Why I Write.

Not enough of our big budget summer movie options measure up in quality to the Marvel or Star Wars franchises.

Everyone expects Avengers: Infinity War, which is widely released in the U.S. tomorrow, to dominate the box office for the next four weeks until Disney’s other can’t miss blockbuster, Solo: A Star Wars Story, takes over on May 25th. Disney moved Infinity War up a week from its original release date to give the movie one additional week to dominate the box office before other big budget competition begins to divide up fans of the big screen.

I will admit that I am excited about seeing Avengers: Infinity War. I grew up a Marvel comic book geek and so far MCU has successfully translated the humor and the humanity of the characters from their pages to the screen. Too often though movies with big budgets spend much of those budget dollars trying to convince us that we should “really like” the movie they created rather than creating the movie we will “really like”. When the expensive product created doesn’t match the creative vision, they plan advertising campaigns to induce the viewing public to bail them out.

As we crash headlong into another blockbuster season, I hope that the industry has more surprises for us this summer. I hope that there are more under the radar summer classics such as Hell or High Water or The Big Sick that overcome the hype of the big budget movie ad campaigns to capture the attention of lovers of quality films. I hope that there are several of these movies and not just one or two. I hope that audiences reject the big budget films that aren’t of the quality of the Marvel and Star Wars franchises. That is how the overall quality of the films available for us to see get better. Movie producers make the movies that they think that people will go to see. If we go to the theater to see more “really like” movies, they will make more “really like” movies.

This is my mission. I want to warn you off of the over-hyped mediocrity of big budget misfires and lead you to the gems that are hidden in plain sight. I do this, not by solely telling you what movies I’ve seen and “really like”, but by consolidating and analyzing the data from the movies that you and other lovers of film have seen and “really like”. In this way, I hope to do my little part in improving the quality of what’s available for us to see and suggest to you what other enthusiasts are identifying as movies that you might “really like”.

This is why I write.

 

If You Are Going to the Movies, What Should You See?

Rampage is an action movie that you would expect to be a “guy movie” but should guys go out and see it?

Last week I introduced the concept of a demographic footprint for individual movies. Nice idea, but what good is it? The Way We Were is on my watch list this week. It’s this week’s Friday Night Movie with my wife. Here’s its demographic footprint:

The Way We Were
Gender Target Gender Friendly Age Target Age Friendly Objective “Really Like” Probability
Female Female 30+ 30+ 72.6%

Not much of an insight is it? It’s telling you that it’s a “chick flick”. And, because it was released in 1973, it has greater appeal to older women who nostalgically remember the way it was the first time they saw the movie. The reality is that, if you are familiar with a movie, you know who the movie appeals to without having that knowledge confirmed statistically. But, what about movies you’re not familiar with?

Rampage was the number one movie at the Box Office last weekend. From trailers you might have seen, you know that it is an action movie that you expect to be a “guy movie” but should guys go out and see it? The early data feedback might suggest otherwise.

Beginning this week, I’m using Objective “Really Like” Probability data and Demographic Footprint data to advise you whether going to a movie in last weekend’s Box Office Top Ten is a good bet and, if it is, who is it a good bet for. Here’s this week’s list:

Recommendations for the Weekend Box Office Top Ten 
Weekend Ending April 15, 2018
Movie Weekend Box Office “Really Like” Probability? Who Should See it?
Rampage $34.5 62.9% Nobody Yet
A Quiet Place $32.6 70.4% Fans of Horror Thrillers
Truth or Dare $19.1 51.2% Nobody Yet
Ready Player One $11.2 71.7% Fans of Action Adventures
Blockers $10.3 70.4% Young Adult Fans of Comedies
Black Panther $5.3 74.0% Everyone
Isle Of Dogs $5.0 72.2% Fans of Quality Animated Movies
I Can Only Imagine $3.9 69.6% Fans of Faith Based Movies
Acrimony $3.8 54.3% Nobody Yet
Chappaquiddick $3.0 70.4% Grown-Ups Familiar with the Events

In future weeks you’ll find this list on the sidebar of this page.

The “Really Like” Probability column suggests that there are a number of potentially good options at the movies this week. I use 65% as the cut off for whether I recommend a movie or not. Under that criteria there are seven movies worth seeing by someone. The question is whether these seven movies are worth seeing by everybody.

