With Oscar Nominations Announced, the 2017 Objective Top Twenty Takes Shape

Now that we know which movies have been nominated for Academy Awards, all of the factors that go into the 2017 Objective Top Twenty are populated with some data. The only big unknown in the race is which movies will win Oscars on March 4. Just to be clear, the Objective Top Twenty isn’t about who will be crowned as the Best Picture of the year. It is about which 2017 movies have the highest probability that you will like them. Academy Award performance is just one of the indicators. Here is the status of the race so far.

Now that we know which movies have been nominated for Academy Awards, all of the factors that go into the 2017 Objective Top Twenty are populated with some data. The only big unknown in the race is which movies will win Oscars on March 4. Just to be clear, the Objective Top Twenty isn’t about who will be crowned as the Best Picture of the year. It is about which 2017 movies have the highest probability that you will like them. Academy Award performance is just one of the indicators. Here is the status of the race so far.

2017 Widely Released Movies Objective “Really Like” Probability
Blade Runner 2049  76.58%
Coco 76.23%
Wonder 76.23%
Dunkirk 76.06%
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 76.06%
Logan 76.06%
Lion 75.85%
Thor: Ragnarok 75.64%
Only the Brave  75.64%
Greatest Showman, The 75.57%
Florida Project, The 75.50%
Loving Vincent 75.50%
Monster Calls, A 75.46%
Wonder Woman 75.45%
Spider-Man: Homecoming 75.45%
Get Out 75.32%
Hidden Figures 75.21%
Salesman, The 75.19%
Star Wars: The Last Jedi 75.14%
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 75.14%

The separation among all twenty movies isn’t great. In fact, there is only a two percentage point difference separating the top thirty two movies. A few ratings changes over the next couple of months can significantly reshape the race.

To determine which movies are considered “widely released” in 2017, I use the wide release date used by Box Office MojoThe Post was released on Dec. 22 in nine theaters. It wasn’t until Jan. 12 that it was released in theaters in all markets. So The Post, along with Oscar nominated films, Molly’s GameI, TonyaPhantom Thread, and Call Me By Your Name will be considered for the 2018 Objective Top Twenty instead of 2017. And, 2016 movies like LionHidden Figures, and The Salesman which weren’t widely released until 2017 are on the 2017 list.

So, you might ask, why aren’t The Shape of Water with its 13 Oscar nominations, Darkest Hour with its 6 nominations, and Lady Bird with its 5 nominations, in the top twenty. It goes back to my earlier comment about how close the top 32 movies are. All three of these movies could win a major award on March 4 and end up back in the top twenty. It’s that close.

So check back each Monday for the Objective Top Twenty updates. There are still some changes to come. The cake may be in the oven but it isn’t baked yet.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Playing Tag with Movielens, Redux

Last July I wrote an article introducing my use of tags in Movielens to organize my movies. I can’t impress upon you enough how useful this tool is to someone as manic about movies as I am.

Last July I wrote an article introducing my use of tags in Movielens to organize my movies. I can’t impress upon you enough how useful this tool is to someone as manic about movies as I am.

Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve shifted my focus to Oscar nominated movies. My research revealed that movies that haven’t receive a single Academy Award nomination have only a 35.8% chance of being a “really like” movie. On the other hand, even a single minor nomination increases the “really like” odds to around 55%. My algorithm now incorporates Oscar recognition.

Based on this finding, I’ve altered my tagging strategy. I created an “Oscar” tag that I attach to any movie I run across that has received even a single nomination. Many of these movies are older without enough credible data in the movie ratings websites to earn reliable recommendations. The probabilities in my algorithm for these Quintile 1 & 2 movies are driven by their Oscar performance.

Movies that pique my interest that weren’t Oscar nominated are tagged separately. Now, because these movies have no Oscar nominations, a Quintile 1 or 2 movie is going to have a “really like” probability closer to the 35% mark that reflects its “no nomination” status. It can only climb to a high enough probability to be considered for my weekly watch list if it is highly recommended by the movie websites and it falls into a high enough credibility quintile that its Oscar status doesn’t matter much.

