The Careers of Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks Through the Eyes of IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes

Until The Post was released in 2017, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks had never appeared together in a film.

Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks have been two of the most bankable stars in Hollywood for over a quarter of a century. Both were around 28 when their first movies  were released. It is interesting to view their careers through the average ratings of the movies they were in.

First Career Phase (10  movies each)
Age Avg IMDB Rating Avg Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Academy Award Noms./Wins
Streep 28 to 35 7.2 71%   5 Noms./2 Wins
Hanks 28 to 32 6.1 61% 1 Nom/ 0 Wins

Meryl Streep hit the ground running. She was a Tony nominee on Broadway before landing her first role in the Oscar nominated movie Julia. She won an Emmy Award for the miniseries Holocaust before landing a supporting role in The Deer Hunter for which she received her first Oscar nomination. It is an incredible accomplishment that she was nominated for Academy Awards in five of her first ten movies, winning for Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice. In her personal life, her 3 year relationship with actor John Cazale ended with his death when Streep was 28 years. Six months later she married Don Gummer and had her first child at age 30 and her second four years later at age 34.

Tom Hanks crossed over from TV to film. While he was best known for the cross dressing role of Kip Wilson on Bosom Buddies, his real break came at age 26 when he appeared with Ron Howard on an episode of Happy Days. This appearance led Ron Howard, the Director, to cast Tom Hanks in the lead for the movie Splash, which went on to a fairly successful box office run. For the remainder of this period Hanks endured a number of flops until his critical breakthrough in Big, which earned him his first Academy Award nomination at age 32. In his personal life, Hanks went through the divorce from his first wife, with whom he had two children. The children were 9 and 4 at the time of the divorce. Hanks married his second wife, Rita Wilson, at the age of 32.

Second Career Phase (9 movies for Streep, 10 for Hanks))
Age Avg IMDB Rating Avg Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Academy Award Noms./Wins
Streep 36 to 43 6.5 66%   4 noms/0 wins
Hanks 33 to 39 7.0 67%   2 noms/2 wins

During this second phase of their careers Meryl Streep solidified her position as the premier actress of her time, while Tom Hanks made a successful transition to the “A-List” of Hollywood actors. Remarkably, Streep continued to earn Oscar Nominations for almost half of the movies she was in. Hanks gained serious actor status by transitioning to dramatic roles that resulted in Best Actor nominations and wins in consecutive years for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. In their personal lives, both experienced the births of their 3rd and 4th children.

Third Career Phase (10 movies for Streep, 11 for Hanks)
Age Avg IMDB Rating Avg Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Academy Award Noms./Wins
Streep 44 to 53 6.9 67%   4 noms/0 wins
Hanks 40 to 48 7.4 79%   2 noms/0 wins

This third phase saw an uptick in the quality of the movies each appeared in. In terms of opportunity, Hanks was at the peak of his career. To appear in 11 movies with an average Rotten Tomatoes rating of 79% Fresh suggests that he had the pick of the litter in terms of selecting movies to appear in at this time. As for Meryl Streep, she continued to select roles that earned her an Academy Award nominations for almost every other movie she appeared in.

Fourth Career Phase (12 movies each)
Age Avg IMDB Rating Avg Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Academy Award Noms./Wins
Streep 54 to 59 6.6 56%   2 noms/0 wins
Hanks 49 to 59 6.6 60%   0 noms/0 wins

This fourth phase of each actor’s career is interesting. In terms of the quality of the movies they were in, the numbers are very similar. Meryl Streep  earned two Oscar nominations during this period for The Devil Wears Prada and Doubt, but seems more intent on working rather than cherry-picking Oscar worthy roles. She averaged two movies a year during this period, far and away the most productive period of her career For Hanks, on the other, hand, this is the least productive period for movie acting, about one a year, as he became more involved in producing. He appeared to be more selective in his acting roles, with half being in Oscar nominated movies.

Fifth Career Phase (11 movies)
Age Avg IMDB Rating Avg Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Academy Award Noms./Wins
Streep 60 to 66 6.7 67%  4 noms/1 wins

Meryl Streep is seven years older than Tom Hanks and so she has completed a career phase that Tom Hanks is just entering. Compare her IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes results during this latest stage in her acting career with her second and third phases and you’ll find that they are very similar. The biggest difference is that she is acting in more movies. From age 28 to 53, Meryl Streep averaged 1.13 movies per year. From 54 to 66, she has averaged 1.77 movie per year.

