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.

These Were My Top “Really Love” Movies of 2017

Tis the season to make year end lists. You have probably run across dozens of top ten movie lists for 2017. Why should mine be any different? I shouldn’t be but it is. Instead of limiting myself to the small pool of 2017 releases, I add all of the other movies I’ve seen this year, regardless of the year it was released. My top ten list is from the 153 movies I’ve watched this year. Three 2017 releases are on my list, along with a late 2016 release. The remaining six are movies that I first watched over fifteen years ago but took another bite of this year.

Tis the season to make year end lists. You have probably run across dozens of top ten movie lists for 2017. Why should mine be any different? It shouldn’t be but it is. Instead of limiting myself to the small pool of 2017 releases, I add all of the other movies I’ve seen this year, regardless of the year it was released. My top ten list is from the 153 movies I’ve watched this year. Three 2017 releases are on my list, along with a late 2016 release. The remaining six are movies that I first watched over fifteen years ago but took another bite of this year.

Here we go starting at the top:

  1. Casablanca (1943). I watched this with my son on Christmas night. It is one of those rare studio movies that still connects with a younger generation. I think Roger Ebert, in his Great Movie review of the film, states it well. “Seeing the film over and over again, year after year, I find it never grows over-familiar. It plays like a favorite musical album; the more I know it, the more I like it. The black-and-white cinematography has not aged as color would. The dialogue is so spare and cynical it has not grown old-fashioned. ” I wouldn’t presume to say it better than Roger. Here’s looking at you kid.
  2. Lady Bird (2017). Saoirse Ronan communicates more with her eyes than most actors communicate with their speech. At the age of 23 she is one of the great actors of our day. Combine that acting talent with Greta Gerwig’s genuine and fresh vision of the “coming of age” story and you end up with one of the best reviewed movies in the history of Rotten Tomatoes. Like Casablanca, Lady Bird tells its story in less than one hour and forty five minutes. Both are good examples of how sometimes less is more.
  3. Beauty and the Beast (2017). Although The Last Jedi is likely to become the number one worldwide Box Office champion for 2017, as of today, that distinction goes to Beauty and the Beast. Despite that success, I didn’t find much love for the film in the year end top ten lists. For me, it is the most fun I’ve had at the movie theatre in 2017. I also believe that Emma Watson provided us with one of the most under-appreciated acting performances of the year.
  4. A Beautiful Mind (2002). This is one of my not seen in fifteen year movies. When I wait fifteen years for a movie that I’m seeing for just the second time, it feels like the first time. A Beautiful Mind was better the second time around than the first. I don’t believe that I appreciated the first time how effectively Ron Howard tells a story on the screen that takes place most of the time in the mind of John Nash.
  5. Molly’s Game (2017). This movie has been getting second tier awards buzz. In other words, not Best Picture worthy, but a contender for supporting awards. I went to see it in the theatre because Aaron Sorkin is my favorite screenwriter. This movie blew me away with how good it was. Jessica Chastain chews up Sorkin’s screenplay and provides a performance for the ages. Idris Elba is Oscar-worthy in a Supporting Role. Molly’s Game did not get a Golden Globe nomination for Best Drama. With the exception of Dunkirk, I haven’t seen the other four nominees. They will be hard pressed to be better than Molly’s Game.
  6. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002). In my opinion, this is the greatest movie trilogy of all time. Like Tolkien’s three books, you can’t separate one of the three movies from the whole. They are one long form story. Similar to the Star Wars trilogies, the second movie sets up the premise that it is always darkest before the dawn.
  7. The Deer Hunter (1979). This is a three hour movie that doesn’t feel like three hours. I watched it for the third time this year and it doesn’t lose its powerful anti-war message in the retelling. Meryl Streep is likely to earn her twenty first Oscar nomination this year. Her supporting role in The Deer Hunter produced her first nomination.
  8. Black Hawk Down (2002). Another fifteen year movie that surprised me the second time around. This is a movie about mission creep and the chaos of modern warfare. I felt like I understood this movie better the second time around. Maybe the War on Terror that has filled the intervening fifteen years has made me more attuned to what is going on in this film. For whatever reason, this movie communicates the chaos that can arise in the fog of war better now than it did fifteen years ago.
  9. Cool Hand Luke  (1967). Some actors have a charismatic presence that is bigger than the films they appear in. The movies become a “Jack Nicholson” movie or a “John Wayne” movie. Cool Hand Luke is a “Paul Newman” movie at the height of his charisma. In the first half of his career he was a star. In the second half of his career many would argue he became an actor. This is probably the fourth time I’ve seen this movie. Newman dominates the film and he never fails to communicate that he is a star.
  10. Hacksaw Ridge (2016). This is the fourth war movie on my list, if you consider Casablanca a war movie, which I do. It is the only one of the four that is about unadulterated heroism. What makes this movie unique is that it isn’t the heroism of a John Wayne war movie and its theme of righteous killing. It is the true story of a conscientious objector, Desmond Doss, who earns the Medal of Honor without firing a single shot at an enemy. It is a compelling story with an Oscar nominated performance from Andrew Garfield.