I apply one of two tags to non-Oscar nominated movies. If they have fewer than 25 ratings in Movielens, I tag them as “might like”. Realistically, they have no chance of being highly recommended in my algorithm until the number of ratings received from Movielens raters becomes more robust.

Those non-Oscar nominated movies that have more than 25 ratings are tagged as “prospect”. Movies with the “prospect” tag that are highly rated by the websites and have enough ratings to reach higher credibility quintiles can reach a “really like” probability high enough to be considered for the watch list. For example, a quintile 5 movie like The American President can earn a 75% “really like” probability even though it was never nominated for an Academy Award.

I also have created tags for movies I don’t want to see even though they are highly rated. If I’ve already seen a movie and I don’t want to see it again, I tag it “not again”. If I’ve never seen a movie but it’s just not for me, I tag it “not interested”. Movielens also has the capability of hiding movies that you don’t want to see in any of your searches for movies. I take advantage of this feature to hide my “not again” and “not interested” tagged movies.

So, I’ve tagged all of these movies. Now what do I do with them. That will be included in next week’s topic “Building a Watch List”.

And the 2018 Academy Award for Best Picture Goes To?

We are 11 days removed from the 2017 Best Picture award debacle and already Awards Circuit has projected its first list of nominees for the 2018 Best Picture race. Obviously it is way too early make predictions like this with a high degree of accuracy. Many of the movies are still being filmed and can’t be realistically evaluated. It does, though, give us an idea of the movies that evaluators believe have Oscar pedigree.

We are 11 days removed from the 2017 Best Picture award debacle and already Awards Circuit has projected its first list of nominees for the 2018 Best Picture race. Obviously it is way too early make predictions like this with a high degree of accuracy. Many of the movies are still being filmed and can’t be realistically evaluated. It does, though, give us an idea of the movies that evaluators believe have Oscar pedigree.

Here is the Awards Circuit list with its current production status:

2018 Projected Academy Award Nominees for Best Picture
Movie Release Status Short Description
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project In Production 1950’s Drama set in London Fashion world.
Suburbicon Post-Production 1950’s Crime mystery set in small family town.
Darkest Hour Nov. 24 release Churchill biopic set in early days of WW II
The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara Pre-Production Historical Drama set in 19th century Italy
Battle of the Sexes Post-Production Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs 1973 tennis match
The Current War In Production Edison-Westinghouse scientific competition.
Mudbound Post-Production Post-WW II drama set in rural Mississippi
Downsizing Dec. 22 release Social Satire about less is more.
Marshall Oct. 13 release Biopic about a young Thurgood Marshall
The Snowman Oct. 13 release Adaptation of Jo Nesbo crime thriller.

If this first list is representative of the entire year, 2018 is going to be a year of looking back in time. Only two of the ten movies listed here take place in a contemporary setting, Downsizing and The Snowman.

I’m probably most interested in Battle of the Sexes. Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King and is projected as a Best Actress nominee by Awards Circuit. Can she go back to back years as Best Actress?

I’m least interested in the Paul Thomas Anderson movie, even if it includes a rare star turn by Daniel Day Lewis. I hated There Will Be Blood and wasn’t a big fan of Boogie Nights.

In any event, that’s my gut reaction to the Best Picture projections. Is there any data to support my gut? I’m trying out a new data point called an Anticipation Score. The website Criticker provides averages of my ratings for movies involving specific Directors, Screenwriters, and Actors. By tabulating the scores for the film makers involved in each movie I can create an Anticipation Score based on my historical rating of their work. I’m including the two lead actors for each movie. For example, Battle of the Sexes is directed by Jonathon Dayton, screen written by Simon Beaufoy, and stars Emma Stone and Steve Carell. I’ve seen two of Jonathon Dayton’s movies and given them an average rating of 65.5 out of 100. I’ve seen five movies written by Simon Beaufoy for an average of 68.6. I’ve seen seven Emma Stone movies, averaging 81.57, and eight Steve Carell movies, averaging 73. When you add all four numbers together they total an Anticipation Score of 288.67. This represents my potential enjoyment of the movie if each artist entertains me at the average level that they have in the past.