Let me sum up with a couple of observations. First, if we can use average IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes ratings as indicators of the quality of roles available to Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, then the best opportunities available to Meryl Streep were from age 28 to 35 and for Tom Hanks from age 40 to 48. These results are consistent with the study I posted earlier in the year which noted that the amount of dialogue  for women in scripts peaks before age 31. Secondly, both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks have four children. During the years that each was involved in caring for their children, Meryl Streep made fewer movies and Tom Hanks made more movies. From age 28 to 43, Meryl Streep made 1.19 movies per year. From age 28 to 39, Tom Hanks made 1.67 movies per year. I won’t draw any conclusions from these observations. I do intend, however, to do more of these side by side career comparisons in the future to see if any patterns do emerge.

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) and Tom Hanks (Sully) are once again appearing in movies this year that should include them in the conversation for acting awards. They are truly American treasures.

 

 

 

 

Stop the Madness! The Male IMDB War Against Ghostbusters.

Ghostbusters, with its all female leads, opened this weekend with strong box office sales that met Sony’s expectations. Given the bizarre stories leading up to the release of the movie, that kind of box office performance was by no means a given. Apparently, there was a male backlash to the idea of an all female Ghostbusters team. In an apparent effort to hurt the movie at the box office, there was an attempt to tank the IMDB ratings of the movie before its release.

After devoting my last two posts to Rotten Tomatoes and male bias in their ratings, I was looking forward to writing about something a little lighter. But, to quote Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.” It seems like the topic of male bias and movie ratings isn’t done with me.

Ghostbusters, with its all female leads, opened this weekend with strong box office sales that met Sony’s expectations. Given the bizarre stories leading up to the release of the movie, that kind of box office performance was by no means a given. Apparently, there was a male backlash to the idea of an all female Ghostbusters team. In an apparent effort to hurt the movie at the box office,  there was an attempt to tank the IMDB ratings of the movie before its release. It was a big enough story to catch the attention of the folks over at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website. Their article covers the IMDB tanking story as well as sharing the author’s thoughts on the weaknesses of IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. These thoughts are very much in concert with the studies I’ve shared with you on these pages. I thought it was particularly interesting that, according to a prior FiveThityEight study, Ghostbusters isn’t the first instance of males tanking IMDB ratings for entertainment aimed at women.

As of this morning, there is still a significant male-female split on IMDB. Based on 17,940 male votes, the male average rating for Ghostbusters is 4.5. Based on 5,518 female votes, the average female IMDB rating is 8.1. For females the rating is 80% higher than the male rating. Yet, because there are 3.25 males voting for every 1 female, the overall average IMDB rating is 4.8. This effort by males to sabotage Ghostbusters appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. 31.0% of U.S. voters scored the movie a 1 out of 10, the lowest score you can enter on IMDB. 35.8% of non-U.S. voters have scored the movie a 1 out of 10 so far.

Now, there is a legitimate difference in opinion about the movie between men and women who’ve actually seen the movie. The critics on Rotten Tomatoes, whose male critics presumably didn’t participate in the efforts to tank the ratings, generate a significant male-female split. Consistent with findings of my study from the previous post, the 3.35 male reviews for every female review falls into the high range of female critic participation. It’s in this high range where the widest male-female splits occur. For Ghostbusters, male Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it a 69.5% Fresh while female critics gave it an 86.4% Fresh rating, a 21.7% higher rating by female critics.

Bottom line, this is another mark against using IMDB ratings as a major influence in deciding what movies we should watch. And, Guys, stop the madness!! It’s only a movie! Rating movies that you haven’t seen only hurts those of us who actually want to discover movies that we will “really like”.

Rotten Tomatoes Is Male Critic Dominated and It Really Does Matter

In this past Monday’s post I left you with an unresolved question. Does it really matter that Rotten Tomatoes is male critic dominated if the ratings produced by female critics are similar to male critics? Now that I’ve completed my study of all 100 of Rotten Tomatoes Top Romance Movies, I can dismiss that question because there are clear differences between male and female critic ratings, at least when it comes to movies that are actually about romance.

In this past Monday’s post I left you with an unresolved question. Does it really matter that Rotten Tomatoes is male critic dominated if the ratings produced by female critics are similar to male critics? Now that I’ve completed my study of all 100 of Rotten Tomatoes Top Romance Movies, I can dismiss that question because there are clear differences between male and female critic ratings, at least when it comes to movies that are actually about romance.

