erik lundegaard

Movies - The Oscars posts

Friday September 06, 2013

Early Oscar Predictions: The Signal and the Noise, Noise, Noise

OscarThe other day, Amir, on Nathaniel Rogers' Film Experience site, threw up a post about the 10 biggest awards-season flops: movies that had buzz, then didn't. A few of these speak ill of the Academy (both “Zodiac” and “In the Wild” deserved more attention), but most (“Bobby,” “J. Edgar”) speak ill of the buzz machine, which makes noise without knowledge, without, often, having seen the movie in question. This machine, some combo of PR and online prognostication, seems to be getting bigger and louder.

Interestingly, Nathaniel himself has just joined the main online prognosticators, David Poland's Movie City News' Gurus of Gold, which, a few weeks ago, tossed up its early predictions for 2013's best picture. (Click for a bigger version. Or go right to the source.)

August 2013 early Oscar predictions: Movie City News Gurus of Gold

Many haven't seen the movies in question yet so I'm sure we'll have a few “J. Edgar”s in the group. But most have seen “Lee Daniels' The Butler,” and yet there it is, up there at the top.“ It's such a nothing movie, such awful history. But then ”The Help" was nominated. Awful has nothing to do with it. 

Question. Do buzz machines like MCN actually help promote the unworthy? In Nathan Silver's dichotomy, do they create any kind of signal or simply more noise?

On his site, Nathaniel often goes over past Oscars, and what should have been nominated (or should have won) instead of the mediocrity that did. The Academy, like any group, has a long legacy in this regard. But does the machine contribute to this problem? By forcing the discussion into what will be nominated rather than what should be nominated?

Stay tuned.

Posted at 06:37 AM on Sep 06, 2013 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Wednesday February 27, 2013

Zack Wagman Ranks the Best Pictures: from 'Casablanca' to 'Crash'

poster for "Casablanca" (1943)Zack Wagman Ranks the Best Pictures

1. Casablanca (1943)
2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
3. Annie Hall (1977)
4. Schindler’s List (1993)
5. Chicago (2002)
6. The Godfather Part II (1974)
7. The Godfather (1972)
8. All About Eve (1950)
9. Amadeus (1984)
10. The Apartment (1960)

11. Forrest Gump (1994)
12. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
13. Braveheart (1995)
14. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
15. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
16. No Country for Old Men (2007)
17. Titanic (1997)
18. Gladiator (2000)
19. The Departed (2006)
20. Oliver! (1968)

21. Gone with the Wind (1939)
22. Rocky (1976)
23. On the Waterfront (1954)
24. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
25. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
26. American Beauty (1999)
27. Ghandi (1982)
28. The Sound of Music (1965)
29. The Sting (1973)
30. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

31. Unforgiven (1992)
32. The French Connection (1971)
33. The Deer Hunter (1978)
34. Patton (1970)
35. It Happened One Night (1934)
36. An American in Paris (1951)
37. West Side Story (1961)
38. The Hurt Locker (2009)
39. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
40. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

41. Platoon (1986)
42. Rebecca (1940)
43. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
44. Rain Man (1988)
45. Terms of Endearment (1983)
46. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
47. Mutiny of the Bounty (1935)
48. My Fair Lady (1964)
49. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
50. Marty (1955)

51. Ordinary People (1980)
52. Ben-Hur (1959)
53. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
54. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
55. The English Patient (1996)
56. Dances with Wolves (1990)
57. The King’s Speech (2010)
58. The Artist (2011)
59. Out of Africa (1985)
60. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

61. All the King’s Men (1949)
62. The Lost Weekend (1945)
63. Chariots of Fire (1981)
64. Gigi (1958)
65. From Here to Eternity (1953)
66. You Can’t Take it With You (1938)
67. The Last Emperor (1987)
68. Cavalcade (1933)
69. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
70. Grand Hotel (1932)

71. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
72. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
73. Crash (2005)

Haven’t Seen

A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Tom Jones (1963)
Hamlet (1948)
Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
Going My Way (1944)
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
Cimarron (1931)
The Broadway Melody (1929)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1928)
Wings (1927)

Zack's Comment

I wanted to write in “Pocahontas” but they wouldn't let me...

My comment

But if we started there, where would we end? Before or after Ed Wood? Interesting fifth choice, btw. I guess I had the same problem with “Chicago” that I do with most CGI movies: a sense of claustrophobia.

OK, who's next?