Here’s the entire list ranked by Anticipation Score:

My Anticipation Score
Director Writer Lead Actor 1 Lead Actor 2 Score
The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara S. Spielberg T. Kushner M. Rylance O. Isaac 323.39
Downsizing A. Payne J. Taylor M. Damon K. Wiig 313.14
Darkest Hour J. Wright A. McCarten G. Oldman K. Scott-Thomas 293.39
Battle of the Sexes J. Dayton S. Beaufoy E. Stone S. Carell 288.67
Suburbicon G. Clooney E. Coen M. Damon O. Isaac 283.01
The Snowman T. Alfredson H. Amini M. Fassbender R. Ferguson 216.67
The Current War A. Gomez-Rejon M. Mitnick B. Cumberbatch M. Shannon 212.13
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project P. T. Anderson P. T. Anderson D. D. Lewis L. Manville 159.13
Mudbound D. Rees D. Rees C. Mulligan J. Clarke 137.23
Marshall R. Hudlin J. Koskoff C. Boseman S. K. Brown 86.5

My gut reaction to Battle of the Sexes and the Paul Thomas Anderson movie are borne out in the data, although these movies are neither the best or worst of the rankings. The two movies at the bottom of the list are there because I have never seen movies directed or written by the two film makers involved. In the case of Marshall, although I’ve seen Sterling K. Brown on TV shows, I haven’t seen any movies that he has been in. As a result, the Anticipation Score for Marshall is based solely Chadwick Boseman’s movies that I’ve seen.

I think my Anticipation Score formula needs some tweaking to take into account the volume of movies seen for each artist. The fact that I’ve seen 21 Spielberg movies should be recognized in addition to the average rating I give each of his movies.

In any event, keep your eye out for these movies as we get back into Oscar season, beginning in October.

 

 

Is Meryl Streep’s Oscar Record Out of Reach?

With the presentation of Academy Awards completed last Sunday, I am able to tabulate the last Actors of the Decade winners.

With the presentation of Academy Awards completed last Sunday, I am able to tabulate the last Actors of the Decade winners. For the male actors, the winner is Daniel Day Lewis.

Top Actors of the Decade
2007 to 2016 Releases
Actor Lead Actor Nominations Lead Actor Wins Supporting Actor Nominations Supporting Actor Wins Total Academy Award Points
Daniel Day Lewis 2 2 0 0 12
Jeff Bridges 2 1 1 0 10
Leonardo DiCaprio 2 1 0 0 9
Colin Firth 2 1 0 0 9
Eddie Redmayne 2 1 0 0 9
George Clooney 3 0 0 0 9

This result is pretty incredible when you consider that Daniel Day Lewis only appeared in three movies during the entire decade. His three Academy Award Best Actor wins stands alone in the history of the category. It might be interesting to measure Oscar nominations per movie made. I’d be surprised if we found any actor who is even close to Daniel Day Lewis.

As for the Best Female Actor, once again, it is Meryl Streep.

Top Actresses of the Decade
2007 to 2016 Releases
Actress Lead Actress Nominations Lead Actress Wins Supporting Actress Nominations Supporting Actress Wins Total Academy Award Points
Meryl Streep 5 1 1 0 19
Cate Blanchett 3 1 1 0 13
Jennifer Lawrence 3 1 1 0 13
Marion Cotillard 2 1 0 0 9
Sandra Bullock 2 1 0 0 9
Natalie Portman 2 1 0 0 9

When the 28 year old Emma Stone accepted her Best Actress in a Leading Role award, she commented that she still has a lot to learn. It is that kind of attitude, and a commensurate work ethic, for a young actress today to take a run at Meryl Streep’s Oscar nomination record of 20 nominations. Consider that the actresses that Streep chased early in her career, Katherine Hepburn and Bette Davis, received their first nominations some 45 years before Streep earned her first nomination. It has been 38 years since Meryl Streep received her first nomination. We should be on the lookout for the next actress of a generation. Is there a contender already out there?

Let’s look first at the career Oscar performance of Streep, Hepburn, and Davis.

