Archive for the ‘Analysis’ Category

The Masked Singer: spoiler speculation

January 27, 2019

The Masked Singer: spoiler speculation

What is “spoiler speculation”?

It’s when I don’t know something to be true, but it might be…and if it is, it could spoil something in entertainment. You’ve been warned…you may want to skip this article if you want to keep guessing about which celebrities are inside the costumes on

The Masked Singer

I’m pretty good at these sorts of things. ūüôā I always say that my favorite thing in entertainment is to be surprised, and it almost never happens. That doesn’t mean I always know¬†the right answer (although I often do), but the odds that I haven’t even considered it are quite small. I knew The Sixth Sense’s twist right away. I predicted nine out of the last ten eliminations in an American Idol season…in order, before any of them happened.

First, a little bit about the show, for those who haven’t seen it. Celebrities (could be athletes, singers, actors, and so on) compete as singers, while wearing full body character costumes (and their heads are concealed). Four regular judges (and there can be guest judges) guess who they are…the regular four are Robin Thicke, Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong, and Nicole Scherzinger.

Of course, the actual performances can be helpful, but the main thing for me are the “packages” (video intros) which provide clues (they can be visual clues, such as objects in the background, or clues in phrases that are used as the singer explains their background. The panelists can also ask a question…I think that’s always just one per episode.

I’ve been right on some who were already revealed (the one with the lowest votes for their performance is unmasked at the end of the episode).

In each case, the clues lined up well with the identity.

These, then are some speculations on which singers have not yet been unmasked. I’m very confident on the first one, quite confident on the next. I’m not a betting person (at least, not for money or actual physical goods…in my annual Oscar prediction contest,¬†BOPMadness, we vie for “braggin’ rights”)…I’m not suggesting any of you are in a money pool on this, but this might help you if you are speculating with friends.

The Rabbit (my confidence level: very high!)

The Rabbit is Mark Wahlberg (AKA Marky Mark). I have no doubts about this one. Here are some clues they’ve given us and how they apply to Mark Walhberg:

  • Cooking: the panel speculated that this might mean a celebrity chef, but it’s tied into Wahlburgers, the restaurant chain that also involves brothers Donnie & Paul. There was a reality show built around it, and Mark would certainly want it promoted on this show
  • Being “boxed” in: this doesn’t have to do with cardboard boxes, but with Wahlberg’s role as a producer of (netting an Oscar nom for Wahlberg for Best Picture), and appearance in, The Fighter, a boxing biopic
  • That would probably be enough to convince me, but everything else fits: on stage as part of a group (New Kids on the Block), synchronized singing, being the “last mask standing” (probably an allusion to his movie Lone Survivor), amusement park (it was a big deal when a Wahlburgers opened at the OWA complex in Alabama)…there’s probably been something about Chevy’s as well, another business in which Wahlberg has an interest

I’d be shocked if it’s not him.

The Alien (my confidence level: high)

The alien is Kendall Jenner:

  • Many sisters (the Kardashians)
  • Snake (this was the clincher…there was a lot of publicity when she had a ((temporary)) snake tattoo for a photo shoot for V magazine)
  • She’s recorded many things (having been on television so much)
  • “out of fashion” (she’s a fashion model)
  • Everything else fits, especially anonymity being an “alien” concept

The Bee (my confidence level: moderately high

The Bee is Gladys Knight:

  • There were peaches in the background of a package. Knight had a big hit with Midnight Train to Georgia (Georgia peaches)
  • “Empress” could apply to her, and she appeared on the show Empire…that’s pretty clear for me
  • The other clues fit about wanting to sing for a younger generation and having sung in the 1950s. One that surprises me because it is more personal is The Bee’s comment to “Take me to court”…Knight has famously been involved in a court case

I think I’ll stop there for now…this is long enough, and I’ve likely give you three! These are the other remaining contestants, and some quick speculation:

  • The Peacock: Macaulay Culkin (friends with Michael Jackson, a “teeny bopper” (character in Home Alone making things hit the bad guys)
  • The Monster
  • The Unicorn: Denise Richards (lost her “sheen” and she had been married to Charlie Sheen; model behavior)
  • The Lion
  • The Raven: Update: The Raven is Ricki Lake. “Good morning, Baltimore (Ravens)!” This is a clear reference to her breakout, Hairspray. The Raven is a talk show host, and everything else fits. My confidence level on this one is now moderately high.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. 

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2018 The Measured Circle’s most profitable movies: looking back

January 15, 2019

2018 The Measured Circle’s most profitable movies: looking back

For years, The Measured Circle has tracked not only box office, but profitability.

We do it at IMDb…this year’s is here:

https://www.imdb.com/list/ls022217945/

I like to take a look at it in the beginning of the following year, even though it will change quite a bit over the next couple of months. Some very big movies open very late in the year, and then there is the phenomenon of the “Oscar Bump”. This tends to benefit “art house” movies more than blockbusters, and that may be through getting a wide release after having a limited release. Still, that can make a difference of tens of millions of dollars.

I’m going to first reproduce the introduction at IMDb, then the values, and finally, I’ll give you some of my thoughts on it.


While tracking a movie’s box office is fascinating, The Measured Circle is also interested in how profitable a movie is.

This list of movies making a domestic gross (“dogro”) of at least $40 million in the USA in 2018 ranks them in order, based on their dogro against their rumored production budgets. Certainly there are other costs (including the not inconsiderable marketing budget) and other income (including foreign box office and merchandising), but this can give us an interesting picture.

Expect studios to look at these types of results, and sometimes greenlight projects based on them (although it’s hard to resist spending a $100 million on a possible blockbuster).

Note that recent releases will typically appear lower on this list than their eventual results. If they were in the top ten the weekend before the list is updated, they will normally be marked with “and counting”.

Movies where the rumored production budget is not available on IMDb (or elsewhere…we prefer using BoxOfficeMojo, which, like IMDb, is owned by Amazon, but which have dogroed at least $40m in 2017 in the USA appear at the bottom of the list. They may be more profitable than many of the movies above them, but we can’t do the math on them.

As a new feature (introduced in 2013), we’ve decided to label movies, to make this clearer. A traditional measure of success is the dogro being twice the production budget. Using that as a starting point…

Dogro 2X production budget = “Money”
Dogro 3X production budget = “Golden”
Dogro 30X production budget = “Platinum” (God’s Not Dead prompted the creation of this new award)

Dogro less than 50% of production budget= “Underperformer”

Starting in July 2017, we added another Measured Circle Award: Road Winner. These movies have at least 2/3rds of their box office from “foreign”, per BoxOfficeMojo. While we specifically focus on US box office, that can help explain why, for example, a sequel might be made to a movie which was an Underperformer. This number is also particularly unstable in the early part of a movie’s release, since movies don’t open in all markets simultaneously. For that reason, not every movie that qualifies may show the award, and it’s possible we’ll award a movie and then the percentages will change.


