Will I "Really Like" this Movie?

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Archive for the month “November, 2016”

It’s a Mad Movie Man Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown.

Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful for those blessings, however small, that we can claim for ourselves and those close to us. It is also  a day that we petition that which is good in each of us to strive to make the lives of those less fortunate a little better. It is a day that we draw those who we cherish most even closer to us. If you think of the day in this way it acquires a certain solemnity. With the sacred nature of the day so close to my heart, it seems almost crass to express my gratitude towards the movie industry. But, if you can be thankful for football on Thanksgiving, certainly there is room for movies as well. So, here goes.

First, I’m thankful for these eleven new releases that I’ve seen since last Thanksgiving.

My “Really Like” Probability My Actual Score (100 pt. scale)
Spotlight 96.5% 98
Brooklyn 96.5% 96
Bridge of Spies 96.5% 88
Big Short, The 96.5% 88
Mad Max: Fury Road 48.1% 86
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 96.5% 86
Steve Jobs 86.3% 85
Hell or High Water 74.8% 85
Sing Street 74.8% 85
Captain America: Civil War 96.5% 85
Room 96.5% 85

It is movies like these that fuel my passion. It is particularly gratifying to discover so-called “little” movies like Hell or High Water and Sing Street that don’t get the promotion dollars that bigger budget movies might get.

When you watch around 100 movies a year, you realize that there aren’t enough new releases in a year that are of sufficient quality to fill your hopes for those “special” movie experiences. I am thankful that there are vintage movies that meet that need even when your experiencing them again for a second time, or a third time, or more. Here are 18 movies that I’ve watched in the last year that I still love after multiple viewings.

My “Really Like” Probability My Actual Score (100 pt. scale)
Godfather: Part II, The 94.5% 100
Silence of the Lambs, The 94.4% 99
Lawrence of Arabia 74.8% 99
Saturday Night Fever 49.7% 95
Courage Under Fire  62.5% 94
From Here to Eternity 96.5% 90
American Beauty 96.5% 90
Hustler, The 74.8% 89
Erin Brockovich 96.5% 89
LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring 94.4% 88
Cast Away 96.5% 88
Insider, The 96.5% 88
Memento 92.5% 88
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 82.6% 86
Body Heat 61.0% 86
Remember the Titans 89.7% 85
Frequency 96.5% 85

I am thankful that Christopher Nolan is still directing movies. I’ve watched eight Christopher Nolan directed movies and have “really liked” all eight. The six listed below are movies of his that I love.

My “Really Like” Probability My Actual Score (100 pt. scale)
Batman Begins 96.5% 97
The Dark Knight Rises 96.5% 95
Inception 94.4% 88
Memento 92.5% 88
The Dark Knight 94.4% 87
Interstellar 74.8% 86

I am thankful that another Christopher Nolan movie, Dunkirk, will be released July 21, 2017.

Finally, I am thankful for well written screenplays. Without an engaging story with crisp dialogue, a movie will fall flat on its face. Based on my ratings, there is no screenwriter I enjoy more than Aaron Sorkin. I have seen six of the seven movie screenplays he has written. I have loved all six movies.

My “Really Like” Probability My Actual Score (100 pt. scale)
A Few Good Men 96.5% 98
The American President 96.5% 96
The Social Network 96.5% 89
Moneyball 96.5% 87
Steve Jobs 86.3% 85
Charlie Wilson’s War 96.5% 85

I’m thankful that Aaron Sorkin has two 2017 projects he is working on. He is directing, as well as screenwriting, an adaptation of the memoir Molly’s Game about the high stakes world of underground poker. The movie is filming now and has Jessica Chastain in the lead. Sorkin is also working on a live TV presentation of A Few Good Men.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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In a Decade When Many New Stars Broke Through, Elizabeth Taylor Was the Brightest Star of Them All.

elizabeth-taylor

Elizabeth Taylor was beautiful. Because the picture above is in black and white, it doesn’t do justice to the allure of her distinctive , violet eyes. The world fell in love with her in 1944, at the age of 12, with her star turn in the Oscar nominated movie, National Velvet. Over the next dozen years, moviegoers watched her grow into a stunning beauty and a bona fide international star. The Oscar decade from 1957 to 1966 perfectly fits the peak of her acting career. In 1957, at age 25, she appeared in her first Oscar nominated role in Raintree County. Nine years later, in 1966, she appeared in her fifth nominated film of the decade, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for which she won her second Best Leading Actress award. It also marked the last nomination she would ever receive from the Academy of Motion Pictures.

For the lead in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Elizabeth Taylor intentionally gained 30 pounds to play the past her prime Martha. The picture below is from the film. She sacrificed much of her beauty for the role.

elizabeth-taylor-2

Compare this to her picture from her first Oscar win in the 1960 film Butterfield 8.

elizabeth-taylor-3

It’s hard to believe that only six years separate the women in the two pictures.