Acting Nomination Points
Lead Actress = 1 point,  Supporting Actress = .5 points
Points at Age:
30 40 50 60 70 80
Meryl Streep 1 7 11 14.5 18
Katherine Hepburn 2 4 6 9 10 11
Bette Davis 3 8 10 11 11 11

I chose not to equate a supporting actress role with a lead actress role to be fair to Hepburn and Davis. With the studios in control of the movies they appeared in, stars didn’t get the chance to do supporting roles. Bette Davis had a strong career before age 50. Katherine Hepburn was strong after age 50. Meryl Streep has outperformed both of them before 50 and after 50. It is not unreasonable to expect more nominations in her future.

As for today’s actresses, I looked at multiple nominated actresses in different age groups to see if anyone is close to tracking her.

Age as of 12/31/2016 Comparison Age Points at Comparison Age Streep at Comparison Age
Cate Blanchett 47 50 5.5 11
Viola Davis 51 50 2 11
Kate Winslet 41 40 5.5 7
Michelle Williams 36 40 3 7
Amy Adams 42 40 3 7
Natalie Portman 35 40 2.5 7
Marion Cotillard 41 40 2 7
Jennifer Lawrence 26 30 3.5 1
Emma Stone 28 30 1.5 1
Keira Knightley 31 30 1.5 1
Rooney Mara 31 30 1.5 1

Except for the 30-ish actresses, none are keeping pace. You might argue that Kate Winslet is in striking distance but, given Streep’s strength after 40, that’s probably not good enough.

Of the young actresses, Jennifer Lawrence has had a very strong start to her career. With 3 lead actress nominations and 1 supporting nomination over the next 14 years she would join Bette Davis as the only actresses to keep pace with Meryl Streep through age 40. Then all she would have to do is average between 3.5 and 4 points every 10 years for anther 30 years or more.

Good luck with that. Along side Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, it may become a record that will never be broken.

The Art of Selecting “Really Like” Movies: Oscar Provides a Helping Hand

Sunday is Oscar night!! From my perspective, the night is a little bittersweet. The movies that have been nominated offer up “really like” prospects to watch in the coming months. That’s a good thing. Oscar night, though, also signals the end of the best time of the year for new releases. Between now and November, there won’t be much more than a handful of new Oscar worthy movies released to the public. That’s a bad thing. There is only a 35.8% chance I will “really like” a movie that doesn’t earn a single Academy Award nomination. On the other hand, a single minor nomination increases the “really like” probability to 56%. If a movie wins one of the major awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay), the probability increases to 69.7%.

Sunday is Oscar night!! From my perspective, the night is a little bittersweet. The movies that have been nominated offer up “really like” prospects to watch in the coming months. That’s a good thing. Oscar night, though, also signals the end of the best time of the year for new releases. Between now and November, there won’t be much more than a handful of new Oscar worthy movies released to the public. That’s a bad thing. There is only a 35.8% chance I will “really like” a movie that doesn’t earn a single Academy Award nomination. On the other hand, a single minor nomination increases the “really like” probability to 56%. If a movie wins one of the major awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay), the probability increases to 69.7%.

At the end of last week’s post, I expressed a desire to come up with a “really like” movie indicator that was independent of the website data driven indicators. The statistical significance of Academy Award performance would seem to provide the perfect solution. All movies released over the past 90 years have been considered for Oscar nominations. A movie released in 1936 has statistical equivalence to a movie released in 2016 in terms of Academy Award performance.

By using the Total # of Ratings Quintiles introduced last week credibility weights can be assigned to each Quintile to allocate website data driven probabilities and Oscar performance  probabilities. These ten movies, seen more than 15 years ago, illustrates how the allocation works.

My Top Ten Seen Before Movie Prospects 
Not Seen in Last 15 Years
Movie Title Total Ratings Quintile Website Driven Probability Oscar Driven Probability Net  “Really Like” Probability
Deer Hunter, The 4 97.1% 73.8% 88.5%
Color Purple, The 4 97.9% 69.3% 87.4%
Born on the Fourth of July 4 94.0% 73.8% 86.6%
Out of Africa 4 94.0% 73.8% 86.6%
My Left Foot 3 94.0% 73.8% 83.9%
Coal Miner’s Daughter 3 97.9% 69.3% 83.6%
Love Story 3 92.7% 72.4% 82.6%
Fight Club 5 94.0% 55.4% 81.9%
Tender Mercies 2 94.0% 73.8% 81.2%
Shine 3 88.2% 73.8% 81.0%

The high degree of credible website data in Quintiles 4 & 5 weights the Net Probability closer to the Website driven probability. The Quintile 3 movies are weighted 50/50 and the resulting Net Probability ends up at the midpoint between the Data Driven probability and the Oscar driven probability. The movie in Quintile 2, Tender Mercies, which has a less credible probability from the website driven result, tilts closer to the Oscar driven probability.

