I went to see Tim Burton's latest film, Frankenweenie, the other day.
It's great. His best film for a very long time. In fact, I would say it is his best film since Mars Attacks! in 1996. It feels like a perfect, if slighter, companion piece to Burton's masterpiece - Ed Wood.
As a rule of thumb, if a project is deeply personal to Burton the film is great, but if it is just an exercise in style for a big studio, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland, the results are not so great.
This got me thinking about the careers of various film-makers. I started to wonder if there was a way I could reduce the careers of great directors to a single number that captured their critical standing, commercial success, productivity and longevity.
I could then catalogue all these numbers in a little league table and finally work out, once and for all, who is the best.
A bit like pinning butterflies to pieces of card and then keeping them all in a glass case. Fine if you stick with butterflies, but move on to neighbourhood cats and everyone gets all cross.
Anyway, if only there were some way to reduce art to a single number using utterly arbitrary and slightly haphazard means.
Well, turns out there is. Ladies and gentleman, I am here today to unveil for your delight - The Picture Palace Auteur Meter, or PPAM for short.
So, how does my machine work? Well, it's steam powered obviously, but aside from that it basically adds up a director's average box office takings, the average critical reception of their films, my opinion of them (natch), the length of their career and how often they make movies.
There are a couple of rules. You have to be alive and still making movies and you will only be issued a PPAM rating if you have a film out that month.
I wondered whether to include box office figures in my calculations, but eventually decided that the number of tickets sold is an interesting indicator of how closely a director is tapping the zeitgeist.
But I've watered down the influence of box office in the final figure because films that make lots of money are not necessarily great quality. (Remember, this is utterly arbitrary.)
I tinkered with the mechanics of my devilish formula by comparing David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, Edgar Wright and Michael Bay. I didn't want Michael Bay's crazy box office average to swamp out his appalling critical record, or vice versa with someone like Edgar Wright.
The formula for my marvellous machine looks like this:
So, there are four factors - box office (Bo) , productivity (Pr), longevity (Lo) and critical reception (Mc+To+Me).
The first butterfly to be broken on my magnificent wheel is Tim Burton.
Here is Burton's filmography:
2012 Dark Shadows
2010 Alice in Wonderland
2007 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
2005 Corpse Bride
2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2003 Big Fish
2001 Planet of the Apes
1999 Sleepy Hollow
1996 Mars Attacks!
1994 Ed Wood
1992 Batman Returns
1990 Edward Scissorhands
1985 Pee-wee's Big Adventure
So, that is 16 films over 27 years. Not bad, but not hugely prolific.
This gives Burton a longevity rating (Lo) of 27, one for each year of being a productive director.
Lo = 27
Then we calculate his productivity rating (Pr) by dividing the number of films by the Lo rating and multiplying that figure by 100.
Pr = 59
Then we take Burton's total box office ($1,732,023,257 - not including Frankenweenie) and divide that by the number of films to find his box office average per film - $108,251,454. Pretty good.
This is divided by 1,000,000 to create his box office rating.
Bo = 108
In the formula, these three figures are added together and divided by three.
Then, we take the average critical score for a Burton film on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, both websites that take a lot of film reviews and aggregate them into a single score.
So the average Burton movie gets 60 per cent on Metacritic and 73 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Mc = 60
To = 73
Then we get to my critical rating of Burton. Here is my rough ranking of Tim Burton's movies, with their rough percentage ratings:
Pee-wee's Big Adventure (100)
Mars Attacks! (100)
Ed Wood (100)
Edward Scissorhands (100)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (80)
Corpse Bride (80)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (60)
Batman Returns (60)
Sleepy Hollow (60)
Alice in Wonderland (60)
Big Fish (60)
Dark Shadows (40)
Planet of the Apes (40)
Dividing my total rating by the number of films gives Burton an average rating of 75.
Me = 75.
So here are all the values for the formula -
Lo - No of years between first film and latest = 27
Pr - Films per year divided by productive years x 100 = 59
Bo - Average box office per film - $108,251,454 divided by 1m = 108
Mc - Metacritic average career rating per film- 60
To - Rotten Tomatoes average rating per film - 73
Me - My average rating for a Burton film - 75
And here is how they look in the final formula, complete with the first ever PAAM rating.
So, Tim Burton has a PPAM rating of 68.17. Hopefully, this will all start to make a lot more sense as more directors enter the list, but here is the inaugural PAAM Index:
The PAAM Index
1. Tim Burton - 68.17
I fully expect my cockeyed meter to spit out some truly screwy results. This monstrous machine will probably tell me that Uwe Boll is better than Michael Haneke. What have I done?
I will update the PPAM Index as interesting directors release films.
What do you think of my screwy invention? Have I been fair on Tim Burton? Is anybody still reading at this point? Have I gone nuts?
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