Unfocused Does Not Mean an Absence of Ideas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Add a Year Here. Tweak a Formula There. And, the Objective Top Twenty Looks Very Different.

I was able to add 1998 to the Objective Database last weekend. The extra data allowed me to factor in Oscar wins to the algorithm. But, it was one little tweak to the Oscar performance factor that dramatically altered the Objective Top Twenty this week.

I was able to add 1998 to the Objective Database last weekend. The extra data allowed me to factor in Oscar wins to the algorithm. But, it was one little tweak to the Oscar performance factor that dramatically altered the 2017 Objective Top Twenty this week.

For the Oscar performance part of my algorithm I created five groupings of movies based on their highest Academy Award achievement. If a movie won in a major category it went in the first group. If it was nominated for a major but didn’t win, it went in the second group. If it wasn’t nominated for a major but won in a minor category, it went into the third group. If it was only nominated in a minor category but didn’t win, it went into the fourth group. Finally, if it wasn’t nominated in any Oscar category, it went into the fifth group.

In terms of what percentage of the movies in each group that had an average IMDB rating of 7 or better, here are the results:

Best Oscar Performance: %  7+ IMDB Avg. Rating
Major Win 90.3%
Major Nomination 87.7%
Minor Win 79.7%
Minor Nomination 71.7%
No Nominations 59.8%

Wins seem to matter, particularly for the minor categories. Major nominations clearly are better “really like” indicators than minor nominations. It’s the no nominations grouping that’s most revealing. If a movie doesn’t get at least one nomination, the odds of it being a “really like” movie are dramatically reduced. This led to my discovery of some faulty thinking on my part.

If movies like DunkirkLady Bird, and Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, all movies headed towards major Oscar nominations in January, are treated in my algorithm as if they failed to earn a single Oscar nomination, those movies are being unfairly penalized. It was this flaw in my system that needed fixing. Now, those movies that haven’t gone through the Oscar nominating process are designated as Not Applicable. No Oscar performance test is applied to them. Without the weight of the No Nomination designation, many of the movies that didn’t get their first release until 2017 have risen significantly in the 2017 Objective Top Twenty rankings.

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Get ready for a Thanksgiving treat. Now that 1998 has been added to the Objective Database, we can reveal the Objective Top Seven Movies from the years 1992-1998. Adding Academy Award Wins to the mix will shake up those rankings as well. Check in next Thursday after you’ve taken your post-turkey dinner nap.

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The wide releases this weekend are Justice LeagueThe Star, and Wonder, but it’s the limited release, Mudbound, that I’ll be watching closely . This movie, set in the post-WII rural American South, is being mentioned as a Best Picture contender. Here’s the thing though. Most people won’t see it in the movie theater since it opens simultaneously on Friday on Netflix streaming. Can a movie that is more widely viewed at home than in the theater gain Academy Award traction? Stay tuned.

 

What Does the Best Picture Oscar Race Look Like Today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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