A mistake I made in my last post was not recognizing that I was using a biased sample. Because only 15% of the reviews were by female critics, the movies at the top of the list were the Romance movies that the male critics liked the most and rated highly. In many of these movies romance was not front and center. Female critics were also likely to rate these same movies highly. It is not surprising that for the top 50 movies the average male critic rating was 95.4% Fresh and female critics ratings were a similar 95.7% Fresh. With high ratings there isn’t much room for differentiation between the male and female critics. Theoretically, the greatest opportunity for differences in ratings would be on lower rated movies where real opposing reviews of movies would be more likely.

The next 50 movies do show greater separation between male and female critic ratings, with the average male critic rating for movies 51 to 100 at 91.0% Fresh and female critic average ratings at 94.5% Fresh. Female critics like the second 50 movies almost as much as the first 50 while male critics are a little less enthused with the second 50. If the next 100 movies on the list were available and the rate of decline in the ratings for each gender maintained the same pace, the gap would be even greater for those movies..

If we take another perspective and look at results based on female critic participation rates, we get some interesting results.

 

# of Male Reviews to Female Reviews # of Movies  Male Avg. % Fresh  Female Avg. % Fresh Female Rating % Difference  Avg. # of Male Reviews per Movie  Avg. # of Female Reviews per Movie Female % of Reviews per Movie
3 to 1 and lower             9 90.3% 96.6% 7.0%                  69               26 27.5%
4 to 1           15 93.8% 95.9% 2.2%                101               24 19.4%
5 to 1 and higher           76 93.2% 94.4% 1.2%                  80               13 14.1%

Movies that generate the greatest percentage of female reviews have the greatest difference in the average Rotten Tomatoes rating. It is noteworthy that the nine movies that have the most female critics per movie have the fewest male critics per movie. You might be interested in what these nine movies are:

Ever After: A Cinderella Story
I’ll See you in My Dreams
Caramel
Big Night
Obvious Child
Waitress
Singin’ In the Rain
Sense and Sensibility
Enchanted

With the exception of Big Night, all of these movies have a strong female orientation. The fact that there are only nine of them on this list reinforces my comments about sample bias.

See, Rotten Tomatoes’ gender bias really does matter.

 

Rotten Tomatoes is Male Critic Dominated. Does it Really Matter?

There are approximately four times as many male critics as there are female critics reviewing movies on Rotten Tomatoes. The rating generated from these Rotten Tomatoes reviews for a particular movie impacts its box office performance, and ultimately impacts what movies get made. Does it really matter that Rotten Tomatoes is male dominated? Of course it does. Most ticket buyers are women and they should at least have a consensus of the critics that reflects somewhat the diversity of the buying public. But, if we rephrase the question to “Is a male dominated Rotten Tomatoes leading buyers to make movie choices that are male biased?”, it isn’t entirely clear. Might the professionalism of critics mitigate gender bias to some degree?

There are approximately four times as many male critics as there are female critics reviewing movies on Rotten Tomatoes. The rating generated from these Rotten Tomatoes reviews for a particular movie impacts its box office performance, and ultimately impacts what movies get made. Does it really matter that Rotten Tomatoes is male dominated? Of course it does. Most ticket buyers are women and they should at least have a consensus of the critics that reflects somewhat the diversity of the buying public. But, if we rephrase the question to “Is a male dominated Rotten Tomatoes leading buyers to make movie choices that are male biased?”, it isn’t entirely clear. Might the professionalism of critics mitigate gender bias to some degree?

I’ve begun a study of male and female critics’ Rotten Tomatoes ratings. I began with Rotten Tomatoes’ Top 100 Romance Movies. It is a genre that is generally considered female-oriented. For this post I was only able to analyze the first 50 movies. These top 50 movies have 4,893 reviews attached to them and only 727, a mere 15.6%, are by female critics. Male critics rated these 50 movies 95.4% Fresh and female critics rated them 95.7% Fresh, a slightly higher rating by women but virtually identical.

When you review Rotten Tomatoes’ list, you’ll probably note that there are a number of movies that, while there is romance in the plot,  wouldn’t be considered Romance movies, On the Waterfront and The Town for instance. I took a shot below at separating out Romance Comedy and Romance Drama as separate genres.

Rotten Tomatoes
Male Female
# of Movies # Fresh # Rotten % Fresh # Fresh # Rotten % Fresh
Comedy Romance 10 466 17 96.5% 85 0 100.0%
Drama Romance 21 1896 106 94.7% 352 21 94.4%
All Other 19 1407 60 95.9% 259 10 96.3%

At first glance, Comedy Romance seems to break the possible conclusion that gender doesn’t matter, and that may be the case. If there were a male female split within the genre, the common perception might be that romantic comedies would be where you’re most apt to see it. We need to be careful with the conclusion that the Comedy Romance data proves the hypothesis that male and female critics review these movies differently. If just 3 female critics changed their ratings to Rotten, the result would be 96.5% Fresh, identical to the male critics.

