RogerEbert.com has switched over from the usual four star rating system to a mix of stars and thumbs, which makes for an interesting repurposing of the two digit approval system over which the critic got into a tiff with Disney. The thumbs, which have been sort of replaced by “See It/Skip It/Rent It” on the new incarnation of “At the Movies,” weren’t going to see air time with Bens Lyons and Mankiewicz — Ebert and the late Gene Siskel’s family share ownership of the trademark — so I suppose it’s good to see them making an appearance somewhere.
Still, it raises an issue: The thumbs up/thumbs down were, love them or hate them, supposed to express the most basic breakdown of opinions on a movie: like it, dislike it, or split. Now they’ve been transformed into a kind of gradated system, in which two thumbs up is better than one thumb, which is better than one thumb down, which is a step above two thumbs down, which seems to encompass everything that received two stars or below. It’s rather confusing, which goes against the entire simplified business of thumbage, but more importantly, it leaves out the one thumb up, one thumb down equivalent of a shrug. Which is precisely where such a large swath of films fall each year.