The First Law of Films

As I mentioned in Monday Smiles yesterday, on Saturday night, Muri and I went to see the newly released film, Moonrise Kingdom.   The film received a 94% on the Tomatometer from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and an only slightly lower 92% from audiences.  I hadn’t heard of the film but it had an excellent cast and the plot summary sounded promising.  Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two twelve-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness.   It reminded us of the story line of the controversial 1971 Gilbert Lewis film, Friends, one of the sentimental favorites of our youth. Friends, by the way, featured one of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s most underrated compositions, Michelle’s Song (here with scenes from Friends).

As it turned out, I didn’t care for Moonrise Kingdom … I thought it tried too hard to be cute but came off as silly.  So, on this 157th Top Sites Tuesday, I’m wondering, How could my movie sense have been wrong?   Well, for one, (this would be Thought Number One) I’d ignored Older Eyes’ First Law of Films: If the critics like a film better than audiences, the movie probably stinks.   I’ve come to the conclusion that critics leap at the chance to fawn over films that they know the public won’t care for, thus demonstrating the superiority of their opinions.  But according to the First Corollary to Older Eyes’ First Law of Films, if C is the percentage of critics who like a film and A is the percentage of audiences, then the possibility that the film will suck is proportional to C-A.   In other words, if the critics like it a lot more than the audiences, don’t go.  C-A was a lousy 2% … the odds for Moonrise Kingdom seemed decent.

I found out later that Moonrise Kingdom was directed by Wes Anderson, who, according to The Criterion Collection, has an idiosyncratic directorial style—marked by eccentric, colorful compositions and a fastidious attention to detail.   Translation: he is a maker of quirky films that are not everyone’s cup of tea.  This was evident in Moonrise Kingdom, which features cartoon-like sets, peculiar characters and stilted, unrealistic dialog.  So, how did Older Eyes’ First Law and Corollary go wrong?   I needed to account for the Aficionado Factor.  Not only is Moonrise Kingdom exactly the kind of film that draws critics like moths to a you-know-what, it’s the kind of film that draws film aficionados.  You know a few of those, I’m sure … aficionados admire their own tastes in films almost as much as critics do and just love to love a film the masses don’t quite get.  Doubt me?  Take a look at the comments to the review of the film by Boo Allen in the Denton Record-Chronicle, one of the few critics to pan the film, calling it More unbearable Anderson whimsy.  Someone named Chris said, Wow, I guess you CAN review movies and be a complete moron. Miles said, You will never know love, and Ethan said, that you write reviews for movies that you go into already expecting to dislike makes you the ‘contrived phony’.  Tommy said, I’m sure you hear this all the time, but man, you’re terrible at your job.   Only aficionados can get so worked up because someone disagrees with them about a film.   Jeez.

Once films like Moonrise Kingdom are out for a few days, the only ones seeing them are aficionados.  Hence only aficionados post reviews, driving the percentage of positive audience reviews into the nineties.  So, Older Eyes’ First Law of Films needs another corollary, which is Thought Number Two.   According to the newly discovered Second Corollary to Older Eyes’ First Law of Films: If the percentage of critics and audiences that like a film are both over 90%, then odds are 3:1 that the film will suck.   Truth is, Muri liked the film better than I did.   The parents of my blogging friend, Meleah, saw the film over the weekend with the same result … Mom, thumbs up … Dad, thumbs down.  So, maybe Older Eyes’ Laws only work for men.   Or maybe they only work for me.  They are, after all, mine.   So, how do you pick the movies you want to see? While you’re thinking that over, please take the time to push my button … gently … to make me Number One on Top Sites Tuesday #157.


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11 Comments on “The First Law of Films”


  1. I think I told you this yesterday, but my parents saw that movie over the weekend too. And much like you, my father hated it. But my mother, on the other hand, loved it.

    • oldereyes Says:

      Yes, Meleah, I even mentioned it in my last paragraph. Are you skimming my posts? 🙂 It would be understandable given the number of blogs you read.


  2. I base my decisions on instinct, but I’ve often found that if a critic does not like a movie, I do. The inverse is not always true; sometimes we agree on films we like. Therefore, I almost never read critiques of movies. I go strictly off the trailers. If I know I don’t like the genre (sci-fi, stupid comedy like “Dumb and Dumber,” vampires, etc) I don’t even bother considering it. Then again, I rarely see movies in theaters.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I don’t trust trailers … except to figure out genre … since many times all the film’s best moments were in the trailer. It’s funny, though …. Muri and I have sometimes noticed if we don’t like the previews the theater chose to roll before a film, we don’t like the film either. Of course, it’s a little late then: we’ve already paid and bought popcorn.

  3. AngelBaby Says:

    Wow, I think the way I do it is easier, all you do is wait a few weeks and if everyone likes the movie then go see it. Don’t bother with the critics, they are a waste of time.

    Here’s your click …………….

    Love and Blessings,
    AngelBaby

  4. Cheryl P. Says:

    I totally believe in your formula. If critics like a film better than the audience they are liking it because it offers some unusual artistic perspective or some quirky style that is deemed fresh and different. Phooey, I just want to be entertained. I trust Boo Allen’s reviews most of the time. He actually is Dr. Allen. When we lived in Denton, I always checked his reviews before going to the movies.

    On this particular movie the plot sounds kind of interesting and I like that cast. Too bad it isn’t a WOW.

    • oldereyes Says:

      How interesting that you know of Boo Denton. I found hi because he was literally one of two critics who liked the film. As far as I’m concerned, his review was spot on. As far as Moonrise Kingdom goes, my sample of two (Muri and Meleah’s Mom) shows that women like it better than men.

  5. Trina Says:

    I never really “choose” a movie. If we go to the theater (rarely ever) we normally decide what to see based on what’s playing. As much as I’d like to plan to go see something, the best laid plans never work.

    The only film we ever saw in the theater that we didn’t agree on was “the Truman Show” with Jim Carey. I loved it, the whole idea of corporate takeover and reality TV was spectacular, Wolf on the other hand was expected something Jim Carey style like “The Mask” or “Pet Detective” he totally did not like it.

    Happy Tuesday!
    –Trina

    • oldereyes Says:

      I like to investigate films a bit. Even if they have mediocre reviews we may go see them, but I’m more open if I know what to expect … for instance, not thinking The Truman Show was like Mask. I liked both, by the way, but for very different reasons. Mask=funny. Truman=interesting concept.

  6. Coming East Says:

    I tend to read all the reviews and go with the critic whose track record on picking good films closely mirrors my own. Word of mouth is another way we choose films. If someone who has similar taste in films has gone to something and liked it, I’ll go. If they hated it, I don’t waste my money. We rarely go on opening weekend unless it is something that I’ve been dying to see and I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy because of the cast or genre, like Star Trek, or the Planet of the Apes prequel. I’m a sci-fi nut.


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