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Posts Tagged ‘movies

“Don’t pay any attention to the critics – don’t even ignore them”*…

 

It is no surprise that critics and viewers alike agree that The Godfather is the “best film” among the ~2600 films considered on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 100% score among professional reviewers and a 98% score from the audience.  It is perhaps somewhat more surprising to learn which films divide those two groups; thanks to Benjamin Moore, we can contemplate that…

“Overrated” and “underrated” are slippery terms to try to quantify. An interesting way of looking at this, I thought, would be to compare the reviews of film critics with those of Joe Public, reasoning that a film which is roundly-lauded by the Hollywood press but proved disappointing for the real audience would be “overrated” and vice versa.

To get some data for this I turned to the most prominent review aggregator: Rotten Tomatoes

On the whole it should be noted that critics and audience agree most of the time, as shown by the Pearson correlation coefficient between the two scores (0.71 across >1200 films).  [But] using our earlier definition it’s easy to build a table of those films where the audience ending up really liking a film that was panned by critics:

Here we’re looking at those films which the critics loved, but paying audiences were then less enthused:

Explore an interactive version of the chart at the top of this post here; and read more of Moore’s methodology and findings here.

* Samuel Goldwyn

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As we think for ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker”s “We Want Beer” parade was held. Prohibition was in it 12th year; and while that abstemious regime intended to end alcohol consumption, it had succeeded simply in pushing into speakeasies and other illegal settings.  Government officials like Walker watched as gangsters got rich, while city and state tax coffers shrank. (The blow had been softened at the Federal level by the introduction of an income tax.)

Walker positioned his “legalize and tax beer” pitch as a stimulus package:  increased tax revenue would mean more jobs.  And in the depressed economy of the times, the argument resonated : an estimated crowd of 100,000 marched, pining not only for a cold one but also for for employment and an end to the violence and corruption borne of Prohibition.  Similarly large crowds protested in Chicago and other major cities– all rallying behind a “Beer for Prosperity” battle cry.  Soon the voices of the unemployed drowned out the buzz-and-revenue killing voices of the “drys.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election later that same year paved the way for The 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition; it was passed the following year.

Beer March images

 [A portion of this post first appeared on Boing Boing, where your correspondent is a contributor]

“In a World…”*…

 

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Looking back on the evolution of the movie trailer we must consider the evolution of how we watch movies. Unlike the multiplexes we’re accustomed to today, the first movie theaters in the 1910s had only one screen. You would pay the admission, say five cents, and you could sit in the theater for as long as you wanted. Show times weren’t precise – a feature length movie along with a short films and a cartoon would play in a continuous loop and you could watch it as many times as you wanted.

1913 would be what many historians consider year zero for the movie trailer. In New York City, Nils Granlund, advertising manager of Marcus Loew theaters, made a short little promotional film for the Broadway play “Pleasure Seekers” showcasing actual rehearsal footage. The idea of showing ads between films was a hit – at least to the movie theater owners – The practice of creating and splicing in promotional pieces into the screening rotation was quickly implemented by the Loew theater chain as well as others.

Around the same time in Chicago, Col. William Selig, one of film’s earliest pioneers, would engineer another way to get audiences to the movies. Selig noticed the popularity of print serials in newspapers so he approached the Chicago Tribune, a newspaper embattled in a circulation war for who could be the most sensationalist, to adapt a film version of a print serial. The result was a 13 episode serial entitled “The Adventures of Kathlyn”.

This wasn’t the first film serial, it was actually the second; but it introduced a new device to film marketing. You see, each week a new installment would debut along with an article in the Chicago Tribune that continuing the story. What made “The Adventures of Kathlyn” different was at the end of each installment something would happen to put the characters in some sort of peril – a cliffhanger often with a title card inviting patrons to come back the following week to see what happens.

So Thus the idea of the trailer was born – and so too the term – as these promotions for upcoming attractions would play at the end of the film – hence trailer.

Most of these promotions were produced by the theaters themselves but by 1916, the movie studios themselves began officially releasing for upcoming movies. These first film trailers were pretty basic – they generally consist of snippets of film with some text overlay such as the cast of stars…

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Learn how gentle enticements like these grew to become the better-and-louder-than-the-actual-film extravaganzas of today in the video at the top of this post and at “The History of the Movie Trailer.”

