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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tastes of movie critics and tastes of the public

Cat Cinema by TheeErin from flickr (CC-SA)
Continuing last week's post where I noted that Transformers 2 was quite enjoyable even if unremarkable action movie, I'll continue with some analysis of tastes of movie critics versus tastes of the public.

In case you missed the story Aircraft Careers 2 is a movie with huge box office success, decent public reaction, and completely hated by pretty much every single movie critic. Go to the cinema and watch it to see what the controversy is all about ;-)

As proxy for taste of the public I'm going to use The IMDB Top 250 list. I'm interested in what the public actually liked, not just what they were duped into watching by pretty trailers and marketing buzz, and this list is pretty much it. Top 250 list contains movies that were both very highly rated and rated by large number of people, to exclude ones that nobody cares about other than the director and the lead actress, who both voted 10/10.

As proxy for taste of movie critics - The Tomatometer, or more or less a weighted percentage of movie critics that liked a particular movie.
And... it turns out movie critics and public agree most of the time. 18.8% of the top 250 has very rare perfect 100 tomatometer score, 77.6% has extremely good score of 90 or more, 91.6% has still very good 80 or more score - perhaps critics are not as amazed by the movie as the audience, but they liked it anyway. There are just 19 (7.6%) movies with scores in their 70s, and 2 (0.8%) in their 60s - where we can genuinely says the critics were largely unimpressed. Not a single movie has a horrible score like Transformers 2's 19.

Here's the entire list:

