Monday, July 28, 2008

Lists...Numbers...Subjective vs Objective, Movies vs Films

I was surprized to learn from the Guardian blogs last week that The Dark Knight was now #1 in the imdb Top 250 film list.

I guess I had stayed hidden away from the world for just a week and whoooshhh a movie that had just opened was now top dog (or bat). I had expected the film to have a record opening weekend, which it did, but I did not count on it reaching the summit in the imdb list. I have no idea why I had that notion because there is no qualitative control on the list criteria as it is governed by user ratings & votes. And since more people are seeing summer Hollywood films and not enough classic films, more of them are going to cast their votes for their personal favourite. So in a way, eventually this imdb list might end up having a direct relationship with box office tally, which currently is driven by quantity of tickets sold and not quality of the film. Although sometimes quality films do rake in a nice ticket quantity.

I do remember one case where someone at imdb regulated the list. At the end of December 2007, Aamir Khan's touching film Taare Zameen Par made the list, coming in mid-way through the 250 titles as the film got a solid rating of over 8 from a few thousand users. But a day later, even though the rating of the film stayed the same, it was no longer in the list. This is when I noticed the words for the list criteria as:
"for the Top 250, only votes from regular voters are considered."

Hmmm. I guess someone figured out that many Bollywood film fans were giving high ratings for a movie that most of North America had not heard of, so that had to be corrected. Since then the film's rating has fallen to the current average of 7.9. Even though I loved Taare Zameen Par (it made my top list for 2007 films), I am not sure if it should be in the list but then again, I have the same feelings for some of the other titles present like American Gangster and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (it was a fun movie though). Thankfully 300 is not on the list but it is not far from making the list as it currently has a user rating of 7.9/10 from 178,634 votes.

Anyway, since I have not seen The Dark Knight yet so I cannot comment. Why have I not seen the movie? Its not that I have against bats. In fact, I adored Batman Begins and own quite a few of the comic books/graphic novels, including Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. However, this summer I have stayed away from all the studio films which means I have equally ignored men of iron, hellish creatures, lonely robots, drunk ego-heroes, bullet bending groups or even alien chasing believers. So ignoring a bat and a joker is being consistent.

ps: In a way, imdb's list might start reflecting a tally of what people are watching more while Metacritic's list will continue to reflect the critical film evaluations. But then again, that list is not perect as it only requires a minimum of 4 reviews to determine a score. Also, not all critics assign a number rating or grade to their review but Metacritic assigns one for them. Although they do give the option for the critic to contact them and correct the rating as per this scoring chart guide:

Now, if you are indeed the critic who wrote the review, and disagree with one of our scores, please let us know and we'll change it.

This does happen from time to time, and many of the critics included on this site (such as Ms. Dargis) do indeed check their reviews (as well as those of their colleagues) on

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