Of the 153 movies I saw in 2017, all but 11 were at least “really like” movies. These ten movies just happen to be the best. Starting next Monday we begin compiling a new list of “really love” movies.

 

There Are No Turkeys in the Objective Top Seven Movies From 1992 to 1998

Shall we call it “The Drive for Twenty Five”? If so, this installment of our journey to the Objective Top Twenty Five Movies of the last Twenty Five years begs the question which of these Cinematic Seven will survive to Twenty Five.

Shall we call it “The Drive for Twenty Five”? If so, this installment of our journey to the Objective Top Twenty Five Movies of the last Twenty Five years begs the question which of these Cinematic Seven will survive to Twenty Five. By adding 1998 to the Objective Database more discrete groupings of data are statistically viable. As future years are added the number of groupings will grow resulting in many changes to this list. From the initial Top Six list that was published just two weeks ago, only three movies remain in the Top Seven. I think we can expect this kind of volatility with each year we add. How many of these movies will be in the Top Twenty Five at the end? Fewer than we’d expect, I’m sure.

Here’s our significant seven:

7. Scent of a Woman (IMDB 8.0, Certified Fresh 88%, CinemaScore A, Major Academy Award Win)

This movie is a favorite of mine. It produced Al Pacino’s only Academy Award win after being shut out for his seven previous nominations.

6. Good Will Hunting (IMDB 8.3, Certified Fresh 97%, CinemaScore A. Major  Academy Award Win)

One of my followers wondered why his favorite movie didn’t make the list. Good Will Hunting is a good illustration of what it takes. It requires high ratings from all feedback groups, movie watchers, movie critics, opening night moviegoers, and peer movie artists.

5. The Shawshank Redemption (IMDB 9.3, Certified Fresh 91%, CinemaScore A, Major Academy Award Nomination)

Another one of the original Top Six. The Achilles Heel for this movie from an objective rating standpoint is its failure to win a major Academy Award despite three major nominations.

4. The Usual Suspects (IMDB 8.6, Certified Fresh 88%, No CinemaScore rating, Major Academy Award Win)

Because this is an objective ranking rather than subjective, Kevin Spacey movies are still considered. In the long run, I wonder how much the absence of a CinemaScore rating will hurt this movie and, if so, should it.

3. The Lion King (IMDB 8.5, Certified Fresh 83%, CinemaScore A+, Minor Academy Award Win)

A few weeks before the release of this picture, Elton John was given a private screening of the movie. He noticed the love song he wrote wasn’t in the film and successfully lobbied to have it put back in. That song, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, won Elton John an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

2. Saving Private Ryan (IMDB 8.6, Certified Fresh 92%, CinemaScore A, Major Academy Award Win)

The only movie from the just added 1998 year to make the list. It is also the only movie on the list to be the top grossing movie for the year it was released.

1. Schindler’s List (IMDB 8.9, Certified Fresh 96%, CinemaScore A+, Major Academy Award Win)

According to the Objective “Really Like” algorithm, a 76.98% “really like” probability is the highest score that can be achieved with the algorithm. So far, Schindler’s List is the only movie with that perfect score.