Rank Oscar's best pictures from 1927 to today.

Posted at 11:38 AM on Feb 27, 2013 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Sunday February 24, 2013

Five Reasons Why Seth MacFarlane's 'We Saw Your Boobs' is the Best Thing To Happen to Oscar in Years

Let me count the ways.

  1. The Oscars tend to skew female and gay.
  2. There is no greater straight male song about the movies than “We Saw Your Boobs.” It's what every straight guy remembers. Many a gay guy, too. Don't even get me started on gay women.
  3. It was presented within a framework—Capt. Kirk returning from the 23rd century to warn host Seth MacFarlane his Oscar show was about to go down in disaster—that softened it. That made it palatable.
  4. That framework—Capt. Fucking Kirk—is also a straight-guy framework.
  5. Better, that framework gets out in front of the obvious ragging-on-the-Oscar-host that we've been subjected to for the last 15 years.

I was dubious about Seth MacFarlane hosting. I'm not a fan of his shows. I laughed at “Ted” but felt unclean afterwards. And to be honest, a lot of his bits tonight were merely so-so. But “We Saw Your Boobs”? Not just comedically brilliant, but tactically brilliant for the demographic that Oscar needs to bring back to the show. It's the viral moment Oscar needs. See it here.

Seth MacFarlane: We Saw Your Boobs

Seth MacFarlane and the L.A. Gay Men's Chorus singing about boobs.

Charlize Theron: We Saw Your Boobs song

“Reaction shots” from actresses like Charlize Theron made it twice as funny.

Posted at 11:00 PM on Feb 24, 2013 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Crunching the Numbers: What are the Most- and Least-Popular Best Picture Winners of All Time?

Welcome to Oscar day.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, my friend Vinny crunch the numbers of the first 71 readers (we're now close to 100) who ranked the best picture winners. He explains his methodology here:

I started out sorting results by “Rank” (Ex.: “The Godfather at No. 1; ”Crash“ at No. 77), but soon switched to “Percentile Rank” (0% to 100%, with 100% being best) because it gives a better sense of the popularity of the films. Emily, for example, who only watched 21 movies, ranked “Slumdog Millionare” as her least favorite (#21), putting that film on even footing with a very good film that was ranked #21 by someone who has seen most or all of the best pictures. CM Gardner saw 81 filmes and ranked “Schindler’s List” as #21. Putting it in terms of percentage makes it easier to see how people feel about the movies.

So what are the most-popular best pictures? Here is our top 20:

No. Title Year Views Avg Score
1 The Godfather 1972 67 84.36
2 Casablanca 1943 67 82.87
3 All About Eve 1950 61 80.6
4 The Godfather Part II 1974 62 79.36
5 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans 1928 29 78.67
6 Annie Hall 1977 66 75.34
7 Schindler's List 1993 66 71.66
8 Gone with the Wind 1939 64 70.86
9 Lawrence of Arabia 1962 55 69.6
10 The Silence of the Lambs 1991 69 68.65
11 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 1975 66 68.33
12 The Apartment 1960 56 67.35
13 On the Waterfront 1954 55 67.13
14 Amadeus 1984 62 67.04
15 No Country for Old Men 2007 67 64.97
16 It Happened One Night 1934 50 64.07
17 Rebecca 1940 49 62.91
18 The Deer Hunter 1978 49 62.41
19 The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957 47 62.02
20 All Quiet on the Western Front 1930 30 59.1

I'm pleasantly surprised that “Annie Hall,” a favorite of mine, ranks so high. I expected “Lawrence” to be a bit higher. But overall these are the expected best-of-the-best-pictures. The best pictures with status and gravitas.

All the decades are represented: One from the 1920s (an unofficial one, unfortunately), three from the '30s, two from the '40s, three from the '50s, two from the '60s, five from the 1970s, one from the '80s, two from the '90s, and one from the aughts. We'll cut the 2010s some slack. As Karen C. sang, it's only just begun.

