Starring systems are next to meaningless. They always have been, and the always will be. Quick, name two four star films. I’ve decided to go with “The Godfather” and “Spirited Away”. What do these movies have in common? What successes do they share? They operate on completely different scales, tell completely different stories, and find completely different merits.
I can name three successes they share though:
1) They succeed in fully realizing their stories. They find success in creating and populating a world, and having those inhabitants act in ways sensible to that world’s logic, fully engaging the audience.
2) They are at the pinnacle of their genre. For mafia films and family anime, those names will inevitably rise to the top. They have elevated their genres to new and greater heights.
3) They successfully impart their worldview to the audience. While not all films necessarily need to educate us about the human condition. Trust me, I have nothing against action and comedy flicks that don’t have any pretensions of profundity. But these films try to illuminate some aspect of human nature, or our current society, and leave a lasting impression with the audience.
Because these are the commonalities I see between high quality films, they are the criteria upon which I will be awarding stars. That way, films of wildly different genres, and different types of quality can be equally recognized. However, reduction of a films whole to a numerical score is ultimately reductive, and I would urge less attention be payed to the numerical score than the whole of the review. Of course not with the same criteria, but the general principle can also be applied to any review with a numerical rating system. Differences in type of quality should not be reduced to simply differences in quality.