The Best of the Best Pictures: Part 3

The Graduate took on counter-culture themes that were representative of films from The Age of Revolution.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Entertainment Weekly labeled the years 1967 to 1986 as the Age of Revolution when it put together its special Oscar edition this year. After all, it was one of their own, Mark Harris, the former Executive Editor and columnist for Entertainment Weekly, who wrote the informative 2008 book, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. The book detailed the 1967 Academy Award race for Best Picture and what it said about the changes that were going on in society and in Hollywood.

Movies began to reflect the political and cultural changes that were revolutionizing society. Three of the Best Picture nominees in 1967, The GraduateIn the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, began to take on issues that were moving to the forefront of society (racial prejudice & hatred, generational alienation).

Warren Beatty’s ultimately successful efforts to wrest control of the movie Bonnie and Clyde away from the Hollywood Studio system are also covered in the book. The story of the making of Bonnie and Clyde is the story of the revolution of independent film makers who separated themselves from the shackles of the studio system and began to create films that took chances.

The fifth nominated movie in 1967 was Doctor Doolittle. The movie become a financial and critical disaster. It brought to an end the Age of Musicals. For over twenty years movie musicals had been a safe staple of the studio system. The Doctor Doolittle boondoggle didn’t end musicals but it significantly slowed their volume.

So against the backdrop of the upheaval initiated in 1967, here are the Best Picture winners from the Age of Revolution ranked by their “really like” probability.

Top Objective Best Picture Winners
The Age of Revolution (1967 – 1986)
Movie (Award Year) # of IMDB Votes Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Cinema Score Metacritic Objective “Really Like” Probability
Godfather, The (1972) 1,317,039 98% NA 100% 76.41%
Godfather, The, Part II (1974) 909,697 85% NA 97% 76.41%
Platoon (1986) 327,566 89% A 92% 76.39%
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)  767,877 95% NA 80% 75.96%
Rocky (1976) 434,259 93% NA 69% 75.96%
Amadeus (1984) 310,169 95% NR 93% 75.78%
Deer Hunter, The (1978) 263,422 94% NR 91% 74.59%
Gandhi (1982) 193,843 85% NR 79% 74.59%
Annie Hall (1977) 222,242 97% NA 92% 74.46%
Sting, The (1973) 200,775 93% NA 80% 74.46%
French Connection, The (1971) 92,665 98% NA 96% 73.84%
Patton (1970) 83,665 95% NA 91% 73.84%
In the Heat of the Night (1967) 56,103 96% NA 75% 73.84%
Midnight Cowboy (1969) 84,516 90% NA 79% 73.84%
Ordinary People (1980) 39,236 90% NR 87% 73.69%
Chariots of Fire (1981) 45,769 83% NR 88% 73.69%
Terms of Endearment (1983) 45,661 88% NR 79% 73.69%
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) 109,691 88% NR 77% 70.45%
Out of Africa (1985) 59,507 58% NR NA 65.92%
Oliver! (1968) 28,956 81% NA NA 64.65%

One of the “really like” criteria that I use is the number of IMDB votes a movie has attracted. Intuitively, most movie fans would place the two Godfather movies at the top of this list. The fact that so many IMDB voters have sought out these two movies provides objective reinforcement to what we intuitively know. The Godfather movies are special and in a class by themselves when compared to the other movies on this list.

The other thing to note from the list is that Platoon is the only movie from the era with a published CinemaScore. By earning an “A”, Platoon objectively moves ahead of movies not rated by CinemaScore that otherwise would have been higher. As I mentioned last week the lack of comprehensive scoring from CinemaScore is a little bit of a frustration for me and one that I have to address in the future.

Best of the Best Pictures: Part 2

How does The Shape of Water measure up, objectively, to other Best Picture winners of The Modern Age?

Last Sunday night The Shape of Water became the 90th recipient of the Academy Award for Best Picture. How does it measure up, objectively, to other Best Picture winners? As of today…not very well.

As with last week’s post, I’ve organized the movies into the same time frames Entertainment Weekly used in their Oscar special edition. This puts The Shape of Water into what EW calls The Modern Age which encompasses the years 1987 to the present. The movies are ranked based on the probability that the average IMDB voter will give the movie a rating of 7 or higher. There is a tie breaker system in place.

