Q: Why don't you give out scores or star ratings to any of the works you write about?
A: Putting a number on something is distracting. It's far, far, far too easy to skim or skip the content of a reflection or analysis and go straight to the rating (believe me, I fall prey to this as much as anyone). The nuance of the piece is subsumed and pointless bickering ensues. The point of a rating system is put each work on a universal scale that allows for easy comparison—but not every work should be compared against every other. Different criteria are valued. I decided not to use a rating system on Culture Carve so that readers might a) consider more carefully what I have to say about each work, and b) avoid pointless comparisons in favor of evaluating each work on its own terms.
That said, I do give (sometimes) give star ratings on Letterboxd (for films), Goodreads (for books), and Grouvee (for games). Don't take these too seriously. I use them primarily as a easy method for organization, I change them frequently, and I wouldn't even necessarily consider those on Goodreads and Grouvee accurate due to the lack of 1/2-star increments on those sites.
Q: Why do you spend so much time fussing over nitpicky details? They don't matter!
A: They do matter—at least, they do here at Culture Carve. You can visit other sites if you want sweeping generalizations and fuzzy analysis. Culture Carve is all about examining the minutia of storytelling; every word, every glance, every detail contributes to greater whole and is worth scrutiny. It's not about nitpicking. It's about giving every element of artistic craft—whether intended or not on the part of the creator—the attention it deserves.
Q: You say [X] about a book/movie/game/show, but the author/director/developer/showrunner says [Y]. You're wrong!
A: That's not a question, but I'll answer it anyway. Read this and this first of all. I generally approach my analyses from the perspective of New Criticism; the work must be taken on its own terms, and the intention of the creator does not matter. The temptation to see a work as autobiographical is too tempting and too frequently inaccurate. This doesn't mean that I won't consider what creators have to say about their own work—it simply means that I will not accept any critical interpretation of a work as the "correct" interpretation just because it has been confirmed by the creator.
I am more lenient when it comes to the historical/cultural context of a work. This will be taken into consideration to some degree—some works, after all, are inseparable from the time and location in which they were created (Jafar Panahi's 2015 film Taxi, for example, relies heavily on the viewer's knowledge of who Panahi is and the years of his life that preceded the movie)—but I will be limited by my knowledge of that context. I will, of course, do my best to research and learn the relevant context, but I will rarely be speaking from a position of authority on that front and will make that clear. Think of it in three tiers of increasing importance: 3. The intentions of the creator. 2. The historical/cultural context. 1. The actual content of the work itself.
Q: Why do your "Essentials" lists have so many entries? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of "essential"?
A: I believe in inclusive canons. There's certainly something to be said for only featuring the best of the best, but that's not the way I want to do it. Culture is always an additive experience for me; some artistic works offer more of value than others, but they always offer something—a better understanding of that particular medium, perhaps, or an example of a genre trope that damages the narrative. My Essentials lists aren't intended to offer only top-tier works, but rather to cut out the chaff and provide you with experiences that will help you become culturally literate. Exclusive canons have their place, but the canons here at Culture Carve are broad ones.
Q: Why do you do a "Top 250" for movies every year? Wouldn't a Top Ten be sufficient?
A: No, it wouldn't. The most interesting movies to talk about and the movies that need more recognition aren't always—in fact, they rarely are—the same ones that would appear in a Top Ten for any given year. I chose 250 because it's 1) low enough to be attainable (I only have so much time!), 2) high enough to force me to branch out from the average fare, and 3) it provides me with an opportunity to provide commentary on and bring exposure to a wide variety of films both good and bad, both popular and unpopular.
Q: Why don't you cover ongoing series (TV shows, books, etc.)?
A: The simple answer is that I don't feel comfortable analyzing a narrative unit until I have experienced said unit in its entirety. Doing otherwise inevitably leads down the rabbit hole of speculation, because it is simply not possible to understand the proper value and context of certain storytelling elements without, well, knowing the whole story. Ongoing retrospectives certainly have their place (and there are myriad sites that provide them; Vulture and The A.V. Club are good options for your television fix)—but here at Culture Carve, I'm interested in breaking down completed narratives from the perspective of someone who is familiar with, if not its nuances, at least its broad movements.
I am willing to make a few exceptions, however. When it comes to stories that are more interested in universe-building and self-perpetuating narratives than finite arcs (such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe or post-Lucas Star Wars), waiting for proper conclusions is a Sisyphean task. I will generally handle works such as these by analyzing each completed "block" of narrative, such as the so-called "Phases" in the MCU.