Will I "Really Like" this Movie?

Navigating Movie Website Ratings to Select More Enjoyable Movies

Archive for the tag “Hidden Figures”

The Objective Top Twenty Doesn’t Account for Personal Taste

Over the last few months I’ve spent a lot of time introducing you to the 2017 Objective Top Twenty Movies. But, let’s be clear. It isn’t my list of the top twenty movies so far. As a matter of fact, I’ve only seen a handful of the movies and I may only see a handful more in the future. There are some movies on the list that I’ll never watch. At the end of the day, which movies you watch on the list is a matter of personal taste.

The Objective Top Twenty is ranking of movies that, based on available data today, I’m most confident are good movies, regardless of personal taste. Hidden Figures and Lion are at the top of the list because there is more data available for those movies than any of the other movies on the list and that mature data continues to support the quality of those two movies. I can say with a high degree of confidence that both of these movies are really good movies. On the other hand Blade Runner 2049, which probably is a good movie, just doesn’t have the data support yet to confidently support that subjective opinion.

While I’m confident all of the movies on the Objective Top Twenty are good movies, I’m not confident that you, personally, would “really like” every movie on the list. In fact, I’m fairly confident you wouldn’t like every movie on the list. Our personal taste in movies reflects our life experiences. Those movies that we “really like” somehow connect with our memories, our aspirations, our curiosity, or represent a fun place to escape. Not every movie on the Objective Top Twenty is going to make the personal connection needed to make it a “really like” movie for each of us.

So, which of the Objective Top Twenty should you watch. Other than using the websites I promote in this blog, most people use trailers to see if they connect with a small sample of the movie. If it’s an Objective Top Twenty movie and the trailer connects with you, that’s not a bad approach. The only caution is that sometimes a trailer leaves you with the impression that a movie is about X when it’s really about Y.

My recommendation is to use at least one personal rating website that will model your personal taste in movies. I use three, Netflix-DVD, Movielens, and Criticker. There are links for all three at the top of the page. I’ve created a subjective “really like” model to go along with the objective model used to create the Objective Top Twenty. Here’s a ranking of the Objective Top Twenty based on the probability today that I will personally “really like” the movie.

2017 Released Movies Subjective “Really Like” Probability Objective “Really Like” Probability My Rating for Seen Movies
Hidden Figures 74.3% 76.78% 7.9
Lion 74.0% 76.00% 7.9
Wonder Woman 73.2% 71.39% 8.5
Dunkirk 72.7% 70.71% 8.4
Patriots Day 72.7% 71.01%
Spider-Man: Homecoming 71.9% 71.39%
Logan 71.3% 70.71%
Big Sick, The 69.5% 70.56% 8.4
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 69.2% 71.01%
Only the Brave  62.6% 71.01%
Monster Calls, A 62.2% 71.01%
Land of Mine 61.2% 74.72%
Salesman, The 59.2% 75.18%
I Am Not Your Negro 56.0% 75.18%
Kedi 52.4% 70.56%
Florida Project, The 51.6% 70.56%
Truman 50.8% 70.56%
20th Century Women 50.5% 75.21%
Silence 48.7% 72.78%
Lucky 45.7% 70.56%

The movies that I’ve seen so far are, for the most part, the movies at the top of the list. I’ve, in effect, ranked the Objective Top Twenty based on those movies with the greatest probability that I will “really like” them. I am certain that I will watch all of the top nine movies on this list. I will probably watch some of the remaining eleven movies on the list. I will definitely not watch all of them.

However, you choose to do it, the Objective Top Twenty needs a personal touch when you use the list to pick movies to watch. I can only guarantee that they are good movies. It’s up to you to figure out which ones will be “really like” movies for you.

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Will “You” Really Like This Movie?

If you reviewed this week’s Objective Top Twenty, you might have noticed something other than five additional movies on the list. You might have noticed that, other than Hidden Figures holding onto the number one spot on the list, all of the rankings had changed.

A few month’s back I mentioned that I was developing a new objective database to project “really like” movies that are not influenced at all by my taste in movies. This week’s Objective Top Twenty reflects the early fruits of that labor.

The plan is to build a very robust database of all of the movies from the last twenty five years that finished in the top 150 in box office sales for each year . I have 1992 through 1995 completed which gives me enough movies to get started with.

The key change in the “really like” formula is that my algorithm measures the probability that users of the IMDB database will rate a particular movie as a 7 out of 10 or higher, which is my definition of a “really like” movie. The key components of the formula are IMDB Average Rating, Rotten Tomatoes Rating, CinemaScore Grade, and the number of  Academy Award wins and nominations for the major categories and for the minor categories.

