Saturday, November 30, 2013

The right way to use Rotten Tomatoes

The film review and news site, Rotten Tomatoes, has earned a reputation with a great many folks as the go-to place for movie reviews. For those few who don't already know the site, it aggregates both critical and audience reviews into percentages of positive reviews.  If the percentage of positive critical reviews is somewhere over 50%, the movie gets a tomato (for "fresh") next to it.  Films with a lower percentage of positive reviews get a green, leafy icon (for "rotten").  Many folks I know check out the Rotten Tomatoes rating, and if it's low, they give the movie a pass.

This is a mistake. 

The problem with this approach is that it tells you only what the critics are saying.

Many critics hold all films to the standard of the very best; they might, for example, feel it's reasonable to compare Thor: The Dark World and Casablanca.  You can certainly make a case for this approach, in that all films are working in the same medium and have the same opportunities for greatness and failure.

Other critics will compare a movie to the very best of its type, pitting all the action films against that genre's greatest exemplars.  Again, it's easy to make a case for this approach; after all, we'd all love for each film to hit the highest standards of its genre.

What precious few critics do is tell you whether you're likely to have a good time at a given movie if you like that sort of movie. 

When you're considering going to Thor: The Dark World,  the odds are good that you've seen the trailer, seen some other recent superhero movies, and already know whether you're likely to enjoy this one.  Most reviews ignore this reality.  What most of us want to know is whether we're likely to enjoy this Thor movie, or this Arnold movie, because we already have a strong sense of what a Thor movie is, what an Arnold flick has to offer.

Which brings us to the much better way to use Rotten Tomatoes:  Check out the audience rating and its relationship to what the critics have to say.

The ideal, of course, is for both ratings to be high.  If both the critics and the audiences turn in over 80% positive ratings, the odds are that the film in question is genuinely a good movie of its type. 

If the critics are high on a movie and the audiences are not, odds are that the film will be arty but not a lot of fun. 

The golden equation for bad movies is when the critics' rating is rotten and the audience rating is fresh.  When there's a gap of at least 40 percentage points between those two and the audience rating is higher, you're likely to have a movie that delivers exactly what it promises, but no more.  If you go to that movie with the right expectations, which is to say that if you go knowing full well what it's likely to be, you are going to have a good time. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

For no good reason

this 1980s teen rom-com flitted through my mind earlier tonight.  I've always liked it, and I particularly liked this Elvis cover at the end by Lick the Tins.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Reversing the balance

I spend a great deal of time fretting about what I haven't accomplished, what I don't have, what I have yet to do, my failures and my limitations.

Every now and then, I remind myself to be grateful for all that I do have.  On Thanksgiving day, like many people I make a special effort to feel and express that gratitude.

I need to reverse that balance. 

I need to always be grateful for the people in my life, for all that I have, for everything.  I have so very much to be thankful for that spending time fretting about the rest is unseemly. 

I doubt I will succeed in this attempt, but I aim to try. 

I hope on this day that you have much to be grateful for, and that you express that gratitude.

Thank you for reading this and supporting me.  I am truly grateful to you.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving etiquette

Quite some time ago, Jennie turned me on to the wonderful videos of ze frank.  If you don't already watch his true facts about animals, you are in for a treat.

In honor of the holiday, he resurrected an older video on Thanksgiving etiquette.  It's not entirely child-safe, but it cracked me up.  In the ramp-up to the holiday, I hope you have time to enjoy it.

Any time you need a laugh, check out his work.

I should also note that he occasionally does very touching videos, such as this one about the time we all have, or this one, which really works for me and which I've loved since I first saw it.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Today's burning book-filing questions

I'm not looking for the official library answers; I'm curious what others think. 

1. Do you mix hardbacks and paperbacks?

I do not.  I recognize the down side of this choice: To find all of an author's books, you have to check in two locations.  The up side, though, is more important to me: Mixing mass-market paperbacks with hardbacks tends to cause warping in the hardbacks, particularly on very full shelves.

2. How do you file the books an author writes under pseudonyms?

This one is trickier, because there are so many good answers.  I tend to put all of an author's hardbacks together, even if she/he wrote them under multiple names.  So, my Donald Westlake and Richard Stark hardbacks stand together.  Even with this choice, though, I am torn on whether to put Stark after Westlake, mixed with Westlake in chronological order of publication, or before Westlake. 

These are the sorts of questions that a person who lives in a library spends entirely too much time discussing and pondering.

Monday, November 25, 2013

UVM vs. Duke: What a game!

Thanks to my friend, Lynn, I was able to attend Sunday night's game between Duke and the University of Vermont.  On paper, this game should have been a rout for Duke; what happened is something entirely different.

Duke entered the game ranked sixth in the country. The only flaw in its 4-1 record came from a loss to fifth-ranked Kansas.  Its roster is one of the best in the country, thanks to the usual superb recruiting of Coach Krzyzewski and his staff.  Cameron Indoor Stadium is one of the hardest places in the country for a non-ACC team to play; the last time Duke lost a non-conference game there was on February 26, 2000. 

Vermont walked into the building with a 1-4 record, a small section of fans, and the certain knowledge that everyone in the basketball world expected them to lose badly.

Then the game started. 

UVM hung with Duke but fell slowly behind in the first half, at times facing a 13-point deficit but ending the half down eight. 

In the second half, UVM simply outplayed Duke.  They out-rebounded Duke, out-worked Duke, and out-shot Duke.  The buzzer sounded a split second before a UVM player let go of a baseline lay-up that swished through the basket.  A fraction of a second was all that stopped UVM from winning.

The game was as exciting as it sounds.  I feel privileged to have been able to see it.  In many ways, it was the kind of game that makes college sports so exciting. 

I hope Duke's players learn from this game that they should never, ever, ever take any victory for granted and that they should respect each and every opponent. 

I hope the UVM players go home fired up, more confident, and more determined than ever to play their best, because on this night their best was enough to give one of the best teams in the country all that it could handle.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Two images from the last trip

On the first day in Portland, I went out for a walk to stretch my legs and pick up some soda and pretzels for the room. I wandered into a nearby mall that has a pen store; pens are always fun to check out.  The mall had this display in its center.

Click on an image to see a larger version.

For no reason I can clearly define, I found this charming, not over the top. 

Later, at a client's site, this grand old vehicle was sitting in the parking lot.

You have to wonder about the stories behind this one.  You could fill an anthology with them. 


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