Top Objective Best Picture Winners
The Modern Age (1987 – 2018)
Movie (Award Year) Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Cinema Score Metacritic Objective “Really Like” Probability
Forrest Gump (1994) 72% A+ 82% 76.63%
Argo (2012) 96% A+ 86% 76.38%
Million Dollar Baby (2004) 90% A 86% 76.38%
Rain Man (1988) 89% A 65% 76.38%
Silence of the Lambs, The (1991) 95% A- 85% 76.21%
Departed, The (2006) 90% A- 85% 76.21%
American Beauty (1999) 88% B+ 86% 76.21%
Braveheart (1995)  77% A- 68% 76.21%
Schindler’s List (1993) 97% A+ 93% 76.04%
Lord of the Rings, The: The Return of the King (2003)  93% A+ 94% 76.04%
Titanic (1997) 88% A+ 75% 76.04%
Gladiator (2000) 76% A 67% 76.04%
12 Years a Slave (2013) 96% NR 96% 75.77%
Spotlight (2015) 97% NR 93% 75.77%
Hurt Locker, The (2009) 97% NR 94% 75.77%
No Country for Old Men  (2007) 93% NR 91% 75.77%
King’s Speech, The (2010) 95% NR 88% 75.77%
Birdman (2014) 92% NR 88% 75.77%
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) 91% NR 86% 75.77%
Unforgiven (1992) 96% B+ 85% 75.74%
Beautiful Mind, A (2001) 75% A- 72% 75.74%
Crash (2005) 74% A- 69% 75.74%
Chicago (2002) 85% A- 82% 74.90%
Driving Miss Daisy (1989) 81% A+ 81% 74.59%
Moonlight (2016) 98% NR 99% 74.58%
Artist, The (2011) 95% NR 89% 74.58%
Last Emperor, The (1987) 92% A- 76% 73.67%
Shakespeare in Love (1998) 92% A 87% 73.64%
Dances with Wolves (1990) 82% A+ 72% 73.64%
English Patient, The (1996) 84% A- 87% 72.89%
Shape of Water , The (2017) 92% NR 87% 70.45%

Is The Shape of Water really the least likable Best Picture winner of the last 32 years? While it could be, in the long run it probably won’t be.

One of the objective criteria I use is the total number of IMDB votes. If a movie is likable, it will continue to be sought out for viewing long after it has left the theaters. The Shape of Water is just beginning this process of attracting new viewers. Where “word of mouth” goes in the years to come for this movie is unknown. I’m pretty confident though that it will get enough new IMDB voters to pull it past the four movies ahead of it.

An adjustment to another one of the criteria could also improve the position of The Shape of Water. From 1986 to 2008, CinemaScore generated and published a score for every single Best Picture winner. From 2009 through 2017, the movie Argo in 2012 is the only Best Picture winner to have a posted score on the CinemaScore website. Not having a score disadvantages a movie in the rankings. I don’t know whether this trend is due to a change in CinemaScore’s methodology or whether the industry has amped up the practice of using limited releases to build momentum for a movie. Whatever the reason, it is a flaw I need to correct.

Finally, a movie that wins Best Picture, like Argo and Crash, with 6 total nominations is on equal footing with a movie like The Shape of Water that has 13 total nominations. To determine whether the additional nominations increase the “really like” probability will take a more robust database than I have right now. If it does improve the odds, this is another opportunity for The Shape of Water to move up in the rankings.

All of this being said, The Shape of Water has a long way to go before it earns a place among the classic “really like” movies.

***

Because I had too much to say about The Modern Age, I’m holding off on publishing the rankings from 1967 to 1986 until next week.

The Best of The Best Pictures: Part 1

Casablanca is timeless and holds up in comparison with movies from any age.

We all have our own opinion of which movies are the greatest of all time. What if we polled a half a million people?  What would the consensus greatest movies of all time be? Using the feedback we get from websites such as IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, and Metacritic we can do that. With the Academy Awards being presented this coming Sunday, I thought it would be fun to rank the Best Picture winners using the same algorithm I use for the Objective Top Twenty.

Recently, Entertainment Weekly published their special Academy Award edition in recognition of 90 years of Oscar. They divided their issue into four parts to recognize the different eras of movie production. This division also makes a lot of sense when using feedback data to rank movies. The older the movie, the less data there is to support the movie. It creates a statistical bias towards the more recent movies. By comparing Best Picture winners against movies from their own era, you end up with a more meaningful comparison of a movie’s greatness. This makes sense to me and so I’m organizing the Best Picture winners into the same eras used by Entertainment Weekly.

