The Movie Cube: Don’t leave your data lying around, or we’ll analyze the crap out of it

 

Hello again, Math Nerds, and welcome Movie Fan guests!

For those of you new to my Math Nerd column, here’s how it works:  I sporadically pick a topic of interest to me and, through over-analysis, kill any interest you might have had in it.  In this issue, I ruin movies for you.

 

Part I: Defining the Movie Cube

I am obsessed with this website:

http://www.kids-in-mind.com/

It rates movies by very specific categories – sex/nudity, violence/gore, and profanity.  Rather than vague ratings like “PG” or “R”, it breaks down its ratings into three numbers (like this:  “#.#.#”) where the first number indicates how much sex/nudity there is, from zero to ten; the second number indicates how much violence/gore there is, from zero to ten; and the third number indicates how much profanity there is, from zero to ten.  It’s a nice system, and it gives a lot of information.
Specifically, it gives three axes of information, and all the movies fall into a three-dimensional solid cube (actually, an 11x11x11 cubical matrix).  Since their ratings are neatly listed alongside their titles in an alphabetically ordered list, it occurred to me that I could easily extract their list and analyze it in MatLab.  (FYI, they list 2,800 movies, mostly from 1990 to present.)
For my first trick, I investigate what strange types of movies inhabit the extreme corners of the cube.
In general, there is a correlation between their three rating categories.  In other words, if a movie is high in one, it will probably be high in the other two as well.  So, most movies will cluster somewhere around the diagonal line that runs through the cube from the Mary Poppins corner (no sex, no violence, no profanity) to the opposite extreme, the sadistic corner (max sex, max violence, max profanity).
But what about the other corners of the cube?  For example, is there a movie with no sex, no violence, but an extreme  amount of profanity?  I got the answer!
A cube has 8 corners, and here are the movies found in them:

1.  Sadistic     (max sex, max violence, max profanity)

  • - Halloween [2007] [R] – 10.10.10
  • - Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 [2000] [R] – 9.9.10
  • - Devil’s Rejects [2005] [R] – 9.10.10
  • - 8MM [1999] [R] – 9.9.10
  • - Forsaken, The [2001] [R] – 9.10.10
  • - Hostel [2005] [R] – 9.10.10
  • - Pulp Fiction [1994] [R] – 9.10.10

2.  Victorian horror?  Brutes of antiquity?  Surreally perverse?       (max sex, max violence, no profanity)

  • - Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles [1994] [R] – 9.9.1
  • - Alexander [2004] [R] – 9.9.2
  • - Dogville [2004] [R] – 8.8.2

3.  Frat boys and players        (max sex, no violence, max profanity)

  • - Whipped [2000] [R] – 9.1.10
  • - American Pie [1999] [R] – 9.2.8
  • - Backstage [2000] [R] – 8.2.10
  • - Booty Call [1997] [R] – 8.2.10
  • - Def Jam’s How to Be a Player [1997] [R] – 8.1.8
  • - Harry and Max [2005] [NR] – 8.1.8
  • - Howard Stern’s Private Parts [1997] [R] – 8.2.8
  • - Sidewalks of New York [2001] [R] – 8.1.9

4.  Slasher horror and modern all-male warfare, gangs, crime, and revenge     (no sex, max violence, max profanity)

  • - Saw II [2005] [R] – 1.9.10
  • - Affliction [1998] [R] – 2.8.8
  • - Black Hawk Down [2001] [R] – 1.10.8
  • - Bronx Tale, A [1993] [R] – 0.8.9
  • - Con Air [1997] [R] – 2.8.8
  • - Death Sentence [2007] [R] – 2.8.10
  • - Die Hard: With a Vengeance [1995] [R] – 2.8.9
  • - Hoffa [1992] [R] – 2.8.10
  • - Jeepers Creepers 2 [2003] [R] – 2.9.9
  • - Lethal Weapon 4 [1998] [R] – 2.8.8
  • - Menace II Society [1993] [R] – 2.9.9
  • - Michael Collins [1996] [R] – 1.8.8
  • - Original Gangstas [1996] [R] – 2.8.8
  • - Pitch Black [2000] [R] – 2.8.9
  • - Proof of Life [2000] [R] – 2.8.10
  • - Reservoir Dogs [1992] [R] – 0.9.8
  • - Rich Man’s Wife, A [1996] [R] – 2.8.8
  • - Scream 2 [1997] [R] – 2.8.8
  • - Shaun of the Dead [2004] [R] – 2.9.9
  • - Tales from the Hood [1995] [R] – 2.9.9
  • - Trespass [1992] [R] – 0.8.8