***

Disney animated movies rule Thanksgiving weekend. According to Box Office Mojo, Disney owns 9 of the 10 highest grossing Thanksgiving movies of all time. Coco, which opened in theaters yesterday, is this year’s entrant into their tradition of Thanksgiving dominance. Early IMDB ratings give it a 9.1 average rating to go along with its 96% Certified Fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating. This morning CinemaScore gave it an A+ rating.

Also, two more Oscar hopefuls go into limited release this weekend. Darkest Hour is the perfect bookend to Dunkirk. It follows Winston Churchill’s response to the events at Dunkirk. Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill has him on everyone’s short list for Best Actor. Also worth considering is a festival favorite, Call Me By Your Name, which was nominated this week for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Picture.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

Objectively Speaking, What Are The Top Six Movies From 1992 to 1997.

Now, I might admit that a Top Six list from a seemingly random six year period seems a little odd. There is a method to my Movie Madness.

Now, I might admit that a Top Six list from a seemingly random six year period seems a little odd. There is a method to my Movie Madness.

As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, I’m building a twenty five year movie database with solely objective factors to better identify those movies most of us would “really like”. It’s a time consuming process. If I’m uninterrupted by other priorities in my life, I can usually add a complete year to the database in a week and a half. There will always be interruptions, though, and I don’t expect to finish my project before mid-year 2018.

I’m a little impatient to get some useful information from my efforts and so I thought it might be fun to create an Objective Best Movie List for however many years I’ve completed. I’ve completed six years and so I now have a list of the best six movies from my completed time frame. I should complete 1998 by the weekend and after incorporating the new data into my algorithm I’ll be able to create a Top Seven list. Now that you have the picture here’s the top six in ascending order.

6. Sense and Sensibility (1995). IMDB Avg. 7.7, Certified Fresh 80%, CinemaScore A, Oscar- 3 Major nominations, 4 Minor

This was the first of a mid-1990’s run of Jane Austen titles to make it to the big screen. Emma Thompson won the Oscar for Best Screenplay. She is the only person to ever win both a Best Acting and a Best Screenwriting award. The movie is also noteworthy for the breakthrough performance of Kate Winslet who at age 20 earned her first of seven Oscar nominations.

5. In the Name of the Father (1994). IMDB Avg. 8.1, Certified Fresh 94%, CinemaScore A, Oscar- 4 Major nominations, 3 Minor

This is the movie that will probably surprise many of you. This biopic of Gerry Conlon, who was wrongly imprisoned for an IRA bombing, was the second of Daniel Day-Lewis’ five Best Actor nominations. He lost 30 pounds in preparation for the role and spent his nights on the set in the prison cell designed for the movie.

4. Good Will Hunting (1997). IMDB Avg. 8.3, Certified Fresh 97%, CinemaScore A, Oscar- 4 Major nominations,, 5 Minor

This movie is in my personal top ten. Two relatively unknown actors, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck became stars overnight and won Oscars for Best Screenplay as well. If either of them ever get a Best Actor award, they’ll join Emma Thompson in that select group. In his fourth nominated performance Robin Williams won his only Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

3. Toy Story (1995). IMDB Avg. 8.3, Certified Fresh 100%, CinemaScore A, Oscar-1 Major Nomination, 2 Minor

Toy Story’s ranking is driven by its 100% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating from 78 critics. While its Oscar performance is weaker than the other movies on the list, it should be noted that Toy Story was the first animated movie to ever be nominated for Best Screenplay. As the database grows, I would expect that the number of Oscar nominations and the number of wins will become credible factors in these rankings. For now, receiving one Major and one Minor nomination has the same impact on the algorithm as for a movie like Titanic that won eleven awards. This is probably the only movie of the six that appears out of place in the rankings.

2. Shawshank Redemption (1994). IMDB Avg. 9.3, Certified Fresh 91%, CinemaScore A, Oscar- 3 Major nominations, 4 Minor

Shawshank still ranks as IMDB’s top movie of all time. At some point, I’m going to write an article about movies that achieve cult status after having only modest success at the box office. Shawshank would be one of those movies. After a pedestrian $28,341,469 domestic gross at the Box Office, it became one of the highest grossing video rentals of all time.