Changeling (#219)
Public Enemies (#215)
Snatch. (#156), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (#190)
Forrest Gump (#43), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (#188)
V for Vendetta (#176)
Léon (#35)
The Prestige (#83), Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (#114)
Braveheart (#102), Crash (#223)
La vita è bella (#87), Sin City (#98), Gladiator (#115), The Big Lebowski (#155), The Thing (#174), Big Fish (#232)
The Green Mile (#111), The Hangover (#138)
Requiem for a Dream (#64)
Gran Torino (#76)
Fight Club (#21), Oldboy (#120), Dial M for Murder (#200), In Bruges (#204)
American History X (#39), Donnie Darko (#130), Into the Wild (#146), Casino (#195)
Se7en (#32), Batman Begins (#106), Brief Encounter (#166), Magnolia (#235), Harold and Maude (#248)
The Sixth Sense (#140), Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (#142), Gandhi (#164), Scarface (#171), The Exorcist (#209), Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (#230)
The Matrix (#27), Platoon (#144)
The Shawshank Redemption (#1), The Shining (#52), Twelve Monkeys (#189), Mystic River (#238)
Nuovo cinema Paradiso (#88), Harvey (#181)
The Usual Suspects (#23), American Beauty (#37), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (#108), Heat (#133), Judgment at Nuremberg (#143), The Graduate (#159), Trainspotting (#170)
Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (#45), A Clockwork Orange (#51), The Apartment (#84), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (#150), Hotaru no haka (#196), Network (#226), Arsenic and Old Lace (#236)
Saving Private Ryan (#54), Der Untergang (#81), The Elephant Man (#86), The Great Escape (#93), The Sting (#96), Blade Runner (#112), Per qualche dollaro in più (#118), The General (#126), There Will Be Blood (#129), The Deer Hunter (#139), Ben-Hur (#141), Million Dollar Baby (#149), Letters from Iwo Jima (#203), Ed Wood (#212), Bonnie and Clyde (#220), Little Miss Sunshine (#239), Glory (#240)
Cidade de Deus (#17), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (#20), It's a Wonderful Life (#31), Paths of Glory (#44), The Departed (#53), Hotel Rwanda (#105), Amores perros (#167), The Lion King (#169), Children of Men (#192), Safety Last! (#218)
Memento (#29), Das Leben der Anderen (#56), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (#61), Once Upon a Time in America (#91), Det sjunde inseglet (#103), Mononoke-hime (#128), The Bourne Ultimatum (#151), Le scaphandre et le papillon (#216), Rocky (#244)
The Dark Knight (#7), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (#13), Raiders of the Lost Ark (#18), Slumdog Millionaire (#67), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (#68), Touch of Evil (#100), No Country for Old Men (#109), Die Hard (#122), Fargo (#124), Smultronstället (#131), Stand by Me (#161), The Ox-Bow Incident (#194), Duck Soup (#197), The Day the Earth Stood Still (#233)
Star Wars (#12), The Pianist (#59), The Bridge on the River Kwai (#69), Reservoir Dogs (#70), El laberinto del fauno (#71), Ladri di biciclette (#94), Star Trek (#99), High Noon (#119), The Big Sleep (#123), Sleuth (#178), Spartacus (#250)
Pulp Fiction (#5), Schindler's List (#6), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (#9), Goodfellas (#15), The Silence of the Lambs (#25), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (#34), WALL·E (#42), 2001: A Space Odyssey (#89), Full Metal Jacket (#92), Back to the Future (#95), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (#97), Unforgiven (#113), Ran (#137), Les diaboliques (#145), The Killing (#162), Ratatouille (#163), Groundhog Day (#175), The Princess Bride (#185), Umberto D. (#186), Stalag 17 (#193)
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (#10), Casablanca (#11), C'era una volta il West (#19), Up (#22), Psycho (#24), To Kill a Mockingbird (#48), Alien (#49), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (#57), Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (#60), Some Like It Hot (#79), Amadeus (#85), Strangers on a Train (#110), Notorious (#117), It Happened One Night (#132), Yojimbo (#134), Le notti di Cabiria (#147), 8½ (#152), Dog Day Afternoon (#165), Gone with the Wind (#168), Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (#172), The Wild Bunch (#173), The Hustler (#182), The Best Years of Our Lives (#183), The Incredibles (#187), The Lady Vanishes (#198), La strada (#211), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (#213), His Girl Friday (#214), Rope (#217), All Quiet on the Western Front (#222), Patton (#229), Wo hu cang long (#237), Good Will Hunting (#243), In the Heat of the Night (#246)
The Godfather: Part II (#3), Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. (#4), Sunset Blvd. (#26), Apocalypse Now (#36), Vertigo (#40), Lawrence of Arabia (#41), Double Indemnity (#47), Raging Bull (#73), The Wrestler (#104), The Manchurian Candidate (#116), Annie Hall (#136), Life of Brian (#153), The Night of the Hunter (#158), Finding Nemo (#160), Låt den rätte komma in (#191), A Streetcar Named Desire (#206), The Conversation (#207), Rosemary's Baby (#221), Manhattan (#227), Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (#241), Roman Holiday (#242), La dolce vita (#247)
L.A. Confidential (#65), Metropolis (#82), La battaglia di Algeri (#201)
The Godfather (#2), 12 Angry Men (#8), Shichinin no samurai (#14), Rear Window (#16), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (#28), North by Northwest (#30), Citizen Kane (#33), Taxi Driver (#38), M (#46), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (#50), The Third Man (#55), Chinatown (#58), City Lights (#62), Aliens (#63), Das Boot (#66), Rashômon (#72), All About Eve (#74), The Maltese Falcon (#75), Modern Times (#77), Singin' in the Rain (#78), Rebecca (#80), The Great Dictator (#90), On the Waterfront (#101), Jaws (#107), Cool Hand Luke (#121), The Wizard of Oz (#125), Witness for the Prosecution (#127), Kind Hearts and Coronets (#135), Le salaire de la peur (#148), The Grapes of Wrath (#154), The Gold Rush (#157), The Terminator (#177), The Kid (#179), Toy Story (#180), Shadow of a Doubt (#184), The African Queen (#199), Anatomy of a Murder (#202), The Adventures of Robin Hood (#205), King Kong (#208), The Lost Weekend (#210), Sweet Smell of Success (#224), The Philadelphia Story (#225), Frankenstein (#228), Great Expectations (#231), Laura (#234), My Man Godfrey (#245), The Red Shoes (#249)

If you hoped to see some overmarketed garbage among the public-beloved-but-critically-panned movies, sorry to disappoint you. I'm surprised by how many movies that won Oscars for the Best Picture are there - Braveheart, Forrest Gump, and Crash, plus some nominations like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I haven't seen all the movies critics disliked, but for the ones I've seen I have no idea what was their problem. In particular - Fight Club? Léon? V? The original Matrix? Kill Bill? In Bruges? What the heck critics? These are masterpieces of the modern cinema!

