Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lasting Appeals

Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribune brings us some unexpected statistics from Netflix that show less-watched and less-awarded films now beating out better-known ones for renters and buyers.
“Box office success doesn’t mean it’s going to have a lasting critical appeal, and even an Academy Award is no guarantee,” said Patricia King Hanson, executive editor of the American Film Institute’s Catalog of Feature Films. “Some of the films that are going to be very high on the all-time greatest lists are likely to never have won an Academy Award.”
As both the article and some of the commenters on Hacking Netflix note, there are a number of possible explanations for this data. More people may have seen the blockbusters in the theatres and now are catching up on the "smaller" movies via rental. Or they tend to buy the DVDs of big-name popular films down at Best Buy. Some popular movies, e.g. The Sixth Sense, don't lend themselves as well to repeat viewing as others.
I think there's probably some validity to those explanations. I'm a Netflix subscriber but I picked up The Departed at loss-leader pricing when it came out. So there's one data point (i.e. anecdote) in favor of the counter-explanations.
On the other hand, there are more than a few cases where Oscar winners have proven to be ephemeral favorites compared to some of the also-rans. This piece from The Guardian entitled "Oscar's Greatest Crimes" recaps some of the worst offenses. My all-time vote goes to Apocalypse Now's loss to Kramer vs. Kramer. Whatever the former's flaws it remains a well-admired film whereas Kramer vs. Kramer set a high-water mark for ordinariness (which only lasted a year before the aptly-named Ordinary People eclipsed it.)

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