Title DoGro ProdBud Profit % Intl Award Road Winner
Black Panther 700.1 200 500.1 350% 646.9 Golden
Incredibles 2 608.6 200 408.6 304% 634.1 Golden
Avengers: Infinity War 678.8 300 378.8 226% 1370 Money Yes
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom 417.7 170 247.7 246% 891.8 Money Yes
Deadpool 2 318.5 110 208.5 290% 419.1 Money
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch 269.6 75 194.6 359% 235.1 Golden
A Quiet Place 188 17 171 1106% 152.9 Triple Golden
A Star Is Born 203.6 36 167.6 566% 200 Golden
Halloween 159.3 10 149.3 1593% 94.3 Quintuple Golden
Bohemian Rhapsody 198.5 52 146.5 382% 553.4 Golden Yes
Crazy Rich Asians 174.5 30 144.5 582% 64 Golden
Aquaman 287.9 160 127.9 180% 732.4 Yes
Venom 213.4 100 113.4 213% 642.2 Money Yes
The Nun 117.5 22 95.5 534% 248.1 Golden Yes
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation 167.5 80 87.5 209% 359.8 Money Yes
I Can Only Imagine 83.5 7 76.5 1193% 0 Triple Golden
Ocean’s 8 140.2 70 70.2 200% 157.5 Money
Peter Rabbit 115.3 50 65.3 231% 236 Money Yes
Creed II 114.9 50 64.9 230% 51.7 Money
Book Club 68.6 10 58.6 686% 0 Double Golden
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 147.8 90 57.8 164% 154.6
The First Purge 69.5 13 56.5 535% 67.5 Golden
Ant-Man and the Wasp 216.6 162 54.6 134% 406
Night School 77.3 29 48.3 267% 25.6 Money
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again 120.6 75 45.6 161% 274.1 Yes
Fifty Shades Freed 100.4 55 45.4 183% 271.5 Yes
Mission: Impossible – Fallout 220.2 178 42.2 124% 571 Yes
Breaking In 46.8 6 40.8 780% 4.6 Double Golden
The Mule 90.6 50 40.6 181% 3.6
The Equalizer 2 102.1 62 40.1 165% 88.3
Blockers 60.3 21 39.3 287% 33.7 Money
The House With a Clock in Its Wall 68.5 30 38.5 228% 62.9 Money
Overboard 50.3 12 38.3 419% 40.9 Golden
Truth or Dare 41.3 3.5 37.8 1180% 53.9 Triple Golden
Hereditary 44.1 10 34.1 441% 35.3 Golden
A Simple Favor 53.5 20 33.5 268% 43.5 Money
Tag 55 28 27 196% 23.4
Disney’s Christopher Robin 99.2 72.5 26.7 137% 98.4
Uncle Drew 42.5 18 24.5 236% 2.4 Money
Love, Simon 40.8 17 23.8 240% 25.5 Money
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony 43.5 20 23.5 218% 2.9 Money
Life of the Party 53.1 30 23.1 177% 12.8
Mary Poppins Returns 150.7 130 20.7 116% 137.2
Instant Family 66.7 48 18.7 139% 13.3
BlacKkKlansman 48.5 30 18.5 162% 40.9
I Feel Pretty 48.8 32 16.8 153% 45.7
Ralph Breaks the Internet 190.4 175 15.4 109% 243.7
The Meg 145.4 130 15.4 112% 384.8 Yes
Sicario: Day of the Soldado 50.1 35 15.1 143% 25.8
Den of Thieves 44.9 30 14.9 150% 35.6
Game Night 69.2 55 14.2 126% 69.2
Insidious: The Last Key 67.7 55 12.7 123% 100.1
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween 46.7 35 11.7 133% 46.5
12 Strong 45.8 35 10.8 131% 21.6
Smallfoot 83.2 80 3.2 104% 130.9
Paddington 2 40.9 40 0.9 102% 186.4 Yes
A Wrinkle in Time 100.5 100 0.5 101% 100.5
Widows 42.2 42 0.2 100% 32.9
Maze Runner: The Death Cure 58 62 -4 94% 230.2 Yes
First Man 44.9 59 -14.1 76% 55.6
Sherlock Gnomes 43.2 59 -15.8 73% 47.1
Rampage 101 120 -19 84% 327 Yes
Red Sparrow 46.9 69 -22.1 68% 104.7 Yes
Bumblebee 108.3 135 -26.7 80% 258.1 Yes
Tomb Raider 58.3 94 -35.7 62% 216.4 Yes
The Predator 51 88 -37 58% 109.5 Yes
Ready Player One 137.7 175 -37.3 79% 445.2 Yes
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald 158.2 200 -41.8 79% 486.4 Yes
Skyscraper 68.4 125 -56.6 55% 236.5 Yes
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms 54.8 120 -65.2 46% 118.6 Yes
Solo: A Star Wars Story 213.8 300 -86.2 71% 179.2
Pacific Rim Uprising 60.3 150 -89.7 40% 231.1 Underperformer Yes

The first thing I’ll point out is that, in this group, close to 2/3rds of the money comes from international (61% of it…about a third are Road Winners, but those that are may make significantly more money abroad). That explains why some movies which don’t do that well domestically get sequels. While I haven’t specifically analyzed this, movies with a lot of dialogue don’t tend to do as well internationally as movies with action and visuals, which makes sense (although it’s possible that translation will get better in the future). Comedies tend to suffer from that: a comedy may not do as well in countries outside of its originating one…not just based on language. A joke which works in the USA may not work in the UK, and vice versa.

Within the use, the top ones in terms of gross profit are as you might expect: big budget and geek-friendly.

However, let’s look at this again, but this time, sorting by return on investment…percentages:

Title DoGro ProdBud Profit % Intl Award Road Winner
Halloween 159.3 10 149.3 1593% 94.3 Quintuple Golden
I Can Only Imagine 83.5 7 76.5 1193% 0 Triple Golden
Truth or Dare 41.3 3.5 37.8 1180% 53.9 Triple Golden
A Quiet Place 188 17 171 1106% 152.9 Triple Golden
Breaking In 46.8 6 40.8 780% 4.6 Double Golden
Book Club 68.6 10 58.6 686% 0 Double Golden
Crazy Rich Asians 174.5 30 144.5 582% 64 Golden
A Star Is Born 203.6 36 167.6 566% 200 Golden
The First Purge 69.5 13 56.5 535% 67.5 Golden
The Nun 117.5 22 95.5 534% 248.1 Golden Yes
Hereditary 44.1 10 34.1 441% 35.3 Golden
Overboard 50.3 12 38.3 419% 40.9 Golden
Bohemian Rhapsody 198.5 52 146.5 382% 553.4 Golden Yes
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch 269.6 75 194.6 359% 235.1 Golden
Black Panther 700.1 200 500.1 350% 646.9 Golden
Incredibles 2 608.6 200 408.6 304% 634.1 Golden
Deadpool 2 318.5 110 208.5 290% 419.1 Money
Blockers 60.3 21 39.3 287% 33.7 Money
A Simple Favor 53.5 20 33.5 268% 43.5 Money
Night School 77.3 29 48.3 267% 25.6 Money
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom 417.7 170 247.7 246% 891.8 Money Yes
Love, Simon 40.8 17 23.8 240% 25.5 Money
Uncle Drew 42.5 18 24.5 236% 2.4 Money
Peter Rabbit 115.3 50 65.3 231% 236 Money Yes
Creed II 114.9 50 64.9 230% 51.7 Money
The House With a Clock in Its Wall 68.5 30 38.5 228% 62.9 Money
Avengers: Infinity War 678.8 300 378.8 226% 1370 Money Yes
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony 43.5 20 23.5 218% 2.9 Money
Venom 213.4 100 113.4 213% 642.2 Money Yes
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation 167.5 80 87.5 209% 359.8 Money Yes
Ocean’s 8 140.2 70 70.2 200% 157.5 Money
Tag 55 28 27 196% 23.4
Fifty Shades Freed 100.4 55 45.4 183% 271.5 Yes
The Mule 90.6 50 40.6 181% 3.6
Aquaman 287.9 160 127.9 180% 732.4 Yes
Life of the Party 53.1 30 23.1 177% 12.8
The Equalizer 2 102.1 62 40.1 165% 88.3
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 147.8 90 57.8 164% 154.6
BlacKkKlansman 48.5 30 18.5 162% 40.9
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again 120.6 75 45.6 161% 274.1 Yes
I Feel Pretty 48.8 32 16.8 153% 45.7
Den of Thieves 44.9 30 14.9 150% 35.6
Sicario: Day of the Soldado 50.1 35 15.1 143% 25.8
Instant Family 66.7 48 18.7 139% 13.3
Disney’s Christopher Robin 99.2 72.5 26.7 137% 98.4
Ant-Man and the Wasp 216.6 162 54.6 134% 406
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween 46.7 35 11.7 133% 46.5
12 Strong 45.8 35 10.8 131% 21.6
Game Night 69.2 55 14.2 126% 69.2
Mission: Impossible – Fallout 220.2 178 42.2 124% 571 Yes
Insidious: The Last Key 67.7 55 12.7 123% 100.1
Mary Poppins Returns 150.7 130 20.7 116% 137.2
The Meg 145.4 130 15.4 112% 384.8 Yes
Ralph Breaks the Internet 190.4 175 15.4 109% 243.7
Smallfoot 83.2 80 3.2 104% 130.9
Paddington 2 40.9 40 0.9 102% 186.4 Yes
A Wrinkle in Time 100.5 100 0.5 101% 100.5
Widows 42.2 42 0.2 100% 32.9
Maze Runner: The Death Cure 58 62 -4 94% 230.2 Yes
Rampage 101 120 -19 84% 327 Yes
Bumblebee 108.3 135 -26.7 80% 258.1 Yes
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald 158.2 200 -41.8 79% 486.4 Yes
Ready Player One 137.7 175 -37.3 79% 445.2 Yes
First Man 44.9 59 -14.1 76% 55.6
Sherlock Gnomes 43.2 59 -15.8 73% 47.1
Solo: A Star Wars Story 213.8 300 -86.2 71% 179.2
Red Sparrow 46.9 69 -22.1 68% 104.7 Yes
Tomb Raider 58.3 94 -35.7 62% 216.4 Yes
The Predator 51 88 -37 58% 109.5 Yes
Skyscraper 68.4 125 -56.6 55% 236.5 Yes
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms 54.8 120 -65.2 46% 118.6 Yes
Pacific Rim Uprising 60.3 150 -89.7 40% 231.1 Underperformer Yes