In future posts, I’ll flesh out my logic for all of these factors. But, the key factor is the capability to measure on IMDB the percentage of IMDB voters who have rated a particular movie as a 7 or higher. When you aggregate all of the movies with a particular IMDB average rating you get results that look like this sample:

Avg. Rating % Rating 7+
                8.5 92.8%
                8.0 88.8%
                7.5 81.4%
                7.0 69.2%
                6.5 54.7%
                6.0 41.5%
                5.5 28.7%

Note that, just because a movie has an average rating of 7.0, doesn’t mean that every movie with a 7.0 average rating is a “really like” movie.  Only 69.2% of the votes cast for the movies with a 7.0 rating were ratings of 7 or higher. Conversely, every movie with an average rating of 6.0 isn’t always a “don’t really like” movie since 41.5% of the voters handed out 7’s or higher. It does mean, though, that the probability of a 7.0 average rated movie is more likely to be a “really like” movie than one with a 6.0 rating.

These changes represent a start down a path towards a movie pre-screening tool that is more useful to the followers of this blog. It is a work in progress that will only get better as more years are added to the database. But, we have a better answer now to the question, “Will you ‘really like’ this movie?”

***

If you’re going to the movies this weekend, chances are that you’re going to see Blade Runner 2049. The early indications are that it is going to live up to the hype. You might also check out The Florida Project, an under the radar movie that is getting some apparently well-deserved buzz.

Why Did “The Big Sick” Drop Out of the Objective Top Fifteen This Week?

This past Sunday my wife, Pam, and I went to see The Big Sick. The movie tells the story of the early relationship days of the two screenwriters, Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. In fact, Nanjiani plays himself in the movie. It is the authenticity of the story, told in a heartfelt and humorous way, that makes this film special.

On the following day, last weekend’s blockbuster, Dunkirk, moved into the second spot in the revised Objective Top Fifteen rankings. When a new movie comes on the list another one exits. This week’s exiting movie, ironically, was The Big Sick. Wait! If The Big Sick is such a great movie why isn’t it in my top fifteen for the year? Are all of the other movies on the list better movies? Maybe yes. Maybe no. You’ll have to determine that for yourselves. You see the Objective Top Fifteen is your list, not mine.

I developed the Objective Top Ten, which became Fifteen the beginning of July and will become Twenty the beginning of October, to provide you with a ranking of 2017 widely released movies that are most likely to be “really like” movies. Because the ranking is based on objective benchmarks, my taste in movies has no influence on the list. The four benchmarks presently in use are: IMDB Avg. Rating, Rotten Tomatoes Rating, Cinemascore Rating, and Academy Award Nominations and Wins. A movie like Hidden Figures that meets all four benchmarks has the greatest statistical confidence in its “really like” status and earns the highest “really like” probability. A movie that meets three benchmarks has a greater “really like” probability than a movie that meets only two benchmarks. And so on.

The important thing to note, though, is that this is not a list of the fifteen best movies of the year. It is a ranking of probabilities (with some tie breakers thrown in) that you’ll “really like” a movie. It is subject to data availability. The more positive data that’s available, the more statistical confidence, i.e. higher probability, the model has in the projection.

Which brings me back to The Big Sick. Cinemascore surveys those movies that they consider “major releases”. The Big Sick probably didn’t have a big advertising budget. Instead, the producers of the film chose to roll the movie out gradually, beginning on June 23rd, to create some buzz and momentum behind the movie before putting it into wide release on July 14th. This is probably one of the reasons why Cinemascore didn’t survey The Big Sick. But, because The Big Sick is missing that third benchmark needed to develop a higher probability, it dropped out of the Top Fifteen. On the other hand, if it had earned at least an “A-” from Cinemascore The Big Sick would be the #2 movie on the list based on the tie breakers.

And, that is the weakness, and strength of movie data. “Major releases” have it. Smaller movies like The Big Sick don’t.

***

This weekend may be the end of the four week run of Objective Top Fifteen movie breakthroughs. Atomic Blonde, the Charlize Theron spy thriller, has an outside chance of earning a spot on the list. As of this morning, it is borderline for the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes benchmarks. I’m also tracking Girls Trip which earned a Certified Fresh just in the last couple of days from Rotten Tomatoes and has an “A+” in hand from Cinemascore. For now, it is just below the IMDB benchmark. We’ll see if that changes over the weekend.