1. Schindler’s List (1994). IMDB Avg. 8.9, Certified Fresh 96%, CinemaScore A+, Oscar- 4 Major nominations, 8 Minor

Interestingly, this is the only movie of the six on the list to win Best Picture. It is also the only one on the list to earn an A+ from CinemaScore. Combine that with its twelve Oscar nominations and you can see why, objectively, it is at the top of the list.

Objectivity improves as data grows. It should be fun to see this list change as the database grows.

What do you think?

 

Why Did “The Big Sick” Drop Out of the Objective Top Fifteen This Week?

This past Sunday my wife, Pam, and I went to see The Big Sick. The movie tells the story of the early relationship days of the two screenwriters, Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. In fact, Nanjiani plays himself in the movie. It is the authenticity of the story, told in a heartfelt and humorous way, that makes this film special.

This past Sunday my wife, Pam, and I went to see The Big Sick. The movie tells the story of the early relationship days of the two screenwriters, Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. In fact, Nanjiani plays himself in the movie. It is the authenticity of the story, told in a heartfelt and humorous way, that makes this film special.

On the following day, last weekend’s blockbuster, Dunkirk, moved into the second spot in the revised Objective Top Fifteen rankings. When a new movie comes on the list another one exits. This week’s exiting movie, ironically, was The Big Sick. Wait! If The Big Sick is such a great movie why isn’t it in my top fifteen for the year? Are all of the other movies on the list better movies? Maybe yes. Maybe no. You’ll have to determine that for yourselves. You see the Objective Top Fifteen is your list, not mine.

I developed the Objective Top Ten, which became Fifteen the beginning of July and will become Twenty the beginning of October, to provide you with a ranking of 2017 widely released movies that are most likely to be “really like” movies. Because the ranking is based on objective benchmarks, my taste in movies has no influence on the list. The four benchmarks presently in use are: IMDB Avg. Rating, Rotten Tomatoes Rating, Cinemascore Rating, and Academy Award Nominations and Wins. A movie like Hidden Figures that meets all four benchmarks has the greatest statistical confidence in its “really like” status and earns the highest “really like” probability. A movie that meets three benchmarks has a greater “really like” probability than a movie that meets only two benchmarks. And so on.

The important thing to note, though, is that this is not a list of the fifteen best movies of the year. It is a ranking of probabilities (with some tie breakers thrown in) that you’ll “really like” a movie. It is subject to data availability. The more positive data that’s available, the more statistical confidence, i.e. higher probability, the model has in the projection.

Which brings me back to The Big Sick. Cinemascore surveys those movies that they consider “major releases”. The Big Sick probably didn’t have a big advertising budget. Instead, the producers of the film chose to roll the movie out gradually, beginning on June 23rd, to create some buzz and momentum behind the movie before putting it into wide release on July 14th. This is probably one of the reasons why Cinemascore didn’t survey The Big Sick. But, because The Big Sick is missing that third benchmark needed to develop a higher probability, it dropped out of the Top Fifteen. On the other hand, if it had earned at least an “A-” from Cinemascore The Big Sick would be the #2 movie on the list based on the tie breakers.

And, that is the weakness, and strength of movie data. “Major releases” have it. Smaller movies like The Big Sick don’t.

***

This weekend may be the end of the four week run of Objective Top Fifteen movie breakthroughs. Atomic Blonde, the Charlize Theron spy thriller, has an outside chance of earning a spot on the list. As of this morning, it is borderline for the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes benchmarks. I’m also tracking Girls Trip which earned a Certified Fresh just in the last couple of days from Rotten Tomatoes and has an “A+” in hand from Cinemascore. For now, it is just below the IMDB benchmark. We’ll see if that changes over the weekend.

 

 

This Is Turning Into a “Really Like” Summer at the Movies.