Doing that, the top ones tend to be lower budget (under $50m, certainly), and with horror movies (and faith-based, often) being the best investments. You need to get down to #15 before a movie which cost $100m to make gets our Golden award (profit three times production budget). Black Panther and Incredibles 2 (both Disney) are in that rarefied stratum: movies which cost over $100 to make (they both have reported estimated production budgets of $200m) but still got our Golden award.

Pacific Rim Uprising is an Underperformer (it’s too soon to make that call on Nutcracker), but it’s also a Road Winner, with hundreds of millions of dollars and close to 80% of the box office coming outside of dogro…so don’t be surprised if there is a third PacRim.

With so many other sources of income (streaming services, for one major one), movie studios seem to be figuring out how to keep from having big losers much more reliably.

See you in the movies!

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

The strange Stooge story behind the gorilla with a gun GIF

December 16, 2018

The strange Stooge story behind the gorilla with a gun GIF

There is a popular GIF (in this usage, a short, repeating movie) of a gorilla maniacally firing a machine gun.

link to GIF at Giphy

It can be used to express different things, but I think I’ve seen it most as unbridled joy and enthusiasm…for example, because it’s Friday. ūüėČ

I got it recently in one of my Twitter feeds, the one for

The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip

posted by “Retro Horror” (@el_zombo).

There was some curiosity as to what the origin of the clip was…and I was happy to answer!

That’s from a 3 Stooges short,

A Bird in the Head (watch at YouTube)

In this case, the “third stooge” is Curly…and that’s important, and surprisingly, may have a good deal to do with why this video exists.

While many people think of Curly as the original third stooge, who was replaced by his brother Shemp, that’s not exactly how it happened.

The Stooges were part of an act, and they didn’t get top billing…it was Ted Healy and His Stooges. Healy was the front man, the lead comedian, and the Stooges (originally Moe, then his brother Shemp joined, and later friend Larry Fine) would interrupt him, leading to slapstick abuse.

Shemp left the act, and the third brother, Curly (then nicknamed “Babe”) joined it…the version I like the best is that Curly (then with long curly hair and a mustache) auditioned, and Healy (who reportedly had alcohol issues) didn’t like him. Moe (who was the leader in real life, as he was in the eventual shorts), took him out, shaved his head, told Healy he was a different brother, and Healy fell for it.

With the Moe/Larry/Curly team, the Stooges made a number of now legendary comic shorts (after parting ways with Healy and changing studios).

Shemp was off as a successful solo act (including appearing with Abbott and Costello), supposedly with the promotional line, “The Ugliest Man in Hollywood” (and this is while Rondo Hatton was working…Hatton had a medical condition which gave him unusual looks which led to him being cast in horror movies).

Shemp rejoined the act after Curly had a major stroke in 1946…reportedly reluctantly, but realizing that Moe and Larry would be in trouble without a third stooge.

Prior to that stroke in May, Curly already was being impacted by medical issues…what has been described as a series of “mini-strokes”.

On the set of A Bird in the Head, Curly’s performance was impacted. If you watch the short, he appears to be okay, even doing some physical comedy. However, the director, Edward Bernds (this was his first film as director) realized that Curly wasn’t at full capacity.

He decided (he was also the screenwriter) to expand the roles of the mad doctor Professor Panzer, and his gorilla, Igor (played by Art Miles). The Professor is looking for a human brain small enough to transplant into Igor…and Curly’s would fit (there is also a bit of animation in this short, unusual for the Stooges, showing an animated cuckoo clock inside Curly’s head instead of a brain).

So, the forced inventiveness of accommodating a Stooge’s medical condition in 1946 led to a popular GIF of a gorilla firing a machine gun in 2018!

Do you have other pop culture (especially) geeky questions you’d liked answered? Feel free to ask…and check my series of

#1TweetExpert tweets

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

The Oscars new unpopular popular film category

September 3, 2018

The Oscars new unpopular popular film category

Oh, my.

It’s rare that an organization makes a decision and I just have an immediate, visceral reaction that it’s wrong.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in a

tweet

tweet post recently that it is going to give out a new award for “achievement in popular film”.

Creating a new category is rare for the Oscars…people have argued for new categories for years, such as one for stunts, but the last major addition was Best Animated Feature, first awarded in 2001.

With any carefully considered change (especially an institutional one), it is reasonable to ask this question: why?

The first obvious requirement is that the new category is comprised of something different from the old category (unless it contains entirely novel items, which is not the case here). After all, imagine this conversation:

You: “What’s in category A?”
Them: “Polka dots.”
You: “What in category B?”
Them: “Polka dots.”
You: “What are the differences between them?”
Them: “There aren’t any.”

At that point, you’d no doubt be left wondering why there were two categories.

So, what makes a popular movie different enough from other movies that it needs a separate category?

We can assume by “popular” they mean that more people went to see it in the theatres, and the easiest measurement of that is box office (probably specifically domestic box office, what I call “dogro” for domestic gross). We have a category on this blog for that

Box Office

and keep quite a close eye on it.

Let’s just arbitrarily set the dividing line at $100 million dogro. That or above and the movie falls into the “popular” category, below, and it stays in the main categories (unless they are going to create an “unpopular” category, which seems unlikely). ūüėČ

If we look at last year’s Best Picture nominees and their dogros, we can perhaps discern a pattern:

  • The Shape of Water | $68.0m
  • Call Me by Your Name | $18.1m
  • Darkest Hour | $56.5m
  • Dunkirk | $188.0m
  • Get Out | $176.0m
  • Lady Bird | $49.0m
  • Phantom Thread | $21.1m
  • The Post | $81.9m
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri | $54.5m

It’s obvious that the vast majority (80%) of the Best Picture nominees made under $100m, and some have suggested that has something to do with declining viewership of the Oscars telecast. Wouldn’t more people watch the Oscars if they were familiar with the movies in the category that gets the most coverage? They might want to see if one of their favorites wins…and it’s hard to have a personal favorite amongst movies you most likely haven’t seen.

That 80% figure…how does that compare to the movies which were released?

According to

Box Office Mojo

33 movies released in 2017 dogroed more than $100m, out of 740 movies.

That’s about 4.5% meaning that $100m+ movies are disproportionately more often nominated for Best Picture…something like five times as much as would be expected.

However, that assumes that all movies released are intrinsically equally good…and that seems unlikely. Is it possible that movies which are equally as good as those which do get nominated do not get nominated because of a prejudice against popular movies?

