Two pairs of dueling adaptations this go head to head this year. The Pulitzer Prize-Tony Award battle between two esteemed stage adaptations, Doubt and Frost/Nixon. And the literary heavyweight matchup between the ultra-classy adaptations of two renowned novels, The Reader and Revolutionary Road. It’s my growing belief that only two of these four films will end up in the final five. Simple math: I think 3 slots are already occupied. Assuming this is true, will both stage plays make the cut, or both novels, or one of each? A lot will depend on the critics, and the critics are beginning to weigh in.
Is there enough early indication to give us a clue? When we conduct a poll, it’s always interesting to see the leaders and relative rankings emerge within the first few dozen votes. We could ask a hundred readers to list the top 5 movies of the year, and ask a thousand the same question — based on past experience, I guarantee you the results would be nearly identical. This consistency is both a validation of the system, and a tribute to the solid reliability of your taste and good judgment. Naturally a bigger sample size gives us numbers that are more refined, but a smart group of people are smart whether there are 10 of them or 10,000. Maybe the same can be said of critics? (after all, they’re nearly as good at this game as we are.)
The review pool of major “big time” critics is only about 40 famous names on metacritc. Relax the fame factor, and the number of dedicated online critics rises to around 200. Extrapolating out to everybody’s-a-critic on IMDb, and that tally of well-informed opinions jumps into the thousands. As different as these groups may be, there’s remarkable consistency across all three scales.
The question for this topic is not how many people does it take to properly rate a movie — but how few? With so many potential contenders being withheld until the last dwindling days of the year, we’re all eager to see how the remaining films will stack up against the known quantities. Unfortunately, we have precious little to go on. Is it possible to get a clear idea of how things are shaking out with only a handful of reviews trickling in? Interested in making a guess?
Sticking with my admittedly artificial pairs, we have Frost/Nixon vs. Doubt, and Revolutionary Road vs. The Reader. There’s no firm critical consensus yet, but even this far out it does seem like one of each couplet is already emerging with better reviews. Will these early impressions hold true over the next few weeks?
It’s probably unfair to weigh The Reader against Revolutionary Road just yet. We’ll give them another week, as more reviews come online. But there’s a wider range of first reactions already available for us to assess Frost/Nixon and Doubt. Here’s where things stand now:
Frost/Nixon — RT 84% (32 reviews) — IMDb 8.4 (381 votes)
Doubt — RT 67% (9 reviews) — IMDb 8.3 (201 votes)
Anyone care to predict from this skimpy data what the final metacritic scores will be in a couple of weeks, even before all the reviews are in?
Here’s the test: Can we estimate the eventual Metacritic scores based on early returns from RT and IMDb?
More importantly, do you think it’s reasonable to expect the two highest rated among these four films will both be nominated for Best Picture? I’m going to say… yes.