Will I "Really Like" this Movie?

Navigating Movie Website Ratings to Select More Enjoyable Movies

Archive for the tag “La La Land”

Why Does CinemaScore Leave Out So Many Good Movies When Issuing Grades?

The 2017 Academy Awards will be forever remembered as the year that La La Land was awarded Best Picture for about a minute before they discovered that Moonlight was the actual winner. Those two movies have something else in common. Neither movie received a CinemaScore grade despite, arguably, being the top two movies of 2016.

I’m thinking about this issue this week because three movies with Oscar buzz, StrongerBattle of the Sexes, and Victoria and Abdul,  went into limited release last weekend. None of them were graded by Cinemascore. There is a valid reason for this but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing to movie pre-screeners like myself.

For me, Cinemascore is appealing because it measures only opening night reaction. Most people who go to the opening night of a movie are there because they really want to see that movie. The pre-release buzz has grabbed their attention to such an extent that they can’t wait to see it. They walk into an opening night movie expecting to love it. When they walk out of the movie and respond to CinemaScore’s survey they are probably grading based on expectations. So, when a movie receives an “A” from Cinemascore, it tells us that the movie lives up to the hype. Anything less than that suggests that the movie experience was less than they expected.

CinemaScore gets stuck when it comes to movies that are released in a limited number of theaters prior to them being released widely in most theaters. CinemaScore samples locations throughout the U.S. and Canada to establish a credible unbiased sample. When a movie goes into limited release, it is released in some of their sample locations but not in most of their sample locations. Last weekend, Stronger was released in 573 theaters, Battle of the Sexes was released in 21 theaters, and Victoria and Abdul was released in 4 theaters. To provide some perspective, Kingsman: The Golden Circle opened in 4,003 theaters last weekend and earned a “B+” grade from CinemaScore. When Stronger and Battle of the Sexes goes into wide release tomorrow, does word of mouth reaction from moviegoers who’ve seen the movie in the last week disturb the integrity of any sample taken this weekend? When Victoria and Abdul goes into wide release on October 6, is its release into just 4 theaters last weekend sufficiently small to not taint the sample? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’ll be looking to see if these movies get graded when they go into wide release. In Box Office Mojo’s article on last weekend’s box office performance they indicate that CinemaScore graded Stronger an “A-” even though it hasn’t been officially posted on their website. Perhaps they are waiting to post it after wide release?

I understand why grades don’t exist on CinemaScore for many limited release movies. I understand the importance of data integrity in the creation of a credible survey. I will just observe, though, that in this age of social media, using limited movie releases to build pre-wide release momentum for quality movies is an increasingly viable strategy. Just this week, A24, the studio behind the rise of Moonlight last year, decided to put their dark horse candidate this year, Lady Bird, into limited release on November 3rd after it emerged from the Telluride and Toronto film festivals with a 100% Fresh grade from Rotten Tomatoes. CinemaScore may be facing the prospect of an even broader inventory of ungraded top tier movies than it does today. It will be interesting to see how they respond to this challenge, if at all.

 

Advertisements

What Was The “Really Like” Movie of 2016? The Result May Surprise You.

According to Box Office Mojo, the website that tracks all things related to movie box office results, Baby Driver was last weekend’s big surprise at the box office. It also debuted in the number two spot on the 2017 Objective Top Fifteen posted on this site on Monday. What exactly does that mean? Not much yet. Think of it as the score in a game that is almost half over where most of the scoring occurs near the end of the game. The final result won’t crystalize until the Academy Award winners are announced next February. Also, keep in mind that most of the major Oscar contenders won’t be released until late in the year.

To give you some idea of what a final score does look like, here is the 2016 Objective Top Ten:

Top Ten 2016 Movies Based on Objective Criteria
As Of 7/7/2017
2016 Released Movies Oscar Noms/ Wins IMDB Rating Rotten Tomatoes Rating Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Cinema Score Objective “Really Like” Probability
Hacksaw Ridge 6/2 8.2 C. Fresh 87% A 65.9%
La La Land 14/6 8.2 C. Fresh 92% 65.7%
Big Short, The 5/1 7.8 C. Fresh 88% A- 65.4%
Moonlight 8/3 7.5 C. Fresh 98% 65.1%
Fences 4/1 7.3 C. Fresh 93% A- 65.0%
Rogue One 2/0 7.9 C. Fresh 85% A 64.7%
Deepwater Horizon 2/0 7.2 C. Fresh 84% A- 64.7%
Jungle Book, The 1/1 7.5 C. Fresh 95% A 64.6%
Sully 1/0 7.5 C. Fresh 85% A 64.6%
Revenant, The 12/3 8.0 C. Fresh 81% B+ 64.6%

