Professional critics like to give review aggregation websites enormous flak, claiming things like they are bad for criticism, degrade the quality of discussion surrounding movies, reduce the quality of a given movie to a calculation, and so on. These are the same types who will decry even the notion of applying a star rating or letter grade to a movie because you can’t evaluate art that way, people!! I actually agree with them to an extent. Grading films like you’re marking a math test, looking for evidence in the work of the “right” course towards the “right” answer, is a little dumb. It doesn’t work like that. Summing up a movie’s merits by saying it’s an 8 out of 10, for example, cheapens it a little, and doesn’t do justice to the depth and nuance any movie inherently possesses.
Then again, you could argue that trying to describe a film’s effect in words also cheapens it. Verbally explaining a movie’s effect on a viewer is like trying to rationalize why a joke makes someone laugh, or the whole “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” sort of thing. Talking about Inception can never capture the experience of watching Inception. And that’s what critics do for a living, and cling to as a form of expression. So lamenting the degree to which aggregators denigrate cinematic discourse is slightly hypocritical. We’re really just arguing about where to draw the line.
Ultimately, I think review aggregator sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are far more beneficial to informed movie decision-making and discussion than they are detrimental. Here are 4 positive attributes that these types of sites feature.
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