To summarize:
IMDB's unwashed masses and Rotten Tomatoes' distinguished critics mostly agree, and when they don't IMDB tends to be right, so keep using IMDB.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Plan 9 from Outer Forks

Fatty watching himself on TV by cloudzilla from flickr (CC-BY)

I love IMDB. For one, it might be one of the very few non-personalized recommendation systems that actually work. Scores on IMDB correlate very highly with likelihood of me enjoying a movie, especially if I apply a correction for genres that are overrated (like very old and very long movies) or underrated (like zombie flicks). In any case IMDB is vastly more accurate than professional critics' reviews.

The most drastic example of IMDB and pro critics disagreeing was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which I absolutely loved! It got an okish 6.5 score from IMDB - which is accurate enough, it's a really nice action-packed movie vaguely following Transformers canon, with as much concern for the plot as a typical action movie (that is not terribly much), and perhaps far higher aircraft carrier to robot ratio than you'd expect from the title.

It was also universally panned by the pro critics getting Rotten Tomatoes metascore of just 20%. Seriously, critics? Is it really one of the worst movies in existence? Have you expected anything else than robots meaninglessly fighting each other and destroying valuable stuff? It's almost as if critics panned Transformers 2 to signal their sophisticated taste, not to provide good service to the audience.

Anyway, back to my point. IMDB not only provides great recommendation service, they also make a lot of the underlying data available in convenient formats. Yes, they charge huge money for some of the data, but even the free portion is very useful.

Some voting patterns are very interesting. Here are two examples. First, one of the "so bad it's good" movies - Troll 2. Normal movies have sort-of Gaussian distribution of votes. OK, not really Gaussian but with a fairly definite single peak. Not so with the "so bad it's good" movies - these tend to have mostly 1s and 10s, with perhaps a few 2s and 3s, but amusingly very rarely many 9s and 8s - it's either very low, or a 10!

The second interesting bit is a demographically polarizing movie like Twilight. People of different ages and genders tend to like pretty much the same movies.

Top 100 for men, and Top 100 for women contain virtually the same movies, just slightly rearranged - neither stereotypically feminine chick flicks nor stereotypically masculine action flicks get into top lists, and movies rarely have very different male and female scores, or much different scores by age group. But exceptions do happen, here's one:

Under-18 men scored it almost 2 points lower than under-18 women! I have a perfectly good explanation for the Twilight ratings effect - normally movies are watched by people who like the genre, so only men who like chick flicks and only women who like action movies watch them. So there will
be very little discernible gender-genre bias. But with Twilight, millions of girlfriends worldwide must have forced their boyfriends to watch Twilight against their wills, to what the aforementioned boyfriends reacted in a passive-aggressive way by downvoting Twilight on IMDB. I don't have any way of
testing this theory, but I watched Twilight on my own free will, and liked it a lot.

Anyway, back to "so bad it's good" movies. I really like the genre, but it's difficult to tell the "so bad it's good" movies from straightforwardly bad movies. So like a good hacker I am, I decided to grab IMDB's database, and find out movies. Here's the list, criteria being - at least 10% of votes are 1s, at least 10% of votes are 10s, ordered by number of votes.