5.  Very colorful dialogue-driven    (no sex, no violence, max profanity)

  • - Glengarry Glen Ross [1992] [R] – 0.1.9
  • - Castle, The [1999] [R] – 1.2.8

6.  Violence for a higher purpose – religious, patriotic, historical, and sequels that have just run out of plot      (no sex, max violence, no profanity)

  • - Passion of the Christ, The [2004] [R] – 1.10.1
  • - Jurassic Park III [2001] [PG-13] – 1.8.2
  • - Last of the Mohicans, The [1992] [R] – 2.9.2
  • - Letters from Iwo Jima [2007] [R] – 0.8.2
  • - Patriot, The [2000] [R] – 2.10.2
  • - Ravenous [1999] [R] – 2.10.1
  • - 13th Warrior, The [1999] [R] – 1.9.2

7.  ???          (max sex, no violence, no profanity)

  • - Governess, The [1998] [R] – 9.2.1

8.  Mary Poppins approved     (no sex, no violence, no profanity)

  • - Baby-Sitters Club, The [1995] [PG] – 1.1.1
  • - Big Green, The [1995] [PG] – 1.1.1
  • - Emma [1996] [PG] – 0.1.1
  • - Enchanted April [1992] [PG] – 1.0.0
  • - Englishman Who Went Up a Hill, but Came Down a Mountain, The [1995] [PG] – 1.1.1
  • - Little Rascals, The [1994] [PG] – 0.1.1
  • - Little Women [1994] [PG] – 0.1.0
  • - Remains of the Day, The [1993] [PG] – 1.0.1
  • - Rocket Man [1997] [PG] – 1.1.1
  • - Santa Clause, The [1994] [PG] – 1.1.0
  • - Searching for Bobby Fischer [1993] [PG] – 0.1.1
  • - Secret Garden, The [1993] [G] – 0.1.0
  • - Shadowlands [1994] [PG] – 1.0.0
  • - Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit [1993] [PG] – 0.0.1
  • - Spellbound [2003] [G] – 0.0.1
  • - (and many videos for young children)

I find it sad that there are only a few, lonely, offbeat movies found in the “no violence” corners, but there are so many popular movies found on the “max violence” side.

I find it amusing that the historical movies make such a strong showing in the “no profanity” corners.  Are we to believe that people in the past may have been violent, but were never profane?  Or does it just sound weird to hear historical characters swearing?

I find it odd that some of the safest movies (“The Baby-Sitters Club”) had a “PG” rating.  For thematic elements not specific to any particular scene, I suppose.

With just a few more bad words, “Eyes Wide Shut” (10.2.7) could have been right in there with the players.  Too bad.

 

And, I have to admit, I am now intrigued by “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The Castle”.
‹ The Movie Cube: Don’t leave your data free, or we’ll analyze itupPart II: Exploring the Antipodes ›

 

 

Part II: Exploring the Antipodes

Submitted by timeadmin on Mon, 07/14/2008 – 06:01.

Math Nerds and Movie Fans,

Well, the response to this has been overwhelming.  Who ever knew people enjoyed movies?!

 

The Four Poles

In Episode I of The Movie Cube, we saw the 8 extreme corners of the movie cube described independently.  Our adventure continues in this episode, where we see that these 8 corners can be considered in 4 pairs of opposite corners.  They sit at opposite corners of the cube and glare at each other because they are as far apart from each other as movies can be anywhere in the cube.   (They are complementary pairs.  For example, 10.0.10 (max sex, no violence, max profanity) and 0.10.0 (no sex, max violence, no profanity) are complements of each other.)

We can draw diagonal lines between these opposing corners to form 4 natural poles.  Each pole indicates the full range of some natural movie characteristic.  In other words, the 4 poles literally describe 4 bi-polar qualities about the world of contemporary American movies.

