Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Movie Review Aggregators | Tomatoes are (really) rotten

A third of Americans consult review aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic or IMDb before going to see a movie in the theater. I also have this reflex when Son invites me to go see a recently released Hollywood blockbuster or on a digital platform. I like to know if the tomato that the critic offers me is considered fresh or rotten.

Posted at 12:57 am Updated at 6:00 am

I myself am a typical critic. Most of the time, without having read, heard or consulted them beforehand, I agree with the majority of my colleagues. This must be due to a more or less consensual idea of ​​what constitutes a “great film” for critics at a given time, with its common references.

I don’t agree with all the reviews taken individually, but my tastes don’t differ much from those expressed by the majority of reviews seen as a whole. That’s why I tended to trust (note the use of the imperfect tense) the aggregators’ review ratings. Not to be confused with public ratings, which are sometimes manipulated by misogynistic or racist trolls trying to torpedo a superhero or black mermaid movie.

There has always been a gap between critics and the general public in their appreciation of films. But it seems like they have never gotten along so badly.

Bloomberg last year compared ratings from critics and audiences on major aggregators. On average, since the turn of the millennium, the difference between the ratings given to the year’s ten biggest blockbusters has been five points. In 2022, it was almost 20 points.

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Unexplored, a turnip starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg that I saw at the invitation of Son, received an average score of 43% on aggregators from critics, while the audience rating was 77%. If only I had checked Rotten Tomatoes before buying my ticket…

“Rotten tomatoes?” ! Let’s see, dad! Don’t you know it’s nonsense? “Fiston told me at the beginning of the week, in an amused and reproachful tone. He didn’t know, no.

For several years now, almost systematically, when I’m invited to a press screening of an American film, I’ve been asked if Rotten Tomatoes will feature my review (the answer is no). This shows how much this tomato rating matters to the studios and the PR staff they employ. It can absolutely make or break a film’s career.

“The Tomatometer is perhaps the most important indicator in entertainment, although it is erratic, reductionist and can be easily hacked,” he wrote recently New York Magazinecasting doubt on the validity of the critical evaluations of the famous aggregator.

Empruntant à la célèbre formule du pouce vers le haut ou vers le bas du regretté duo de critiques Gene Siskel et Roger Ebert, Rotten Tomatoes fait after 25 years le décompte du nombre de critiques favorable or unfavorables à un film (ou encore une serie ou une television program).

When a movie proudly displays that it is 85% “certified fresh,” it is not about the average rating it received, but rather the percentage of reviews that are (more or less) favorable to it. That is to say, 85% of the registered critics may have judged the film “correct, nothing more.” While a film that obtains an overall rating of 70% is perhaps more daring, since it has conquered a majority of critics who claim genius and has repelled a minority.

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“Each review has the same weight, whether published in a major newspaper or in a Substack newsletter that has a dozen subscribers,” recalls the New York Magazine. However, according to their research, critics of obscure media or confidential podcasts exchange their support for certain films or agree to publish their unfavorable reviews outside the gaze of Rotten Tomatoes (in newsletters, for example) at the request of relationship specialists public. Which, inevitably, changes the situation… and the famous film score on the platform.

These critics are no more ethical than former members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the controversial organization that hands out the Golden Globes awards.

Apparently they are only a handful, but numerous enough to damage the credibility of a profession whose reputation is already damaged.

In addition, some studios rush to show their film to a carefully selected and already won over audience (superhero movie buffs who run specialized blogs, for example) in the hope of quickly increasing its Rotten.Tomatoes rating before it hits the stage. Yet another way to drive ticket sales and influence audiences to confuse a run-of-the-mill movie with a potential masterpiece.

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Rotten Tomatoes refuses to participate in any way in these methods of deception. The truth is that the company agrees to publish a movie’s freshness rating after having identified only five reviews, it doesn’t matter which ones. From Venerable Richard Brody of New Yorker Like Ricky Brodeur (not his real name), he paid a publicist $50 per review to say good things about a movie, live from his basement in Poughkeepsie. Which is not without consequences for the distribution of a film or for its track record in festivals.

According New York Magazine, the 1,000 new critics that Rotten Tomatoes has added to its 2,500 accredited members over the past five years, seeking to diversify the voices it amplifies (the vast majority of the reviews it lists come from white men), seem to offer a more insightful view. accommodating. image towards Hollywood films, to the detriment of the so-called more demanding films. The ratings given to films have also increased from an average of around 50% in 2016 to 60% in 2021. If the trend continues, in 20 years no film will be considered bad.

The son is right. The numbers are misleading. Especially when he makes out with the view guy. To know the real opinions of honest, honest and credible critics, it is best to read their articles.

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