Oi! Can I get some help over here? So you may have noticed the new little emotion characters at the bottom of each EFC post (I know what you’re thinking – cute, right? 🙄). And if you’ve seen Pixar’s Inside Out, or if you’ve read my Frozen Inside Out post, then you probably have at least some idea what they mean. Here I’ll explain their significance in full. And, when we get to the fun part, I’ll tell you how you can help out. But first let me back up for a second.
When I started this blog I made it a priority not to critique the movies I would write about, but to instead read with their grain, highlighting and commending their better qualities through an open and relaxed writing style, similar to a creative narrative. Calculating scores, I felt, wouldn’t serve my magnanimous goals or my chosen style particularly well.
And that’s not to say I believe there’s anything wrong with critical; quite the contrary. I have greatly enjoyed, and have gained tremendously from reading many of your own movie critiques and reviews. In all honesty, my decision not to write critical reviews here was made in part to try and differentiate myself from my fellow movie bloggers.
I now realize, however, that a score serves an invaluable purpose: it quickly and conveniently lets you as the reader know whether a movie is worth your time. And I feel you deserve this convenience. Similarly, I want to provide you with a useful heuristic about each movie’s thematic and stylistic composition, or mood. Fortunately, I think I found the perfect solution to both of these concerns; a tool that expediently provides both objective and qualitative information about each film, and also allows me to retain an aura of critical modesty. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Inside Out Scoring System!
The Emotional Recipe
Previously, I used the five emotions from Inside Out to describe the personalities of Elsa and Anna from Frozen. Now I’ll similarly employ them to describe the films themselves.
Think of the emotions like ingredients that you can use in various proportion to one another to bake different types of films. For example, horror movies generally draw most from the Fear stockpile, while comedies generally draw from Joy, and so forth. The exact mixture of all five emotions is called The Inside Out. Lets look at The Inside Out, or emotional recipe, of the comedy, Wedding Crashers (2005) to see how it works.
The Inside Out: Joy (35), Anger (16), Disgust (12), Sadness (8), Fear (4).
Meet Your Emotions
- Disgust – Awareness and/or repugnance of physical and social toxins (i.e., stigmatized identities and behaviors). Concerned with style as an end in itself (poshness). Strong opinions about art, cuisine, fashion, and/or people. Elitist, intolerant.
- Likely Genres: ???
- Disgust Dominant Movies: Edward Scissorhands, The Neon Demon, The Devil Wears Prada, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
- Disgust Dominant Characters: Cruella DeVil (101 Dalmatians).
- Fear – Protecting self and others from physical and psychological threats. Flight response. Prudence, avoidance. Sense of panic, danger, security, and horror.
- Likely Genres: Horror, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Mystery, Some Fantasy/Adventure.
- Fear Dom. Movies: Aliens, Batman Begins, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Shining, Mulholland Drive, Vertigo
- Fear Dom. Characters:
- Joy – Positivity, excitability, encouragement, confidence, fondness. Raw creativity. Sense of celebration, excitement, humor, and inspiration.
- Likely Genres: Comedy, Rom-Com, Adventure, Fantasy, Children’s.
- Joy Dom. Movies: Back To The Future, Finding Nemo, Sing Street, Scary Movie 3, How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days, 22 Jump Street, Dumb and Dumber, Love Actually, Wedding Crashers, National Lampoon’s (…), The Saint.
- Joy Dom. Characters:
- Sadness – Expressing and garnering sympathy. Social bonding and reciprocity. Grieving, processing trauma. Sense of grief and sympathy.
- Likely Genres: Drama, Romance, Tragedy
- Sadness Dom. Movies: Titanic, Schindler’s List, Adaptation, Requiem For A Dream, Lost in Translation.
- Sadness Dom. Characters:
- Anger – Mobilization of physical and mental resources for direct confrontation of threat. Fight response. Noticing and correcting errors in logic or testimony. Retaliation for injury or felt injustice. Law enforcement. Sense of justice, authority, violence and vengeance.
- Likely Genres: Crime, Courtroom drama, Action, Superhero Movies.
- Anger Dom. Movies: 12 Angry Men, Die Hard, The Godfather, Gladiator, Pulp Fiction, A Few Good Men, The Rock, Training Day, The Departed.
- Anger Dom. Characters: Tony Montana (Scarface)
You probably noticed that I tried to give some examples of movies and characters that are dominant in each emotion. You also probably noticed that I didn’t come up with very many. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to come up with more examples of movies and characters that fit each emotion! But before you do that, make sure you read the descriptions of each emotion. If you don’t like the descriptions I provided, or think they can be improved upon, let me know so I can adjust them.