The first era is The Golden Age from 1928 to 1946. It goes from the birth of “talkies” to post-World War II. Here’s the ranking:

Top Objective Best Picture Winners
The Golden Age (1928 – 1946)
Movie (Award Year) IMDB Rating Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Cinema Score Metacritic Objective “Really Like” Probability
Casablanca (1943) 8.5 97% NA 100% 76.77%
Gone With The Wind (1939) 8.2 93% NA 97% 76.77%
Best Years of Our Lives, The (1946) 8.1 96% NA 92% 76.77%
It Happened One Night (1934) 8.1 98% NA 87% 76.77%
Rebecca (1940) 8.2 100% NA NA 75.79%
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) 8.1 100% NA NA 75.79%
Lost Weekend, The (1945) 8.0 100% NA NA 75.79%
You Can’t Take It With You (1938) 8.0 91% NA NA 75.41%
Wings (1928) 7.7 95% NA NA 74.25%
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) 7.8 94% NA NA 74.25%
How Green Was My Valley (1941) 7.8 90% NA NA 74.25%
Grand Hotel (1932) 7.6 86% NA NA 74.25%
Mrs. Miniver (1942) 7.6 92% NA NA 74.25%
Going My Way (1944) 7.2 78% NA NA 73.01%
Life of Emile Zola, The (1937) 7.3 75% NA NA 73.01%
Great Ziegfeld, The (1936) 6.8 65% NA NA 69.87%
Cimarron (1931) 6.0 53% NA NA 64.81%
Broadway Melody, The (1929) 6.2 35% NA NA 64.81%
Cavalcade (1933) 6.0 61% NA NA 64.68%

The list makes sense to me. I’ve seen all but a handful of these movies. Casablanca is timeless and holds up in comparison with movies from any age. There are also some pretty mediocre movies on this list. Winning Best Picture doesn’t mean that it’s a great movie. Only the test of time adequately measures greatness.

Entertainment Weekly designates the next era as The Musicals Age. It’s kind of an odd designation. It may be based on the fact that six of the twenty Best Picture winners from this age were musicals and several more were nominated. The post war period introduced Americans to the nuclear threat. Musicals were an avenue of escape. The period ends in 1966. Many students of film history also believe that 1966 was ebb tide for the Hollywood Studio System which makes it a good cutoff point for this era.

Top Objective Best Picture Winners
The Musicals Age (1947 – 1966)
Movie (Award Year) IMDB Rating Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Cinema Score Metacritic Objective “Really Like” Probability
All About Eve (1950)  8.3 100% NA 98% 76.77%
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)  8.3 98% NA 100% 76.77%
On the Waterfront (1954) 8.2 98% NA 98% 76.77%
Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)  8.2 94% NA 87% 76.77%
Ben-Hur (1959) 8.1 86% NA 90% 76.77%
Apartment, The (1960) 8.3 93% NA NA 75.79%
West Side Story (1961)  7.6 94% NA 86% 74.46%
Marty (1955) 7.7 100% NA NA 74.25%
My Fair Lady (1964) 7.9 96% NA NA 74.25%
From Here to Eternity (1953) 7.7 92% NA NA 74.25%
Sound of Music, The (1965) 8.0 86% NA NA 74.25%
All The King’s Men (1949) 7.6 97% NA NA 74.25%
Hamlet (1948) 7.8 91% NA NA 74.25%
An American in Paris (1951) 7.2 95% NA NA 73.07%
Man for All Seasons, A (1966) 7.9 82% NA NA 73.01%
Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) 7.4 77% NA NA 73.01%
Tom Jones (1963) 6.7 83% NA NA 69.87%
Gigi (1958) 6.8 77% NA NA 69.87%
Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) 6.8 74% NA NA 69.87%
Greatest Show on Earth, The (1952) 6.7 44% NA NA 66.32%

The three movies at the top of the list are the consensus great movies of the era and none of them are musicals. Based on my ranking system, All About Eve and Lawrence of Arabia finish tied for first, just a hair ahead of On the Waterfront. What makes these three movies special is a topic for another day. As with Casablanca, these three masterpieces hold up against the best movies of any age.

Next week I’ll share with you the ranking of the remaining 52 winners. This ranking will include the first look at where Sunday’s Best Picture winner fits into the list of greats, goods, and mediocres, at least as of now.

Unfocused Does Not Mean an Absence of Ideas.

I’ve been very unfocused this week. Perhaps it’s the jetlag from my return trip from the West Coast. Perhaps it’s because my granddaughter not only shared her love but also her cold (believe me, the love is worth the cold). Perhaps it’s the Springtime in February weather we’ve been experiencing on the East Coast this week. For whatever reason, I’ve been unable to focus on a single theme for this week’s “really like” post. But, that’s okay. I can make unfocused, half-baked ideas about “really like” movies work.

