Friday, February 24, 2006

Media watch

So, the spouse and I are about to break our media fast, and we're kinda bummed out. There are so many movies we've missed lately, and it's so hard to know whether a given movie is any good. By "good", I mean "yes" answers to little questions: "Does the film fulfill the dramatic unities?" And to big questions: "Does the movie score high on the Patty-meter?"

To rate high on the Patty-meter, a film has to have lots of things that are cool (fights, frights, and explosions; wonder and joy; stuff that's shiny). It must present them in an interesting and original way (to avoid the classic Onion headline "Movie Praised For Not Being As Bad As It Could Have Been"). And it must have a minimum of stuff that sucks (You know: stuff that isn't cool.).

It's a simple idea, but nobody's doing it quite the way we'd like. Joe Bob Briggs does some of it — noting body counts, breast counts, quarts of blood, and varieties of fu —, but not all, and anyway, he doesn't seem to be very active lately.

There's lots of other quantitative film criticism. The helpful reviewers at Family Media Guide count all the profanities in a film and list the highlights. The censorial bible-thumpers at are even more systematic. They rate every movie from 0 to 100. CAP's quantitative, "objective" methodology is so scientifical that it has its own acronym:
  • Wanton Violence/Crime
  • Impudence/Hate
  • Sex/Homosexuality
  • Drugs/Alcohol
  • Offense to God
  • Murder/Suicide
It looks like a great idea, although giving lower scores to better movies makes their scale seem backwards (like Anders Celsius' original centigrade system). But CAP isn't measuring the amount of neat stuff in a movie; really, they're measuring how hot and bothered it gets them. A funny, heartfelt movie whose theology they dislike bothers them a lot more than a pious snuff film. When a good movie pushes their buttons, it's a hoot: check out their "analysis" of Sin City. Unfortunately, they sometimes like good movies and hate bad ones — so they're not a reliable contrary indicator — rendering their exegeses more entertaining than useful.

Talking about metrics in film criticism reminded me of Wikipedia's List of films ordered by uses of the word "fuck". Which linked to a handy category, Lists of films, which in turn included such useful compendia as List of films by gory death scene and List of films about independent body parts. So there's still hope for the Patty-meter.


Anonymous Doug Hoffman said...

I remember seeing a list of films featuring women peeing. Can't find it now, sadly enough.

0/100 on Sin City -- I can't think of a higher recommendation! Sin City was great.

10:18 PM  

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