 

 

Cinemascore Is a “Really Like” Indicator

Those of  you who checked in on Monday to see the updated Objective Top Ten may have noticed that Cinemascore grades were included in the information provided for each movie. If you were particularly observant, you might have also noticed that the bar at the top of the page, which includes links to the movie ratings websites I use, now includes the link to Cinemascore. All of which means that Cinemascore grades are now officially included in the “really like” algorithm.

As I’ve mentioned before, the folks at Cinemascore have been surveying moviegoers as they leave the theater since 1978. They limit their surveys to the three or four movies each week that they suspect will do the best at the box office. This limited sample of movies represents around 40% of the movies in my database, which is a plenty big enough sample for me to work with.

The other factor in using the data is that the grades seem to line up with their “really like” potential.

Cinemascore Database Results
Grade Database Total Graded “Really Like” %
A+ 51 82%
A 201 80%
A- 212 73%
B+ 156 58%
B 117 50%
B- 52 42%
C+ 21 33%
C 9 11%
C- 4 0%
D+ 1 0%
D 0 0%
D- 1 0%

The “really like” percentages follow a logical progression by grade. Now, because the sample sizes for each grade are relatively small, I’ve had to group the grades into two buckets that represent above average Cinemascore grades and below average grades.

All Grades               825 65%
A+,A, A-               464 77%
All Other               361 50%

This suggests that a good Cinemascore grade is an A- or better (Talk about grade inflation!!). The statistical gap between the two buckets is great enough for it to be an effective differentiator of “really like” movies.

The practical effect of this change is that the Objective Top Ten will be more weighted to mainstream movies. Independent movies are less likely to be surveyed by Cinemascore for example. On the other hand, a movie like Hidden Figures, which already benefitted from high IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes scores, now adds a Cinemascore grade of A+. This makes the model even more confident that this movie is a “really like” movie and as a result the probability % for the movie goes higher, lifting it to the top of the list.

I’m excited about this enhancement and I hope you will be too.

***

I mentioned last week that I had my eye on two movies, The Beguiled and The Big Sick. I jumped the gun a little bit because both of these movies only went into limited release last Friday. The Beguiled goes into wide release tomorrow, while The Big Sick goes into wide release on July 14th. Baby Driver, which went into wide release yesterday, is another new movie that looks good from the early indicators.

Next Monday the Objective Top Ten will become the Objective Top Fifteen (just in case you needed something else to look forward to this weekend). Have a “Really Like” 4th of July weekend at the movies!

What Am I Actually Going to Watch This Week? Netflix Helps Out with One of My Selections.

The core mission of this blog is to share ideas on how to select movies to watch that we’ll “really like”. I believe that there have been times when I’ve bogged down on how to build the “really like” model. I’d like to reorient the dialogue back to the primary mission of what “really like” movies I am going to watch and more importantly why.

Each Wednesday I publish the ten movies on my Watch List for the week. These movies usually represent the ten movies with the highest “really like” probability that are available to me to watch on platforms that I’ve already paid for. This includes cable and streaming channels I’m paying for and my Netflix DVD subscription. I rarely use a movie on demand service.

Now, 10 movies is too much, even for the Mad Movie Man, to watch in a week. The ten movie Watch List instead serves as a menu for the 3 or 4 movies I actually most want to watch during the week. So, how do I select those 3 or 4 movies?

The first and most basic question to answer is who, if anyone, am I watching the movie with. Friday night is usually the night that my wife and I will sit down and watch a movie together. The rest of the week I’ll watch two or three movies by myself. So, right from the start, I have to find a movie that my wife and I will both enjoy. This week that movie is Hidden Figures, the 2016 Oscar nominated film about the role three black female mathematicians played in John Glenn’s orbit of the earth in the early 1960’s.

This movie became available to Netflix DVD subscribers on Tuesday May 9. I received my Hidden Figures DVD on that day. Something I’ve learned over the years is that Netflix ships DVD’s on Monday that become available on Tuesday. For this to happen you have to time the return of your old DVD to arrive on the Saturday or Monday before the Tuesday release. This gives you the best chance to avoid “long wait” queues.

I generally use Netflix DVD to see new movies that I don’t want to wait another 3 to 6 months to see or for old movies that I really want to see but aren’t available on my usual platforms.

As of the first quarter of 2017, Netflix reported that there are only 3.94 million subscribers to their DVD service. I am one of them. The DVD service is the only way that you can still access Netflix’ best in the business 5 star system of rating movies. It is easily the most reliable predictor of how you’ll rate a movie or TV show. Unfortunately, Netflix Streaming customers no longer have the benefit of the 5 Star system. They have gone to a less granular “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” rating system. To be fair, I haven’t gathered any data on this new system yet therefore I’ll reserve judgement as to its value. As for the DVD service, they will have me as a customer as long as they maintain their 5 star recommender system as one of the benefits of being a DVD subscriber.