For this, we’ll use the critical review scores from the

Movie Review Query Engine

We’ll look at the ten nominees, then the ten highest dogroing features:

  • The Shape of Water | 79
  • Call Me by Your Name | 85
  • Darkest Hour | 75
  • Dunkirk | 85
  • Get Out | 80
  • Lady Bird | 83
  • Phantom Thread | 79
  • The Post | 80
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri | 86

Average: 81.3

Highest dogro (may have been released in 2016, but was on this table for 2017):

  • Star Wars: the Last Jedi | 82
  • Beauty and the Beast | 68
  • Wonder Woman | 74
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle | 64
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | 70
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming | 72
  • It | 66
  • Thor: Ragnar | 71
  • Despicable Me 3 | 55
  • Justice League | 54

Average: 68

The average doesn’t suggest an anti-blockbuster bias. However, The Last Jedi does average out high enough to be a nominee…but there are obviously more factors than just what the critics think.

If such a prejudice did exist, that might be a reason to create a separate category. Arguably, that was the purpose of introducing the Best Animated Feature category…an animated movie might not be nominated for Best Picture, because of reluctance to recognize “a cartoon”. Only one (Beauty and the Beast) had been nominated prior to the introduction of the category (although there had been other special recognition).

Some people have suggested that the purpose of creating the Best Animated Feature category was to make it less likely that they would be nominated for Best Picture…and the same argument is being made for a possible “Popular Film” category.

It may be worth noting that two animated features (Up and Toy Story 3) have been nominated for Best Picture since the introduction of the Animated Feature category…twice as many. Certainly, arguments can be made that some others “should” have been nominated (notably WALL-E, which has an 88 at MRQE), but contrary to my initial gut feeling, I’m not seeing clear evidence of prejudice in my admittedly small sample.

I don’t think the pushback I’ve seen would all have come about because the category simply wasn’t needed, though.

There is also this:

It smacks of elitism, with the idea that the general populace doesn’t like the best movies…perhaps because they prefer less challenging movies?

That one is harder to analyze, but it seems like that would be flawed logic on the Academy’s part. Great movies can never be box office hits? The King’s Speech won a lot of Oscars, and eventually dogroed close to $140m. The two categories of “Best Picture” and blockbuster don’t appear to be self-exclusive.

I do think the point of creating a category like this would be more about increasing viewership (and other public acceptance) than genuinely recognizing value. It’s not like blockbusters are particularly unrewarded. I mean, gee, if there was only some way we could reward movies based on how many people see them. You know, like have each person who goes to see a movie could indicate that somehow…maybe by paying some money? I don’t know what we might call that, but that seems like that’s “the ticket”. ūüėČ

Is there some advantage to the Academy in appearing to be the elite? Perhaps, yes…there are other awards more based on popularity, so it might remove some of the Oscars’ uniqueness if there was also a popular film Oscar.

The Oscars already expanded the possible number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten, starting with the awards given in 2009, again, presumably to increase viewership by providing more diversity in the titles.

Personally? I don’t think an “achievement in popular film” Oscar is a good idea…I also didn’t like the expansion of the number of nominees. It does seem to dilute¬†the value of the award.

I would like to see some changes. I’d like to go back to five nominees for Best Picture. I’d like to see that Stunt category happen, which certainly might interest the general populace.

I’d like to see the elimination of gender separation in the acting categories (which MTV has done). It doesn’t really make sense to me. Is the argument that Gal Gadot’s lauded (but not nominated) performance as Wonder Woman is more comparable to, say, Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond because they have a similar chromosome structure than it is to Chris Evans’ performance as Captain America, another principled, fish out of water superhero? If the thought there is that prejudice (again) would keep women from being nominated for Best Actor, why aren’t there separate acting categories for other protected employment groups? People would definitely not be happy if those were introduced! That’s a topic for another time, though…

What do you think? Would it be a good thing for the Academy to recognize achievement in popular films? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.


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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

2016: the Year the Stars Went Out?

December 11, 2016

2016: the Year the Stars Went Out?

No question, there have been many sad losses of celebrities this year. For one thing, mainstream news has reported on several actors who played iconic geek-friendly roles…from Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder)¬†to Chekov (Anton Yelchin)¬†to The Man Who Fell to Earth (David Bowie).

People have suggested that this is the worst year to date for celebrity deaths…what we could call “The Year the Stars Went Out”.

Is that the case, though?

Every death matters. It’s not a competition, and each person deserves individual attention.

However, I thought it was worth looking at this idea…I’m always reluctant to frame things in a negative way. Have more celebrities died this year? If that’s not the case, why is that perception there?

My first thought was that there have been other years…and not just recent ones. After all, the In Memoriam segment at the Oscars always takes some time.

The year that immediately occurred to me was 1977. I remembered offhand that Groucho Marx and Zero Mostel had both died in 1977, and that at the time, I noted that there were several other big stars. I speculated then that babies named after celebrities that year might have some odd names (not that I’m someone to speak about the oddness of someone’s name).

To refresh myself, I ran a search for celebrities with a “death year” of 1977 at IMDb:

Most Popular People With Date of Death in 1977 at IMDb

My recollection had been correct. Just from that list:

  • Elvis Presley…arguably, there are no bigger music stars
  • Bing Crosby: an iconic figure, a giant of music, then movies, and TV
  • Charlie Chaplin: a very nostalgic figure at the time
  • Groucho Marx
  • Zero Mostel
  • Joan Crawford
  • Ethel Waters
  • Howard Hawks
  • Andy Devine
  • Eddie “Rochester” Anderson
  • Freddie Prinze: a popular actor of the period, in the category of “dead too young”
  • Of more specifically geek interest were Richard Carlson, Allison Hayes, Jacques Tourneur, William Castle, and Henry Hull

That search returns more than 1,300 names (not all of which will be well-known).

Still, I would say that there was at least a higher public awareness of celebrities who died in 2016 than in 1977.

I think there may be three main reasons for that:

  1. Pop culture now has a much longer “shelf life” than it used to have. Thanks in part to the preservation and distribution enbaled by the¬†internet (following television giving audiences the ability to see older movies, starting especially in the 1950s), people can easily see media which is one hundred years old, which wasn’t the case even twenty-five years ago. Electronic distribution of public domain works is very low cost. There are lots of sources. My own The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project¬†is built on the concept of enjoying older media. When Andy Warhol popularized the idea that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes…” in 1968, the suggestion was that someone would be famous, and then not famous. Now, it’s much more that if you become famous, you will at least continue to be known to the public forever. See also You‚Äôre showing your age when you say, ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre showing your¬†age‚ÄĚ.
  2. Geeks honor their own…and¬†the¬†vast majority of famous actors has a geek connection. Now that geeks are the mainstream (look at the most popular movies in any week), this tradition of ours to recognize actors who have had even a single credit or a small recurring role means that geek-friendly actors get a lot more respect than they used to get. Oscar winners always got coverage: that wasn’t the case with non-stars of geek-friendly TV shows, for example, but I’m now likely to see several articles on the passing of someone like that
  3. The multiplicity of media: there are 24 hour news channels, but also blogs and websites which specialize in geek topics…and those may be picked up by the mainstream

So, I do think part of it is perception…and that perception will continue next year. We will hear about the deaths of stars of the 1960s, 1950s, earlier, and also later. The news media will cover the passing of¬†geek-friendly stars, and we will honor their lives.

Over the next few weeks, we will be updating our 2016 Geeky Goody-byes, where you can see more of a list.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

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When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you‚Äôll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)‚Ķand the good feeling you‚Äôll get. :) Shop ‚Äôtil you help! :) By the way, it‚Äôs been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to ‚Äústart at AmazonSmile‚ÄĚ if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Is My Favorite Martian’s “Uncle Martin” a Jedi?

September 22, 2016

Is My Favorite Martian’s “Uncle Martin” a Jedi?

My Favorite Martian was a popular “mermaid out of water”* sitcom which aired from 1963 to 1966. I’ve recently been re-watching it on Hulu, and it got me thinking.

“Uncle Martin”, the Martian (whose real name is Exigius) has a number of “unearthly abilities”. They are fairly well established in the first season (although they arguably expand in the third season).