When a movie is first released it takes a little time to develop fully credible data. Rampage was just released last Friday. The jury is still out as to whether it is more than a mediocre movie for even its target demographic. The data for Black Panther is robust. I can say with a lot of confidence that all demographic groups will probably “really like” the movie. For the remaining six recommended movies, there isn’t enough data to recommend the movie beyond the segments identified here.

Movies recently released in the theaters are the movies you are most unfamiliar with. When Rotten Tomatoes gives a new movie a Certified Fresh and IMDB develops an average rating of 7.5 or higher, you can usually feel confident that the movie is a good movie. Those ratings, though, can’t tell you whether it will be a good movie for you.

With this new weekly list I’m introducing, I’m confident that you can go down this list and increase your odds of seeing a movie this week that you will “really like” . Let me know if you agree. Also, let me know if you like the new blog format I’m experimenting with.

 

 

 

What’s This Movie’s Demographic Footprint?

A Quiet Place has attracted a young audience of both males and females

You’re probably looking at this week’s title and saying to yourself, “What is the Mad Movie Man getting us into this week?” Well, thanks to the folks at IMDB who provide demographic data of each movie based on their ratings, we can derive a demographic footprint for each movie.

Wait a minute, didn’t I tell you in these pages that IMDB ratings are skewed heavily towards men. I did. I’ll also tell you that the ratings are skewed towards IMDB voters older than 29. Based on my data sample, only 18.6% of all votes on IMDB are female votes. Additionally, only 38.8% of all votes are from movie fans under 30.   By scaling this data to the averages, we can begin to neutralize the biases of the data. From this data I can create the following scales:

Female % of IMDB Vote
“guy movie” Gender Neutral “Chick flick”
< 14%  14% – 23.3%  > 23.3%
Age < 30 % of IMDB Vote
“young adult’s  movie” Age Neutral “grown-ups movie”
< 29.1%  29.1% – 48.5%  > 48.5%

Additionally, IMDB provides average ratings by demographic group. We can use this data to determine if any particular group tends to like a movie more than others.

So, how would this work? Let’s say you are going to the movies this weekend and you are trying to decide which movie to see. The three movies below are all quality movies.

 

Movie Gender Orientation Gender Friendly Age Orientation Age Friendly
A Quiet Place Neutral Female < 30 30+
Ready Player One Male Neutral Neutral 30+
Love, Simon Female Female < 30 Neutral

Which movie you decide to see comes down to who you are going to see the movie with. There really aren’t any bad choices here. There are just more informed choices. A Quiet Place has attracted a young audience of both males and females but women and voters over 29 tend to like it more than the target audience. Ready Player One is a “guy” movie that women don’t seem to mind and older audiences seem to like more than younger audiences. And, Love, Simon is geared towards a young female audience that all ages seem to like. Which movie best fits your demographic footprint and the footprint of whoever is joining you at the movies should lead you to the best decision.

I’m excited about sharing this perspective on a given movie. I’ve already incorporated it into my weekly movie watch list. I’ll be incorporating this movie view into other lists I’ll be creating in the near future. I hope you find the approach useful. If you agree let me know.

 

 

Until Saturday

For those of you who expect a post from me every Thursday like clockwork, I’ll be away for a couple of days. I will be posting on Saturday.

Those of you who return on Saturday will be rewarded with the answer to the question “Did you know that each movie has a demographic footprint?” I think you’ll find it interesting.

Just Because a Movie Is Female Friendly Doesn’t Make It Female Oriented

Empowered women may make Star Wars: The Last Jedi a female friendly movie. At the end of the day, though, it is still a “guy movie”

Last Thursday I published the 2017 Objective Top Twenty. I promptly got blasted by my most important follower…my wife. She took one look at the list and said, “With the exception of Beauty and the Beast, these are all guy movies. That’s unacceptable.” I pointed out that six of the twenty received higher ratings from women than men. She replied, “It doesn’t matter. They are still guy movies.” As I thought about it, I agreed she was right. The movies may be female friendly but they are not movies that a woman would necessarily go to without being dragged there by some man. I had to fix this.