I’ve been very unfocused this week. Perhaps it’s the jetlag from my return trip from the West Coast. Perhaps it’s because my granddaughter not only shared her love but also her cold (believe me, the love is worth the cold). Perhaps it’s the Springtime in February weather we’ve been experiencing on the East Coast this week. For whatever reason, I’ve been unable to focus on a single theme for this week’s “really like” post. But, that’s okay. I can make unfocused, half-baked ideas about “really like” movies work.

I was going to write something insightful about Black Panther only to discover that the airwaves and the internet have been saturated with stories about this cultural phenomenon. Anything I might have to say would get lost in the wave of Black Panther mania. I’d guess that this isn’t the last time that the hype machine will take over our cultural conversation. Some of it will be deserved. It might even be deserved for Black Panther. Its cultural significance is unquestioned. Its greatness as a movie has to meet the test of time. As I did last year for Dunkirk, by throwing down a “great” movie benchmark (Saving Private Ryan) for comparison, we can benchmark Black Panther’s greatness over time. An appropriate benchmark for Black Panther is the gold standard of Comic Book inspired movies, The Dark Knight. That gold standard includes an IMDB average rating of 9.0, a 94% Certified Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, an 82 Metascore Rating, an “A” from Cinemascore, and 8 Academy Award nominations including 2 wins. So far Black Panther is exceeding the standard based on scores from Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and CinemaScore and lagging pretty significantly the IMDB standard. We’ll need to wait until next year’s awards season to see how much Oscar love there is for Black Panther. Today, Black Panther is a well established “really like” movie. I’m looking forward to seeing it. Let’s give it a little time to see how it measures up to the established greats like the Dark Knight series.

I also thought about posting an Academy Award related theme but decided to hold off a week on that one. I am doing an special Oscar study for next week (That’s a tease folks!). But my unfocused mind has been thinking about this year’s Oscar awards. Last week I watched two Oscar nominated movies, The Shape of Water and Mudbound. I “really liked” Shape of Water but I didn’t love it. I think for this movie to work you need to care about the creature. Don’t get me wrong I cared that the creature was being treated inhumanely. I just didn’t find out enough about the creature to care about him as an individual. On the other hand, I really cared about Elisa (Sally Hawkins) which is why I liked the movie. But, to really care about a movie relationship I think you need to care about both people in the relationship. Thus, my ambivalence about the movie.

Mudbound, on the other hand, was a revelation. I loved it. With as many movies that have been made about American race relations, it is difficult to find a story that is fresh. Mudbound is fresh and well told. I have not seen this story on the screen before. After seeing Mudbound, I began to think about how underrepresented it is in the Academy Award nominations. Is it because it is a Netflix movie? The Netflix model is to release movies in theaters overseas and on its streaming platform in the United States. Does Hollywood penalize movies owned by Netflix because of this model? I’m just wondering.

Finally, I was thinking about the movie wasteland that exists between now and the beginning of blockbuster season in May. It is not historically a good time for new “really like” movies to get released. Some ” really like” movies do, though, and I make it my personal mission to pan for that nugget of movie gold worth watching. This weekend I have my eye on two new releases, Annihilation and Game Night. Early Rotten Tomatoes reviews are promising for both. Stay tuned.

So, as you can see, I was a little unfocused this week. Just don’t mistake that for an absence of ideas.

 

A “Really Like” Redux in Three Parts

According to Dictionary.com, a redux is something that has been brought back. Today I’m bringing back three posts for updates based on recent news.

According to Dictionary.com, a redux is something that has been brought back. Today I’m bringing back three posts for updates based on recent news.

In August 2016, I published a data-based study of the careers of Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. So far, it is the most reviewed post I’ve written. At the time I was unaware that Streep and Hanks would be co-starring for the first time in The Post which was widely released in January. Since my 2016 article Meryl Streep has received two more Best Actress nominations for The Post and last year’s Florence Foster Jenkins. Tom Hanks, on the other hand, was unable to convert two award worthy performances (The Post and Sully) into a single nomination. Hanks hasn’t been nominated in seventeen years. During that period Streep has been nominated nine times. Why has Hanks lost his Oscar “mojo”? I don’t have an answer. Well-reviewed performances in Oscar-worthy roles have clearly not been enough to get him over the top.