Elizabeth Taylor was an excellent actress. But, she became a star because she was beautiful. Was this a case of the Hollywood double standard when it comes to women? Do many actresses have a shelf life that doesn’t outlast their beauty? A shelf life that doesn’t seem to apply, as much, to their male counterparts. This is a topic I’ll explore in greater depth in the future. But, for now, consider in the list below how dominant Elizabeth Taylor was in a decade filled with very strong competition. And after that she wasn’t dominant. She wasn’t even close.

Top Actresses of the Decade
1957 to 1966
Actress Year of 1st Movie in the Decade Lead Actress Nominations Lead Actress Wins Supporting Actress Nominations Supporting Actress Wins Total Academy Award Points
Elizabeth Taylor 1957 5 2 0 0 21
Deborah Kerr 1957 3 0 0 0 9
Shirley MacLaine 1957 3 0 0 0 9
Simone Signoret 1957 2 1 0 0 9
Sophia Loren 1957 2 1 0 0 9
Anne Bancroft 1957 2 1 0 0 9
Julie Andrews 1964 2 1 0 0 9

It was a decade when many actresses who were already active in the business broke through to become stars. With the exception of Deborah Kerr, all of the actresses on this list earned their first Oscar nomination within the decade. Only Julie Andrews had her movie debut within the decade. But even in her case, she had begun her career on Broadway before the decade began. It was a decade for actresses who weren’t household names, in most cases, to finally become stars.

On the Best Actor side, there was a similar story but not as pronounced.

Top Actors of the Decade
1957 to 1966
Actor Year of 1st Movie in the Decade Lead Actor Nominations Lead Actor Wins Supporting Actor Nominations Supporting Actor Wins Total Academy Award Points
Spencer Tracy 1957 3 0 0 0 9
Richard Burton 1957 3 0 0 0 9
Paul Newman 1957 3 0 0 0 9
Jack Lemmon 1957 3 0 0 0 9
Burt Lancaster 1957 2 1 0 0 9
Sidney Poitier 1957 2 1 0 0 9
Rex Harrison 1957 2 1 0 0 9

The decade produced a seven way tie for most Academy Award points. All of the actors made their film debuts prior to the decade, but only Spencer Tracy was an established star. Three of the actors (Newman, Poitier, and Harrison) were nominated for the first time during the decade. From this list of excellent actors, who is the Actor of the Decade?  You may be surprised, but the winner of the tie breakers is Jack Lemmon.

Tie Breakers for Top Actor of the Decade
Avg IMDB & Rotten Tomatoes Ratings for Nominated Movies
Released from 1957 to 1966
Actor IMDB Avg Rating # of Votes Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh How Fresh? # of Critics Reviews
Jack Lemmon 8.3    299,677 95% Certified Fresh 116
Paul Newman 8.0    113,496 94% Certified Fresh 100
Spencer Tracy 8.2      72,424 90% Fresh 50
Richard Burton 8.0      79,113 87% Fresh 78
Burt Lancaster 7.8      20,515 91% Fresh 45
Rex Harrison 7.7      90,039 77% Certified Fresh 81
Sidney Poitier 7.7      16,476 90% Fresh 30

In a relatively close contest with Paul Newman and Spencer Tracy, Jack Lemmon wins on the strength of his leading roles in two movies just outside the IMDB Top 100 Movies of all time, The Apartment (105) and Some Like It Hot (116). His third nominated movie, Days of Wine and Roses is no slouch either. These movies generated more interest from today’s viewers and critics, as well.While just outside this decade, it should be noted that Lemmon also won Best Supporting Actor for his 1955 performance in Mr. Roberts. Of Newman and Tracy’s six nominated roles in the decade, only Tracy’s Judgment at Nuremberg (149) cracks the IMDB Top 250.

Next month I’ll look at the two decades between 1967 and 1986. I suspect we’ll be talking some more about some of the names on this decade’s list. Can you guess who the new stars will be?

In the Third Decade of Oscar, Marlon Brando Left All Other Actors Saying “I Coulda Been a Contender”

In the third decade of Oscar, which encompassed movies released between 1947 to 1956, Marlon Brando burst onto the Hollywood scene. Beginning with his second movie, A Streetcar Named Desire, released in 1951, Brando had a run of four consecutive years in which he was nominated for Best Actor. If you include his nomination for Sayonara , released in 1957, he had a string of 5 nominations in 7 years. He won the award for his 1954 iconic portrayal of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront. It’s that movie that showcases Brando, at the peak of his career, in the classic scene with his brother Charley, played by Rod Steiger, where he laments that Charley should have been looking out for him with the line “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am”.

Here are the scoring results for the decade including the other “contenders”:

Top Actors of the Decade
1947 to 1956
Actor Year of 1st Movie in the Decade Lead Actor Nominations Lead Actor Wins Supporting Actor Nominations Supporting Actor Wins Total Academy Award Points
Marlon Brando 1950 4 1 0 0 15
Jose Ferrer 1950 2 1 1 0 10
Montgomery Clift 1948 3 0 0 0 9
Kirk Douglas 1947 3 0 0 0 9
William Holden 1947 2 1 0 0 9

Movie fans today may not realize how influential Brando was. In 1999, Time Magazine compiled a list of the 100 most influential people of the twentieth century. Marlon Brando was one of three actors to make the list, joining Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe. He was one of the first method actors, becoming off screen the character he needed to be on screen. While he has many detractors, he is widely regarded as the greatest actor of all time. I’ll explore this claim in a future blog. But for this period, there is little disagreement of his greatness.