Some of them seemed a bit familiar to me, and then it struck me: they reminded me of the Jedi abilities in Star Wars.

Now, let me be very clear: I’m not suggesting that George Lucas copied My Favorite Martian! Certainly, it seems likely that he saw the series (he was 19 when it debuted), but was undoubtedly familiar with the themes through other science fiction. Nothing here originated with the John L. Greene/Jack Chertok’s sitcom.

It’s more the idea for me that “Uncle Martin” may be a Jedi…even though Star Wars takes place in a galaxy far, far away, a long time ago (perhaps the Martian Jedi philosophy was a survivor from an ancient time).

Let’s take a look at what Uncle Martin can do, and compare it to Jedi.

Telekinesis

This is one of the most obvious parallels. Uncle Martin uses his “levitation finger” to move things with his mind. It may look sillier (this is a comedy, after all) when he wiggles his finger, but it’s actually less effort than when a Jedi makes full arm swings. Darth Vader comes close when he chokes someone. There are certainly limitations…Uncle Martin can’t influence things which are very far away, and neither can Jedi. If they could, they’d be able to take fighter spacecraft out of the sky with a gesture. Martin, who is quite a techie, did create a levitation machine with an extended range…something we don’t see in Star Wars.

Acrobatics

One of the things that defines Jedi for me is the acrobatics. The Martian does do very Jedi moves in one episode, The Disastro-Nauts. He is applying to be an astronaut on an Earth rocket to Mars, and despite appearing to be a meek, older human, shows up all of the young military types. That includes demonstrating extraordinary strength. We don’t usually see this, but he is a quiet type most of the time (not unlike the Jedi).

Telempathy/reading minds

Martin can sense emotions from somewhat far away…a “disturbance in the Force”, so to speak. However, again, Martin would win in a contest…he can read actual thoughts. If Lord Vader could do that, they would have a much simpler time fighting the rebellion. It’s not easy: he needs to be close, and generally, the other person has to concentrate (as does Martin). Martin sometimes tricks people into thinking about a topic (by asking questions)¬†so he can get the details of it as he reads their minds.

Talking to animals

Interestingly, the Martian can speak with non-human animals…perhaps not surprising, since his telepathy already crosses species with humans. The animals appear to be cognitively much more advanced than would generally be accepted, but their motivations and perspectives are generally reasonably appropriate. A cat may be motivated by food, but hides an object to affect future events and understands what that object is and its importance. Can Jedi speak with animals? There are a lot of species involved in Star Wars, in addition to artificially intelligent droids. I can’t say that I’ve seen Jedi have the kind of communication Martin has with dogs and cats…they don’t appear to ask Tauntauns for specific information, for instance.

Jedi mind tricks

As is the case with Jedi, Uncle Martin can’t possess someone and control their actions. He can push them physically around with telekinesis, of course. However, he is also able to confuse them…we see a scene quite a bit like the “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” scene. Martin is speeding (to help Tim), and two police officers chase him. He slows them down, and after they catch up, they can’t figure out why they were after him.

Invisibility

Uncle Martin can actually become invisible at will (unless something like a lightning storm messes it up). That’s an ability that Jedi don’t have (they do a lot of sneaking around in the movies which they wouldn’t have to do if they could just go transparent). That appears to be an inherent Martian ability, though…Martin needs his (metallic appearing, but apparently biological) retractable antennae to work for that. They may be implants of some kind, and the invisibility might be technological, but it’s clear that Martians generally have them. Martin is clearly not a Homo sapiens (for one thing, he is about 450 years old…and those are Martian years, not Earth years), but neither is Yoda.

Those are really Uncle Martin’s signature abilities. Now, Martin doesn’t have a light saber and isn’t a warrior (he’s a professor of anthropology), but do you have to have that to be a Jedi? If a Jedi loses their light saber, does that make them not a Jedi any more? It might make it hard for them to be a Jedi knight, but isn’t it possible there are Jedi who aren’t knights? If not, why add the¬†term “knight” at all?

There are other parallels with Uncle Martin and Yoda: they are both relatively long-lived; they both dispense advise (Uncle Martin advised many famous humans over the centuries, on return trips to Earth…as far as we know, he just hasn’t been stranded on Earth before)…although Uncle Martin probably physically resembles Ben Kenobi more.

Could the Jedi philosophy have survived on Mars a long time later? By the way, Martin makes so many references to the actual planet Mars (trying to hideaway on an Earth probe there, for one thing) that it is hard to argue that he really isn’t from Mars…unless he has some form of transportation there that gets him to the actually more life-friendly location he describes.

What do you think? Is Uncle Martin a Jedi? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

¬†* “Mermaid out of water” is a term I use for a situation that is like the classic “fish out of water”, but the outsider is magical, from another time, from another planet, or something otherwise outside of the human norm

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you‚Äôll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)‚Ķand the good feeling you‚Äôll get. :) Shop ‚Äôtil you help! :) By the way, it‚Äôs been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to ‚Äústart at AmazonSmile‚ÄĚ if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

“Alexa, what did all those Back to the Future stories miss?” (and fact future v fict future)

October 22, 2015

“Alexa, what did all those Back to the Future stories miss?” (and fact future v fict future)

Yesterday was October 21st, 2015,

Back to the Future Day (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That’s the day in 1989’s Back to the Future II that Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive in the future.

There were many, many stories about it…enough to fill a Ford Super De Luxe convertible. ūüėČ Now, I’m not suggesting they were similar to the material that filled Biff Tannen’s car…far from it.

Most were thoughtful comparisons of what was shown in the movie (fict((ional)) future) versus how we actually live today (fact future…at least, the future to 1989). I particularly liked this one:

Back to the Future 2015 SuperScholar.org

However, as an owner of an

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’ve been really surprised that people have generally ignored Marty McFly’s future home’s automation and talktech.

In the movie (and there are mild spoilers here…more about bits than about the plot), the house welcomes a character. Another character says, “….you should reprogram: it’s dangerous to enter without lights on.” When the character repeats, “Lights on?”, the lights come on in the room, with a tone to let the user know that the command has been heard (or just to acknowledge the lights coming on).

That is how I turn the lights on in my house…and the voice that tells me “Okay” is much more natural than what we generally hear in the movie.

I say, “Alexa, turn on the Family Room”, or “Alexa, turn on the Library”.

My Echo hears me and Alexa turns on the appropriate bulb which was part of the

GE Link Starter Kit, PLINK-SKIT, Wireless, A19 LED Light Bulb, Pack of 2 (at AmazonSmile*)

Could I “reprogram” the house to simply turn on the lights when I got home?

Yes!

The Wink app (Wink, by the way, has been sold following a bankruptcy by Quirky, but my equipment still works) has “robots”. I could tell it:

  • If the robot detects my location changing to arriving at my home address
  • Anytime
  • Then turn lights on

I don’t do that, but it’s an option.

Later, another character tells the talktech to turn off the “art” on a big screen and to display several channels (simultaneously).

That’s a bit tougher to do currently. I’m going to be testing in the near future¬†using our

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

to communicate with a

Samsung SmartThings Hub (at AmazonSmile*)

to control a

Logitech Harmony Home Control (at AmazonSmile*)

to in turn control an

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)

I know, I know…that’s quite a daisy chain. Alexa is on my Fire TV (this is the 2nd generation), but it can’t actually control the channels or do voice search. The Fire TV does voice search, but that’s a different system. I do hope that the Fire TV will eventually be able to natively not only open, say, Hulu, but “Show me the next episode of [show name]”. I think we’ll get there within the next two years.

Regardless, talktech is a solid hit for BttF2…why wasn’t it being mentioned in stories and infographics along with self-lacing sneakers, hoverboards, and holograms?

Does it seem so natural that it wasn’t worth analysis? Alternatively, did the writers not realize that this arrived right on schedule? The Echo and the Alexa Voice Service have had a super soft launch…there weren’t lines of people outside a store waiting for the Echo. It’s been more like a rising tide than an asteroid strike. Amazon may be very clever in avoiding huge expectations and great demand and having it gradually just become part of our lives.

Now, let’s talk about fact future versus fict future.