In August of 2017 I wrote about MoviePass and its viability for the average moviegoer. Well, MoviePass, which recently hit two million subscribers, is in the news again. It has announced another new pricing plan that slashes the average monthly price to $7.95 from $9.95 for new subscribers and they will throw in a year’s subscription to the streaming service Fandor. There is a catch, though. MoviePass wants you to pay a year’s worth of monthly fees up front. And, they are adding on a processing fee of $19.95. This processing fee almost wipes out the $2 a month savings from the reduced price. MoviePass wants its money upfront because they are cash poor. According to this recent article in Yahoo News the parent company of MoviePass is desperate for cash and has recently put out a sizable stock offering to raise it. So, my previous analysis doesn’t change much. If you are honest with yourself and you are sure you will go to the movies more than a dozen times a year, this can be a good deal. If you are a fan of independent movies, Fandor will be a plus. Just be aware that, while MoviePass is doing a great job attracting new subscribers, its business viability is not a sure thing.

In my 100th post this past July, I mentioned that for Dunkirk to be considered great it would need to compare favorably to Saving Private Ryan. We are a couple of weeks away from the Academy Award presentations and Dunkirk is a viable Best Picture possibility. Let’s revisit how it is doing with its other benchmarks. While Dunkirk has turned in a solid 8.1 on IMDB, it significantly lags the 8.6 average rating of Saving Private Ryan. Dunkirk also lags on Cinemascore by an A- to A score for Saving Private Ryan. The critics have a more favorable view of Dunkirk. Rotten Tomatoes gives both movies a Certified Fresh 92%. Metacritic gives Dunkirk the slight edge 94 to 90. Finally, Saving Private Ryan has a slight edge so far in the Oscar race with 11 nominations to 8. All in all, Dunkirk holds its own with Saving Private Ryan. I might give the technical edge slightly to Dunkirk. In terms of audience appeal, though, Saving Private Ryan has a solid advantage.

I hope you enjoyed my little Redux. Adieu.

Oscar Nominations Can Lead You to “Really Like” Movies

Movie fans will pore over the list of Oscar nominations that will be announced next Tuesday. Some seek affirmation that their favorite movie of the past year is a favorite of the industry as well. Others hope to find nominated movies that they might have overlooked, or prematurely dismissed, when they were first released. These movies go on their list for future streaming. Many others are intrigued by the drama of seeing who made the cut and who was snubbed. You could argue that there is more uncertainty over who will get nominated then there is over who will win. Whatever your motivation, Oscar nomination day is a big deal for movie fandom.

Movie fans will pore over the list of Oscar nominations that will be announced next Tuesday. Some seek affirmation that their favorite movie of the past year is a favorite of the industry as well. Others hope to find nominated movies that they might have overlooked, or prematurely dismissed, when they were first released. These movies go on their list for future streaming. Many others are intrigued by the drama of seeing who made the cut and who was snubbed. You could argue that there is more uncertainty over who will get nominated then there is over who will win. Whatever your motivation, Oscar nomination day is a big deal for movie fandom.

I have to admit that “all of the above” feed my excitement of the day. I’m hoping that movies on the bubble that I loved like Molly’s Game and The Big Sick get the recognition that they deserve. I’m hoping that Christopher Nolan and Greta Gerwig break through in the Best Director’s race. And, I’m hoping to identify some movies that weren’t on my radar that possibly should be for “really like” viewing in the next year.

As nominees walk the red carpet on Oscar night, you will hear “I am so honored just to be nominated.” When it comes to selecting “really like” movies “just being nominated” is a big deal. Movies that don’t receive an Oscar nomination have only a 64.4% chance of receiving a 7 or better from IMDB voters. Movies that receive a nomination have a 76.1% probability of a 7 or better IMDB vote. Even a minor nomination gives a movie a 72.9% chance of being a “really like” movie. And if a movie is nominated in one of the major categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay) the odds increase to 76.9%.

So, when the Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday, pay attention to all of the categories. A nominee for Best Art Direction-Set Direction may be your next “really like” movie.

What Does the Best Picture Oscar Race Look Like Today.

This time of year I follow AwardsCircuit.com to follow the latest thinking in the Oscar race. AwardsCircuit updated their projected nominees this past Monday and with nine weekends left in the year eight of the ten Best Picture projections have not gone into wide release yet. Does this mean that the best is yet to come? It could. But, it could also mean that they are still hyped for Best Picture because their exposure to critics and audiences has been limited.

I was away most of the week and so I wasn’t able to update my databases, my lists, or come up with new interesting studies. But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about “really like” movies.