Just to clarify, eligibility for the list is based on when a movie goes into wide release. This pits Oscar contenders from 2015, like The Big Short and The Revenant, that were widely released in early 2016 against Oscar contenders from 2016, like Moonlight and La La Land, that were widely released late in 2016.

Are you surprised that Hacksaw Ridge is the 2016 “Really Like” Movie of the Year? The response of movie watchers is what separates this movie from the others,. That, and the fact that Cinemascore for some reason didn’t survey La La Land. I will say this though. I have talked to people who didn’t like Moonlight. I have also talked to people who felt that La La Land was over-hyped. But, I haven’t talked to a single person who hasn’t “really liked” Hacksaw Ridge.

This ranking approach intersects a number of different movie viewing perspectives. Movie critics are represented in Rotten Tomatoes. People who go to the movie theaters on opening weekend and provide feedback before movie word of mouth has influenced their opinion are represented by Cinemascore. People who watch movies on a variety of platforms are represented by IMDB. And, finally, the people who understand how difficult it is to create movies, the artists themselves, are represented by their Academy Award performance. All of them are statistically significant indicators of whether you will “really like” a movie or not.

All of you won’t like every movie on this list. While there is around a 65% chance you will “really like” these movies, there is also around a 35% chance that you won’t. All I’m saying is that there is better chance that you will “really like” one of these movies rather than the latest installment in the Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean franchises.

***

While my last paragraph may sound as if I have a reflexive aversion to movies that are part of a franchise, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether it’s part of a franchise or not, well made movies with fresh perspectives are worth the time of movie-lovers. The big movie opening this weekend is the second reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, Spider-Man: Homecoming and I’m really looking forward to it. The early indicators from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB are all positive. Keep an eye on this one.

Some Facts Are Not So Trivial

As I’ve mentioned before on these pages, I always pay a visit to the IMDB trivia link after watching a movie. Often I will find a fun but ultimately trivial fact such as the one I discovered after viewing Beauty and the Beast. According to IMDB, Emma Watson was offered the Academy Award winning role of Mia in La La Land but turned it down because she was committed to Beauty and the Beast. Coincidentally, the heretofore non-musical Ryan Gosling was offered the role of the Beast and turned it down because he was committed to that other musical, La La Land. You really can’t fault either of their decisions. Both movies have been huge successes.

On Tuesday I watched the “really like” 1935 film classic Mutiny on the Bounty.My visit to the trivia pages of this film unearthed facts that were more consequential than trivial. For example, the film was the first movie of  historically factual events with actors playing historically factual people to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The previous eight winners were all based on fiction. Real life became a viable source for great films as the next two Best Picture winners, The Great Ziegfeld and The Life of Emile Zola, were also biographies. Interestingly, it would be another 25 years before another non-fictional film, Lawrence of Arabia, would win a Best Picture award.

Mutiny on the Bounty also has the distinction of being the only movie ever to have three actors nominated for Best Actor. Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, and Franchot Tone were all nominated for Best Actor. Everyone expected one of them to win. After splitting the votes amongst themselves, none of them won. Oscar officials vowed to never let that happen again. For the next Academy Awards in 1937, they created two new awards for Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role. Since then, in only six other instances, have two actors from the same movie been nominated for Best Actor.

Before leaving Mutiny on the Bounty, there is one more non-trivial fact to relate about the movie. The characters of Captain Bligh and First Mate Fletcher Christian grow to hate each other in the plot. To further that requisite hate in the movie, Irving Thalberg, one of the producers, purposely cast the overtly gay Charles Laughton as Bligh and the notorious homophobe Gable as Fletcher Christian. This crass manipulation of the actors’ prejudice seemed to have worked as the hate between the two men was evident on the set and clearly translated to the screen. This kind of morally corrupt behavior was not uncommon in the boardrooms of the Studio system in Hollywood at the time.