The next 20:

No. Title Year Views Avg Score
21 The Departed 2006 58 59
22 West Side Story 1961 61 58.18
23 Unforgiven 1992 56 57.98
24 The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King 2003 64 56.86
25 Midnight Cowboy 1969 55 56.49
26 The Best Years of Our Lives 1946 33 56.48
27 The Hurt Locker 2009 65 55.42
28 The Sound of Music 1965 62 54.52
29 From Here to Eternity 1953 45 54.2
30 American Beauty 1999 66 54.18
31 The French Connection 1971 47 53.64
32 Ordinary People 1980 48 52.92
33 Platoon 1986 53 52.74
34 Terms of Endearment 1983 52 48.36
35 Kramer vs. Kramer 1979 58 48.35
36 The Sting 1973 49 48.34
37 The English Patient 1996 60 47.14
38 A Man for All Seasons 1966 37 46.91
39 Hamlet 1948 30 46.38
40 Patton 1970 35 45.91

I think of “West Side Story” as firt tier but modern moviegoers have generally been tough on musicals. Surprised “The English Patient” is so high. Don't people listen to Elaine Benes? Or Brenda? Ditto “Kramer vs. Kramer.” “Better than 'Hamlet.'”

The next 20:

No. Title Year Views Avg Score
41 My Fair Lady 1964 58 45.69
42 An American in Paris 1951 48 45.34
43 The Lost Weekend 1945 34 44.9
44 Grand Hotel 1932 29 43.68
45 The Artist 2011 65 43.06
46 The Last Emperor 1987 47 42.46
47 Chicago 2002 60 42.34
48 All the King's Men 1949 29 42.13
49 In the Heat of the Night 1967 45 41.91
50 Titanic 1997 69 41.11
51 Wings 1927 20 40.99
52 Ben-Hur 1959 51 40.18
53 How Green Was My Valley 1941 29 39.9
54 Shakespeare in Love 1998 69 39.61
55 Mutiny of the Bounty 1935 28 39.53
56 The King's Speech 2010 64 38.16
57 Mrs. Miniver 1942 26 38.13
58 You Can't Take it With You 1938 29 38.11
59 Oliver! 1968 42 37.41
60 Rocky 1976 55 36.58

“An American in Paris” should be higher. I'm also a fan of “The Last Emperor,” if only to look at its beautiful colors. One of these days I'll have to finally see “Ben-Hur,” if only for the Gore Vidal subtext.

Heading to the bottom now.

No. Title Year Views Avg Score
61 Ghandi 1982 51 36.15
62 Million Dollar Baby 2004 60 35.54
63 Rain Man 1988 60 35.44
64 Slumdog Millionaire 2008 71 34.93
65 Out of Africa 1985 48 34.19
66 Gladiator 2000 66 34.18
67 Forrest Gump 1994 71 34.08
68 The Life of Emile Zola 1937 11 32.69
69 Chariots of Fire 1981 51 32.37
70 Marty 1955 32 31.52
71 Tom Jones 1963 30 30.96
72 Dances with Wolves 1990 56 30.19
73 A Beautiful Mind 2001 66 26.39
74 Gigi 1958 34 25.88
75 Braveheart 1995 61 25.47
76 Driving Miss Daisy 1989 56 25.24
77 Gentleman's Agreement 1947 26 24.97
78 Going My Way 1944 19 22.32
79 The Great Ziegfeld 1936 16 18.19
80 The Greatest Show on Earth 1952 28 15.23

While I'm surprised moviegoers have been as unimpressed with “Gentleman's Agreement” as I've been, these are definitely the “meh” best pictures. How sad that the Academy has given us so much “meh” under the guise of “best.”

Finally, the dregs:

No. Title Year Views Avg Score
81 Crash 2005 62 14.92
82 Around the World in 80 Days 1956 32 13.2
83 Cimarron 1931 12 12.61
84 Cavalcade 1933 12 8.44
85 The Broadway Melody 1929 13 5.63

An argument can be made that unfamiliarity breeds contempt, since the bottom five is littered with the best pictures most of us haven't seen. An easier explanation is the moviegoers who have seen them, and ranked them, are the Oscar watchers, the true cineastes, who are more discriminating in their tastes. They're a tougher crowd. Which makes “Crash”'s bottom-five turnout all the more impressive.

Have you had your say yet? (VOTE HERE.) It's never too late. This is an ongoing project. Because it's not just the Academy judging movies; it's moviegoers judging the Academy.

Michael Corleone and Vito Corleone confer in "The Godfather" (1972), the best of the best pictures

The movie readers consider the best of the best pictures didn't win best director.

Posted at 08:28 AM on Feb 24, 2013 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Saturday February 23, 2013

Crunching the Numbers: Which Best Pictures are Most-Seen, Least-Seen, and Most Beloved?

best pictures

Our friend and neighbor and oft-time reader, Vinny, who has his own blog, The Sayings of Uncle Vinny, recently crunched the numbers on the 71 readers who have ranked Oscar’s best picture winners. This is what he came up with.