This time of year I follow AwardsCircuit.com to follow the latest thinking in the Oscar race. AwardsCircuit updated their projected nominees this past Monday and with nine weekends left in the year eight of the ten Best Picture projections have not gone into wide release yet. Does this mean that the best is yet to come? It could. But, it could also mean that they are still hyped for Best Picture because their exposure to critics and audiences has been limited.

There were other movies that have already been released that were expected to be Best Picture contenders. Of these only Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049 have met their pre-release expectations and are still considered Best Picture caliber movies. Other Best Picture hyped movies, like Battle of the Sexes, Marshall, Suburbicon, and Mother, have either wilted or flopped when exposed to critics and audiences. The same could happen to the eight pre-release movies still projected for Best Picture nominations.

If Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049 have survived the scrutiny of critics and audiences to remain Best Picture contenders, how do the remaining eight projected contenders measure up to those movies so far. All eight have been seen at film festivals to a limited degree by critics and audiences and so there is some feedback to see how these movies are trending. Using average ratings from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh ratings, we can get some early feedback on how those eight movies are faring so far. I’ve converted the Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh to a ten point scale to get an apples to apples comparison with IMDB. I’ve also included the four movies mentioned above that haven’t lived up to the hype so far. The eight pre-release contenders are in bold on the list.

Movie IMDB Rotten Tomatoes Total Score
Call Me By Your Name 8.3 9.8 18.1
Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri 8.3 9.8 18.1
Lady Bird 7.8 10.0 17.8
Dunkirk 8.3 9.2 17.5
Blade Runner 2049 8.5 8.8 17.3
Shape of Water, The 7.5 9.7 17.2
I, Tonya 7.4 9.1 16.5
Mudbound 6.3 9.5 15.8
Battle of the Sexes 6.9 8.5 15.4
Marshall 7.0 8.3 15.3
Mother 7.1 6.9 14.0
Last Flag Flying 6.7 6.8 13.5
Darkest Hour 5.3 7.9 13.2
Suburbicon 4.7 2.5 7.2

If the post-release feedback is consistent with the pre-release feedback, then Call Me By Your NameThree Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, and Lady Bird are the real deal. The Shape of Water, and I, Tonya also appear solid. Mudbound could be on the fence. The early audience response to Last Flag Flying and Darkest Hour may be warning signs that these movies may have been overhyped. If they falter, Battle of the Sexes could move back into contention. You could also see two movies that haven’t been seen by either critics or audiences yet, The Post and Phantom Thread, possibly emerge as contenders. You could also see a dark horse like The Florida Project (IMDB=8.1, Rotten Tomatoes=97% Fresh) sneak in. There are still many twists and turns that will present themselves before Best Picture nominations are announced in January.

The first of these eight movies to test themselves will be Lady Bird which goes into limited release this coming weekend. With fifty critic reviews registered in Rotten Tomatoes, it is still at 100% Certified Fresh. This is one that I’ll probably see in the theaters. Soairse Ronan has become one of my favorite young actresses.

I’m Stating the Obvious But You Will Probably “Really Like” Oscar Nominated Movies.

You are more likely to “really like” a movie that has received an Oscar nomination than one that hasn’t. Now, there’s a bold statement. But while most people would intuitively agree with the statement, I have statistical data to support it

You are more likely to “really like” a movie that has received an Oscar nomination than one that hasn’t. Now, there’s a bold statement. But while most people would intuitively agree with the statement, I have statistical data to support it.

As followers of this blog are aware, I’m building a database of  objective movie ratings data from the past 25 years. Last week I added a fifth year of data. With each year that I add I can pose questions that are easier to test statistically, such as, do Oscar nominations have “really like” statistical significance. I even take it a step further by exploring if there are differences between major nominations and minor ones.

Major nominations are the commonly accepted major awards for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay. Minor nominations are for all of the other categories presented on Oscar night. It doesn’t include the special technical awards presented in a separate ceremony.

Here are the results for the years 1992 to 1996. The movies are grouped by whether they were awarded at least one major and/or minor nomination. The table represents the percentage of IMDB voters who gave the movies in each group a rating of 7 or higher.

Movies with: % 7+
Major & Minor Nominations 90.5%
Major Nominations Only 84.6%
Minor Nominations Only 74.7%
No Nominations 61.4%
All Sample Movies 73.0%

Major nominations have a clear statistical advantage over minor nominations. The size of the gap between movies with just minor nominations and those with no nominations might be surprising. My gut tells me that this gap will narrow as we add more years, especially when we add more recent years. But, it is interesting nonetheless. It does suggest that members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) understand their craft and that knowledge does a great job identifying the “really like” movies released in a given year.