Some other older Best Picture winning films with facts, not trivial, but consequential to the film industry or the outside world include:

  • It Happened One Night, another Clark Gable classic, in 1935 became the first of only three films to win the Oscar “grand slam”. The other two were One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Silence of the Lambs. The Oscar “grand slam” is when a movie wins all five major awards, Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay.
  • Gone with the Wind, along with being the first Best Picture filmed in color,  is the longest movie, at four hours, to win Best Picture. Hattie McDaniel became the first black actor to be nominated and win an Oscar for her role in the film.
  • In Casablanca, there is a scene where the locals drown out the Nazi song “Watch on the Rhine” with their singing of the “Marseillaise”. In that scene you can see tears running down the cheeks of many of the locals. For many of these extras the tears were real since they were actual refugees from Nazi tyranny. Ironically, many of the Nazis in the scene were also German Jews who had escaped Germany.
  • To prepare for his 1946 award winning portrayal of an alcoholic in The Lost Weekend, IMDB reveals that “Ray Milland actually checked himself into Bellevue Hospital with the help of resident doctors, in order to experience the horror of a drunk ward. Milland was given an iron bed and he was locked inside the “booze tank.” That night, a new arrival came into the ward screaming, an entrance which ignited the whole ward into hysteria. With the ward falling into bedlam, a robed and barefooted Milland escaped while the door was ajar and slipped out onto 34th Street where he tried to hail a cab. When a suspicious cop spotted him, Milland tried to explain, but the cop didn’t believe him, especially after he noticed the Bellevue insignia on his robe. The actor was dragged back to Bellevue where it took him a half-hour to explain his situation to the authorities before he was finally released.”
  • In the 1947 film Gentlemen’s Agreement about anti-Semitism, according to IMDB, “The movie mentions three real people well-known for their racism and anti-Semitism at the time: Sen. Theodore Bilbo (D-Mississippi), who advocated sending all African-Americans back to Africa; Rep. John Rankin (D-Mississippi), who called columnist Walter Winchell  “the little kike” on the floor of the House of Representatives; and leader of “Share Our Wealth” and “Christian Nationalist Crusade” Gerald L. K. Smith, who tried legal means to prevent Twentieth Century-Fox from showing the movie in Tulsa. He lost the case, but then sued Fox for $1,000,000. The case was thrown out of court in 1951.”

One of the definitions of “trivia” is “an inessential fact; trifle”. Because IMDB lists facts under the Trivia link does not make them trivia. The facts presented here either promoted creative growth in the film industry or made a significant statement about society. Some facts are not so trivial.

 

 

 

The Art of Selecting “Really Like” Movies: Oscar Provides a Helping Hand

Sunday is Oscar night!! From my perspective, the night is a little bittersweet. The movies that have been nominated offer up “really like” prospects to watch in the coming months. That’s a good thing. Oscar night, though, also signals the end of the best time of the year for new releases. Between now and November, there won’t be much more than a handful of new Oscar worthy movies released to the public. That’s a bad thing. There is only a 35.8% chance I will “really like” a movie that doesn’t earn a single Academy Award nomination. On the other hand, a single minor nomination increases the “really like” probability to 56%. If a movie wins one of the major awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay), the probability increases to 69.7%.

At the end of last week’s post, I expressed a desire to come up with a “really like” movie indicator that was independent of the website data driven indicators. The statistical significance of Academy Award performance would seem to provide the perfect solution. All movies released over the past 90 years have been considered for Oscar nominations. A movie released in 1936 has statistical equivalence to a movie released in 2016 in terms of Academy Award performance.

By using the Total # of Ratings Quintiles introduced last week credibility weights can be assigned to each Quintile to allocate website data driven probabilities and Oscar performance  probabilities. These ten movies, seen more than 15 years ago, illustrates how the allocation works.

