Monday, April 2, 2018

A Method for Ranking Wes Anderson Films, or What's with the Low Tomatometer for 'Life Aquatic'?

I was inspired by a recent ad for the new Wes Anderson film, "Isle of Dogs." Have you seen this ad? I love it! (Isle of It.)

The ad suggests we revisit all eight of Wes Anderson’s feature films before we head to the theaters to see his latest. The ad then goes on to cleverly describe Wes Anderson’s uniquely meticulous and quirky approach to filmmaking by illustrating the recurring themes, colors, camera shots, and actors that have inhabited Wes’s World.

I shared the video among friends with this question: “How many have you seen?” A few of my fellow Wesophiles responded. And in the comments, I shared the following links:

• Wes Anderson bio on IMDb
• Filmography and awards on Wikipedia
• Rotten Tomatoes for all of Wes Anderson's films (what's with the low tomatometer for 'Life Aquatic'?).

Shocked by Rotten Tomatoes' low tomatometer for one of my favorite Wes Anderson films, I began to wonder: If people like Wes but don’t like 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou', just how good are the films I haven’t seen? What am I missing?  My favorite is 'The Grand Budapest Hotel,' but I also love Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic. Darjeeling Limited was a bit over-the-top for my tastes.  How would my preferences align with those of the broader public?

I bundled all these lines of inquiry and cooked them down into a single research question: Which is the consensus best Wes Anderson film? 

I Googled "Top Ten Wes Anderson films" and began taking notes in Excel as I am wont to do. The results are shown below for your inspection and review. 

The consensus best Wes Anderson film is The Royal Tenenbaums, released in 2001 when the director was 31 years old. The film earned $52.4 M at the box office, garnered 10 award nominations and won Best Screenplay at the 2001 New York Film Critics Circle Award.

The Grand Budapest Hotel also did quite well, as expected. The Darjeeling Limited is understandably near the bottom of the list. To my dismay, Life Aquatic is in 8th place when the rankings from 10 independent sources are averaged. I guess there is no accounting for taste.

Table 1. Wes Anderson films ranked using scores from 10 independent rating sources


I posed my research question to Uncle Google and obtained an index of websites.  I followed the Google Index to each site in sequence. I noted the source, URL, date, and rankings from 1 to n. Some sites rated short films and commercials in addition to feature films, so n ranged from 8 to 24. A total of 27 items in the Wes Anderson oeuvre were identified. The sites and the numbers of items ranked are shown.

Table 2. Index to sources used

Interestingly, the sites ranked different numbers of films. Some ranked 8, some ranked 13, some included short films and commercials in addition to feature films. To control for this and allow me to calculate average scores, I normalized the rankings. A film that was ranked 1 of 8 got 0.125 points. A film that was ranked 1 of 9 got 0.111 points, and so on.

Table 3. Scores for rankings on each of the ten sources

When you look at Table 3, a couple of observations jump out.

1. Four of the ten sites (40%) chose 'The Royal Tenenbaums' as the best Wes Anderson film
2. Five different films received at least one vote for best film, indicating the lack of a clear favorite 
3. Four feature films listed in either Rotten Tomatoes or Wikipedia are not shown here. None of the ten ranking sites I used listed them, and not including them did not change the Top 3. They placed 4, 11, 12, and 13.

Figure 1. Box office and award nomination performance of Wes Anderson films over time

We'll see how well "Isle of Dogs" does in the court of Public Opinion and in the minds of the voting members of various academies. And if I am so inclined, I'll update the tables and figures. Meanwhile, enjoy the Wonderful Worlds of Wes, and feel free to leave a suggestion or question in the comments.

Links to sources cited 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness

“I’ve been developing the ‘Swanson Pyramid of Greatness’ for years. It’s a perfectly calibrated recipe for maximum personal achievement.”

Words of wisdom from Ron Swanson, our hirsute hero. Now available on t-shirts, mugs, and posters. 