There are more questions to answer regarding Oscar performance as a “really like” indicator. What is the predictive value of an Oscar win? Does predictive value increase with number of nominations that a movie receives? Does a Best Picture nomination have more predictive value than any other category? All of these questions and more will have to wait for more data.

One question we have answered is why all of the movies at the top of the Objective Top Twenty are Oscar nominated movies from last year’s voting. The other takeaway is that all of the other movies on the list that didn’t go through last year’s nominating process, probably won’t stay on the list unless their name is called on January 23, 2018 when this year’s Oscar nominations are announced.

***

It might be a light weekend for new Objective Top Twenty contenders. I’m keeping my eye on Only The Brave which chronicles the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, one of the elite firefighting units in the USA. As of this morning, it is 89% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and has a 7.3 on IMDB.

 

 

 

 

 

September Kicks Off the Oscar Season…If You’re Looking for Buzz.

After a dismal summer box office performance, theater owners are only too happy to turn the calendar page and discover that Oscar season is upon us. September is the unofficial beginning of the six month journey for most movies seeking Oscar gold. As moviegoers, though, we need to cool our jets. It might not be until November before we get to contribute in a significant way to the discussion.

After a dismal summer box office performance, theater owners are only too happy to turn the calendar page and discover that Oscar season is upon us. September is the unofficial beginning of the six month journey for most movies seeking Oscar gold. As moviegoers, though, we need to cool our jets. It might not be until November before we get to contribute in a significant way to the discussion.

Over the last thirty years, only five movies widely released in September have been nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. In other words, only once every six years has a September release been Best Picture worthy. In fact, Moneyball, which was released in 2011, is the only September release in the last twenty years to be nominated for Best Picture. Here’s the complete rundown by month of Best Picture nominations over the last thirty years:

# of Nominations
Jan 40
Feb 17
Mar 5
Apr 3
May 7
Jun 6
Jul 8
Aug 10
Sep 5
Oct 16
Nov 25
Dec 40

So, the peak period for Best Picture nominated movies to actually be seen by the broad public is from November to January.

Why, then, is September considered the “kick off” for the Oscar race? Well, even though the general public doesn’t get to see the Oscar contenders, attendees of film festivals do. The Venice Film Festival opened on August 30th. The Telluride Film Festival opened on September 5th. And, the Toronto Film Festival opens today, September 7th. It’s at these film festivals that Oscar hopefuls debut and try to generate buzz to launch their award campaign. For example, the early buzz coming out of Telluride is that Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour might already be a “lock” for the Best Actor award.

September is about generating “buzz” which creates pent up demand for a movie before it goes into wide release later in the season. Is there no hope then for this September? AwardsCircuit.com ranks the Oscar contenders by category based on buzz, box office, reviews, and awards during the season. As of September 5th, there are four September wide releases on their list of fifty Best Picture contenders. In fact, Battle of the Sexes, a September 22nd release which features Emma Stone as tennis great Billie Jean King, is ranked fifth on the list. It is coming out of Telluride with positive buzz and might buck the odds against September releases. mother!Victoria and Abdul, and Stronger are the other movies on the list. Those movies are more likely to be serious contenders for acting nominations than for Best Picture.

September is an interesting month. Going into the month there always seems to be a good supply of movies in the pipeline. Historically, many of these promising movies end up in disappointment. Studios possibly schedule them in September because they fear the movie can’t compete with heavy hitters released later in the season. Maybe this September it’s because Studios are getting smarter and see an opportunity for early momentum. Ah, hope springs eternal.

***

The early read on this weekend’s big new release, the movie adaption of Stephen King’s novel, It, is positive. It is Certified Fresh and has high early IMDB ratings.

Some Facts Are Not So Trivial

As I’ve mentioned before on these pages, I always pay a visit to the IMDB trivia link after watching a movie. Often I will find a fun but ultimately trivial fact such as the one I discovered after viewing Beauty and the Beast. According to IMDB, Emma Watson was offered the Academy Award winning role of Mia in La La Land but turned it down because she was committed to Beauty and the Beast. Coincidentally, the heretofore non-musical Ryan Gosling was offered the role of the Beast and turned it down because he was committed to that other musical, La La Land. You really can’t fault either of their decisions. Both movies have been huge successes.

