about it long after you had heard it. The score carries the weight of the film and the story within it and acts as the structural and emotional blueprint.

A near-perfect score. This score will be remembered for years to come. The music reflects deep within whomever listens to it and echoes a story of rich emotions. The music has a strong identity and grows from inside you. You feel yourself on the journey while you rise and fall with the story. You will revisit this score time and time again.

A masterpiece. A piece of music that beautifully reflects on the human condition. The amount of raw emotion behind it is immeasurable and you find a hard time even writing or talking about. A 5 star level score brings to mind masterpieces such as The Mission, Lawrence Of Arabia and Gone With The Wind. A prime example of the medium that will stand the test of time and embed itself into your consciousness.