I only discovered the Bechdel test recently. As is the way with these things, since learning of it, I then suddenly seem to spot it everywhere including making news in Sweden. So obviously what do I do about this? Make a graphic.
What is the test? It’s whether or not a film can pass these three requirements: 1/ it has at least two named female characters in it; 2/ who talk to each other; 3/ about something besides a man. Initially you might think it’s a pretty easy test for almost *any* film to pass. They shouldn’t even have to try right? Incredibly that doesn’t seem to be the case, as highlighted by this video about the 2011 Academy Awards. It certainly tells a story about the priorities of the Hollywood machine.
Inspired by this I decided to expand the sample size to include the best film nominees in the last 20 years of Academy Awards to see if there was any kind of pattern of change here (the year on my chart is the year the ceremony took place). I took my data from the appropriate source of bechdeltest.com where users rate films on the test. Those that I couldn’t find a clear decision on I counted as failures (cos the bar is pretty low to begin with).
To be certain this isn’t just some weird film phenomenon that actually has nothing to do with gender , the obvious comparison is the reverse Bechdel test. Do the best film nominees also have enough named male characters talking about something other than women? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer is almost always yes.
There’s no real pattern in the data here. Other than to point out two notable years: 2005, which was the strongest year with four out of five nominees making the grade and 2009, which was somewhat embarrassing with no films passing. And the four notable films that fail the reverse test – Amour (which actually has the honour of managing to fail both tests), The Help, Juno & The Hours.
So here’s the idea – isn’t De Niro past it? Doesn’t he just make bad films now? I thought I might look at the good vs the bad of his flicks through the IMDB user ratings they received. But it turned out there weren’t actually that many truly bad films – just quite a few average ones. So rather than forcing the negative this is about plotting where those good ones are (or were).
And while we’re at it, lets compare Al Pacino. The two big method actors of their generation are usually talked about in the same breath (especially with their big breaks in the Godfather films). And he too seems to have been going through something similar in his career – where have the classic films been in the last few years?
For the data I’ve plotted all the films on their resume’s with an IMDB ratings over 7. Because if it’s over 7, it’s a pretty good film (over 8 and it’s great). The vertical bars are really what you’re comparing from one to the other. The markers are an extra bit of information showing the actual rating – where I’ve labelled their highest scores. Both of them had a year in their careers featuring two classics on the same rating, which I’ve marked on there too.
The outcome? De Niro’s has done more films overall (about twice as many) and more good films (28 – 17), basically non-stop from the 70s to mid-90s, before a slump between ‘98 and ‘07. But now he’s even having a bit of a revival with the recent peak being Silver Linings Playbook. Other than Scarface, Pacino actually had a bit of a barren 80s and is having a very empty last 10 years, without a critical hit since 2002’s Insomnia.
Just how many of Arnie’s films have been in the action genre? More or less all of them, right? I took to IMBD and found all the films he has starred in (it’s 28 ignoring cameos) and found out what the esteemed site describes as their genres. I then visualised the results in a vaguely scientific way (it’s his career formula after all) to see if any patterns could be spotted.
And yep, 23 films or 82% of his career has been in action. If it’s not action it’s because he’s deliberately playing against type in a comedy, or in his first credit, a family film. More precisely it’s mainly the action-thriller sub-genre (12/23) followed by 6/23 in the action-sci-fi segment. Thus by this assessment the most typical Arnie films are the action-thriller-sci-fis of the Terminator series. Though being his most famous films, obviously you didn’t need me to point that out…
It’s easy to forget that the Harry Potter films could have been shit. Some haterz may argue they were anyway but an American studio landing on a very British fantasy story could have easily not ‘got’ it at all. And the casting is a prime example. Imagine, Eddie Murphy is Dumbledore! John Travolta is Voldemort! And Sylvester Stallone is the new Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher!
Instead watching these films was like having a ridiculous parade of British talent popping into every scene. Well of course the bad guy needs to be played by Alan Rickman, hire him. Well duh Julie Walters, the nation’s kindly auntie, plays the kindly sort-of auntie role. And yes the gothic maniac witch had to be Bonham Carter. Every time a new character turns up on screen, you just nod in agreement: ‘that makes sense.’
So here it is. In the style of film poster credits, here’s all the British actors who pop up (some of them just voices) in the series, weighted by number of appearances. Yep, it’s only Rickman, Coltrane and Davies who are in all eight of the films, making an intriguing trio in themselves. Surely a sitcom waiting to happen. Whilst sounding like a jazz group.
It’s like a fantasy football line-up. I salute you, Potter casting directors.
I haven’t done a musical yet so what’s the interesting story here? To my mind it’s who of the cast does the actual singing. And in regards to how they’re billed in the credits: so do those who get their names right at the top do more work? And who performs with who?