The concern I raised last week about the “really like” viability of older movies I’ve never seen before goes away with this change. Take a look at my revised older movie top ten now.

My Top Ten Never Seen Movie Prospects 
Never Seen Movies =  > Release Date + 6 Months
Movie Title Last Data Update Release Date Total # of Ratings “Really Like” Probability
Movie Title Total Ratings Quintile Website Driven Probability Oscar Driven Probability Net  “Really Like” Probability
Yearling, The 1 42.1% 73.8% 71.4%
More the Merrier, The 1 26.9% 73.8% 70.2%
12 Angry Men (1997) 1 42.1% 69.3% 67.2%
Lili 1 26.9% 69.3% 66.0%
Sleuth 1 42.1% 66.8% 64.9%
Of Mice and Men (1939) 1 42.1% 66.8% 64.9%
In a Better World 1 41.5% 66.8% 64.9%
Thousand Clowns, A 1 11.8% 69.3% 64.9%
Detective Story 1 11.8% 69.3% 64.9%
Body and Soul 1 11.8% 69.3% 64.9%

Strong Oscar performing movies that I’ve never seen before become viable prospects. Note that all of these movies are Quintile 1 movies. Because of their age and lack of interest from today’s movie website visitors, these movies would never achieve enough credible ratings data to become recommended movies.

There is now an ample supply of viable, Oscar-worthy, “really like” prospects to hold me over until next year’s Oscar season. Enjoy your Oscar night in La La Land.

 

The Eighth Decade of Oscar Belonged to the Remarkable Dame Judi

In 1995 two actors eased their way into the consciousness of United States moviegoers after learning their craft across the oceans in Australia and England. The actor made an impression in a box office loser, The Quick and the Dead. The actress broke down the gender barrier in the testosterone laden James Bond franchise to become the first female to play M in Goldeneye. The New Zealand born actor was 31 years old. The English actress was 61. They are my Actor and Actress of the decade from 1997 to 2006.

In 1995 two actors eased their way into the consciousness of United States moviegoers after learning their craft across the oceans in Australia and England. The actor made an impression in a box office loser, The Quick and the Dead. The actress broke down the gender barrier in the testosterone laden James Bond franchise to become the first female to play M in Goldeneye. The New Zealand born actor was 31 years old. The English actress was 61. They are my Actor and Actress of the decade from 1997 to 2006.

Dame Judi Dench is the Actress of the Decade.

Top Actresses of the Decade
1997 to 2006
Actress Lead Actress Nominations Lead Actress Wins Supporting Actress Nominations Supporting Actress Wins Total Academy Award Points
Judi Dench 4 0 2 1 15
Hilary Swank 2 2 0 0 12
Meryl Streep 3 0 1 0 10
Kate Winslet 3 0 1 0 10
Nicole Kidman 2 1 0 9
Charlize Theron 2 1 0 9

It is remarkable for a woman to become a Hollywood star in her sixties. As I pointed out in a previous post, good roles for female actors peak between ages 22 and 31. Judi Dench has turned that statistic on its head. Beginning at age 63 with Mrs. Brown to the most recent, Philomena, at age 79, Judi Dench has been nominated for an Academy Award seven times. She won Best Supporting Actress for Shakespeare in Love, a Best Picture winner. While Judi Dench may have been fairly anonymous to United States audiences until the mid-90’s, she was not anonymous across the pond in Great Britain. She was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and is one of the most decorated actors in British theater history. She is also a ten time BAFTA winner, which is the British equivalent to the Academy Awards. So, Judi Dench did not just show up in the 90’s, she was always great.

The Actor of the Decade goes to Russell Crowe, beating out Sean Penn in a tie-breaker.