The first thing I did was profile the IMDB gender distribution of all of the movies on the list of movies considered for the top twenty. The first thing I discovered was that women, on average, rated the sample 3 points higher than men. When I leveled the ratings of the two groups it reduced the female friendly movies on the list from six to four. The second thing I discovered was that female IMDB votes make up only 17.4% of the entire sample. When we look again at the female percentage of all of the IMDB votes for Star Wars: The Last Jedi we discover that the female participation is a paltry 12.3% of the total. It’s definitely a guy movie. But, even when we level the ratings to compensate for the higher overall ratings of women, the female adjusted average rating for Star Wars is still 7.7 against a male rating of 7.5. This makes Star Wars: The Last Jedi a Male Oriented but Female Friendly movie.

Next I went in search of the 2017 movie that epitomizes “chick flick”, that movie which would make many men check their testosterone at the door. I came up with Girls Trip. Females still only make up 40.8% of all Girls Trip IMDB voters but it is significantly higher than the 17.4% for the entire sample. The adjusted average female rating for Girls Trip is 6.8. The male average rating is 5.9. This movie might be classified as Female Oriented and very Female Friendly.

I’m considering using the percentage of IMDB votes to classify movies as Male Oriented, Gender Neutral, or Female Oriented. Using this approach, the list of 2017 movies that are Female Oriented  and eligible for the Objective Top Twenty might include these movies:

2017 Released Movies Female % of All IMDB Votes
Beauty and the Beast  38.2%
Greatest Showman, The 36.6%
Hidden Figures 31.4%
Wonder 28.3%
Lion 26.7%
Lady Bird 26.5%
Coco 23.1%
Murder on the Orient Express 23.0%
Shape of Water, The 22.9%
Okja 22.3%

I believe that these movies pass the eye test as female oriented movies but first … I better ask my wife.

 

 

What Twenty Movies From 2017 Will You “Really Like”?

Dunkirk is #2 on the 2017 Objective “Really Like” Top Twenty

When someone sets out to make a list of the movies that you, the movie enthusiast, will probably “really like”, the compiler of the list starts out with a significant disadvantage. The person creating the list doesn’t have any idea what kind of movies you, specifically, really like. So the list, almost by definition, has to be made up of movies that have mass appeal. Mass appeal isn’t enough though. Justice League was the 10th highest grossing movie at the box office last year but it doesn’t belong on this list. It wasn’t a very good movie. My criteria is simple. An Objective Top Twenty-worthy movie has been seen by a lot of movie viewers, earned critical acclaim, and those who have seen the movie have “really liked” it. I think there were 26 movies in 2017 that met that simple criteria. But, a top twenty can only have twenty movies.

Here’s my 2017 Objective Top Twenty:

2017 Objective Top Twenty
As Of March 29, 2018
2017 Released Movies  Academy Award Points  # of IMDB Votes Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Cinema Score Metacritic Objective “Really Like” Probability
Star Wars: The Last Jedi                   4.0    344,932 91% A 85 75.65%
Dunkirk                   8.3    370,530 93% A- 94 75.49%
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2                   1.0    354,476 83% A 67 75.33%
Get Out                   4.1    284,533 99% A- 84 75.13%
Baby Driver                   3.0    282,234 93% A- 86 75.13%
Fate of the Furious, The                     –    156,915 66% A 56 74.76%
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri                   7.2    194,450 92% NR 88 74.72%
Blade Runner 2049                    5.2    269,568 87% A- 81 74.24%
Wind River                     –    111,829 87% NR 73 73.76%
Kong: Skull Island                   1.0    198,846 75% B+ 62 73.65%
Wonder Woman                     –    391,299 92% A 76 73.53%
Thor: Ragnarok                     –    280,784 92% A 74 73.53%
Spider-Man: Homecoming                     –    295,065 92% A 73 73.53%
Logan                   1.0    463,842 93% A- 77 73.38%
Alien: Covenant                     –    191,925 67% B 65 73.04%
War for the Planet of the Apes                    1.0    162,154 93% A- 82 72.88%
John Wick: Chapter 2                     –    220,753 89% A- 75 71.93%
It                     –    259,121 85% B+ 69 71.93%
Split                     –    256,100 75% B+ 62 71.93%
Beauty and the Beast                    2.0    202,321 71% A 65 71.92%
Movies with Female IMDB Rating at least .2 points > Male Rating are in Bold
Movies with Male IMDB Rating at least .2 points > Female Rating are Underlined

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the movie that I can say with the greatest confidence that you, no matter who “you” is, will “really like”. Even with that, there are about 24% of you who probably won’t “really like” this movie. It’s up to you to figure out where you probably fit.