Votes10s %1s %IMDB scoreTitle
17725712.6%11.0%6.2The Blair Witch Project
36856030.4%10.5%7.6Fahrenheit 9/11
43845920.0%19.2%5.5Sex and the City
62426531.7%23.0%5.1High School Musical
72404410.6%10.3%5.1The Pink Panther
82287314.9%12.1%5.6House of 1000 Corpses
92232418.6%27.5%3.9Freddy Got Fingered
102170415.3%12.4%5.0White Chicks
111989814.5%10.7%7.6Midnight Express
141841011.6%10.3%6.3Funny Games U.S.
151777912.2%10.0%4.7Queen of the Damned
161760610.5%27.9%3.8In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
171710325.3%10.4%5.7Kung Pow: Enter the Fist
181684013.6%54.9%2.5You Got Served
191674314.7%35.0%2.8Spice World
201670610.5%74.0%1.6From Justin to Kelly
211659617.2%10.8%5.7Southland Tales
221633816.2%31.9%3.6Plan 9 from Outer Space
231619119.1%11.8%5.5Step Up 2: The Streets
241617915.1%40.5%3.8Get Rich or Die Tryin'
251572822.4%44.0%3.7High School Musical 3: Senior Year
261541712.5%38.1%3.4Little Man
271517715.0%11.0%5.6Alvin and the Chipmunks
281493813.5%16.0%3.7Super Mario Bros.
291443110.8%14.6%5.4Star Wars: The Clone Wars
301396011.0%10.4%4.9DOA: Dead or Alive
321364323.6%27.6%4.5High School Musical 2
331337735.3%61.5%1.3Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience
341276411.2%43.2%3.3Dragonball Evolution
361259618.3%26.7%4.2Stomp the Yard
371256017.8%11.3%6.1Cannibal Holocaust
401216810.7%12.7%4.9An American Haunting
411200613.0%11.9%4.4Stay Alive
421177014.0%18.4%3.5Grease 2
441155429.3%10.4%8.3Le salaire de la peur
461125712.2%10.4%5.0Just My Luck
471115010.6%24.7%3.7Prom Night
481105411.4%18.9%4.5The Marine
501074210.9%77.7%1.7Who's Your Caddy?
511058911.7%16.7%4.7Meet Dave
521039719.2%11.9%6.1Sal? o le 120 giornate di Sodoma
54977412.4%20.6%4.0Big Momma's House 2
55925545.0%10.2%8.1La passion de Jeanne d'Arc
56923415.3%10.9%5.8Georgia Rule
57914511.1%71.9%1.9Troll 2
58912113.1%11.0%5.1Strange Wilderness
59908512.2%16.9%4.3Black Christmas
60890612.0%13.0%5.3The Ten
61888817.9%15.8%4.7The Lizzie McGuire Movie
62884012.0%19.9%3.3Universal Soldier: The Return
63867818.4%45.3%2.9Material Girls
64865418.5%22.8%3.8Pok?mon: The First Movie
66841910.1%17.5%3.8On Deadly Ground
67837813.3%13.4%5.7Last Days
68821012.7%76.4%1.4SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2
69817920.1%58.3%2.9Hannah Montana: The Movie
70810312.0%52.7%3.1Beverly Hills Chihuahua
71804512.2%29.0%3.6Soul Plane
73801341.1%11.9%8.1Idi i smotri
74789814.6%32.4%2.7Hercules in New York
75785423.1%11.6%6.417 Again
76780420.6%19.5%5.2What the #$*! Do Wenow!?
77772626.4%10.9%7.1The Birth of a Nation
79768410.7%23.7%3.3Problem Child 2
80764325.6%15.0%5.1Raise Your Voice
81760512.6%11.2%5.0Eight Crazy Nights
82758825.4%12.4%8.1Du rififi chez les hommes
83756311.4%51.8%2.7Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour
84749912.6%20.3%4.0Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj
86723712.7%55.4%2.7Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector
88709531.4%10.4%4.9Good Burger
91704344.5%10.2%8.0Les enfants du paradis
92693023.9%18.3%3.9Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie
93692523.2%13.1%5.8Pink Flamingos
94691545.5%16.8%5.8Kurtlar vadisi - Irak
95676613.5%12.9%4.4Yours, Mine and Ours
97671412.9%40.7%3.1Are We Done Yet?
98668720.9%57.1%3.7Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
99658627.9%11.6%8.1Tengoku to jigoku

Trivia from the list:
  • Transformers 2 almost got to the list by having 9.9% 1 votes.
  • The most controversial movie in every way is Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience with 35.3% 10s, 61.5% 1s, and only 3.2% everything else. It also has huge 5.0 to 1.3 under-18 gender gap, but as you can see even most teenage females aren't huge fans of it. It's also the worst scored movie on the list, with score of just 1.3, what suggests IMDB's filters think most of the 10s are attempt at ballot stuffing, and get thrown away.
  • The highest rated controversial movie is Le salaire de la peur with IMDB score of 8.3 and somehow still more 1s (10.4%) than Transformers 2.
  • The highest rated controversial movies that seem popular (by number of votes they received) are Fahrenheit 9/11, and Twilight, both of which I liked, and not because of the "so bad it's good effect", and The Blair Witch Project, which I hated with passion for being so unbelievably boring.
  • The lowest scored movie from the list I watched was Troll 2 and I liked it because of the "so bad it's good" effect.
  • Celebrity movies are huge on the list, like Crossroads, Glitter, Spice World, Hannah Montana: The Movie, and the aforementioned Jonas Brothers' movie. The only one I watched of them was Crossroads, and I genuinely enjoyed it, in semi-ironic way.