 

Here are the 4 poles:

1.  The pole that runs between the “Mary Poppins” corner and the “Sadistic” corner is obvious:  The Nice-to-Nasty pole.  “Nothing disturbing to distract you from the movie” vs “disturbing IS the movie”.

2.  The pole that runs between the “Violence for a Higher Purpose” corner and the “Frat Boys and Players” corner is the Two-Sides-of-A-Manly-Man pole:  What I want to do, and then, what I have to do.  Saturday night fun on one side, arming for battle to protect God and country on the other.  “Party time” vs. “a solemn vow to defend duty, honor, country”.

It just tickles me how “The Passion of the Christ” sits opposite “Booty Call” and “How to be a Player”.

3.  The pole that runs between the “Alexander”/”Vampire” corner and the “Colorful Dialogue” corner is the Sublime-to-the-Profane pole.  It runs from the ordinary to the extraordinary.  It is daily life vs. fantasy.  “Glengarry Glen Ross”, if you didn’t look it up, is a movie set in present-day about two real estate agents trying to cut deals.  They swear a lot.  A LOT.  It’s vulgar.  And, the root meaning of “vulgar” is “common”.  And what could be more common than two guys going to work?!  I see it every day, ’cause I gotta go to work too!  Every d@mn day!  “Alexander”, on the other hand, is a larger-than-life character, majestic on a horse, conquering lands, men, and women.  It’s a fantasy, totally out of ordinary life.  It is who we dream of being when we’re at work.  (Uh, except for the men part.)  It is the opposite of vulgar.  And so, it cannot depict him as swearing.  That would be common.  Instead, he speaks in a grand, almost Biblical, rhetoric.

4.  The pole that runs between “The Governess” and “All-male Warfare, Gangs, Crime, and Revenge” is the Venus-Mars pole.  “The Governess” explores all aspects of the female experience, both beautiful and ugly.  It’s not a chick movie necessarily, but it is a raw look at being a chick.  And warfare, gangs, crime, revenge  . . . well, you guessed it:  the rawest form of masculinity — rough, mean, violent, and profane.  Mars not only symbolizes men, but is the god of war.

Incidentally, I am still puzzled by “The Governess”.   It sits all by its lonesome there in that corner, not another movie anywhere near it.  I don’t know what I expecting to find there, maybe some soft-core or some Harlequin romances or something.  It is really the oddest corner of all.  I still don’t have a good label for it.

 

The Center

We discussed the extreme corners of the movie cube, but I neglected to present what is at the center of the movie cube.  The median rating for all the movies is 4.4.5, and the mean rating, rounded off, is 4.5.5.  Here are the movies located at the mean or the median:

American Dreamz [2006] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

America’s Sweethearts [2001] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Antwone Fisher [2002] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Barbershop 2: Back In Business [2004] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Before and After [1996] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Being Human [1994] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Biker Boyz [2003] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Charlotte Gray [2002] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Chase, The [1994] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Clearing, The [2004] [R] – 4.5.5

Coach Carter [2005] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Corky Romano [2001] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Devil in a Blue Dress [1995] [R] – 4.4.5

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood [2002] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Dragonfly [2002] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Employee of the Month [2006] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Envy [2004] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Evolution [2001] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Extreme Ops [2002] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Far From Heaven [2002] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Fierce Creatures [1997] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Forrest Gump [1994] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Fracture [2007] [R] – 4.5.5

Friday Night Lights [2004] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Hear No Evil [1993] [R] – 4.5.5

High School High [1996] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Impostors, The [1998] [R] – 4.4.5

In-Laws, The [2003] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Italian for Beginners [2002] [R] – 4.4.5

Italian Job, The [2003] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Jennifer 8 [1992] [R] – 4.4.5

Johnson Family Vacation [2004] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Joy Luck Club, The [1993] [R] – 4.5.5

Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector [2006] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Mafia! [1998] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Man of the Year [2006] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Mickey Blue Eyes [1999] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Miss Congeniality [2000] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Mothman Prophecies, The [2002] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

National Security [2003] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

New Guy, The [2002] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Ocean’s Thirteen [2007] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Orange County [2002] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Paper, The [1994] [R] – 4.4.5

Rat Race [2001] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Recruit, The [2003] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Riding In Cars With Boys [2001] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Ringer, The [2005] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Runaway Jury [2003] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Run Fatboy Run [2007] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

