The Moving Picture Story Rating
The MPS Rating is a cumulative point system whereby several specific elements of a film are scored to produce an overall grade that directly stands upon its designated strengths and weaknesses. Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are well known and referenced when comparing media by way of their own number systems. Unfortunately, without transparency that reveals where these “scores” could possibly be derived, any number is arbitrary and ultimately has no comparative value. Criticism is subjective in its nature, but by fragmenting general observations into bullet point breakdowns, the reader can rely less on a leap of faith. An accumulation of specific valuations presents a series of more meaningful reflections that are still determined by the reviewer, but minimizes the impact of said reviewer’s expectations and preferences on the final score.
The philosophy behind this rating system revolves around equality and recognition for as many fundamental aspects of contemporary, narrative filmmaking as possible without turning every review into a dissertation. Mega-budget Hollywood productions may have a number of advantages over smaller indie films, but the MPS Rating is strictly interested in what is shown on the screen, what works for the film and what doesn’t. There is no perfect system because there is no perfectly balanced method to weigh the impact of costume design vs. computer graphic fabrication, for example. The key here is recognizing as much of the observable product as possible which unfortunately leaves other important parts of filmmaking like directing and producing outside of the MPS.
The final MPS Rating is a score out of 100 points and broken down into 3 major subsets:
“Moving” = 33 points “Picture” = 33 points “Story” = 34 points
The “Story” subset gets one additional point because every narrative film’s most basic concept before it enters any day of principal photography is the script. There is no film without a story or some concept organized into words that are written/typed on the page/screen.
Each subset is broken down further into 3 smaller categories:
– Action (11 points)
– Performance (11 points)
– Audio (11 points)
– Visual Effects (11 points)
– Cast presentation (11 points)
– Setting (11 points)
– Plot (12 points)
– Conversation (11 points)
– Character (11 points)
From there, 1 additional layer of fragmentation occurs in each category dividing them as evenly as possible while favoring some above others.
[Within the Moving Subset]
“Action Style” or any featured special training movement the cast engages in such as martial arts, dance, parkour or gymnastics. (6 points)
“Action Frame” or any common movement within the frame by the cast (walking, running) in addition to moving the frame itself via tracks, pans, tilts and more. (5 points)
“Lead Performance” or the effort put forth by the featured protagonists and/or antagonists of the film. (6 points)
“Supporting Performance” or the effort put forth by the supporting cast like sidekicks, love interests, mentors and villains. (5 points)
“Music” or the implementation of any orchestral score or proprietary tracks to enhance the emotive moments of the film. (6 points)
Sound F/X” or the creation and application of any Foley recording (analog or digital) further enhancing the realism of anything fabricated from settings to props. (5 points)
[Within the Picture Subset]
“Digital F/X” or the use of computer graphics to create and interact with fabricated locations, characters, and anything else represented visually that simply cannot exist in real life. (6 points)
“Special F/X” or the use of more practical visual spectacles such as pyrotechnics, gunfire, artillery, vehicles. (5 points)
“Costumes” are self explanatory. Does the cast look like the characters they are attempting to portray for the screen? (6 points)
“Hair & Makeup” is more than making beautiful people look even better for their close-ups. As time, circumstances and other situations occur to affect the cast during the story; is it well reflected on their bodies outside of their performance? (5 points)
“Exteriors” or any scene featuring an outdoor or outer space environment. Note: this physical space does not have to be captured in the natural world, but will still be evaluated for its detail which will enhance or detract from the realism of the moment. (6 points)
“Interiors” or any scene featuring an indoor environment. The above special note also applies to interior set design. (5 points)
[Within the Story subset]
“Hook” or the inciting incident/gimmick/idea that lies at the core of the film’s story. (4 points)
“Conflict” or any adversary the protagonists are challenged by. How interesting is it; circumstantial or otherwise? (4 points)
“Resolution” or how the story wraps up. Is it surprising? Is it satisfying? (4 points)
“Dialogue” or how every character verbally interacts with each other. It doesn’t need to come off naturally, but any stylized choices need to work for the story. (6 points)
“Exposition” or any information regarding this fictional world like the rules for how things work as well as understanding what is at stake and the risks involved to the main characters. This can be expressed via pockets of dialogue, narration or onscreen titles. (5 points)
“Uniqueness” or how dynamic the featured and supporting characters are in general. Are they intriguing everymen? Are they mysterious anti-heroes? Are they bland? (6 points)
“Relatability” or how well do characters make connections with the audience. Do we sympathize with them thanks to personal experience? Are we completely put off by their off-center code of conduct? Is there any part of them that we can appreciate? (5 points)
All of these elements combine to form a completed film. How well they stack up with each other determines how strong the final product is. I reiterate that even with 19 different sections to draw points from, it remains an opinion-based evaluation. My intention is to be as brief and as thorough as possible. Hopefully, I can communicate a more tangible sense of value to the reader so that he or she can determine worth for buying into a general admission, rental or on-demand viewing.