Top Actors of the Decade
1997 to 2006
Actor Lead Actor Nominations Lead Actor Wins Supporting Actor Nominations Supporting Actor Wins Total Academy Award Points
Sean Penn 3 1 0 0 12
Russell Crowe 3 1 0 0 12
Jack Nicholson 2 1 0 0 9
Denzel Washington 2 1 0 0 9
Jamie Foxx 1 1 1 0 7
Tie Breakers for Top Actor of the Decade
Avg IMDB & Rotten Tomatoes Ratings for Nominated Movies
Released from 1997 to 2006
Actor IMDB Avg Rating # of Votes Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh How Fresh? # of Critics Reviews
Russell Crowe 8.3    1,798,645 81% Certified Fresh 522
Sean Penn 7.9       500,465 67% Fresh 398

Russell Crowe’s only three nominations in his career so far occurred in three consecutive years from 1999 to 2001. He won for Gladiator which was released in 2000.

If you were to read critics reviews of the 2012 Best Picture nominee Les Miserables, a common criticism of the movie is that Russell Crowe, in the role of Javert, wasn’t a very good singer. The irony in that criticism is that Russell Crowe was the lead singer for a moderately successful rock band called 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, also known as TOFOG. During a US concert tour, there were nights when a ticket to see TOFOG might command as much as $500 on ebay. In 2001, Crowe and his band performed on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. If you are interested, you can download songs of TOFOG from ITunes.

The next Actors of the Decade post will be for the current decade. The last nominations to be considered were announced two days ago. The winners will be announced on February 26th. My announcement of the decade winners will be in early March. Who knows, there may be another story as remarkable as Dame Judi’s.

For 1987 to 1996, the Actress of the Decade Comes Down to a Coin Toss?

Three months ago I began a series of articles on the best actors and actresses of each of the nine decades of Oscar. I was satisfied with the approach I was taking until…this month.

Three months ago I began a series of articles on the best actors and actresses of each of the nine decades of Oscar. I was satisfied with the approach I was taking until…this month. My scoring system works great when the results come out like the 1987 to 1996 Actor of the Decade.

Top Actors of the Decade
1987 to 1996
Actor Lead Actor Nominations Lead Actor Wins Supporting Actor Nominations Supporting Actor Wins Total Academy Award Points
Tom Hanks 3 2 0 0 15
Anthony Hopkins 3 1 0 0 12
Robin Williams 3 0 0 0 9
Daniel Day Lewis 2 1 0 0 9
Al Pacino 1 1 2 0 8

Clearly, Tom Hanks deserves that honor since he won Best Actor twice and Anthony Hopkins won only once. Both were nominated three times.

Now, let’s look at the Actresses of the decade.

Top Actresses of the Decade
1987 to 1996
Actress Lead Actress Nominations Lead Actress Wins Supporting Actress Nominations Supporting Actress Wins Total Academy Award Points
Susan Sarandon 4 1 0 0 15
Jodie Foster 3 2 0 0 15
Emma Thompson 3 1 1 0 13
Meryl Streep 4 0 0 0 12
Holly Hunter 2 1 1 0 10

It’s a tie…and it’s kind of a mess. Including Supporting Actress nominations, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson all have one more nomination than Jodie Foster. Because Jodie Foster won twice, she passes everyone except Susan Sarandon. The two actresses tie because my scoring system values a Lead Actress win twice as much as a nomination. Previously I’ve handled ties by letting IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes results for nominated movies act as a tie breaker. In this case, it’s inconclusive.

Tie Breakers for Top Actresses of the Decade
Avg IMDB & Rotten Tomatoes Ratings for Nominated Movies
Released from 1987 to 1996
Actor IMDB Avg Rating # of Votes Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh How Fresh? # of Critics Reviews
Susan Sarandon 7.3    242,422 88% Certified Fresh 191
Jodie Foster 8.5    971,401 84% Certified Fresh 125

The critics like Susan Sarandon’s movies more, but Jodie Foster rides Silence of the Lambs to a decisive IMDB nod.

In trying to decipher an advantage in these tie-breaker results, I reached a very different conclusion. They’re probably not that relevant. Critics and viewers may like a movie because of an actors performance, or they may like it for an entirely different reason. It isn’t like Oscar voting which is focused solely on the performance of a single actor. It would be better to use Golden Globe or Screen Actors Guild results as tie breakers or supplements to the scoring system.