How many predictions did Back to the Future 2 get right?

There were no predictions…so none. ūüėČ

Back to the Future 2 is a work of fiction: it’s not the analysis of a futurist or the premonitions of a psychic.

Much of what we see is there for comic effect, and to tie into the first and third movies.

Let’s take Jaws 19 playing at a movie theatre.

  • Jaws was released in 1975
  • Jaws 2 was released in 1978
  • Jaws 3-D was released in 1983
  • Jaws: The Revenge (effectively Jaws 4) was released in 1987

From 1985 (when Bttf2 is set) to 2015, a new Jaws movie would have to have come out on average every 15 months or so. While it’s certainly possible that production schedules will become shorter as technology improves, I’m not sure that’s a specific prediction they intended (but I’d be happy to be contradicted by the moviemakers…comment, Bob Gale?). ūüėČ

We can also see that Jaws 19 is directed by Max Spielberg. Max was born on June 13, 1985…and is the son of Steven Spielberg, the director of the original Jaws (and an Executive Producer) on BttF2. Is this a prediction of a fact based on trends and analysis…or an in joke? I’d lean towards the latter… ūüėČ

While some geeky fiction is trying to project current trends, it’s also often a commentary on the present. It may not be intended at all to represent a likely future…in some cases, it’s actually intended to help stave off some developments portrayed within it.

That’s one issue with fict future versus fact future comparisons.

Another one is this: the future may be boring. ūüôā

Drama is based on difficulty: stress, risk, friction, and difficult choices.

Technology, especially in the past decade or so, has been about removing all that.

Let’s say we set a new Back to the Future, set thirty years from now (2045).

Cars are impossible to crash. It’s impossible to fall off a building. All weaponry is nonlethal. Anyone on the street can be immediately identified and helped.

I’m not saying that’s going to happen by then…but it is a not unreasonable assessment of the trends.

Not only is the tendency towards less danger (and therefore less drama), there are two other factors.

Technology is becoming more invisible, and it’s becoming more internal.

BttF2 uses fingerprint technology for the house to allow someone to enter.

Currently, SmartHomes can use SmartPhones to recognize when someone comes to the home and unlocks the door (although there is a hypothetical risk that the phone could be stolen).

In the future, I fully expect that our technology will recognize us by our simple biology…no technology necessary to be carried. Facial recognition is one way, but there may be others, akin to the original Outer Limits’ O.B.I.T. (Outer Band Individuated Teletracer), which basically picks up on an individual’s unique electromagnetic emanations.

It wouldn’t be very dramatic in a movie, though, to simply have the door open, with no indication of how the individual was recognized.

Similarly, the TV should have been able to largely anticipate what the character wanted to watch…or at least, most of it. That conversation should not be necessary at some point in the future (not necessarily in the next thirty years), but again, would be much less dramatic. Imagine this scene in a movie:

A detective wakes up at home. The lights simply come on. The self-cleaning clothes change from pyjamas to a uniform with no interaction. The detective sits down to a breakfast table, where the food is already ready and eats breakfast (again, no interaction). The detective steps outside, and a car is waiting. The detective gets in the car, and it drives away…already knowing where the detective wants to go, and monitoring the detective’s emotional reaction to its choices. En route to where a criminal¬†is already unconscious (having been spotted and subdued by autonomous¬†technology), other cars smoothly move out of the way on their own.

Not very dramatic, right?

In terms of technology becoming more internal…I feel like we are very connected to other people now, but not with the strangers immediately in our vicinity.

Classic old time movie scene: a newsboy shouting, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” Somebody buys a paper, and we see the headline. The character exclaims, “Gosh all hemlock!”

Current version: character gets a subtle vibration notification, glances at a watch, and reads the news. In the same room, other characters are checking watches or phone…could be the same headline, might be something else, like a reminder to buy milk. Everything is done without speech.

Which one makes the better scene?

Even though geeky fiction isn’t usually trying to actually predict the future, sometimes it does…but intriguingly, it is sometimes a case of life imitating art.

Dr. Martin Cooper has suggested that seeing the communicator on Star Trek inspired his work on the mobile phone.

Does anyone doubt that Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon have been inspirations for work on ray guns?

Fiction may not intentionally predict the future…but it may help to inspire it.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Mid-year box office check 2015

August 2, 2015

Mid-year box office check 2015

We’ve gone through six months of the year, so it’s a good time to look at how the box office is going (based on movies released in the USA through the end of June).

It’s entirely possible that this year will have the largest dogro (domestic gross) to date (not adjusted for inflation), especially since there are some really big movies yet to come.

Breaking it down, what do we see?

Jennifer Lopez is a movie star

That might not be the lead in stories you’ll see in other publications about this year at the movies, but the success of The Boy Next Door is staggering, and largely due to J.Lo.

Oh, I’m sure some of you want to jump in and say that Chris Pratt is a bigger star.

Well, The Boy Next Door has a dogro of $35.4m on a reported production budget of $4.0m. That’s a return of 885%, nearly triple golden in our awards system.

It did that in part because of its star’s (and sorry, John Corbett and Kristen Chenoweth, but I doubt very many people¬†went to see the movie who weren’t¬†significantly interested in seeing J.Lo) smart and relentless promotion, appearing on TV shows, in magazines, and so on.

Universal has it figured out

Universal is one of the most geek-friendly studios ever (along with Hammer in England, and AIP). Of course, they had the famous horror cycle starting with Boris Karloff in Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi in Dracula, and continuing in that cycle until they may have killed it with Abbott and Costello Meets fill-in-the-blank. The list goes on and on from The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Incredible Shrinking Man, to their relationship with Steven Spielberg, bringing us Jaws and E.T. This year, four of the top 5 of

The Measured Circle’s Most Profitable Movies

at time of writing are from Universal:

  • Jurassic World ($478m in profit, domestic gross ((dogro)) versus production budget…419%)
  • Minions ($201m in profit | 372%)
  • Furious Seven ($160m in profit ¬†| 184%)
  • Pitch Perfect 2 ($154m in profit | 631%)

Those are four very different movies, with different target audiences. Yes, they are all sequels/prequels, but that’s certainly no guarantee of success (for an example from this year, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 didn’t domestically make back its budget…which was $14m). They did have a couple of misfires (Blackhat and Seventh Son), but they’ve more than made up for it.

So does Blumhouse

Universal has been investing money, and getting a return on it. Blumhouse, on the other hand, spends very little money…but has a higher percentage return than Universal…and they’ve been doing that for years. Looking at 2015:

  • The Lazarus Effect ($25.8m dogro on a $3.3m production budget | 782%)
  • Insidious: Chapter 3 ($52m dogro on a $10m production budget | 520%)
  • The Gallows ($21.9m on a $100,000 production budget | 21,580%) (note: this was released July 10th, so it’s past our cut-off…but it’s still a stand-out, so we’ll cheat a little) ūüėČ

Golden movies on our list

To get to our list, a movie has to dogro at least $40m. We also give awards to movies, based on their returns…at least 300% return is “Golden” (double, and this is still dogro versus production budget, is “Money”). These movies are Golden this year:

  • Pitch Perfect 2 Double Golden (at least 600% return)
  • Jurassic World (highly unusual¬†that a movie with a $150m budget to go Golden)
  • Minions
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Magic Mike XXL
  • Insidious: Chapter 3

The $500 Million Club

We also track

The Measured Circle’s Box Office MVPs

To get on the list, an actor needs to be first billed in a movie that dogros at least $100m, and appear in at least one other movie that dogros $40m.