My Top Ten Seen Before Movie Prospects 
Not Seen in Last 15 Years
Movie Title Total Ratings Quintile Website Driven Probability Oscar Driven Probability Net  “Really Like” Probability
Deer Hunter, The 4 97.1% 73.8% 88.5%
Color Purple, The 4 97.9% 69.3% 87.4%
Born on the Fourth of July 4 94.0% 73.8% 86.6%
Out of Africa 4 94.0% 73.8% 86.6%
My Left Foot 3 94.0% 73.8% 83.9%
Coal Miner’s Daughter 3 97.9% 69.3% 83.6%
Love Story 3 92.7% 72.4% 82.6%
Fight Club 5 94.0% 55.4% 81.9%
Tender Mercies 2 94.0% 73.8% 81.2%
Shine 3 88.2% 73.8% 81.0%

The high degree of credible website data in Quintiles 4 & 5 weights the Net Probability closer to the Website driven probability. The Quintile 3 movies are weighted 50/50 and the resulting Net Probability ends up at the midpoint between the Data Driven probability and the Oscar driven probability. The movie in Quintile 2, Tender Mercies, which has a less credible probability from the website driven result, tilts closer to the Oscar driven probability.

The concern I raised last week about the “really like” viability of older movies I’ve never seen before goes away with this change. Take a look at my revised older movie top ten now.

My Top Ten Never Seen Movie Prospects 
Never Seen Movies =  > Release Date + 6 Months
Movie Title Last Data Update Release Date Total # of Ratings “Really Like” Probability
Movie Title Total Ratings Quintile Website Driven Probability Oscar Driven Probability Net  “Really Like” Probability
Yearling, The 1 42.1% 73.8% 71.4%
More the Merrier, The 1 26.9% 73.8% 70.2%
12 Angry Men (1997) 1 42.1% 69.3% 67.2%
Lili 1 26.9% 69.3% 66.0%
Sleuth 1 42.1% 66.8% 64.9%
Of Mice and Men (1939) 1 42.1% 66.8% 64.9%
In a Better World 1 41.5% 66.8% 64.9%
Thousand Clowns, A 1 11.8% 69.3% 64.9%
Detective Story 1 11.8% 69.3% 64.9%
Body and Soul 1 11.8% 69.3% 64.9%

Strong Oscar performing movies that I’ve never seen before become viable prospects. Note that all of these movies are Quintile 1 movies. Because of their age and lack of interest from today’s movie website visitors, these movies would never achieve enough credible ratings data to become recommended movies.

There is now an ample supply of viable, Oscar-worthy, “really like” prospects to hold me over until next year’s Oscar season. Enjoy your Oscar night in La La Land.

 

December Brings Oscar Joy and Holiday Family Fun at the Movies

Our family is spread all over the USA. But, during Christmas week, our family is drawn  home like a magnet to reconnect, laugh, and cherish each other’s company. One of our traditional Christmas activities is a trip to the local movieplex for our Christmas family movie. We aren’t unique. This is a scene that plays out amongst families all over the globe. The challenge is to select a movie that everyone in the family will enjoy. Movie producers understand this and will generally release a high quality, hyper promoted escapist flick right around Christmas. Last year it was Star Wars: the Force Awakens, which was our family’s choice in 2015. Producers will also release Oscar bait that is accessible to a broad spectrum of movie tastes. For example, Titanic, the 1997 box office champion and Academy Award winner, was released on December 19th.

Here are my candidates for December visits to the movie theater. If your family, like ours, doesn’t include children, all five of these might make your list for family movie night options.

Jackie      Release Date: December 2             “Really Like” Probability: 55%

John F. Kennedy had an average approval rating of 70.1% during his Presidency, the highest post-World War II Presidential approval rating in history. When he was assassinated on November 22, 1963, the nation mourned the death, not only of their youthful President, but also of their innocence as a nation. It was the death of Camelot. This movie allows us to mourn again through the eyes of John Kennedy’s wife Jackie. The movie is on most Best Picture lists and Natalie Portman is considered a front-runner for Best Actress for her portrayal of the title character.