And, is an Oscar win twice as valuable an indicator of greatness as an Oscar nomination? No, it’s even more valuable.

For Best Actress in a Leading Role
Number of Actresses Who Have:
% of Total Nominated
Been Nominated 219
Been Nominated More than Once 85 38.8%
Won 72 32.9%
Won More Than Once 13 5.9%

It is easier to be nominated twice than it is to win once. And, it has been more than five times as hard to win twice as it is to be nominated twice.

I’ve got to rework my scoring system. For now, with only two decades left to consider, we’ll keep it as it is. For Actress of this decade, it is a coin toss with a coin weighted towards Jodie Foster and her two wins.

Meryl Streep Led a Strong Decade for Actresses But an Older Paul Newman Provided His Own Compelling Story

n the decade from 1977 to 1986, Meryl Streep made her entrance onto the Oscar stage and hasn’t left it since. Because I covered her career extensively in my article comparing her career with Tom Hanks, I thought I’d touch on an interesting pattern I’ve noticed in my analysis of the first six decades of Academy Award acting recognition.

In the decade from 1977 to 1986, Meryl Streep made her entrance onto the Oscar stage and hasn’t left it since. Because I covered her career extensively in my article comparing her career with Tom Hanks, I thought I’d touch on an interesting pattern I’ve noticed in my analysis of the first six decades of Academy Award acting recognition.

Top Actresses of the Decade
1977 to 1986
Actress Lead Actress Nominations Lead Actress Wins Supporting Actress Nominations Supporting Actress Wins Total Academy Award Points
Meryl Streep 4 1 2 1 18
Jane Fonda 4 1 1 0 16
Sissy Spacek 4 1 0 0 15
Sally Field 2 2 0 0 12
Jessica Lange 3 0 1 1 11
Geraldine Page 2 1 1 0 10

From 1977 to 1986, six different actresses earned at least ten Academy Award points. The only other decade that had as many actresses with ten points or more was  from 1937 to 1946, which also had six. No decade has had more than three actors with at least ten points in the same decade. In fact, of the 41 actors I’ve listed in my Actors of the Decade lists, only 10 have more than ten points in any single decade, 24.4% of the total. Of the 40 actresses listed, 19 had more than ten points in a decade, 47.5% of the total. This means that acting awards for actresses were more concentrated in fewer actresses. Why? Is it because there were fewer good actresses in the acting pool for moviemakers to choose from? Or, is it the more likely option, there were fewer good roles for actresses and they went to the most bankable actresses? In early 2017, I plan on studying this question further.

Let’s turn to the Actors of the Decade.

Top Actors of the Decade
1977 to 1986
Actor Lead Actor Nominations Lead Actor Wins Supporting Actor Nominations Supporting Actor Wins Total Academy Award Points
Paul Newman 3 1 0 0 12
Robert Duvall 2 1 1 0 10
Jack Lemmon 3 0 0 0 9
Dustin Hoffman 2 1 0 0 9
Jon Voight 2 1 0 0 9
Robert DeNiro 2 1 0 0 9
William Hurt 2 1 0 0 9

From 1958’s Cat on a  Hot Tin Roof to 1967’s Cool Hand Luke, Paul Newman and his trademark bright blue eyes earned four Academy Award acting nominations. After so much early success, Oscar recognition eluded him for the next fifteen years. Tragedy intervened in 1978 when Newman’s only son, Scott, died of a drug overdose. Before 1978, Paul Newman averaged almost two movies a year. He wasn’t neglectful of his children over this time but he wasn’t always there for them either. He blamed himself for Scott’s death and it produced a cathartic change in him, both personally and professionally. Personally, he reoriented his life and dedicated much of his time to philanthropic ventures such as his Newman’s Own brand which raised more than $100 million dollars for charity. He also established his Hole in the Wall Camps for terminally ill children. Professionally, Newman turned away from the matinee idol roles that launched his career and took on portrayals of more human, more damaged, characters. In fact, the three nominated roles from 1977 to 1986, Absence of Malice, The Verdict, and The Color of Money, all involve characters seeking redemption, an emotion he could readily relate to from his personal life. Newman went on to earn a total of five nominations after the age of 56.

