Best of?

August 9, 2008

With bostonist now providing excellent film commentary, there isn’t quite as much need for regular film criticism here on the salad, and I plan to transition back to word/transit blogging for the hundreds tens of people still reading (maybe we can even find a new ten or two!). But every so often, ideas so ridiculous come about that Dash is left with no choice but to comment. In an amazing act of hubris, Boston magazine decided to release their Best of Boston issue THIS SUMMER, as if nothing could possibly happen in the remaining 4 and a half months of the year. So, as an amateur Oscar prognosticator who likes to misuse statistics, I decided to play around with numbers to see what’s the best picture of the year so far, and whether or not that movie has any chance of actually being nominated for best picture.

I decided to use metacritic scores to figure out what movies had the best chance of being nominated. This gave me 8 years of data (40 movies) and information about this year. Some useful information:

  • The lowest scoring movies nominated were Gladiator and Chocolat, both scoring 64s. The highest scoring movies were Sideways and Return of the King at 94
  • 20% of nominated movies have a score of 90 or higher, 47.5% have a score in the 80s, 17.5% in the 70s, and 15% have a score in the 60s
  • The year in the study with the highest average score was 2007 (86.2) and the lowest was, not surprisingly, 2000 (76)
  • The average nominee’s score is 81.375
  • The best movie relative to its year was Sideways, 6.82 SD above; the worst movie relative to its year was Gangs of New York, 8 SD below
  • 18 eligible movies scored higher than 90 in the time period. 8 of them went on to be nominated for best picture

Let’s take last year as an example. Here are the scores of the nominees:

There Will be Blood, 92

No Country, 91

Atonement, 86

Michael Clayton, 82

Juno, 81

Three other eligible movies scored higher than 90: Ratatouille, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and Persepolis. Two of these were nominated for Best Animated Feature and the other for Best Director. In short, it’s good to score over 90.

Only one movie in 2008 has thus far scored a 90 or above: Wall-E. No animated movie has been nominated for best picture since Beauty and the Beast. And though 8/18 movies receiving a score of 90 or above are nominated, the best comparables to Wall-E (Ratatouille, Incredibles, even The Triplets of Belleville) did not.

The only other movie with any momentum (critical, box office, or word of mouth) to be equal or better to the average nominee thus far released is The Dark Knight, with a score of 82. As an action movie based on a literary source, you could argue that The Dark Knight is comparable to Lord of the Rings (though they all scored much higher); you could also argue that it’s similar to Gangs of New York, or Gladiator for that matter.

It’s obviously still early. None of the movies nominated for BP last year had been released in the US by August. But, if we were to have to pick the movie already out with the highest shot of being nominated, that would have to be The Dark Knight, the likely-to-be-second-highest-grossing-movie-of-all-time, not adjusted for inflation.

(I’m linking to awards daily in the hopes they find this)

2 Responses to “Best of?”

  1. Jason Says:

    As an amateur prognosticator of all sorts, I can appreciate a good misuse of statistics, although I’m lost on what your overall point here is. Are you suggesting that, like Boston magazine coming out in August, the Oscars would be a lot different if it didn’t work off the calendar year? (Does it, anyway? Come to think of it, I don’t know.) I suppose that, if it didn’t, it’d still work off of SOME 12-month cycle — and if it simply changed the end date of the cycle, the only consequence would be that different movies would be up against each other, rather than the Oscars saying, “Nothing could possibly happen in the remaining 4 and a half months of the year.” That could be an interesting exercise, really: What would happen if, say, the Oscars cycle changed, and the guy who won Best Actor one year had to (theoretically) go up against the Best Actor guy from the following year. Huh.

    But in any case, a little factoid worth noting: Just about every city magazine across the country comes out with some version of a “Best of” issue, and almost all of them do it in the summer. Ususally August. Every year. They have for decades. New York magazine even does it in March. It’s not hubris; it has to do with readers, advertisers, etc. But hey, uh, thanks for noticing now.

  2. dailysalad Says:

    Hi Jason, thanks for your comments. I’m glad to hear that Boston magazine has a very loose (catachrestic, even) conception of time, defining 2008 as August 2007-July 2008. We’re always excited to hear about new calendars at the Salad; they’re a fascinating window into different ways of looking at the world.
    I had noticed that NY Mag releases its best of in March, but I always interpreted it as recognizing the best of the preceding year, much like the Academy Awards. A Best of in August just seemed out of place; now that I know of this different concept of time, it makes perfect sense.

    The Oscars do, in fact, work off the calendar year, although your point about changing the cycle is well taken. We’ve written before about the arbitrariness of giving out film awards every year, and considered the idea of the bienniale:

    The overall point of the post was simply that it would be impossible to do a best of 2008 (defined as the calendar year 2008 ) in August for movies as the release schedule is so fixed. Once upon a time movies released in February (Silence of the Lambs) won best picture; now, everything is backloaded for the last few months of the year with nary a serious contender released earlier. If you look at release dates, the Academy Awards really only nominate movies during the last 4 months of the year (and really only the last 1-2 months) ostensibly elided by Boston Magazine.

    Thanks for your comment, and I hope you continue to be a reader.

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