Will I "Really Like" this Movie?

Navigating Movie Website Ratings to Select More Enjoyable Movies

Archive for the tag “The Big Sick”

“Really Like” Movie Experiences With My Family at Thanksgiving

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.

 

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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!

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