In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of a pretty good run of high quality movies this summer. Since the first weekend in May, which serves as the unofficial beginning of the summer movie season, there have been at least ten movies that have a 7.2 or higher IMDB average rating and have a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of a pretty good run of high quality movies this summer. Since the first weekend in May, which serves as the unofficial beginning of the summer movie season, there have been at least ten movies that have a 7.2 or higher IMDB average rating and have a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

May to July 2017 Wide Released Movies IMDB Rating Rotten Tomatoes Rating Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh
Baby Driver 8.4 C. Fresh 97%
Spider-Man: Homecoming 8.2 C. Fresh 93%
Wonder Woman 8.0 C. Fresh 92%
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 8.1 C. Fresh 81%
Big Sick, The 8.0 C. Fresh 97%
I, Daniel Blake  7.9 C. Fresh 92%
A Ghost Story 7.5 C. Fresh 87%
Okja 7.7 C. Fresh 84%
The Beguiled  7.3 C. Fresh 77%
The Hero  7.3 C. Fresh 76%

And if early indicators are accurate, War for the Planet of the Apes will join the list after this coming weekend. And, if the early buzz on social media holds up, Christopher Nolan’s new movie Dunkirk will join the list the following weekend.

This seems to me to be an unusually high number of quality movies for the summer so far but I can’t tell you how unusual…yet. I’m working on a new long term project. I’m creating a database solely made up of objective “really like” movie indicators. It will include all movies finishing in the top 150 in receipts at the box office for each of the last 25 years. This database will provide a better representation of the bad movies that are released each year as well as provide a more robust sample size.

For now, I can only compare this year’s quality to 1992 (the first of the 25 years in my new database). Allowing for the fact that Rotten Tomatoes wasn’t launched until 1998, I’ve allowed movies that aren’t Certified Fresh but would otherwise be if there were enough critic reviews of the movie. Even with that allowance, there are only 3 movies released between May and July 1992 that meet the quality criteria I’m using for this summer.

May to July 1992 Wide Released Movies IMDB Rating Rotten Tomatoes Rating Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh
Night on Earth             7.5 Fresh 73%
Enchanted April             7.6 Fresh 83%
A League of Their Own             7.2 C. Fresh 78%

I’ll also add that the IMDB average ratings tend to decline over time. It is probable that a few of this year’s movies will ultimately not meet the 7.2 IMDB rating minimum. But, with 7 of the 10 movies sitting with IMDB ratings at 7.7 or better, this year’s list should hold up pretty well over time.

***

As I mentioned above War for the Planet of the Apes opens tomorrow. It is easy to overlook how good this franchise has been. Here are the “really like” indicators for the franchise including a very early look at tomorrow’s entry.

IMDB Rating Rotten Tomatoes Rating Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Cinema Score
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)             7.6 C. Fresh 81% A-
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)             7.6 C. Fresh 90% A-
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)             9.1 C. Fresh 93% ?

Franchises tend to get tired after the first movie. From the critics’ perspective, this franchise appears to get better with each new movie. I expect to see War for the Planet of the Apes on the Objective Top Fifteen list on Monday.

What Was The “Really Like” Movie of 2016? The Result May Surprise You.

According to Box Office Mojo, the website that tracks all things related to movie box office results, Baby Driver was last weekend’s big surprise at the box office. It also debuted in the number two spot on the 2017 Objective Top Fifteen posted on this site on Monday. What exactly does that mean? Not much yet. Think of it as the score in a game that is almost half over where most of the scoring occurs near the end of the game. The final result won’t crystalize until the Academy Award winners are announced next February. Also, keep in mind that most of the major Oscar contenders won’t be released until late in the year.

According to Box Office Mojo, the website that tracks all things related to movie box office results, Baby Driver was last weekend’s big surprise at the box office. It also debuted in the number two spot on the 2017 Objective Top Fifteen posted on this site on Monday. What exactly does that mean? Not much yet. Think of it as the score in a game that is almost half over where most of the scoring occurs near the end of the game. The final result won’t crystalize until the Academy Award winners are announced next February. Also, keep in mind that most of the major Oscar contenders won’t be released until late in the year.

