Rating the directors: Oliver Stone

So, the other week I launched my rather fabulous machine that is capable of reducing the subtlety and beauty of art to a single number, using utterly arbitrary and slightly haphazard means. It's genius.

It gloriously reduces the careers of great directors to a single number that captures their critical standing, commercial success, productivity and longevity. Directors can then be ranked according to their score. In short, it means we can finally find out who is the bestest at films.

I have christened this device the Picture Palace Auteur Meter, or PPAM for short. You can read all the background on how I built the PPAM and what the various symbols mean here.

Basically, the formula weighs up the general critical opinion of the director, along with mine, and calibrates it against the average box office, productivity and longevity over the auteur's career.

There are a few rules - the director has to be alive and still making movies.

Here is what the formula looks like:

The first director welcomed into my glorious machine was Tim Burton. He got a PPAM rating of 68.17.

To give you a bit of perspective, I tinkered with the machine and discovered that if a director made one film a year for 50 years, had a box office average like Michael Bay (about $200 million a picture), and got a straight 100 per cent average from me, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, they would come in with a PPAM rating of about 104. So, interestingly, the PPAM is pretty close to a percentage system.

So, the next butterfly to be pinned to a card by the PPAM machine is - drum roll please - Oliver Stone.

I wrote about Oliver Stone recently after the misfortune of seeing his latest movie, Savages. He is a director with a patchy record, known for blisteringly vivid nonsense in the 1980s and early 90s who has since faded somewhat. But how will he fare on the PPAM?

So, we start with Stone's filmography:

2012 Savages
2010 Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
2008 W
2006 World Trade Center
2004 Alexander
1999 Any Given Sunday
1997 U Turn
1995 Nixon
1994 Natural Born Killers
1993 Heaven & Earth
1991 JFK
1991 The Doors
1989 Born on the Fourth of July
1988 Talk Radio
1987 Wall Street
1986 Platoon
1986 Salvador
1981 The Hand

Just as an observation, look at that hot streak Stone enjoyed from Salvador in 1986 to JFK in 1991. Pretty impressive.

Anyway, that is 18 films over 31 years. Not bad. It gives Stone a longevity rating (Lo) of 31, one point for each year as a productive director.

Lo = 31

Then we calculate his productivity rating (Pr) by dividing the number of films by the Lo rating and multiplying that figure by 100.

Pr = 58

Then we take Stone's total box office and divide that by the number of films to find his box office average per film - $41 million. Not amazing.

This is divided by 1,000,000 to create his box office rating.

Bo = 41

In the formula, these three figures are added together and divided by three.

Then we take the average percentage rating for a Stone film at review aggregator sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.

Metacritic has an average of 60, while Rotten Tomatoes has an average score of 61. That gives us these values:

Mc - 60

To - 61

And now, my critical opinion of Stone's filmography. Making this list, I was surprised by how many Stone films I actually rate quite highly:


JFK (100)
The Doors (100)
Talk Radio (100)


Any Given Sunday (80)
Nixon (80)
U Turn (80)
Natural Born Killers (80)
Born on the Fourth of July (80)
Wall Street (80)
Platoon (80)
Salvador (80)


Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (60)
W. (60)
World Trade Center (60)


Alexander (40)


Savages (20)

Not seen

The Hand
Heaven & Earth

Dividing my total rating by the number of films gives Stone an average rating of 73.75. Surprisingly high.

Me = 73.75.

So here are all the values for the formula - 

Lo - No of years between first film and latest = 31

Pr - Films per year divided by productive years x 100 = 58

Bo - Average box office per film - $41 million divided by 1m = 41

Mc - Metacritic average career rating per film- 60

To - Rotten Tomatoes average rating per film  - 61

Me - My average rating for a Burton film - 73.75

And here is how those ratings look in the final formula, along with Stone's PPAM rating.

And, as you can see, Stone comes out with a PPAM rating of 59.52.

That means Tim Burton is officially a better director than Oliver Stone. Fact. The machine has spoken. All hail the machine!

I had my fears about the screwy results that would be produced by the cockeyed machine, but I actually think this one is about right

So, here is the officially updated PPAM Index.

The PAAM Index

1.  Tim Burton - 68.17

2. Oliver Stone - 59.52

Obviously, this will make a lot more sense as more directors are fed into the machine and given their PPAM ratings. I think the next director up might be Sam Mendes, to mark the release of his James Bond movie Skyfall. 

What do you think of the machine's verdict? Is Burton better than Stone? What do you think of my ratings for Stone's movies? Post below.

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