School for Scoundrels [2006] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Seabiscuit [2003] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Separate Lies [2005] [R] – 4.4.5

Serving Sara [2002] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Stealing Harvard [2002] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Stealth [2005] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Stranger than Fiction [2006] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Super Size Me [2004] [NR] – 4.4.5

Superstar [1999] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby [2006] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Teaching Mrs. Tingle [1999] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

2 Fast 2 Furious [2003] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Truth About Charlie, The [2002] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Undercover Brother [2002] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

Untamed Heart [1993] [PG-13] – 4.5.5

White Oleander [2002] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

World’s Fastest Indian, The [2005] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

Zoolander [2001] [PG-13] – 4.4.5

 

Is it just me, or do all these movies seem kind of ho-hum?  (With the exception of “Forrest Gump”.  Even then, “Forrest Gump” is not typical amongst popular movies.  It was favored especially by grandparents.  Not so much, I think, by the traditional 14-24 movie-going demographic.)  Could it be, then, that movies must be extreme in some way in order for them to be interesting?  And, by extreme, I am including the possibility of being extremely tame, like the “Mary Poppins” corner.

It’s as if to be in the middle is to have a muddled message.  If you really have something to say, you will say it boldly and confidently.

 

The Correlation Line

I calculated the best-fit correlation (regression) line.  That is, the line that most strongly fits the data, and should indicate the strongest natural characteristic of contemporary American movies.  The line extends across the cube from rating 0.1.0 to rating 8.8.10.  Here are the movies at these endpoints:

Adventures of Elmo In Grouchland, The [1999] [G] – 0.1.0

Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective, The [1992] [G] – 0.1.0

Barney’s Great Adventure: The Movie [1998] [G] – 0.1.0

Cats Don’t Dance [1997] [G] – 0.1.0

Ferngully: The Last Rainforest [1992] [G] – 0.1.0

Little Women [1994] [PG] – 0.1.0

Muppet Christmas Carol, The [1992] [G] – 0.1.0

Once Upon a Forest [1993] [G] – 0.1.0

Piglet’s Big Movie [2003] [G] – 0.1.0

Secret Garden, The [1993] [G] – 0.1.0

Tom and Jerry: The Movie [1993] [G] – 0.1.0

and

Butterfly Effect, The [2004] [R] – 8.8.10

Ice Harvest, The [2005] [R] – 8.8.10

Jackass: Number Two [2006] [R] – 8.8.10

Never Die Alone [2004] [R] – 8.8.10

Running Scared [2006] [R] – 8.8.10

Summer of Sam [1999] [R] – 8.8.10
In a simplified way, the entire spectrum of contemporary American movies lies somewhere between these two extreme groups.  Interpret it as you wish.

 

Moral

What have I learned from all this?  That most of what is offensive seems to be found in exploring the idealized aspects of masculinity.  And that, if I want to watch a movie for adults that won’t offend my delicate sensibilities, then I’m going to end up watching ladies in big hats sitting in a flower garden, talking and sipping tea.

 

 Part III: Response from the Public

Submitted by timeadmin on Mon, 07/14/2008 – 06:03.

An astute reader disagrees with one part:

I agree with most of your conclusions, except the ho-hum part.  The following movies in the center are NOT ho-hum:

BEING HUMAN (a strange and ambitious movie)

DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS (a good film)

FAR FROM HEAVEN (a brilliant film)

THE IMPOSTORS (a noble failure)

SUPER SIZE ME (an entertaining and groundbreaking documentary)

ZOOLANDER (one of my definite guilty pleasures of the last decade)

Frankly, I don’t think being in the middle of the cube tells us much that’s useful about a movie — unlike being at one end of a pole…

 

The author responds:

On second look, there are indeed some notables in there.

I suppose I was responding to the overall sense that so many of the group are unremarkable.  But, now that I think about it, that is predictable.  Most movies have to land somewhere near the center, so it’s crowded, and like any crowd, there’s inevitably going to be a mixture of gems and duds.  Not every individual in such a big group can be exceptional.  (Just like Starbucks can’t honestly claim to use “only the best beans” when they buy, like, 60% of the market!)

 

Yes, I think you might be right – the middle doesn’t tell us much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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