Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Pretentious-O-Meter picks out films on the critical-popular divide

Independent and art films are often unfairly criticized as "pretentious." We've all slung that word around to attack a movie at some point, even though we probably enjoy some arty cinema ourselves. But the roots of that insult deserve some additional dissection: is a film really better or worse because critics and film buffs enjoy it more than the layperson?

Pretentious-O-Meter might shed some light on that conundrum. This movie review tool compares ratings from critics and audiences and determines – very unscientifically – which movies are "pretentious" or "mass market." It's fun to see conventional wisdom borne out in numbers: Truffaut's The 400 Blows is 68% pretentious, while The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser is 86% mass market. Each result also includes the movie's overall rating: it might be preferred by critics, but it might also be a bad film.

The site isn't perfect, of course, especially since it only accounts for the reviews around a film's release and not its reception afterwards. Sci-fi mind-bender Primer's initially poor reviews netted it a 54% mass market rating, tied with The Firm, which doesn't make much sense.

As with all big data-driven Internet toys, anything Pretentious-O-Meter outputs should be treated with enormous skepticism. But you might have some fun looking at the statistics behind it and seeing where initial critical responses and later popular reception diverge.

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