Enjoy this extended video presentation of the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness from the season three premiere of Parks & Recreation. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pi Day 2018

Here at PhilosFX, we celebrate Pi Day with numbers. Our last Pi Day celebration, billed as One for the Ages, was posted at (wait for it...) 

3/14/15 @ 9:26:53

And as if to prove the point, we did not mark Pi Day in 2016 or '17. Kinda tough to beat that particular alignment of digits! 

But today, something happened that reawakened this urge to call attention to our favorite irrational number. Today: 

  • is not only the 10th annual Pi Day (first observed in the US on Mar 14, 2009), 
  • and is not only the 139th anniversary of the birth of Albert Einstein, but today 
  • we also mourn the passing of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking at the age of 76. 

Here is a look at our blog stats for this Pi day as compared with the measures taken three years ago and with our first Pi day seven years ago.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Welcome Fiji, the 198th country to visit PhilosFX!

For more information, see this post about PhilosFX's global reach and stretch! Soon, we'll have accepted flags from 200 countries from around the world. I am humbled, amazed, intrigued, and curious....

Friday, February 16, 2018

Trunkworthy's Fourth 20: Elvis Costello's 80 Best, Least Remembered Songs

Two of my favorite things: EC the Beloved Entertainer, and a movie about The Big Lebowski

Greetings and welcome to PhilosFX. Today we feature a list of songs numbered 61 to 80. These songs are the fourth set of 20 in Trunkworthy's ongoing Elvis Costello Song of the Week program. The program showcases forgotten gems from the more obscure recesses of Elvis Costello's gigantic catalog.

Feast thine eyes.

By now you see the story behind the photo at the top of this post. Song number 79 on this list is EC's "My Mood Swings," which appears on the soundtrack for the Coen Brothers' 1998 hit movie, The Big Lebowski. Just one of many hidden gems in the Costello oeuvre.

I've listed the songs in chronological order by the date they were shared on Trunkworthy. But of course, another way of looking at the list is to sort the songs chronologically by when they were produced. The songs in the fourth set of 20 cover a range of 38 years, from 1979 to 2017. Jorge & Kevin, current hosts at Trunkworthy, took almost 400 days to add these 20 songs.

I don't know about everyone else, but personally, I am really enjoying this program! I'm sure a few fellow Costellophiles will appreciate my attempt to collect and display all of Trunkworthy's sporadic offerings in one handy corner of the web. Elvis has over 600 songs in his repertoire. If you disregard the most popular (and theoretically overplayed) 50%, that still leaves an incredible 300 songs to explore.

Here's hoping Jorge & Kevin keep on going! As long as Elvis is recording, and Trunkworthy is spotlighting, I'll be collecting and displaying here on PhilosFX.

On to the Fifth Twenty!  

Looking for the Backstory?

  • This adventure started HERE 
  • The first 40 are commemorated HERE
  • The Song of the Week reboot is described HERE
  • The third 20 are chronicled HERE 

Monday, December 25, 2017

12 Beers of Christmas 2017!

I am so excited to share this year's 12 Beers of Christmas!

Mayhaps you recall the 12 glorious brews I unwrapped, one per day, this time last year? The gift was so enthusiastically received by yours truly that my Beer Elf generously opted to reprise the extravagant gesture.

And I am more than happy to share the excitement here on PhilosFX!

I love beer and I think this gift idea is wonderful. My brief introduction to last year's 12 Beers of Christmas explains when and how the gift is given, for those who'd like to follow along. If you know someone who loves beer, this is a great way to share the love!

Each beer is individually wrapped and marked with a number from 1 to 12

Beginning on December 26th, the First Day of Christmas, I will open one beer per night.

In addition to the wrapped beers, I also received a brochure with fun clues about each beer. Use a QR code reader and see if you can guess the beers. The excitement is mounting!

QR Codes to clues for beers 1 to 6

QR Codes to clues for beers 7 to 12

"On the first day of Christmas, my Beer Elf gave to me..."

Check back tomorrow night and find out about the very first of the beer I opened. Then check back daily to see all the beers of Christmas I enjoyed over twelve glorious and delightful days!

I can hardly wait to see what's next!