Some analysis of votes received in Erik Lundegaard’s “Rank Oscar’s Best Picture Winners.”

First, a note on “ranking” vs “percentile rank.”

I started out sorting results by “Rank” (Ex.: “The Godfather at No. 1; ”Crash“ at No. 77), but soon switched to “Percentile Rank” (0% to 100%, with 100% being best) because it gives a better sense of the popularity of the films. Emily, for example, who only watched 21 movies, ranked “Slumdog Millionare” as her least favorite (#21), putting that film on even footing with a very good film that was ranked #21 by someone who has seen most or all of the best pictures. CM Gardner saw 81 filmes and ranked “Schindler’s List” as #21. Putting it in terms of percentage makes it easier to see how people feel about the movies.

What do we love? What do we hate?
“The Godfather,” no surprise, has the best overall ranking, with an average percentile rank of 84.4% (+/- 16). It was seen by nearly everyone (67 of the 71 readers). It's also the least-hated film on the list. Its lowest score was 30.3%, which might sound bad, but the next least-hated film is “Schindler’s List,” which still hit a low of 24.4% on somebody’s list. From there the “minimum” scores swiftly descend into the low teens, with a full 75 of the 85 films hated by someone: Each of them scored in someone’s bottom 10%.

Here are the nine films that stayed out of the bottom 10% on everyone’s lists:

title year Avg Score Lowest Score
The Godfather 1972 84.36 30.3
Schindler's List 1993 71.66 24.39
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 1975 68.33 19.05
Casablanca 1943 82.87 18.57
In the Heat of the Night 1967 41.91 14.81
The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957 62.02 13.21
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans 1928 78.67 12.82
The Best Years of Our Lives 1946 56.48 11.29
Hamlet 1948 46.38 10.34

Only three films failed to crack the top 50% on anyone’s list: “The Broadway Melody” (27% at its highest), “The Great Ziegfeld” (41%) and “Cavalcade” (41%). In the same way that very few movies were hated by nobody, very few movies didn’t have some love showered on them by somebody: 77 of the 85 made it into the top 20% of at least one list.

Here are those unbeloved eight films:

title year Avg Score Best Score
The Broadway Melody 1929 5.63 27.16
The Great Ziegfeld 1936 18.19 41.18
Cavalcade 1933 8.44 41.38
Cimarron 1931 12.61 71.43
The Greatest Show on Earth 1952 15.23 75.29
Rocky 1976 36.58 76.32
Tom Jones 1963 30.96 78.21
Marty 1955 31.52 79.66

Opinion differed the most on “All Quiet on the Western Front”, where 30 voters gave a spread (standard deviation) of 30 points  around the average score of ~60%. Nobody was confused about “The Broadway Melody,” whose standard deviation was only 7.5% around a score of 5.6%. Ouch!

What have we seen?
The average voter has seen 57 of the 85 films. Two people have only seen 21 while three saw all 85. The least-seen movie was “The Life of Emile Zola,” with only 11 viewings. Two films, “Forrest Gump and “Slumdog Millionaire,” were seen by everyone.

Here are the 10 most-viewed best-picture winners. Well, 14 most-viewed. A big tie at the end there. Second sort on chronology:

title year TimesViewed
Forrest Gump 1994 71
Slumdog Millionaire 2008 71
The Silence of the Lambs 1991 69
Titanic 1997 69
Shakespeare in Love 1998 69
Casablanca 1943 67
The Godfather 1972 67
No Country for Old Men 2007 67
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 1975 66
Annie Hall 1977 66
Schindler's List 1993 66
American Beauty 1999 66
Gladiator 2000 66
A Beautiful Mind 2001 66

And here are the 10 (well, 11) least-viewed best-picture winners:

title year TimesViewed
The Life of Emile Zola 1937 11
Cimarron 1931 12
Cavalcade 1933 12
The Broadway Melody 1929 13
The Great Ziegfeld 1936 16
Going My Way 1944 19
Wings 1927 20
Mrs. Miniver 1942 26
Gentleman's Agreement 1947 26
Mutiny of the Bounty 1935 28
The Greatest Show on Earth 1952 28

More to come...

The worst best pictures?

Posted at 01:17 PM on Feb 23, 2013 in category Movies - The Oscars
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