As I’ve mentioned before on these pages, I always pay a visit to the IMDB trivia link after watching a movie. Often I will find a fun but ultimately trivial fact such as the one I discovered after viewing Beauty and the Beast. According to IMDB, Emma Watson was offered the Academy Award winning role of Mia in La La Land but turned it down because she was committed to Beauty and the Beast. Coincidentally, the heretofore non-musical Ryan Gosling was offered the role of the Beast and turned it down because he was committed to that other musical, La La Land. You really can’t fault either of their decisions. Both movies have been huge successes.

On Tuesday I watched the “really like” 1935 film classic Mutiny on the Bounty.My visit to the trivia pages of this film unearthed facts that were more consequential than trivial. For example, the film was the first movie of  historically factual events with actors playing historically factual people to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The previous eight winners were all based on fiction. Real life became a viable source for great films as the next two Best Picture winners, The Great Ziegfeld and The Life of Emile Zola, were also biographies. Interestingly, it would be another 25 years before another non-fictional film, Lawrence of Arabia, would win a Best Picture award.

Mutiny on the Bounty also has the distinction of being the only movie ever to have three actors nominated for Best Actor. Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, and Franchot Tone were all nominated for Best Actor. Everyone expected one of them to win. After splitting the votes amongst themselves, none of them won. Oscar officials vowed to never let that happen again. For the next Academy Awards in 1937, they created two new awards for Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role. Since then, in only six other instances, have two actors from the same movie been nominated for Best Actor.

Before leaving Mutiny on the Bounty, there is one more non-trivial fact to relate about the movie. The characters of Captain Bligh and First Mate Fletcher Christian grow to hate each other in the plot. To further that requisite hate in the movie, Irving Thalberg, one of the producers, purposely cast the overtly gay Charles Laughton as Bligh and the notorious homophobe Gable as Fletcher Christian. This crass manipulation of the actors’ prejudice seemed to have worked as the hate between the two men was evident on the set and clearly translated to the screen. This kind of morally corrupt behavior was not uncommon in the boardrooms of the Studio system in Hollywood at the time.

Some other older Best Picture winning films with facts, not trivial, but consequential to the film industry or the outside world include:

  • It Happened One Night, another Clark Gable classic, in 1935 became the first of only three films to win the Oscar “grand slam”. The other two were One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Silence of the Lambs. The Oscar “grand slam” is when a movie wins all five major awards, Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay.
  • Gone with the Wind, along with being the first Best Picture filmed in color,  is the longest movie, at four hours, to win Best Picture. Hattie McDaniel became the first black actor to be nominated and win an Oscar for her role in the film.
  • In Casablanca, there is a scene where the locals drown out the Nazi song “Watch on the Rhine” with their singing of the “Marseillaise”. In that scene you can see tears running down the cheeks of many of the locals. For many of these extras the tears were real since they were actual refugees from Nazi tyranny. Ironically, many of the Nazis in the scene were also German Jews who had escaped Germany.
  • To prepare for his 1946 award winning portrayal of an alcoholic in The Lost Weekend, IMDB reveals that “Ray Milland actually checked himself into Bellevue Hospital with the help of resident doctors, in order to experience the horror of a drunk ward. Milland was given an iron bed and he was locked inside the “booze tank.” That night, a new arrival came into the ward screaming, an entrance which ignited the whole ward into hysteria. With the ward falling into bedlam, a robed and barefooted Milland escaped while the door was ajar and slipped out onto 34th Street where he tried to hail a cab. When a suspicious cop spotted him, Milland tried to explain, but the cop didn’t believe him, especially after he noticed the Bellevue insignia on his robe. The actor was dragged back to Bellevue where it took him a half-hour to explain his situation to the authorities before he was finally released.”
  • In the 1947 film Gentlemen’s Agreement about anti-Semitism, according to IMDB, “The movie mentions three real people well-known for their racism and anti-Semitism at the time: Sen. Theodore Bilbo (D-Mississippi), who advocated sending all African-Americans back to Africa; Rep. John Rankin (D-Mississippi), who called columnist Walter Winchell  “the little kike” on the floor of the House of Representatives; and leader of “Share Our Wealth” and “Christian Nationalist Crusade” Gerald L. K. Smith, who tried legal means to prevent Twentieth Century-Fox from showing the movie in Tulsa. He lost the case, but then sued Fox for $1,000,000. The case was thrown out of court in 1951.”

One of the definitions of “trivia” is “an inessential fact; trifle”. Because IMDB lists facts under the Trivia link does not make them trivia. The facts presented here either promoted creative growth in the film industry or made a significant statement about society. Some facts are not so trivial.