I assume between the stars and the text of the review my ratings are fairly clear, but in case you’d like a little clarification:
Writing:Writing scores are a combination of plot and dialog. Great dialog can offset a weak plot and vice versa (though the reverse is rare. If someone can structure a good story they usually don’t hurt for dialog). The most common reason for a low writing score are logic gaps in the plot or not much of a plot at all. There’s sometimes a gray area between writing and directing when it’s hard to discern who was actually responsible for certain choices, when there’s no way of really knowing without having been on the production.
Directing:Directing is a tricky category since the director is responsible, ultimately, for everything. This score generally focuses on camera work (not in detail, but a few bad shots and this drops), and the overall sense of the project. Editing can either fall under Directing or Production depending on how much of a hand I feel the director had in the editing (generally gleaned by who the director is and the overall sense of cohesiveness of the film). Plot can also fall either under Directing or Writing, depending on if I think weaknesses (or strengths) are a result of the script or the handling of the script by the director. Additionally, Performance scores are reflected either in Performances or Directing…
Performances:As stated above, scores for Performance are either reflected both in this and the Directing category because performances are a result not only of an actor’s skill but also how well a director can elicit a performance from an actor. Sometimes great actors give bad performances which I usually attribute to bad directing. Other times a strong director can make a weak actor seem good, or actually teach them how to be good which they can carry to later projects. Either way, Performance is a balance between actor and director so the score effects both categories.
Casting mischoices also end up being reflected in Performance rather than character and can also bring down the Directing score since directors cast the movie.
Characters:Character is a combination of the writing of the characters and the actor’s performances. If it seems that a character is written well but an actor couldn’t quite pull it off you’ll see discrepancies between this category and Performances. By the same token, if a good actor takes a role and turns it into something more than was written or owns it particularly well, you’ll see discrepancies. Otherwise, Performances and Characters tend to score closely.
Production:I tend to score Production higher than other categories. In part because if the locations and quality of production value matches what’s expected at a particular budget level then it’s good. Production also can be high because it encompasses cgi and music and the accuracy of a period piece. So an action movie can easily have weak plot and character but great effects and that’s going to show up here. Or if a historical drama convincingly evokes the time period Production can be higher than the other categories. Over-scoring is a pet peeve and will bring Production scores down. Since most studios are focused on high production value this category can offset other low scores.
Whatever the individual scores, I always make sure the overall score is at a level I think accurately reflects how good I think a movie is.