Saturday, December 29, 2012

Still Life With Robin: Movie Scores

by Peggy Robin

The last week of the year is the time to see the holiday blockbusters, the ones that will become Oscar contenders, the ones everyone’s talking about. But there are so many! Unless you’re a true film buff, you may not go out to see more than one or two, and wait for the others to come out on Netflix or DVD. The question is, which ones are worth the trip to the theater to see on the big screen --and shell out $11 per ticket-- and which ones are fine to see much later, or simply skip altogether?

To answer this question, I have come up with a mathematical formula to apply to each of the top 12 box office earners. The formula takes into consideration audience response so far, based on the movie’s popularity rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes, divided by the running time in minutes (on the general principle that shorter is better, at least for me). The quotient is then multiplied by 100, just so that I don’t have to work with decimals, which confuse me. That leaves a base score for each movie. From that figure I then take away points based on my own personal quirks of taste. It’s minus 30 points for any movie that’s mainly Kiddie Fare (KF in the equations you see below). And minus 20 for anything directed by Judd Apatow, or starring Seth Rogen (JA/SR).  Minus 25 for any movie that has a castration scene (C) -- and yes, I did make up this deduction specifically for Django Unchained. And minus 5 for anything that’s part of a Franchise (F), like a James Bond or Jack Reacher movie. (Okay, Jack Reacher is just one movie right now, but wait -- more are coming!) 

After the deductions are done, then I can add in the bonus points: Plus 25 for anything based on a Book (B) I’ve read or feel that I ought to have read. That applies to both Les Miserables and Life of Pi, but I’m not telling what part of the rule applies to which one. Finally, I award 20 extra points for any filmmaker willing to take a courageous Stand Against Slavery, or any other Forced Labor Under Horrible Conditions (SAS/FLUHC). That will raise the score a bit for Django Unchained, but it also gives a deserved boost to Lincoln and Les Mis.

Here’s how the formula works on, for example, the Hobbit:

Start with a Rotten Tomatoes Score (RTS) of 65, divided by Running Time in Minutes (RTM) of 170 = .38. Multiply by 100 to get rid of that pesky decimal point, then subtract the Kiddie Fare (KF) deduction of 30 points, and then take away another 5 for being part of the Lord of the Rings Franchise (F).  Final score = 3.

Here are the scores for the top 12 box office movies, in order from highest weekend box office take to lowest:

The Hobbit: 65 RTS divided by 170 RTM (this and all results X 100) = 38, minus 30 KF, minus 5 F = 3
Les Miserables: 71 RTS divided by 158 RTM = 45, plus 25 B, plus 20 SAS/FLUHC = 90
Django Unchained: 81 RTS divided by 166 RTM = 49, minus 25 C, plus 20 SAS/FLUHC = 44
Parental Guidance: 17 RTS divided by 105 RTM, no deductions or bonuses = 16
Jack Reacher: 60 RTS divided by 130 RTM = 46, minus 5 F = 41
This Is 40: 50 RTS divided by 133 RTM = 38, minus 10 JA/SR = 28
Lincoln: 91 RTS divided by 149 RTM = 61, plus 20 SAS/FLUHC = 81
Monsters, Inc.:  96 RTS divided by 92 RTM = 104, minus 30 KF = 74
The Guilt Trip: 36 RTS divided by 96 RTM = 38, minus 10 JA/SR = 28
Rise of the Guardians: 74 RTS divided by  97 RTM = 76, minus 30 KF = 46
Skyfall: 92 RTS divided by 145 RTM = 63, minus 5 F = 58
Life of Pi: 89 RTS divided by 127 RTM = 70, plus 10 B = 80

And the winner is: Les Mis! If I only see one movie in the coming week, that will be it. But I think I'll see the runner-up, Lincoln, as well. If I have enough time, I'll go for a third, Life of Pi. And everything else is a "wait for the DVD" or "pass," according to its score. (Feel free to adjust the bonuses and deductions according to your own personal scale.)


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv,, and All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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