I’m sure that you’re reaction to the list is similar to my reaction to the list. Some of the movies on the list I’ve seen, or I’m interested in seeing, and others I have no interest in seeing. That’s okay. My hope is that you will use the list to identify those movies you’ve been thinking of seeing and feel confident that there’s a high probability that you will “really like” the movie experience. I’ve personally seen nine of the twenty movies and “really liked” all of them. There’s a handful of the remaining movies on the list that I plan on seeing. There’s another handful that I probably won’t see anytime soon.

Also, the list is dynamic. Because it’s data-based, it can change over time. Movies rise and fall as they get exposed to a broader audience. Two of my favorite movies of 2017, Lady Bird and The Big Sick aren’t in the top twenty. Academy Award Best Picture winner The Shape of Water didn’t make the cut. Those three movies have the data to support inclusion from a quality standpoint but haven’t been seen enough yet. A year from now that could change. For now, the data is what the data is.

Enjoy the list. Use it as just another data point in your quest to select movies that you will “really like”.

 

 

 

This Fall Women Will Be Able to Cherry Pick Their Movies

Last week Miranda Bailey (the film producer, not the Chief of Surgery on Grey’s Anatomy) announced at South by Southwest that she will be launching a new movie critic rating aggregator this Fall called CherryPicks

Last week Miranda Bailey (the film producer, not the Chief of Surgery on Grey’s Anatomy) announced at South by Southwest that she will be launching a new movie critic rating aggregator this Fall called CherryPicks (think Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic) . Just what we need, another Movie Critics website. Right! Actually, right, we do need this website. The unique feature of this website is that it will aggregate only female critics. And, in terms of seeking out “really like” movies, it is a perspective that is sorely lacking in the existing movie ratings options.

In Entertainment Weekly’s article introducing CherryPicks, Miranda Bailey points out that there is around a 4 to 1 ratio of male to female critics on Rotten Tomatoes. This disparity doesn’t usually come into play in reviews of the universally great movies. Many of these movies are gender neutral. But for a female oriented independent film that doesn’t have 300 reviews, gender inequity can be the difference between a Certified Fresh rating and a Rotten rating, and the box office impact that goes with it.

It’s even worse on IMDB, where male voters tend to overwhelm female voters in the development of the average rating for each movie. As women in Hollywood raise their voices, the divide between male and female voters on IMDB gets wider. I wrote about the male IMDB voter backlash that resulted with the 2016 release of Ghostbusters and its all female cast. Today, of the 165,000+ IMDB voters who rated Ghostbusters, less than 30,000 were women. The average rating from men is 5.0. The average rating from women is 6.6. The overall average rating is 5.3. The fact that women thought that the movie wasn’t bad was drowned out in the deluge of male votes that panned the movie. Its overall 5.3 rating suggests Ghostbusters is a bad movie when an equitable gender distribution of the movie probably would suggest that it actually was an okay movie and not bad at all.

Like it or not, rating websites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB drive how much movies get seen. For female movie producers, directors, and actors, how much their movies get seen determines how much they work and how much they earn. For them, a website like CherryPicks is critical to their livelihood.

For me, CherryPicks has a much more modest import. I want to be able to pick out a movie for Friday Movie Night that both my wife and I will “really like”. For followers of this blog, I need to be able to identify movies that women will like as well as men. I need data that isn’t skewed to men. I’m hopeful CherryPicks can play a part in providing a step towards a balanced perspective. For now, any list I produce which recommends movies will indicate whether IMDB suggests that the movie is female friendly,  male friendly, or just neutral. My weekly watch list which I published yesterday is the first list with these indicators. Next week’s final 2017 Objective Top Twenty will also include these indicators.

For now, this is the best I can do until CherryPicks is able to lend its voice in the Fall.