Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The only tomato that is rotten, sir, is yours!

I have a beef with rottentomatoes.com. So much so that I didn't even make the preceding address a link, as to not give them extra traffic.

You see, everyone quotes a movie's score on RT (that's what us cool kids call it) as the final say on a movie's quality. But do you even know what that score represents?

RT (there's that cool moniker again!) recommends a movie as "fresh" if the aggregate score is 60%+. A movie is not recommended ("rotten", putting the R in RT) if the score is below that. But the thing is, they're not taking an average of all the reviews they cull from throughout the internet. They are using a binary system. If a movie got a recommendation, it will go in the fresh pile, regardless whether it got a lukewarm ok or a rave review. They are both counted the same according to this metric. Likewise, a movie whose individual score is less than 60%, say 2.5 stars on 5 in your local paper, will get a rotten tag. The reviewer may have been on the fence about a movie and thought it was just ok, but such a movie will be lumped together with god-awful dreck like the latest Transformers movie. Then, all the fresh reviews and all the rotten reviews are counted, and the score is given.

My problem with this is that there allows no room for nuance; it's either yes or no. Movies are a form of art and as such require shades of grey in between, something the fascist system at RT enforces.

However, all is not lost. Buried in tiny font to the right of the giant % score is "Average Rating". This is the true indication of what the critics think. It's the true average of the scores and a better indicator of the critical opinion of a movie. Were it not for this, RT would be a complete waste of time.

Either that or just go to metacritic.com.

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