Eleven actors are on that list, and six of them have had movies on our list that dogroed at least $500m this year:

  1. Judy Greer: Jurassic World ($628.0m); Tomorrowland ($91.8m); Ant-Man ($120.0m) | Tentative total: $839.8m
  2. Hayley Atwell: Cinderella ($201.0m); Avengers: Age of Ultron ($456.0m); Ant-Man ($120.0m) | Tentative total: $777.0m
  3. BD Wong: Jurassic World ($628.0m); Focus ($53.8m) | Tentative total: $681.8m
  4. Stellan Skarsgård: Cinderella ($201.0m); Avengers: Age of Ultron ($456.0m) | Tentative total: $657.0m
  5. Samuel L. Jackson: Kingsman: The Secret Service ($128.0m); Avengers: Age of Ultron ($456.0m) | Tentative total: $584.0m
  6. Dwayne Johnson: Furious 7 ($350.0m); San Andreas ($151.0m) | Tentative total: $501.0m

Of these six, only Samuel L. Jackson is repeating from 2014…although Dwayne Johnson was on the list for 2013.

There you are…halfway through the year, and there is a lot more coming!

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

The Geeky Seventies

June 9, 2015

The Geeky Seventies

CNN is following up their successful series on the 1960s with one on the 1970s:

http://www.cnn.com/shows/the-seventies

Tom Hanks is an Executive Producer.

The existence of this series is kind of funny to me. I did a comedy bit years ago on our community access TV show (Freedom from Fear) called “In Search of the Seventies”. I treated it as a mystery as to whether or not the Seventies even (culturally) existed. I asked if they were really just “…the end of the Sixties and the start of the Eighties”.

I think that’s because I was too close to it. I was really engaging in pop culture in the Seventies…well, often culture that wasn’t so popular, but you know what I mean. ūüėČ I didn’t have the distance from it and maturity to recognize what was special about it.

Certainly, I thought the 1960s had a unique culture…with the Beatles in part driving the bus.

As to the 1980s, well, New Wave music seemed to stand out to me.

The 1970s? At that time, I wasn’t seeing what made it special.

Now I do. ūüôā

This post is going to give you an overview of geek-friendly culture in the 1970s.

It was definitely¬†a transformative decade…even if the Transformers didn’t arrive until the 1980s. ūüėČ

Geek culture moved mainstream in very big ways. Predominantly, there was Star Wars, which made space opera a blockbuster, but we could also look at The Exorcist for horror, and Interview with the Vampire (Anne Rice) for vampires.

We saw the arrival of Stephen King as a novelist, and the publication of Dungeons and Dragons.

Home video technology meant that people could easily watch movies after they were out of theatres…decades after, in some cases. Prior to that, some of us had three-minute long Super 8 movies, and the real hobbyists might have 16mm reels, but the Betamax and others meant our cinematic history (including the geeky part) was much more accessible.

Star Trek: the Original Series was canceled in 1969…but the fandom continued. That led to the first Star Trek convention in the 1970s. Science fiction conventions went back to 1939, but this was different.

Batman in the 1960s might have made superheroes a hit on TV, but Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were part of the 1970s scene.

The Weird World interested a lot more people…the In Search Of TV series was only one part of that, but was many viewers’ first exposure to some of these topics.

Let’s look at some of the highlights in different areas:

Movies

How times have changed!

When you look at the top ten US grossing movies released in the 1960s, arguably only two are geek-friendly (GF) and not specifically intended for the family/children’s market:

  1. The Sound of Music
  2. 101 Dalmations
  3. The Jungle Book
  4. Doctor Zhivago
  5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  6. Mary Poppins
  7. My Fair Lady
  8. Thunderball (GF)
  9. Cleopatra
  10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (GF)

By the end of the 1970s, that picture had entirely changed, and would look more like our box office today:

  1. Star Wars (GF)
  2. Jaws (GF)
  3. The Sting
  4. Animal House
  5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (eventually) GF
  6. The Godfather
  7. Superman (GF)
  8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (GF)
  9. Smokey and the Bandit
  10. Blazing Saddles

The Exorcist (1973) brought straight up horror to blockbuster status and mainstream acceptance (along with a lot of protests).

In 1975, Steven Spielberg changed the summer. Up to that point, it had largely been a season of cheapo exploitation movies. People actually went outside (including drive-ins), not to the movies. Jaws reshaped all that, giving us the summer blockbuster season. There have been heated debates about whether or not Jaws is a fantasy (are we supposed to believe the shark is just a shark, or something more?), but it was clearly a monster movie.

Then in 1977, Star Wars changed it all.

While those movies were all big hits, there were a lot of other significant geek movies. Undeniably, we have to count the Rocky Horror Picture Show as establishing midnight movies and a special kind of cult film. It flopped when it came out, but then got a new life in a new way. He’s the hero…that’s right, the hero. ūüėČ

Here are some other stand-outs:

  • Alien (1979)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • Mad Max (1979)
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  • Carrie (1976)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  • Halloween (1978)
  • Young Frankenstein (1974)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • The Omen (1976)
  • King Kong (1976)
  • Eraserhead (1977)
  • Solaris (1972)
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
  • Logan’s Run (1979)
  • The Wicker Man (1973)
  • Live and Let Die (1973) (the first Roger Moore James Bond)
  • Soylent Green (1973)
  • Enter the Dragon (193)
  • The Amityville Horror (1979)
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Zardoz (1974)
  • The Wiz (1978)
  • Westworld¬†(1973)
  • Four of the original Planet of the Apes movies
  • A Boy and His Dog (1975)
  • Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
  • Tommy (1975)
  • The Lord of the Rings (1978) (Ralph Bakshi)
  • Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
  • The Andromeda Strain (1971)
  • Phantasm (1979)
  • The Sentinel (1977)
  • Suspiria (1977)
  • Death Race 2000 (1975)
  • Rollerball (1975)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • The Omega Man (1971)
  • Tales from the Crypt (1972)
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
  • Freaky Friday (1976)
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
  • The Car (1977)
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
  • The ¬†Stepford Wives (1975)
  • Dark Star (1974)
  • Eraserhead (1977)

TV

Sure, the 1960s had been huge for high concept TV (with 1964 particularly important), but the 1970s built on that with many geek-friendly hits. Batman on TV had burned out by 1970, but opened the field for other superheroes (DC, Marvel, and bionic). Star Wars and James Bond were both big in movie theatres, and we saw their effect on the small screen as well. Home video arrived, which began to give us more options (although cable wouldn’t be a factor until the 1980s). Saturday morning got trippy with the Kroffts (although H.R. Pufnstuf debuted in 1969), and saw the return of Star Trek with the original cast…in animated form.

Some geek-friendly series:

  • Wonder Woman
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Saturday Night Live (Coneheads! Land Shark!)
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Fantasy Island
  • Mork & Mindy
  • Land of the Lost
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • Kung Fu
  • Space: 1999
  • The Six Million Dollar Man
  • The Bionic Woman
  • The Muppet Show
  • The Tomorrow People
  • Isis
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker
  • Blakes 7
  • The Amazing Spier-Man
  • Nanny and the Professor
  • Shazam!
  • Tales of the Unexpected
  • SCTV
  • Paddington Bear
  • The New Avengers
  • Schoolhouse Rock!
  • Super Friends
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series
  • Man from Atlantis
  • Return to the Planet of the Apes
  • Sigmund and the Sea Monsters
  • Sapphire & Steel
  • Star Blazers
  • The Prisoner
  • Quark
  • Josie and the Pussycats
  • The Invisible Man (David McCallum)
  • Electra Woman and Dyna Girl
  • Doctor Who in the United States
  • Monty Python in the United States

Books/literature

I’ve gone into depth on the general topic of literature of the 1970s in another blog of mine:

I Love My Kindle: Books in the 1970s

In terms of geek-friendly, it was a huge decade! Just as movies saw the mainstreaming of geek-friendly genres, bookstores saw bestsellers from a new author named Stephen King, and a vampire hit (Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice).

While geek-specific bookstores (and comic book stores) were crucial, you could walk into a the newly national Barnes & Noble chain and get a variety of science fiction/fantasy/supernatural horror. You wanted military SF? You had Joe Haldeman. Light fantasy? Enter Xanth by Piers Anthony. Social science fiction? The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner. Ringworld…Riverworld…we weren’t only reaching out to new planets, we were visiting new worlds and universes.