La La Land     Release Date: December 16             “Really Like” Probability: 70%

This is the movie I can’t wait to see. It has a good chance of being our Christmas family movie this year. It is listed on AwardCircuit as the number one Best Picture contender. It is a musical romance starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Wait, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling can sing? Yes they can. Emma Stone got her first TV role in 2004 as Laurie Partridge in MTV’s show In Search of the Partridge Family. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Partridge Family, they were a fictional family musical group from a 1970’s TV show called The Partridge Family that actually produced a hit single. Ryan Gosling got his break in 1993 when he won an audition to be on the The New Mickey Mouse Club. During the two years he was on the show he lived with Justin Timberlake and his family.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story    Release Date: December 16     “Really Like” Probability: 65%

This will be the box office winner in December. When tickets became available for pre-sale this past Monday, the movie ticket purchasing website, Fandango, crashed because of demand for tickets. This is the movie that will be on almost everyone’s family movie night list and, yes, it will be on our family’s list as well. It is the story of how the plans to the Death Star that play such a prominent role in the original Star Wars, made their way into the hands of the rebels. It is a stand-alone movie. There will be no sequel, according to Lucasfilm President, Kathleen Kennedy. And, yes, Darth Vader does make an appearance.

Passengers      Release Date: December 21           “Really Like” Probability: 60%

It’s always tricky to recommend a movie that no one, not even critics, has seen. I’m looking forward to this movie because I’m a fan of both Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. It is their first movie together and I’m curious whether these two attractive young stars will have chemistry or not. I’m a fan of good Sci Fi and the premise is intriguing; two space traveling passengers, who are part of a crew of thousands, wake up 90 years early. Both the director and the screenwriter have limited resumes but have created some interesting movies including The Imitation Game ( Director Morten Tyldum) and the recently released Doctor Strange (Screenwriter Jon Spaihts). The producers are opening this movie just before Christmas, which suggests that they believe this is a movie that people will want to see. I hope they are right because I’m one of them.

Fences        Release Date: December 25           “Really Like” Probability: 60%

The revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning 1983 play Fences opened on Broadway April 26, 2010. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning three, Best Revival and, Best Actor and Actress for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. On Christmas Day, this play, with most of its Broadway cast intact makes the leap to the big screen. I expect that when Academy Awards nominations are announced in January, this movie will have its name called often. Awards Circuit  has it ranked second on its Best Picture list and predicts an additional seven nominations.It is a movie about race relations in the 1950’s told through the experience of a black family living in Pittsburgh. In addition to playing the lead, Denzel Washington will be behind the camera as well as Director. The buzz is that he will be a double nominee for both roles. This is the type of socially significant movie that Oscar voters love. I think I’ll love it as well.

As a familiar Christmas carol sings out, “It’s the most wonderful (movie) time of the year.”

 

While I Was Away, I Had a Thought or Two

Last Friday my wife and I moved into our new place. Not all of my time this past week was spent wandering through the maze of boxes to be unpacked and wondering which one contained our toaster. Every now and then random ideas for movie studies and articles popped into my head and I’m back to share them with you.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I saw the movie Sing Street. This is the third movie directed by John Carney that I’ve seen, Once and Begin Again being the other two, and I’ve “really liked” all three. There is an identifiable DNA to the movies that certain directors make. In Carney’s case, all three movies are about making music and the not always easy interrelationship the process has with love. There is also a certain DNA to the movies we enjoy watching. I think sites like Netflix and Movielens do a pretty good job of linking our movie watching DNA with a director’s movie DNA. In the coming weeks I plan to explore Movie DNA further.

October is just around the corner and another awards season is upon us. Already buzz about Oscar worthy movies is coming out of the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, where La La Land has been anointed a Best Picture front runner. In the spirit of the season I’ve begun a data driven study of who are the top male and female actors of each decade for which Oscars have been awarded.

As I’ve begun to look at actors who’ve been nominated for awards in the earlier years of movie history, I’ve run across a number of movies that I’ve never seen before that pique my interest. Is it possible that movie sites like Netflix aren’t as effective in collecting movie DNA for vintage movies as they are for contemporary movies? Is it possible that fewer vintage movies get recommended by Netflix because there is less data in their database for movies that predate it’s existence as a movie recommender website? Would Netflix have surfaced John Carney’s three movies for me if they were made between 1947 and 1956 rather than 2007 to 2016?

As I mentioned in my last pre-sabbatical post, I’m reducing my posts to one  post each Thursday. For me, this blog is all about sharing the results of the research ideas  I’ve involved myself in. It seemed that with two posts a week I was spending too much time writing and not enough time generating the research that you might find interesting. So that’s my plan and I’m sticking to it, at least until I need another sabbatical.

The Mad Movie Man is back and there is much to do.

Post Navigation