Damning Movie Ratings to Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of ‘Empire Records’

I have a problem with people who ask for film recommendations, and then reply with “But it has an average IMDb score.”

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There is something fundamentally wrong with quantifying the efforts of hundreds of talented and hard-working artists with a number, isn’t there? True, there are good movies and bad; there are, in many cases, absolutely terrible ones and some pretty great ones. But saying that a particular film is 6/10 for you is just a cruel simplification. Films have soul, heart and brain (at least the good ones do). It is the cumulative effort of God knows how many people over a painfully protracted or minutely shrunk schedule depending on budget constraints. Don’t tell me you rated a film 2 out of 10, tell me you found the acting crass, the script profoundly hollow and the cinematography distracting.

I write this post solely against this newfound obsession of rating films and TV shows online. I dislike the assignment of a numerical value of something as assimilating, enriching and beautifully diverse as cinema. I love reading film reviews, and a lot of my understanding of the basic as well as the subtle, finer aspects of filmmaking comes from the reviews of my favorite film critics.

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This post is geared towards making my point with the only example I’d like to give. ‘Empire Records’ is a 1995 film that opened to severely damaging reviews and incurred losses on the box office. Ebert himself called it “a lost cause”, and “superfluous, cheesy dialogue” were just some of the substantial criticisms thrown at the film. Gaining steam in popular discourse due to underground screenings, with its immense and winning quotability, its cool, levelheaded remarks of existential boredom in teenagers, Empire Records rose to the ranks of the underappreciated cult films of the decade. Twenty years on, it still retains that infectious freshness.

The cast is uniformly brilliant. The soundtrack is gold, the one-liners, for the lack of a more suitable word, are dope; the film’s narrative is energetic and unobtrusively relevant to us even now. It is the symbol of the cinematic underdog, whose awesomeness finally caught up with the audience’s sensibilities.

A.J.: What’s up with you today?

Lucas: What’s up with today today?

Genius.

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