Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Cinema by the Numbers: Who is the Greatest Director in the World? (Part 4)

This will be the last post in the "Cinema by the Numbers" quest to discover the greatest directors on the planet. As stated previously, read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 (go onto the main page and find them) before continuing. This post will go straight to the heart of the matter, and look at which directors have the highest scores on IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, a combination of these as well as one or two other (hopefully) interesting bits. As always, hit the jump...

What I'll Be Looking At...

As discussed in Part 1, I will be looking at how the top 50 directors stack up against each other according to:
  • IMDB.com ratings - in other words, which director has the greatest mass audience appeal
  • Rotten Tomatoes ratings - which director as the greatest general critical appeal?
  • Metacritic ratings - which director is the real critics' darling?
I will also look at how these scores deviate from each other. A big difference between IMDB and Critics' scores should indicate a director who pleases audiences rather than critics. That is obvious yes, but the results may not be. Finally, I will take a look at the best and worst performing films on the list.

IMDB: The People's Director

Are you surprised at that top 5? Me not so much. Christopher Nolan is one of those directors who has not put a foot wrong, receiving acclaim for every movie he directs. In fact, the same applies to all those guys near the top. What does surprise me is the fact that every director in the top 5 is either 50 years old or younger. That's pretty impressive, considering the fact that the average age of the 50 directors is 60. The oldest director in the top 5 is David Fincher, who is the 14th youngest of the Top 50. Another pleasant surprise is that some of my favourite directors are up there too. It would have been nice to see higher rankings for Danny Boyle, David Cronenberg, Lars von Trier and Werner Herzog, but I can hardly complain about that list.

The best of the rest is not really surprising. The lowest ranking director that I really like is Nicolas Winding Refn, but his movies are (generally) a little too weird for true mass appeal. I wonder if there are other directors I missed that would rank higher than some of these guys? I'm sure there are, but I can't think of any. Feel free to suggest a name or two - I will enter the data and see where they rank!

Unanimous Critical Support: Rotten Tomatoes

So, despite being a love-him-or-hate-him kind of director, QT still ends up with the highest overall RT score. I suppose that his lovers greatly outnumber his haters. The more interesting part of this list, though, is seeing where and how it deviates from the IMDB list. I have inserted a third column which shows how the directors' RT rankings compare to IMDB. Nicolas Winding Refn and David O' Russell each climbed a whopping 33 positions, the latter climbing right into the top 5! O' Russell is the overall winner on points as well, since the difference between his average IMDB and RT scores is 14.6%, whereas Winding Refn comes in at 12.6%. Other big climbers include Guillermo Del Toro (23 places), Pedro Almodovar (19 places) and Werner Herzog (18 places). What do these guys all have in common? Well, all of them direct some pretty weird movies. These are obviously more likely to be popular among critics and less so with the general public. However, the weirdness means they are offered gentle critical support, but never fully win over the critics (as the Metacritic scores will indicate).

Who then are the biggest losers? For some reason, Sam Mendes dropped a whopping 27 places. That being said, he was ranked very high on the IMDB list (at 6), which means it's easiest for him to fall so far. The true loser, on points, is Tony Scott, whose average RT score is 11.47% lower than his average IMDB score. Critics just don't dig movies like Top Gun, Days of Thunder and Man on Fire. Audiences do. Mendez would rank 8th biggest drop on points, with directors like Oliver Stone (he's directed some shockers), Michel Gondry (he too), Michael Haneke, Ridley Scott and Lars Von Trier all dropping more points than him. I would attribute Lars Von Trier's drop to his divisiveness, as the man has simply angered too many critics to receive universal support. Interestingly, David Fincher dropped the second most places (18). He is the victim of directing some movies with insane audience support (hence being number 4 on the IMDB list), but maybe not such great critical support (thanks mainly to Alien 3). Michael Haneke's demise is due mainly to a film he directed called Benny's Video (a story about a boy called Benny who watches violent movies). It scores a paltry 33% on RT and 72% on IMDB. The low number of reviews on RT for this film probably result in too much weight being attributed to the score. However, this model just a rough indicator!