To give you some idea of what a final score does look like, here is the 2016 Objective Top Ten:

Top Ten 2016 Movies Based on Objective Criteria
As Of 7/7/2017
2016 Released Movies Oscar Noms/ Wins IMDB Rating Rotten Tomatoes Rating Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Cinema Score Objective “Really Like” Probability
Hacksaw Ridge 6/2 8.2 C. Fresh 87% A 65.9%
La La Land 14/6 8.2 C. Fresh 92% 65.7%
Big Short, The 5/1 7.8 C. Fresh 88% A- 65.4%
Moonlight 8/3 7.5 C. Fresh 98% 65.1%
Fences 4/1 7.3 C. Fresh 93% A- 65.0%
Rogue One 2/0 7.9 C. Fresh 85% A 64.7%
Deepwater Horizon 2/0 7.2 C. Fresh 84% A- 64.7%
Jungle Book, The 1/1 7.5 C. Fresh 95% A 64.6%
Sully 1/0 7.5 C. Fresh 85% A 64.6%
Revenant, The 12/3 8.0 C. Fresh 81% B+ 64.6%

Just to clarify, eligibility for the list is based on when a movie goes into wide release. This pits Oscar contenders from 2015, like The Big Short and The Revenant, that were widely released in early 2016 against Oscar contenders from 2016, like Moonlight and La La Land, that were widely released late in 2016.

Are you surprised that Hacksaw Ridge is the 2016 “Really Like” Movie of the Year? The response of movie watchers is what separates this movie from the others,. That, and the fact that Cinemascore for some reason didn’t survey La La Land. I will say this though. I have talked to people who didn’t like Moonlight. I have also talked to people who felt that La La Land was over-hyped. But, I haven’t talked to a single person who hasn’t “really liked” Hacksaw Ridge.

This ranking approach intersects a number of different movie viewing perspectives. Movie critics are represented in Rotten Tomatoes. People who go to the movie theaters on opening weekend and provide feedback before movie word of mouth has influenced their opinion are represented by Cinemascore. People who watch movies on a variety of platforms are represented by IMDB. And, finally, the people who understand how difficult it is to create movies, the artists themselves, are represented by their Academy Award performance. All of them are statistically significant indicators of whether you will “really like” a movie or not.

All of you won’t like every movie on this list. While there is around a 65% chance you will “really like” these movies, there is also around a 35% chance that you won’t. All I’m saying is that there is better chance that you will “really like” one of these movies rather than the latest installment in the Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean franchises.

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While my last paragraph may sound as if I have a reflexive aversion to movies that are part of a franchise, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether it’s part of a franchise or not, well made movies with fresh perspectives are worth the time of movie-lovers. The big movie opening this weekend is the second reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, Spider-Man: Homecoming and I’m really looking forward to it. The early indicators from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB are all positive. Keep an eye on this one.

Musings After a Quiet Movie Weekend

There were no changes this week to the 2017 Objective Top Ten. None of the movies that opened last weekend earned a Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. So, I have nothing to talk about. Right? Oh, you are so wrong.

There were no changes this week to the 2017 Objective Top Ten. None of the movies that opened last weekend earned a Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. So, I have nothing to talk about. Right? Oh, you are so wrong.

First, regarding that Objective Top Ten that I update every Monday, I want to be clear about something. I’m not suggesting that you will like every movie on that list. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t good movies that didn’t make the list. In fact, my two favorite movies so far, Beauty and the Beast and Gifted, aren’t on the list. It is just an objective measure of quality. It doesn’t take into account your personal taste in movies. For example, if you typically don’t like Art House movies you may not like Kedi, which is a documentary about the hundreds of thousands of cats that have been roaming Istanbul for thousands of years, or Truman, which is a Spanish language film that celebrates the enduring nature of good friendship. These low budget movies tend to take risks and aren’t intended to please the general audience. But, would you really prefer to see the new Transformers movie which opened yesterday and is 16% Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes? You may prefer to avoid all three movies and that’s okay. The point of the list is to give you a menu of quality movies and if any naturally intrigue you, the odds are that it will be a “really like” movie for you.

