Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Dark Knight, IMDB, Digg, and a lot of presumption

This post saw its genesis in the form of a particularly indignant comment and follow-up comment I left in a Digg thread about an inflammatory /Film article discussing The Dark Knight's drop in the IMDB rankings from #1 to #3, accusing fans of The Dark Knight of having "gamed" the system in order to get their beloved Batman film such a high rank in the first place.

Instead of reinventing the wheel by typing the comments in a more cohesive form here, I'll just post them in their entirety. Here goes:

Digger "spepin" provoked with this opening salvo of total logical meltdown:
As good as The Dark Knight was, there was absolutely no way it was better than a good portion of those movies.

The fanboys tried, succeeded for a while but alas, they couldn't keep it forever.

Good to see Shawshank Redemption up there, in my opinion that's the best film created...

I had to give him points for rating The Shawshank Redemption so highly. Anyway, I replied:
Is it really a fanboy thing, though?

I saw the film, loved it, gave it a ten and moved on with my life. Does that make me part of some fanboy-brigade?

Maybe the movie just happens to be well-loved by the same demographic that happens to form the majority of regular IMDB voters. In lieu of any evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe that over some lame, pointless, carefully orchestrated conspiracy to get the movie to IMDB's number 1 spot.

"Good to see Shawshank Redemption up there, in my opinion that's the best film created... "

I agree that The Shawshank Redemption is an excellent film, but what it comes down to - as you point out - is opinion. If a person sincerely loves a film then I don't see them as being wrong in giving it a 10. Similarly, I see nothing wrong with someone giving a film a 0 if they *sincerely* see no redeeming qualities in it. IMDB isn't a competition to see who can give the most informed rating, it's an aggregate of popular opinion.

Just because a movie you didn't like as much as another ended up rating higher doesn't mean it's the fault of some insidious plot.

To which a fellow Digger with the chick-magnet net handle "dan222555" replied:
When you give the movie a 10 you're saying no better movie has ever been made. If you believe that (which would by all accounts be absurd), then fine give it a 10. If you don't believe that and you're giving it a 10 then your compromising the integrity of the rating system and you are just a part of some fanboy brigade.

I really had to reach for my A-game to counter such a deft riposte. Thus:
That's exactly my argument, though. Rating a movie (at least on IMDB) is a subjective thing. It's not meant to be a clinical evaluation of the movie's merits, but an aggregate of popular opinion. As soon as you try to turn it into a science, you're implying that you're in a position of knowing enough about cinema to evaluate a film fairly and completely. Maybe you do. For all I know you are a professional filmmaker or critic. I don't, though, so I can only rate a film according to what little I know about the movie making process and - most importantly - according to how much I enjoy it. If IMDB only wanted a movie to be rated according to professional criteria, then their fundamental mistake was allowing anybody other than professional critics to rate films. But then again, that's what Rotten Tomatoes is for, isn't it?

The other issue I have is that people tend to dictate how you're supposed to rate movie on IMDB. I've given a number of films 10. Films that I honestly enjoyed immensely. I take exception to being accused of fanboyism, diminishing the system, etc. purely because the way I choose to rate films disagrees with your personal views on what - I remind you - is a public site.

"When you give the movie a 10 you're saying no better movie has ever been made."

If I extend that line of reasoning, we reach a point where we can award NO movie a 10. The reason for this is because we can't be sure if a better film will one day be made. If I wanted to rate The Exorcist (a personal favourite) as a 10, I'd have to stop myself and ask: "What if a better film exists that I haven't yet seen? What if five years from now a better film is released? Surely if this happens the integrity of the rating system will be diminished if I rate a 10 now!" I don't think IMDB would have given us the option to rate a film a 10 or a 0 if we weren't logically allowed to use it. And I'd rather be told when and how to use those ratings by IMDB than by indignant strangers on the Internet.

When I personally give a film a 10 I'm not implying that no better movie has been made. I don't see myself as being knowledgeable enough about films to say that one is objectively better than another. I am, however, saying that I have not enjoyed another film more. It's easy for me to say that I enjoyed The Godfather, The Dark Knight and The Shining all equally, albeit in different ways, but none ever better. Therefore, I rate it a 10.
This final quote sums up pretty much everything I feel about the topic - albeit in a painfully long-winded way. Unless IMDB (or any other movie rating site, for that matter) specifically changes their rules to enforce a particular rating style on its users, I'm going to keep rating films based on how much I enjoyed them and not on how highly my peers tell me I need to regard it. Or how "genre defining" the script is. Or how "subtextual" the acting is.

1 comment:

High Maintenance said...

Your such a geek! I love it :)