Here are some of the stand-out titles and authors:

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
  • Gateway by Frederick Pohl
  • Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go by¬†Philip Jos√© Farmer
  • Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven
  • The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  • Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan
  • Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
  • The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
  • Altered States by Paddy Chayefsky
  • Autumn Angels by Arthur Byron Cover
  • The Cave of Time (Choose Your Own Adventure) by Edward Packard

Gaming

1974 saw the release of Dungeons & Dragons…and we had Advanced D&D by the end of the decade. This was really the decade that saw the RPG (Role-Playing Game) world established, and would include Runequest and Traveller.

Fandom

Star Trek:  The Original Series ended in 1969, but the people who had come together to fight for a third season kept at it. That included the first Star Trek convention (well, the first widely available to the public one in 1972), the return of the original cast for the animated series, and eventually, 1979, to the big screen.

Comics

Again, there was a transition happening, with some significant experimentation.

  • Jack Kirby jumped from Marvel to DC, and introduced Darkseid
  • The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide first appeared
  • Green Lantern and Green Arrow take a philosophical walk-about across America
  • Mister Miracle debuts
  • An arc in Spider-Man features drug use, and defies the Comics Code Authority
  • Ra’s Al Ghul first appears
  • The Kree-Skrull War storyline
  • The Sandman
  • War Machine makes his first appearance
  • Wonder Woman gives up her powers

The Weird World

  • The TV series In Search of… (hosted by Leonard Nimoy) was instrumental in reinteresting people in the Roswell Incident
  • 1973 was dubbed “The Year of the Humanoids” by UFO researcher David Webb…one of the most famous was the Pascagoula incident
  • Uri Geller was famous, even appearing on the Tonight Show in 1973 to “bend spoons”
  • Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain by¬†Lynn Schroeder and Sheila Ostrander was published in 1970
  • The Mysterious Monsters was a Sunn Classics documentary, featuring Peter Graves
  • The Legend of Boggy Creek was released in 1972
  • The Unidentified, published in 1975, by Loren Coleman & Jerome Clark, is Coleman’s first “name on the cover” book
  • John A. Keel’s inimitable The Mothman Prophecies was published in 1975
  • Momo, the Missouri Monster, was just one of many hairy bipeds
  • Newsstands had magazines galore, including Ancient Astronauts
  • The “flipper photo” of the Loch Ness Monster was taken in 1972 by Dr. Robert Rines’ team
  • In 1975, Travis Walton is missing for several days, and a report emerges of an abduction by aliens

Records

Listening to LPs was definitely a 1970s thing, and there were some definitely geeky concept albums.

  • 1972: David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
  • 1973: Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells
  • 1978: Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds
  • 1978:¬†Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

Science/Tech

  • Home computers became a thing in 1977, with the Apple II, the Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor), and the TRS-80 (Tandy Radio Shack)
  • Skylab launched in 1973…and docked with the Russian Soyuz in 1975
  • The Atari 2600 was released in 1977
  • The first Pong arcade game was put to use in 1972. Arcade games would really take off with Space Invaders in 1978

There’s a bit of the geeky 1970s for you! We certainly didn’t cover everything, but you can see the big shift from geek culture being kids and niche to becoming the mainstream pop culture force that it is today. Want to add something? Feel free to comment on this post.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Will Into the Woods reverse the Depp Dip?

December 17, 2014

Will Into the Woods reverse the Depp Dip?

Look, we love Johnny Depp. He’s talented, charismatic, and can do both comedy and drama.

For the past few years, though, audiences haven’t loved him enough to actually go see his movies in theatres all that much.

Here at The Measured Circle, one way we judge the success of a movie is by comparing its dogro (domestic gross) to its production budget.

As recorded both on this blog and on our IMDb list

2014 The Measured Circle’s Most Profitable Movies

we give movies awards based on the following metrics:

Dogro 2X production budget = “Money”
Dogro 3X production budget = “Golden”
Dogro 30X production budget = “Platinum”

Dogro less than 50% of production budget = “Underperformer”

Let’s take a look at Depp’s starring movies for the past three years (leaving out 21 Jump Street as a cameo):

  • Transcendence (4/18/2014): dogro $23m / production budget $100m = 23% UNDERPERFORMER
  • The Lone Ranger (7/3/2013): dogro $89m / production budget $215m = 41% UNDERPERFORMER
  • Dark Shadows (5/11/2012): dogro $80 / production budget $150m = 53%

As you can see, the trend has been diminishing returns.

Taking these three movies as a whole, it’s dogro $192m / $465m = 41%.

Going back to the previous three year period, the picture is quite different:

  • The Rum Diary (10/28/2011): dogro $13m / production budget $45m = 29% UNDERPERFORMER
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (5/20/2011): dogro $241 / production budget $250m = 96%
  • Rango (3/4/2011): dogro $123 / production budget $135 = 91%
  • The Tourist (12/10/2010: dogro $68 / production budget $100 = 68%
  • Alice in Wonderland (3/5/2010): dogro $334m / production budget $200m = 167%
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (12/26/2009): dogro $8m / production budget $30m = 27%
  • Public Enemies (7/1/2009): dogro $97m / production budget $100m = 97%

(not included: When You’re Strange, with Depp as narrator)

While only one of them was an underperformer, and none of them got to our Money level of 200%, this is still a much better showing. Taken as a whole: dogro $884m / $860m = 103%.

Skipping 2008 (no major releases), the previous three year period showed real strength:

  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (12/21/2007): dogro $53 / production budget $50m = 106%
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (5/25/2007): dogro $309m / production budget $300m = 103%
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (7/7/2006): dogro $423m / production budget $225m = 188%
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (7/15/2005): dogro $209 / production budget $150 = 139%

(not included: The Libertine and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, due to lack of production budget data)

Here are the other movies for which we have data (from http://www.boxofficemojo.com):

  • Finding Neverland (11/12/04) dogro $52m / production budget $25m = 208% MONEY
  • Secret Window (3/12/2004) dogro $48m / production budget $40m = 120%
  • Once Upon a Time in Mexico (9/12/03) dogro $56m / production budget $29m 193%
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (7/9/03) dogro $305m / production budget $140m = 218% MONEY
  • From Hell (10/19/01) dogro $32m / production budget $35m 91%
  • Blow (4/6/01) dogro $53m / production budget $53m = 100%
  • Chocolat (12/15/00) dogro $72m / production budget $25m 288% MONEY
  • The Ninth Gate (3/10/00) dogro $19m / production budget $38m 50%
  • Sleepy Hollow (11/19/99) dogro $101m / production budget $100 = 101%
  • The Astronaut’s Wife (8/27/99) dogro $11m / production budget $75m 15% UNDERPERFORMER
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (5/22/98) dogro $11m / production budget $18.5 59%
  • Don Juan de Marco (4/7/95) dogro $22m / production budget $25m 88%
  • Ed Wood (9/30/94) dogro $6m / production budget $18m 33%
  • Platoon (12/19/86) dogro $139m / production budget $6m 2317% SEPTUPLE GOLDEN

Did you think that Platoon would be Johnny’s best movie, based on return on the investment dollar? That Chocolat was second? That The Astronaut’s Wife had done worse in that department than Transcendence?

Taking a look at it graphically (without Platoon, which is such an outlier that you wouldn’t be able to see the other differences very well ¬†if we included it), you can see that there have been ups and downs…but all downs recently:

Depp Dip

 

So,  back to the question: will

Into the Woods

opening December 25th, reverse that slide?

Unfortunately, while it may certainly do better than Transcendence, we think its unlikely that it returns to “Money” territory, and would be very surprised if it was “Golden”. The rumored production budget is $50m. Director Rob Marshall’s track record questions the ability to get to Golden, at least after the first big hit:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (5/20/2011): dogro $241 / production budget $250m = 96%
  • Nine (12/18/2009): dogro $20m / production budget $80m = 25%
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (12/9/2005): dogro $57m / production budget $85m = 67%
  • Chicago (12/27/2002): dogro $171m / production budget $45m = 377% GOLDEN

We hope the movie is terrific, and that it exceeds all of our expectations at the box office. We wish everybody involved with it well, and will be interested to see the results (and we will continue to watch Johnny Depp’s career in the future).

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them

 

 


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