The 5 star system is a critical assist to finding a movie for both my wife and I. Netflix allows you set up profiles for other members of the family. After my wife and I watch a movie, she gives it a rating and I give it a rating. These ratings are entered under our separate profiles. This allows a unique predicted rating for each of us based on our individual taste in movies. For example, Netflix predicts that I will rate Hidden Figures a 4.6 out of 5 and my wife will rate it a 4.9. In other words, according to Netflix, this is a movie that both of us, not only will “really like”, but we should absolutely “love”.

Hidden Figures has a “really like” probability of 61.4%. It’s Oscar Performance probability is 60.7% based on its three nominations. Its probability based solely on the feedback from the recommender sites that I use is 69.1%. At this point in time, it is a Quintile 1 movie from a credibility standpoint. This means that the 69.1% probability is based on a limited number of ratings. It’s not very credible yet. That’s why the 61.4% “really like” probability is closer to the Oscar Performance probability of 60.7%. I would fully expect that, as more people see Hidden Figures and enter their ratings, the “really like” probability will move higher for this movie.

Friday Night Movie Night this week looks like a “really like” lock…thanks to Netflix DVD.

 

 

If You’re Going to the Movies in January, Look for December’s Leftovers.

January isn’t a bad month for the movie industry. Box Office receipts for January are close to the monthly average for the last five years. The problem is that movies that are released for the first time in January don’t do very well. It is the movies that go into limited release in December to become award eligible but wait until January for wide release that do well in January. Typically they outperform the pure January releases at the box office by over 50%. January wide release movies are usually Oscar caliber movies that may be a little too artistic for broad general appeal. The movies released for the first time in January are usually movies that didn’t make the award-quality cut and are dumped in January hoping to find any audience. There is a 56% chance that I will “really like”a movie released in January that is nominated for an Academy Award for the previous year. On the other hand, a new January release has only a 47% chance that I will “really like” it.

So, if you’re looking for a January release with the best odds of being a “really like” movie look for those wide releases still receiving some Oscar buzz. Here are my five candidates:

Silence.    Wide Release Date: Jan 6       “Really Like” Probability:  55%

Awards Circuit, as of 12/28/2016, projects Silence to earn five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. Martin Scorsese explores the topic of faith through two 17th century Catholic missionaries (Andrew Garfield & Adam Driver) in Japan. It is already 90% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Hidden Figures.   Wide Release Date: Jan 6       “Really Like” Probability:  65%

Nominated for two Golden Globes, including Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures could be a January crowd pleaser. The true story of three brilliant black women who were instrumental in the launch of John Glenn into space in the 1960’s is set against a period of gender and racial bias. It’s the kind of underdog movie that is very watchable for most audiences.

Live by Night.   Wide Release Date: Jan 13       “Really Like” Probability: 45%

Awards Circuit lists Live by Night 20th on its Best Picture contenders. It received no Golden Globe nominations. It is borderline Oscar-worthy. I’m including it on my list this month because it’s based on a book by Dennis Lehane, one of my favorite authors. It’s not just because I like his books but it’s that his writing (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island) has translated so well to the big screen. Early reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are not favorable but I remain optimistic that audience feedback will be positive.

Patriots Day.   Wide Release Date: Jan 13       “Really Like” Probability:  50%

This is another borderline Oscar movie but with a subject matter that should draw in a broad audience. We are almost four years removed from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing but this dramatization will refresh our memory. It has received favorable reviews so far, 80% Certified Fresh. Those closest to the events of the day have been somewhat critical of some of the liberties the movie takes but my sense is that it gets the broad strokes right.

Gold.   Wide Release Date: Jan 27       “Really Like” Probability:  45%

This movie goes into limited release today and wide release at the end of January. As a result I have very little actual data with which to recommend this movie. It has received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Song, not exactly a strong movie quality leading indicator. But the producers felt it had some Oscar potential when they released it in 2016 and the storyline is intriguing. It is an adventure crime caper involving a false gold deposit claim in Indonesia, and it stars Matthew McConaughey. Before buying a ticket for this one, I’d recommend checking back on Jan. 27th when I update my probabilities on this movie.

Well, those are my leftover December Oscar hopefuls. And, because most of us don’t get a chance to see them until January, they qualify for my January picks. Enjoy.

 

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