Critical Acclaim: Metacritic

It would seem that the critics' darling is none other than Paul Thomas Anderson. He is probably my second favourite director (after QT), so that makes me a happy man. The high score is due to the simple fact that all of his movies to date have received extraordinary critical acclaim. His films are complex, and critics eat that shit up. Notice how QT drops 3 places from his RT score and 2 places from his IMDB score. Strange, that. It's because, for some reason, movies like Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Inglourious Basterds all received Metacritic scores in the 60's. Which in turn explains why I don't trust Metacritic.

The biggest climbers? Richard Linklater (28 places). David O' Russell, Pedro Almodovar, Nicolas Winding Refn and Guillermo del Toro all feature again, with Clint Eastwood a surprise 20 place climber. He is only ninth on points though. The biggest climber on raw points is Terrence Malick (6.75% higher Metacritic score than IMDB on average), followed by Paul Thomas Anderson and Martin Scorsese and then the guys mentioned above. If I had to pick one director more likely to sway critics than audiences, it would be Malick, so this result is surprisingly accurate. Linklater's success comes from movies like Waking Life, School of Rock and Before Sunset, which were all loved by critics.

If Malick is the biggest divider of audiences and critics, who is the guy who does it the other way round? Who pleases audiences despite being slated by critics time and again? I suppose the best indicator of this would be box office figures, and the winner would be Michael Bay, but my model doesn't work that way. For our purposes, the winner is Brian de Palma. Where did he fall out with the crits? Oh, I know, Scarface and Mission to Mars (which got pasted all round, but even more so by critics). Other guys who have felt the wrath but who shouldn't give a stuff include Ed Zwick (he has directed many films loved by audiences but panned by critics, including Legends of the Fall, The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond and Love and Other Drugs), Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man and The Limits of Control are cult favourites that never resonated critically), David Lynch (remember I associated weirdness and critical acclaim? Well this doesn't apply to weirdness on the Lynch scale) and our old friend Tony Scott.

Critics Overall

Just for interest sake, I combined the RT and Metacritic scores to see who is the general critics favourite. I must say, that list is pretty damn solid and I couldn't really argue with it. What I find especially interesting is that some directors are perfectly consistent between critics and audiences - Quentin Tarantino (consistently awesome), the Coen Brothers and Alfonso Cuaron (consistently good) and Ron Howard (consistently shit). 

The Greatest Director in the World?

And now, for the grand prize of being crowned the official, by the numbers, greatest director on planet earth... Okay I suppose you know who it will be by now, and I promise I never fiddled with the data: QUENTIN JEROME TARANTINO of Knoxville, Tennessee! He is the greatest director alive, and is followed by four other spectacular men: Paul Thomas Anderson of Studio City, California; Christopher Jonathan James Nolan of London, United Kingdom; Martin Charles Scorsese of New York City; and Terrence Frederik Malick of Ottawa, Illinois.

How many best director Oscars have been won by those fine men? Alas, one only, by Mr Scorsese. What's more, he only won after being nominated 5 times previously. The Academy is F'ed in the H. I don't know about you, but I really like the above list. It's sad not to see some of my other favourites (Darren Aronofsky and David Fincher for example) up there, but 5 is a short list. It contains a bit of everything: the unique (QT), the box office smasher (Nolan), the young dynamo (PTA), the reclusive genius (Terry Malick) and of course, the legend (Martin Scorsese).

Oh, and poor Tony Scott is the worst of the top 50, but then again he is not really a critics' director. He makes cool movies, and actually directed one of my very favourite movies ever: True Romance.

Extra: Best and Worst Films

Of the 627 odd films in the list, which are the lucky 5 to have received the best overall scores, and which are the scrapers of the barrel? Yes, great directors can direct some terrible shit. The top 5 is pretty solid and obvious, whereas the dregs really do seem pretty bad. Since when did Alexander take such a beating? Oh Mr. Stone, you have not one but two films in that unenviable list. Oh, and Francis Ford Coppola managed to get not only the best overall movie, but also the fourth worst one. Talk about hit and miss.

The End. Any other suggestions are more than welcome. I will incorporate and update!

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