I went to see Life of Pi a few weeks ago. I had wanted to see it as I’d heard the book was good (though I’d never gotten round to reading it), but after seeing the trailer I wasn’t overly convinced. Nevertheless, my friend asked if I wanted to go, so I went deciding that at least I’d get to review a new film for someone or other (which incidentally I did, you can read it here).
I was not overly bothered about seeing it one way or the other, but he was very excited. “Do you know what it’s about?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “but it was voted one of the top ten films of all time on IMDB.”
It was at this time I explained to him the idea of “IMDB bounce”, which basically means that any new film that is even remotely popular gets a rating that makes Weimar Germany’s hyper-inflation look tame by comparison. Still, he was unperturbed and we went to watch it.
He hated it.
And so did I, but that’s not the point. The point is IMDB is horrendously unreliable for new films, unless you take into account the “bounce” factor. This means removing on average I would say 0.8 from any new film rating.
This is not an exact science, because there is fluctuations within the list. Life of Pi has now dropped to only 178th in the list. But it is still rated at 8.1, whereas a rating of 7.3 would be far more appropriate.
This is why having critics you trust is still such an important part of going to see movies (unless you plan on seeing them all!) and why randomly listening to anyone with a PC and an opinion is generally pointless.
My least favourite is Peter Travers of Rolling Stone.
Both like a bit of a moan. But whereas Kermode tries to understand what a film is about and identify it’s strength and its flaws in an informed and considered manner, Travers rants aimlessly whilst waving around a scumbucket.
So if you’re interested in hearing what a good film critic wants to say, listen to Mark Kermode (his weekly podcast with Simon Mayo can be downloaded from here, alternatively check Youtube). If you want something as vacuous and meaningless as the IMDB top 250 list, go with Travers.
And if you want a great list of films to work through from a considered source, I would recommend the fantastic They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? which is about to release their 2013 edition of the top 1000 movies of all time.