Why I Hate Netflix Member Reviews

Posted on: September 6th, 2010 by Anthony Rapino 9 Comments

A large portion of Netflix reviewers are bipolar. They have to be. Why else rate every single movie you see either 1 star or 5 stars and nothing in between? Are anyone’s preferences actually that black and white?

I find it exceptional, especially considering nearly 90% of the movies I watch fall between the 2-4 star rating. It’s only once in a great while a movie is so bad or so good that it demands–what I consider the two extremes–a 1 or 5 star rating.

A 1-star movie must be the perfect storm of awful acting, schlock writing, inept directing, and crap quality lighting. Add to this sub-par set design, makeup, and wardrobe and yes, then you may have a 1-star movie.

But the geniuses that review movies on the Netflix website regularly bestow movies such as A Serious Man, Kick-Ass, and Shutter Island with an ill-conceived 1-star rating. Usually with the brilliant assessment, “Worst Movie I’ve ever seen.”

Bravo.

Yes, I understand the concept of personal preferences. I would never claim that a person has to like a film, no matter how much I might love it. Opinions differ. But I’d think there would be some sort of consensus that a well made movie–even if you don’t particularly enjoy the subject matter–should rise above the lowest possible rating simply based on competent film making.

But then that would make too much sense.

Perhaps these reviewers are Roger Ebert wannabes, here to give us either a thumb up (5-stars) or a thumb down (1-star). I’d point these reviewers to Roger Ebert’s website where he writes thoughtful reviews in which he designates a star rating (1-4). Further, I’d ask them to scroll through the list of reviews to see how many 1-star ratings appear. Of the current crop of 50 reviews, they’d find only one, for The Last Airbender.

I could make some far-fetched connections to these reviewers and the state of our society as a whole. Our resistance to meeting halfway on important issues in government and our inability to open our minds to change.

But I won’t do that. (Wink).

9 Responses

  1. Franklin Beaumont says:

    I feel your pain.
    Roger Ebert is actually one of the few reviewers I pay attention to, not because I agree with him the most often (I don't – see his 'Blue Velvet' review) – but because, as you said, he always approaches film from a thoughtful and informed perspective. A review should give an opinion about a film, but just as much, it should provide enough objectivity to allow the reader to decide with reasonable accuracy if the film will appeal to their sensibilities.

  2. Aaron Polson says:

    Welcome to the 21st century, where everyone has an opinion and the ability to blast it across the interweb. I've really come to ignore most "user" reviews anymore. Any chump with a on ramp to the information superhighway can give a one star with such insight as "worst [movie, book, etc.] ever".

    *sigh*

  3. onipar... says:

    Franklin, well put. My sentiments exactly. I also don't always agree with Ebert's reviews, but he does manage to, as you said, provide objectivity.

    Aaron, I mostly ignore the reviews as well. This is a post that has been stewing in my brain for months. Every time I put some movies on my instant queue I'm reminded of it.

  4. mshatch says:

    I think it's important to remember that reviewers, like everyone else, have genres they prefer over others, types of movies they favor. So when a reviewer who especially likes comedies tries to review something he/she doesn't have an interest in, like say, science fiction, it tends to be…bad, you know, like crossing the streams.

    There's a guy on NPR who does a pretty good job most of the time, though; Kenneth Turan.

  5. Rabid Fox says:

    I've never much cared for Ebert's reviews, or any pro critic's reviews for that matter, since so many seem eager to display their snarkiness to a point that context is lost.

    But, yeah. There are user reviews all over the place that boggle the mind. Some of the stuff I've read on Amazon is insane.

  6. abrokenlaptop.com says:

    I have to admit that when I came to your "Bravo" I laughed out loud.

    -Mercedes

  7. onipar... says:

    Thanks, Mshatch, I'll check him out.

    Rabid Fox, Yeah, I tend to ignore reviews most of the time. but I do like to try and get a sense of if I'll like a movie or not before I watch it. Still, I don't put much stock in the reviews I read.

    Thanks, Mercedes. 🙂 I originally meant for this post to be much funnier, but the more I wrote the more annoyed I got at these people.

  8. Akasha Savage. says:

    Shutter Island! Worse film ever! How can those two sentences even be on the same page?! I love that film and I love the book it was based on.
    I know what you mean about people's ratings though, you are right: nobody seems to see the grey areas anymore, everything has to be black or white. Love it or hate it. It's the same with book reviews. Grrrrrr….

  9. Bhaswati says:

    I understand your problem with such out-of-balance viewer's reviews. But my pet peeve with Netflix is often the short summary that appears when you take your cursor next to the film "box" on their site. The summary that comes, and a lot of times even the genre, can be so misleading! I have been subjected to at least three films which were supposed to be "comedies", but ended up being dark, tragic tales. Even the summary is written in a way to match the genre mentioned on the site. Misleading all the way!

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