There was no one actress over this ten year period who was the unquestioned actress of the decade. A group of veteran actresses divided up the awards fairly evenly.

Top Actresses of the Decade
1947 to 1956
Actress Year of 1st Movie in the Decade Lead Actress Nominations Lead Actress Wins Supporting Actress Nominations Supporting Actress Wins Total Academy Award Points
Susan Hayward 1947 4 0 0 0 12
Jane Wyman 1947 3 1 0 0 12
Katherine Hepburn 1947 3 0 0 0 9
Deborah Kerr 1947 3 0 0 0 9
Eleanor Parker 1947 3 0 0 0 9
Olivia de Havilland 1948 2 1 0 0 9
Ingrid Bergman 1948 2 1 0 0 9
Loretta Young 1947 2 1 0 0 9
Audrey Hepburn 1951 2 1 0 0 9

Three points separated nine actresses. Of the nine, only Audrey Hepburn debuted during the decade. On a list that includes both Hepburns, Olivia de Havilland, Ingrid Bergman, and Deborah Kerr, many would find it surprising to see Susan Hayward and Jane Wyman at the top of the list. I know I was.  When you look at the tie breakers for the two actresses, their nominated movies don’t generate much interest from today’s viewers and critics.

Tie Breakers for Top Actors of the Decade
Avg IMDB & Rotten Tomatoes Ratings for Nominated Movies
Released from 1947 to 1956
Actor IMDB Avg Rating # of Votes Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh How Fresh? # of Critics Reviews
Jane Wyman 7.4         7,710 90% Fresh 29
Susan Hayward 7.1         3,738 No Rating 0

Susan Hayward was nominated for four Best Actress awards and not a single Rotten Tomatoes critic has been interested enough to review even one of those movies. Jane Wyman is my actress of the decade because two of her nominated movies, Johnny Belinda, her winning performance, and Magnificent Obsession, have attracted some, but not much, interest from today’s movie viewers and critics. Is this one of those periods where there just weren’t many good female roles?  Maybe. If so, it didn’t last long. Next week when I write about the 1957 to 1966 decade, one actress will dominate the decade and no other actor or actress will even be close.

Was October 2016 Really a Dud for New Movies? It Was and It Wasn’t Even (Horror)ible.

October traditionally kicks off of the Oscar season at the movies. In my last post I called this October a dud. Was it really? Or, did I overestimate the quality of movies that typically come out in October. Being the data geek that I am, I decided to test my gut reaction to last month’s movies. I looked at the top ten October movies at the box office for the ten year period 2006 to 2015 and compared them to last month. I looked at the number of Oscar nominations. audience feedback (IMDB), and critical feedback (Rotten Tomatoes).

The first thing I discovered that I hadn’t thought of last week was that October is not only the kick off to Oscar season, but it is also Halloween month. Twenty seven of the hundred movies in my sample were horror movies, and many of them were pretty bad horror movies.

 2006 to 2015 # of Oscar Nominations Avg. IMDB Rating Avg. Rotten Tomatoes Rating
Oct. Horror Movies 0 6.3 45% Rotten

In terms of box office, Horror movies are on average 24% of October ticket sales. This percentage would be even higher if I included Halloween themed family movies such as Frankenweenie.

So what do October movies look like if you exclude the Horror movies. Here is an average of the ten years excluding the 27 Horror movies:

 2006 to 2015 Avg. # of Oscar Nominations Avg. IMDB Rating Avg. Rotten Tomatoes Rating
All Other Oct. Movies 8 7.4 66% Fresh

For the typical October, the 7.3 movies in the top ten that aren’t Horror movies earn an average of 8 Oscar nominations. Last year there were 18 nominations  for 6 non-Horror movies. 2009 was the only year that there were no Oscar nominated movies in the October top ten. Based on the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes results audiences and critics typically like October movies.

Which brings us back to the month just past. Here are the October 2016 box office rankings so far. Here are the qualitative results for the top ten:

# of Projected Oscar Nominations Avg. IMDB Rating Avg. Rotten Tomatoes Rating
Oct. 2016 Horror Movies 0 6.7 82% Certified Fresh
All Other Oct. 2016 Movies 0 6.7 44% Rotten

Despite the fact that there was only one Horror movie in the top ten, none of the remaining nine top ten October movies is presently expected to earn an Oscar nomination. I base this on the up to date projections provided by Awards Circuit. The only movie the critics gave a Certified Fresh score to was the Horror Movie, Ouija: Origin of Evil. The average Rotten Tomatoes Rating of 44% Rotten for non-Horror movies is worse than any of the ten years in the sample. The average IMDB rating of 6.7 ties 2008, 2009, and 2011 for the lowest ratings in the sample.

So, when I suggested that October 2016 was a dud for new movies, it was probably an understatement. October 2016 may actually be the worst October in the last eleven years. It wasn’t (horror)ible. It was horrible.

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