 Don LaFontaine, the voice of hundreds of thousands of TV spots and more than 5,000 times in movies and movie trailers

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As we  contemplate coming attractions, we might recall that it was on this date in 1927 that the first organizational meeting of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was convened by Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM.  The 230 charter members elected Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. the group’s first president. Mayer’s original intent was to provide a forum for labor mediation and to improve the industry’s image; the first of those goals never got traction, so the second– the burnishing of Hollywood’s star– became the group’s primary focus.  By 1929, the AMPAS had established the Academy Awards, and had joined with the University of Southern California to create the first film school.

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Happy Mother’s Day! 

 

“Nobody makes movies bad on purpose”*…

 

There are currently over 235,000 films on IMDb; their average rating is 6.31, with half the movies clustered with ratings between 5.5 and 7.2…  but someone (or in this case, something) has to come last; and in this case, it’s the Bollywood film Gunday, which weights in with a 1.4– the only film in the database with a rating lower than 1.8.

But Gunday was the top-grossing February movie in Bollywood history, and well-received by U.S. critics: The New York Times’ Rachel Saltz ended her review of Gunday by calling it “downright enjoyable.” RogerEbert.com gave it three out of four stars, and Variety called it “a boisterous and entertaining period crime drama.”   So how did it win the race to the floor against such formidable competition as Gigli, or Battlefield Earth, or Troll 2? FiveThirtyEight explains

The film made a misstep that has doomed it to the bottom of the IMDb pile. “Gunday” offended a huge, sensitive, organized and social-media-savvy group of people who were encouraged to mobilize to protest the movie by giving it the lowest rating possible on IMDb. Of “Gunday’s” ratings, 36,000 came from outside the U.S., and 91 percent of all reviewers gave it one star. The next lowest-rated movie on IMDb — 1.8 stars overall — has a more even distribution of ratings, with only 71 percent of reviewers giving it one star. The evidence suggests the push to down-vote “Gunday” was successful, and that shows just how vulnerable data can be, especially when it’s crowdsourced.

The protest against “Gunday” is the most recent cause célèbre of a Bangladeshi nationalist movement called Gonojagoron Moncho, or National Awakening Stage. Gonojagoron Moncho was founded in response to the trial of Abdul Quader Molla, a Bangladeshi Islamist leader who last year was found guilty of killing hundreds of civilians as part of a paramilitary wing during Bangladesh’s liberation war from Pakistan in 1971. He was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes by the Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunal. But many Bangladeshis found that sentence too lenient, and more than 100,000 of them gathered in Shahbag Square in the capital city of Dhaka to challenge it.

After months of protests and escalating violence from counter-protestors, Gonojagoron Moncho got its wish. Molla’s political party, Jammat-e-Islami, was banned from participating in future elections, and Molla himself was retried, sentenced to execution and hanged to death late last year.

Flush with success, the movement has since become an online alliance of bloggers focused on protecting Bangladesh’s history and promoting the country’s image. That includes protesting “Gunday,” because of the film’s reference to the Bangladesh Liberation War as the Indo-Pak war. In its first 11 minutes, the movie claims that India alone defeated Pakistan, and implies that an independent Bangladesh was simply a result of the fight.

On Twitter, activists used the hashtag #GundayHumiliatedHistoryOfBangladesh to get the word out about the protests and to ask supporters to bury the film on IMDb. (By using a quarter of their character allotment on the hashtag alone, though, there wasn’t much room for the activists to elaborate.) Facebook groups were formed specifically to encourage irate Bangladeshis and others to down-vote the movie. (A sample call to action: “If you’re a Bangladeshi and care enough to not let some Indian crappy movie distort our history of independence, let’s unite and boycott this movie!!!”)…

Read the tale in its entirety at “The Story Behind the Worst Movie on IMDb.”

* Roland Emmerich (who should know…)

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As we ponder the pointing of our thumbs, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo premiered in San Francisco, in which it was set.  Vertigo‘s critical arc was the opposite of Gunday‘s:  The film received mixed reviews in its initial release, but is now routinely cited as a defining work of the American auteur’s career.  Attracting significant scholarly attention, it replaced Citizen Kane as the best film of all time in the 2012 British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound critics’ poll, has appeared repeatedly in best film polls by the American Film Institute… and has an IMDb rating of 8.5.

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Written by LW

May 9, 2014 at 1:01 am

“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen”*…

 

@OnePerfectShot, a service of @TheGoeffTodd,  provides a steady Twitter stream of just that:  a series of exquisite shots from great films.

