Originally Posted by Bryan Beckman
I think that's a very pertinent question, but also one that will elicit a wide range of opinion. For me personally, and especially when it comes down to the difference between Reference and Tier 0, I try to take a more wholistic view of things. "Prince of Persia," for example, had plenty of Reference moments but in my opinion was more consistently Tier 0. Another one that I haven't weighed in on (mostly because I haven't finished watching it yet) is "Saving Private Ryan." I think most who rate it Reference are thinking primarily of the bookend battle sequences, which are still pretty jaw-dropping. But there's nearly two hours of material in between where the mix falls to a Tier 1 at best (again, in my opinion).
I think discussions like these are very healthy so long as we're just sharing our opinions, which in the end are probably worth about as much as they cost.
IMHO, reference should apply to the movie as a whole, not just a few good scenes within a movie. The sound design has to be steller throughout. Take Master and Commander for instance-- even the non-battle scenes are fantastic, with the steps overhead, the creaking, the bells, the wind, etc. there is a prime example of stellar sound design.
Whether a scene is reference is a different animal altogether than whether a film is reference.
And I agree with you on Saving Private Ryan. It is not reference, when taken as a whole. Probably low Tier 0 or high Tier 1.