How Is The Recipe Determined?
It’s a good question that I don’t have a solid answer to just yet. It’s a highly subjective and and impressionistic process. Especially since, when we are talking about what makes a film high on a particular emotion, we aren’t merely talking about the literal emotions we feel while watching the film. If you saw Inside Out then you probably noticed that, in addition to evoking the literal feeling, each emotion serves secondary functions as well. Joy, for example, doesn’t just make you feel good; it is also responsible for spontaneity, cleverness, and creativity (among other things). Whether or not this holds true in real life is debatable, but in the fantastic world of film it’s a useful mythology.
In describing movies, the secondary functions could pertain to the plot, characters, or to the style of the film itself. Let’s look at how this concept applies to Wedding Crashers. I’ll explain my reasoned score for each emotion and that might clarify this for you a bit better:
- Joy (35) – The movie is very funny, is mostly light-hearted, features all the excitement associated with wedding celebrations, and involves clever characters, plots, and schemes which are entertaining and inspiring. Comedic tone is pervasive throughout, and it will probably make you laugh and feel good. (So maybe half of these 35 points are given because of the literal feelings of joy we get from watching the film. While the other half of the points comes as a result of Joy being so integral to the plot, characters, and stylistic choices (i.e. comedic tone), made by the filmmakers.)
- Anger (16) – Scenes of heated (albeit comedic) debate and confrontation throughout the film, which are apparent from the very first scene. Also, two of the main characters probably lead with Anger in their own personalities (i.e., Vince Vaughan’s and Bradley Cooper’s). They are routinely argumentative, competitive, and spiteful. As a general rule, strong characters will influence the emotional signature of the film itself. Furthermore, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan portray lawyers (Yes, I’m suggesting there is a correlation between law related professions and Anger-driven personalities. Wouldn’t you agree?)
- Disgust (12) – Crude dialogue (e.g., Sexual references), and plot twists (e.g., Bradley Cooper throwing up after his drink is poisoned). It literally makes you feel “grossed-out” at times. However, the disgust element isn’t dominant or pervasive in coloring the film’s overall emotional signature. Hence, not as many points as Joy and Anger.
- Sadness (8) – I think Owen Wilson leads with sadness. He’s more subdued, and romantically attached. He advises Rachel McAdams to lead from the heart when she toasts to her sister. There are also a few sad / melodramatic moments in the film, but they don’t last long at all.
- Fear (4) – With the exception of that infamous midnight bondage session / art show in Vince Vaughan’s bedroom, there aren’t very many reasons to be afraid while watching this movie. The film also doesn’t concern itself much with danger or sense of security, nor does it offer many prudent lessons about life. That is, unless you count Will Ferrell’s theories about picking up chicks at funerals.
The Recipe As A Raw Score
If the distribution of emotional points denotes a film’s personality, then the amount of points denotes the film’s overall quality. 100 points is the most a film could receive (this amount is reserved for the bonafide classics). The films I write about here will typically earn somewhere between 50-100 points.
The Good, The Better, and The Best: How The Raw Score is Calculated
In the introductory post I suggested that good films makes us think, and even better ones make us feel something. And the very best films, generally, are the ones that fundamentally alter how we think and feel about something in the first place. Here I’ve translated this subjective rule of thumb into an an objective (ish) point system:
- 60-80 (Good) – Films that make us think
- 70-90 (Better) – Films that make us feel something
- 80-100 (Best) – Films that alter how we think and feel about something to begin with.
Once I assign a raw score, I then divide it among the emotions in proportion to the film’s recipe. Back to Wedding Crashers we go. (Simply add together the numbers next to each emotion to see what score I gave the film):
- The Inside Out: Joy (35), Anger (16), Disgust (12), Sadness (8), Fear (4).
- (35) + (16) + (12) + (8) + (4) = 75 (Better)
- I’m calling it a better film because it routinely makes me laugh and feel joy. For me, that alone speaks to the quality of the film. If I were too distracted by the faults of the film, I’d be taken out of the experience. The fact that I am able to feel something means the filmmakers were successful in crafting a cohesive film that is plausible and compelling.
To summarize, the raw score is the starting point; calculate that first based on The Good, Better, and Best concept. Find the range and then pick a specific value within that range (Step 1). Then distribute the total points between the five emotions according to the emotional impression you gathered from the film (Step 2).
And there you have it, The Inside Out Scoring System. If you like it, use it! See if you can Inside Out your favorite movies and share their scores below! And if you think the system could be improved, tell me how. Also, I NEED EXAMPLES of movies and characters that represent each emotion. See if you can come up with some and comment with them below. Thanks for reading.