Turning from low budget Art House films to big budget Blockbusters, the success of two other movies on the list explain why movies based on comic books are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Logan with its estimated $97 million production budget and Wonder Woman with its estimated budget of $149 million have returned a tidy return in worldwide box office receipts of over $617 million and $578 million, respectively. When quality movies in the comic book genre are made, they spin box office gold.

A couple of other notes on the Objective Top Ten List. In July I plan to expand the list to fifteen movies and in October I’ll expand it again to twenty movies. This will better accommodate the number of quality movies that typically are released over the second half of the year. Also, I’m close to being able to incorporate Cinemascore grades into the probabilities for the Objective Top Ten. It’s possible that this change may be incorporated as early as next Monday’s update. This change will differentiate better one movie from the next.

Finally, two movies that I have my eye on for this weekend are The Beguiled ,which earned Sofia Coppola the top director award at Cannes, and The Big Sick, which is already 98% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Wonder Woman Is Wonderful But Is It the GOAT Superhero Movie?

Everybody is talking about Wonder Woman and its record-breaking box office last weekend. Critics and audiences agree that Wonder Woman is worth a trip to the theater. The Mad Movie Man is convinced as well. You’ll find the movie in the top half of the 2017 Top Ten List and it is on my Watch List for the week, which means I plan on seeing it within the next week.

Everybody is talking about Wonder Woman and its record-breaking box office last weekend. Critics and audiences agree that Wonder Woman is worth a trip to the theater. The Mad Movie Man is convinced as well. You’ll find the movie in the top half of the 2017 Top Ten List and it is on my Watch List for the week, which means I plan on seeing it within the next week.

I mentioned last week that critics were falling all over themselves in praising this movie with some calling it the Superhero GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). Does it warrant such acclaim? Maybe. When you compare it to four other highly rated superhero movies that kicked off franchises, it holds up pretty well.

Oscar Noms/Wins IMDB Rating Rotten Tomatoes Rating Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Combined Rating
Wonder Woman (2017) 0/0 8.3 C. Fresh 93%              17.6
Iron Man (2008) 2/0 7.9 C. Fresh 94%              17.3
Batman Begins (2005) 1/0 8.3 C. Fresh 84%              16.7
Superman (1978) 3/0 7.3 C. Fresh 93%              16.6
Spider-Man (2002) 2/0 7.3 C. Fresh 89%              16.2

All four of these comparison movies were Oscar nominated. We’ll have to wait until next January to see if Wonder Woman earns Oscar recognition. The combined rating presented here totals the IMDB rating and the Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh (converted to a 10 pt. scale) to measure the response of both critics and audiences to the five movies. It is still early, and IMDB ratings tend to fade a little over time, but for now Wonder Woman is clearly in the GOAT discussion.

If Wonder Woman holds on to its statistical GOAT position it will be fueled by the response of women to the movie. A comparison of Female and Male IMDB ratings for the five movies compared here lays this out pretty clearly.

Female IMDB Rating Male IMDB Rating IMDB Rating Differnce
Wonder Woman 8.6 8.2 0.4
Iron Man 7.9 7.9 0.0
Superman 7.3 7.3 0.0
Batman Begins 8.1 8.3 -0.2
Spider-Man 7.1 7.3 -0.2

While men “really like” Wonder Woman, females love the movie. Women are responding like they never have before to a superhero movie. Men, on the other hand, have a slight preference for Christopher Nolan’s vision of Batman. I also have to admit that I personally consider Batman Begins as one of the GOAT movies, irrespective of genre. That being said, I am really excited about seeing Wonder Woman.

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After all of this praise for Wonder Woman, you might be wondering why it is only fifth on the 2017 Top Movies List. Does that mean that the four movies ahead of it are better movies? It might but not necessarily. The top four movies all went into limited release in 2016 to qualify for Oscar consideration. They didn’t go into wide release until early 2017, which is why they are on this list. All of the other movies on the list won’t be considered for Oscar recognition until January 2018. As I mentioned last week, this list is based on objective criteria. The Oscar nominations that the top four movies received are additional objective pieces of evidence that they are quality movies. This allows the algorithm to be more confident in its evaluation of the movie and as a result produces a higher “really like” probability. Again, just in case you were wondering.