In the end I’ve tried to achieve a purely visual representation of the film with little Cluedo-like heads as the characters and each column representing a song. The only labels being the location it takes place to help give a hint as to what those songs are (if you don’t know the running order in detail, it’s based on the full soundtrack*). It’s also stacked to get a sense of the rousing and quiet bits. Being a proper musical with virtually everything sung, this then acts as a scene-by-scene breakdown of the story.
So what do we learn? Jackman earns his top-billing by singing the most and being the main presence in the start of the film. As the action hits Paris it becomes more of an ensemble piece. Crowe pops up here and there throughout the film but does a lot less work than Jackman for his second place. Hathaway does all her work in a handful of songs before dying (and popping up at the end). Redmayne belies his lower billing with a lot of work throughout the middle and end of the film (and twice as many songs as Crowe), while Seyfried pops in midway only to disappear for most of the second half.
In terms of combos despite there being several character pairings who share five songs (Mr & Mrs Thenardier, Marius & Eponine, Marius & Enjolras, Javert & Valjean), it’s the lovebirds Marius & Cosette who get to spend the most time singing at each other with six.
*Minus the tracks ‘Turning’ (barely long enough, no main cast) and ‘Beggars at the Feast’ (effectively part of the song before).
This was inspired by the fact that since discovering the show back in the day, I keep finding Jason Bateman cropping up in everything Hollywood has made in recent years (Michael Cera pops up a lot as well). So I wanted to know just how many films have the Arrested Development family made between the show starting in 2003 and 2012. And yep, my hypothesis was correct and Bateman is the leading man in that group. In fact all the men have had a lot of film work out it, with only young Michael Cera being out-performed by Alia Shawkat in the match up of his generation of the family.
Data from IMDB.
This little graphic is the filpside to my previous Bond Girls number. Whilst in that I focussed on the lover side of the different James Bond actors, here it’s all about him as a fighter (or killer in fact). I’ve been holding on to putting this up until the week of the film release (keeping things topical) but in the last few weeks annoyingly I’ve seen a few different places doing their own version of James Bond’s stats in infographic form. The data seems to be slightly different but the main point still remains: Pierce Brosnan got really quite carried away with a gun in his hand. I look forward to seeing if Craig can get his average up in Skyfall…
The data for this and The Bond Girls infographic has mostly come from a rather excellent spreadsheet on bondmovies.com.
This one came about purely because I wanted a map showing where the characters in the Lord of the Rings films go. There are plenty of maps of middle earth but I couldn’t find anything showing where they travel to. There are numerous other characters but I’ve focussed on the nine of the fellowship and have grouped a few of them together to make it more readable. Hopefully the graphic holds up on its own but if you want it, here are the details around what’s happening at each point:
The Fellowship of the Ring
1. The four hobbits leave Hobbiton and get things underway.
2. Aragorn/Strider joins the fun at Bree.
3. At Rivendell the Fellowship is assembled.
4. They get as far as the mines of Moria before losing Gandalf to the Balrog.
5. The rest of the Fellowship make it to Lothlorien and Galadriel, before hopping on boats down the river.
6. They make it to roundabout Argonath where they are attacked by Orcs, Boromir’s journey ends and the Fellowship split.
The Two Towers
7a. Merry and Pippin are taken to the plains of Rohan by the Uruk Hai who are attacked by Eomer’s riders enabling the hobbits to escape into the trees. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas give pursuit but miss out on them only to bump into Gandalf (now the White)…
7b. … at the same time Sam and Frodo pick up Gollum in making it to the Black Gate of Mordor, where Faramir and his men capture them.
8a. Merry and Pippin get to know the Ents in Fangorn forest…
8b. …while Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas find their way to Edoras and King Theoden.
9a. Gimli and Legolas goes with the main party to escape to Helm’s Deep. Aragorn gets their a bit later via being washed down a river but in time for the big battle. Gandalf had set off to find Eomer’s men before arriving at the battle in time to swing things…
9b. …whilst all this is going on Frodo and Sam are taken to Osgiliath by Faramir before being freed.
The Return of the King
10. Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas meet up with Merry and Pippin (carried by the Ents) at Saruman’s tower in Isengard.
11. They all then regroup back at Edoras before Gandalf first sets off with Pippin to Minas Tirith (hence these hobbits’ split line)
12. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas raise an army under the mountains via the Paths of the Dead before reaching Minas Tirith whilst Merry sneakily joins Theoden’s Army for the big finale battle.
13a. After winning the scrap at Minas Tirith Aragorn leads an army with Gimli, Legolas a, Merry and Pippin to the Black Gate to distract Sauron…
13b. …while Frodo and Sam have overcome Shelob to reach Mount Doom and toss in the ring before Gandalf arrives with some giant birds to bring them home.