Streep beginning and Newman re-beginning their careers are the stories of the decade.

Everybody Knows Jack…but How Many of You Remember Glenda

In the fifth decade of Oscar, one actor and one actress dominated the decade. It was the breakthrough decade for both of them. The actor would use this decade to build a career that would see him become the most nominated male actor in Academy Award history. The actress, after her stunning early success, would eventually retire from acting and pursue a second career that would take her to the doorstep of Prime Minister of England.

In the fifth decade of Oscar, one actor and one actress dominated the decade. It was the breakthrough decade for both of them. The actor would use this decade to build a career that would eventually see him become the most nominated male actor in Academy Award history. The actress, after her stunning early success, would eventually retire from acting and pursue a second career that would take her to the doorstep of Prime Minister of England.

So, everybody knows Jack Nicholson, no matter what your age. In fact, Nicholson is one of two actors, Michael Caine is the other, to earn Academy Award acting nominations in each of five decades. After years of struggling to break through as an actor, Nicholson used the anti-establishment mood in the United States during the period from 1967 to 1976 to become the “anti-hero” actor of the decade. In 1969, he took a small part in a movie with a budget of $400,000. That movie, Easy Rider, became a blockbuster with a $40 million take at the box office. Nicholson used his role in Easy Rider as a hard drinking lawyer to kick start his career and earn his first Oscar nomination as a Supporting Actor. He consolidated his breakthrough in 1970 with his iconic Lead Actor nominated role in Five Easy Pieces. Three more Lead Actor nominations followed in 1973 through 1975, including his first win in 1975 for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Here are the results for the decade including those other actors and actresses who made their mark:

Top Actors of the Decade
1967 to 1976
Actor Lead Actor Nominations Lead Actor Wins Supporting Actor Nominations Supporting Actor Wins Total Academy Award Points
Jack Nicholson 4 1 1 0 16
Al Pacino 3 0 1 0 10
Peter O’Toole 3 0 0 0 9
Dustin Hoffman 3 0 0 0 9
Marlon Brando 2 1 0 0 9
George C. Scott 2 1 0 0 9
Peter Finch 2 1 0 0 9
Top Actresses of the Decade
1967 to 1976
Actress Lead Actress Nominations Lead Actress Wins Supporting Actress Nominations Supporting Actress Wins Total Academy Award Points
Glenda Jackson 4 2 0 0 18
Faye Dunaway 3 1 0 0 12
Katherine Hepburn 2 2 0 0 12
Maggie Smith 2 1 0 0 9
Barbra Streisand 2 1 0 0 9
Jane Fonda 2 1 0 0 9
Liza Minnelli 2 1 0 0 9

I’d be willing to bet that very few of today’s younger moviegoers have ever heard of British actress, Glenda Jackson, let alone seen one of her movies. She wasn’t attracted to roles with guaranteed commercial success, preferring roles that challenged her as an actress. You may be surprised that between 1967 and 1976, Glenda Jackson was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning two, was also nominated for two Golden Globes for movies that she wasn’t Oscar nominated, and won a Primetime Emmy Award for her portrayal of Elizabeth I in the BBC series Elizabeth R. While she was never again nominated for an Academy Award, she did go on to earn three more Golden Globe nominations in 1978, 1981, and 1984. Despite her success, she was frustrated by the lack of good mid-life roles for women. She said, “An actor can do “Hamlet” right through to “Lear”, men of every age and every step of spiritual development. Where’s the equivalent for women? I don’t fancy hanging around to play Nurse in “Romeo and Juliet”. Life’s too short.”  In 1992, Glenda Jackson retired from acting to stand for election to the House of Commons as a member of the Labour Party. As a member of Parliament she rose to become a junior minister in the government of Tony Blair. She eventually became disillusioned with Blair and in 2005 threatened to run against him if he didn’t step down within a reasonable period. She was one of twelve Labour MP’s to rebel against their leader and call for an inquiry into the Iraq War. In 2014 Glenda Jackson retired from Parliament. Now, at the age of 80, she has resumed her acting career and is back on the British stage where it all began.

Everybody does know Jack, but everybody should know Glenda as well.