For my next post I plan on adding movies 51 to 100 to the study. I’m not comfortable that there is enough data, so far, for the female critic results in the study to be credible enough to reach conclusions. I also think it would be interesting to take a look at a male-oriented genre, like Westerns, to see if the results hold the other way.

There is one conclusion that can’t be denied. If there is any difference between male and female critics, making up only 15% of the reviews stifles any real impact on the final Rotten Tomatoes rating.

In Romance and in Movies, Guys Sometimes Get it Right

Typically, movies about the relationship between a man and a woman are targeted at women. Linklater has been able to craft a series of romantic dramas that appeal to men as well

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I suspect that many mothers spent some enjoyable time with their family this weekend taking in a movie. I know that’s what we did. How can you miss with the perfect chick flick opening this past weekend, Captain America: Civil War. The movie was great by the way. Now that Mother’s Day is in the rear view mirror, you might be looking ahead to Father’s Day and wondering what would be the perfect movie experience for the Dads out there. As you might expect, I have the perfect recommendation, the Before Sunrise trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Whaaat??? WHAAAT???

The three movies, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight are romantic dramas and were directed by Richard Linklater. You might recall Linklater directed the innovative 2014 Oscar nominee, Boyhood, which he filmed over a twelve year period using the same actors. This idea of real time filming though was no doubt borrowed from the trilogy, which was filmed over 18 years at 9 year intervals. Each movie is a peek at the state of the relationship and the lives of the two protagonists at the 9 year intervals, beginning with the meet in the 1995 Before Sunrise through the messiness of marriage in the 2013 Before Midnight.

Typically, movies about the relationship between a man and a woman are targeted at women. Linklater has been able to craft a series of romantic dramas that appeal to men as well. In fact, male IMDB voters have rated each of the movies in the trilogy higher than female voters have.

 

MOVIE MALE FEMALE ROTTEN TOMATOES
Before Sunrise 8.1 8.0 Certified Fresh 100%
Before Sunset 8.1 7.9 Certified Fresh 95%
Before Midnight 8.0 7.8 Certified Fresh 98%
Total IMDB Average 8.1 7.9

Additionally, the male dominated critics of Rotten Tomatoes have scored each of the three movies very high.

Why this series of movies has had such strong male appeal isn’t clear. Speaking personally, I remember watching Before Sunrise in 2004. Before Sunset had just been released to rave reviews and I was intrigued enough by it to seek out the prequel. I loved the movie. It was so unique and genuine. For one hour and forty minutes, from the time Jesse and Celine meet as strangers on the train until Celine gets back on the train at sunrise, Jesse and Celine have a conversation as they wander the streets of Vienna. There are no dramatic events invented to put their new love in peril. There is no neat resolution at the end with the lovers living happily ever after. Instead, you experience the spark of attraction and the “getting to know you” conversation. In the end, you get the “I’ll call you” conversation without any resolution as to whether they ever will see each other again. At the end of the movie, I remember feeling that I had just watched a movie that got it right. This is how relationships actually do happen.

According to Wikipedia, Before Sunrise was based on an actual experience Richard Linklater had while traveling by train from New York to Austin, TX. He met a young woman, Amy Lehrhaupt, on the train and they spent a day together in Philadelphia. Apparently, their paths never crossed again. In 2010, 15 years after the release of Before Sunrise, Linklater learned that Amy had died in a motorcycle accident shortly before the release of the movie she had helped inspire.

Richard Linklater understands that romance isn’t always wrapped up in a bow. When it comes to movies and romance, he is a guy who gets it right.

 

 

Chick Flicks Can Be Found in the Most Unusual Places

One of the best kept secrets, outside of Marvel Studios, is the widespread appeal that the Marvel Universe has for women.

Captain America: Civil War opens tomorrow in the United States. It is expected to have a huge box office weekend and beyond. The indicators are all in place. It opened last weekend internationally to an $80,000,000 gross in ticket sales. It is already #86 on the IMDB Top 250 with an 8.5 rating. And, Rotten Tomatoes has it at 93% Certified Fresh. And, women everywhere will be dragging along their significant other to witness the epic battle of superhero vs. superhero. Whaaaat??? Women???

