Owen Gleiberman, who shares the title of chief film critic for Entertainment Weekly with Lisa Schwarzbaum, has famously said that he detests the movie letter grade scale used by the pop culture bible that employs him. I don't go by letter grades (far too many variables of + and -) but by stars -- five of them (with nearly as many variables of 1/2). Rating scales are necessry when judging things on their quality; when all is said and done, when all strengths and weaknesses have been observed, how, in one succinct number or letter, does the item hold up against the competition?
For me, week after week, one of two things occurs (sometimes at once): I see a film and a grade sticks out in my mind, or I see a film and words to be written stick out in my mind. Once I sit down and start typing, one of two other things occurs (usually not at once): what I'm writing dictates a grade, or a grade dictates what I'm writing. Sometimes, a movie warrants such a clear and specific position on the quality meter, that all one needs to do is explain why. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case.
I saw a handful of other films this year, reviewed in complete and simply rated, that were also branded with 3 stars. Some were better than others. Some leaned to the see-saw's higher end. Either way, the 3 star grade is usually the most crowded because, sadly, most flicks are just okay. Below is a collection of grades for the films I've seen in 2008 but did not review. They run the gamut from 5 star excellence to 1 star putridity. But, there in the middle, you'll see that the 3 star titles are greatest in number...as usual.
(Bear in mind that there are still two months to go in the year and most of the "finer" films have yet to be released. Expect this list to grow considerably).
I.O.U.S.A. = 4.5 stars
Mongol = 4 stars
Were the World Mine = 3.5 stars
The Book of Caleb = 3 stars
Savage Grace = 3 stars