[TotH to Super Punch]

* Anthony Burgess

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As we fiddle with our framing, we might send colorful birthday greetings to Keith Haring; he was born on this date in 1958.  Haring dropped out of commercial art school in Pennsylvania, moved to New York City, and became involved in the street art scene in the late 70s.  He quickly developed a signature style, and began to get recognition for a series of painting in New York’s subway system that were documented by the photographer Tseng Kwong Chi.  By 1982, Haring’s fame had grown, and he’d begun to organize installations at Club 57.  Openly gay and an engaged social activist, Haring filled his work with social, political, and gender comment, though largely in a textured, “buried” way.  His most overt political statement was his 1989 painting “Silence = Death,” a riff on the 1986 poster that became the unofficial logo of ACT UP.  Haring died of AIDS-related complications in 1990.

Haring’s “Silence = Death”

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Written by LW

May 4, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Symbolize and summarize”*…

 

Saul Bass was one of America’s premiere graphic designers through the second half of the Twentieth Century. He created some of the best-remembered, most iconic logos in North America:  e.g., the Bell Telephone logo (1969) and the successor AT&T globe (1983), Continental Airlines (1968), Dixie (1969), United Airlines (1974), and Warner Communications (1974).  

But for your correspondent’s money, his major contribution was his extraordinary series of movie titles and posters, created for the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese.  Prior to Bass, movie title sequences had largely been a series of “credit cards,” functioning in effect as title pages.  Bass developed the opening as a way to set the emotional stage for the film to follow.  As screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi said of Bass and his second wife and collaborator Elaine, “you write a book of 300 to 400 pages and then you boil it down to a script of maybe 100 to 150 pages. Eventually you have the pleasure of seeing that the Basses have knocked you right out of the ballpark. They have boiled it down to four minutes flat.”

In the broadest sense, all modern opening title sequences that introduce the mood or theme of a film can be seen as descendent of Bass’s innovative work. In particular, though, one can detect the influence of Bass in the title sequences for some recent movies and television series (especially those set in the 1960s) that have purposely emulated the graphic style of his animated sequences from that era: e.g.,  Catch Me If You Can (2002), X-Men: First Class (2011), and the opening to the AMC series Mad Men.

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See a more complete frame board of Bass’ North By Northwest opening here; browse more of his extraordinary canon here– all courtesy of our old friend Christian Annyas.

* Saul Bass

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As we mute our cell phones, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that Alfred Hitchcock’s muse, the Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly, became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco.

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Written by LW

April 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”*…

 

The Superbowl is past. so now our collective anticipation can shift to the Academy Awards…  by way of getting into the spirit, Nelson Carvajal‘s supercut of every winner of the Visual Effects Oscar since that category was (re)introduced in 1977:

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* Arthur C. Clarke

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As we ponder perspective, we might recall that it was on this date in 1980, on the TV series That’s Incredible, that Cal Tech graduate Fred Newman dueled at the free throw line with the NBA’s all-time best free throw shooter, Rick Barry.  Barry won the contest, but Newman sank 88 straight– while blindfolded.

Without the blindfold, Newman has made 1,481 consecutive free throws, far short of St. Martin’s Guinness record of 5,221. But he did set a record for most free throws made in a 24-hour period, soldiering on to sink 20,371 even after the skin on his fingertips separated and bled. “It didn’t affect my shot any,” he said of the blood, “but the ball got sticky and I had to wipe it off every hour or so.”

Read more about Fred here; see the video from which the frame above is excerpted here.

Written by LW

February 5, 2014 at 1:01 am

“A good film script should be able to do completely without dialogue”*…

 

But in the meantime…

… our friends at Flowing Data offer an expanded version of their earlier graphic survey of well-known movie lines [c.f., Diagramming (Famous) Sentences].  Click here for (a larger version of) the chart from which the image above is a small excerpt.

* David Mamet

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As we aspire to speak aphoristically, we might recall that it was on this date in 1980 that the public learned of the FBI operation known as ABSCAM.  Born in 1978 as a sting operation aimed at forgery and stolen art, it shifted to focus on public corruption; aided by a convicted con-man, the FBI videotaped politicians as they were offered bribes by a fictional Middle Eastern sheik in return for political favors.  The investigation ultimately led to the conviction of a United States Senator, six members of the United States House of Representatives, one member of the New Jersey State Senate, members of the Philadelphia City Council, the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, and an inspector for the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.

And of course, it provided the inspiration for American Hustle.

A videotape played at the first Abscam trial on Oct. 14, 1980, showing Pennsylvania Congressman Michael “Ozzie” Myers accepting an envelope containing $50,000 from undercover FBI agent Anthony Amoroso. Looking on is Camden Mayor Angelo Errichetti and con man Mel Weinberg.

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Written by LW

February 2, 2014 at 1:01 am

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