“Really Like” Movie Experiences With My Family at Thanksgiving

Over the course of a typical Thanksgiving weekend, movies will become a part of our family experience. We will watch them. We will discuss them. For me, my family is my own private focus group. They challenge my ideas and generate new avenues of thought.

Over the course of a typical Thanksgiving weekend, movies have become a part of our family experience. We watch them. We discuss them. For me, my family is my own private focus group. They challenge my ideas and generate new avenues of thought to explore.

This Thanksgiving was no different as my wife Pam and I flew into Seattle to visit with Meggie, Richie and Addie, our daughter, son-in-law and 4 month old granddaughter. Our son Brendan and his girlfriend Kristen (a very loyal follower of this blog) flew in from Boston. And our youngest, Colin, made the trip up the coast from L.A. With our family scattered from coast to coast, these family gatherings are very special.

Movies aren’t the only topic of conversation, especially when Addie’s in the room, but they do surface from time to time. Richie and I had a conversation about my Objective Top Seven from the years 1992 to 1998 that was in my last post. While he thought Schindler’s List was good, he would never put it at number one. He liked movies that made him feel happy when they were over. Now, Scent of a Woman, that was a movie on my list he could get on board with. On the other hand, my son Brendan couldn’t understand why his favorite movie Braveheart wasn’t on the list.

My conversations with Richie and Brendan illustrate why I rank movies based on “really like” probabilities. What movies we like and why we like them are unique to our own experiences and tastes. Many of us watch a movie to boost our mood. Schindler’s List is not a mood booster. On the other hand, if we are in the mood to expose ourselves to a harsh reality of the human experience and have our emotions touched in a very different way, there are few movies as moving as Schindler’s List. I confess that, like Richie, I prefer the mood boost to the harsh reality of life. The movie Moonlight has been sitting on my Watch List for some time now, waiting for me to be in the mood to experience it.

Later in the weekend, Meggie and Colin watched The Big Sick with me on Amazon Prime. They were really excited to see it based on the enthusiastic recommendations from Pam and I, and from many of the other people in their lives. At the end of the movie, they indicated that they both liked it but expected more from a movie that everyone else had raved about. It gave me another interesting insight into why people “really like” some movies but not others. Your expectation for a movie can significantly shape your opinion of the movie. Watching a movie that others say you “gotta see” may set the bar so high that only the great movies will reach it. A mere really good movie has no shot.

That expectations shape your opinion of a movie is a truism. If I flip the scenario to movies that I’ve stumbled upon that became unexpected movie treasures, I can attest to a second truism. Good movies that fly under the radar will be enjoyed more than they have any reason to be. One of my personal top fifty movies is the greatest baseball movie few people have seen, Bang the Drum Slowly. Less than 5,000 voters have rated it on IMDB. Released in 1973, it stars De Niro before he was “De Niro”. At the time it didn’t go totally unnoticed. The movie earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Vincent Gardenia. I only saw the movie because I went to a double feature at the drive-in. The second movie was one of those “gotta see” movies. Bang the Drum Slowly was the first. That’s the movie that I fondly remember today and not the second feature.

Rating movies is not a science. Movie fans who rate movies on websites like IMDB don’t use a Pythagorean Formula to derive that one correct answer. But it’s from these disparate reasons for each individual rating that I try to tease out some understanding each week as to which movies you will “really like”.

I am very thankful for the strong support and inspiration of my family at Thanksgiving and all of the other 364 days of the year.

 

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?