One of the best kept secrets, outside of Marvel Studios, is the widespread appeal that the Marvel Universe has for women. Here are the IMDB ratings for the previous movies with Captain America: Civil War characters in them:

MOVIE MALE FEMALE
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 7.7 7.9
Captain America: The First Avenger 6.8 7.1
Avengers: Age of Ultron 7.4 7.7
The Avengers 8.1 8.3
Iron Man 3 7.2 7.7
Iron Man 2 7.0 7.3
Iron Man 7.9 7.9
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 6.7 7.2
The Amazing Spider-Man 7.0 7.4
Total IMDB Average 7.3 7.6

While technically, the Amazing Spider-Man movies were not part of the Marvel Universe, Spider-Man is a Marvel character whose rights have been restored Marvel with his appearance in this film.

The male to female splits in the IMDB ratings are comparable to Romantic Comedy splits. For some perspective, When Harry Met Sally has 7.6/7.7 split. The Princess Bride has an 81/82 split. The average of theses 9 Captain America: Civil War related movies is a 7.3/7.6 split, with 8 out of 9 being favored by women.

Other Marvel Universe movies reflect similar splits:

MOVIE MALE FEMALE
X-Men: First Class 7.7 7.9
X-Men: Days of Future Past 8.0 8.2
Thor: The Dark World 7.0 7.5
Thor 7.0 7.4
Deadpool 8.2 8.3
Guardians of the Galaxy 8.0 8.1
Fantastic Four 4.3 4.7
Total IMDB Average 7.2 7.4

I don’t know how to explain it but the consistent results don’t lie, women are quite at home in the Marvel Universe. Perhaps it is the humor that permeates the narratives. Perhaps it is focus on character development that pays as much attention to the human character as the super character. Whatever it is, it may be the critical difference between the success of Marvel movies in contrast to DC Comics movies, the splits on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice , for example, are 7.1 for Males and 6.9 for Females.

So, Ladies, enjoy Captain America: Civil War this weekend. Don’t be surprised, however, if your significant other would rather stay home and watch When Harry Met Sally.

***

After completing this post, I discovered that I had forgotten to include Ant-Man as one of the movies whose character appears in Captain America: Civil War. The splits in the IMDB ratings for Ant-Man are 7.3 Male and 7.5 Female. It’s uncanny.

Hollywood Has an even Deeper Diversity Problem than it Thinks

According to a study released within the last few weeks by the website Polygraph Cool, actresses have less dialogue than male actors by a significant amount

Children should be seen and not heard. This is a proverb whose origins date back to medieval times. It is a proverb that is rarely used today because, well, it’s so medieval. When it comes to roles for actresses in major motion pictures, however, we aren’t far removed from those medieval times. Actresses are seen in the movies but are not heard as much as their male counterparts. According to a study released within the last few weeks by the website Polygraph Cool, actresses have less dialogue than male actors by a significant amount in 2,000 of the top grossing box office films of all time. The study measures words of dialogue for each character in the screenplays of these movies. Some of the key findings in the study are:

  • Female characters have the most dialogue in only 22% of the films studied.
  • Female characters have two of the top three roles in only 18% of the movies.
  • In all age groups, actresses have less dialogue than male actors in the same  age group.
  • This dialogue discrepancy gets more pronounced as actresses age. Actresses 22-31 have 3 words of dialogue for every 4 words for Actors in the same age group. In comparison Actresses 42-65 have 1 word of dialogue for every 5 words of male dialogue.
  • Even in Romantic Comedies the dialogue is 58% male.

Are there movies out there with greater gender parity? If so, how do you find them? The answer is yes. They do exist but not in great numbers. At the bottom of the Polygraph study linked above, the authors provide a tool that you can use to access the movies used in the study. As I’ve mentioned in a prior article, there is a male bias to both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. You might check out ChickFlix.net, which provides movie reviews from a female perspective as a substitute for Rotten Tomatoes.

There is also the Bechdel Test, which is cited in the Polygraph study. This tests movies based on a simple criteria. There must be two main female characters who have a conversation with each other about something other than a man. Based on studies, only about 50% of movies pass the test.

You can also use the personalized movie recommenders that I’ve recommended on my posts. By rating movies on Netflix-DVD, MovieLens, or Criticker, you will generate movie recommendations based on your taste in movies.

The lack of diversity in today’s movies reflect the box office. The first step is being able to identify which movies reflect the diversity that we’d like to see in film. I would like to think that we can push film evolution out of medieval times.