Why I haven’t put up the results of the Golden Bowl (and a few other news and notes)

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted the results of the first Golden Bowl between LSU and USC, and it’s for the same reason I decided to drop the SuperPower Rankings. The Golden Bowl tournament turned out to be a lot less fun than I had hoped.

For almost every game, I had to pore over the numbers and probably reached a lot of wrong conclusions. I found myself breathing sighs of relief when the two people who voted on the second and third rounds agreed. It wasn’t as time consuming as the SuperPower Rankings but it left me with a sense of dread entering each round.

I had been planning on having a grandiose, John-Facenda-esque description of the Golden Bowl, but I barely managed to work up the knowledge or desire to write any description at all throughout the tournament. I have a feeling I would have fallen well short. Not only is a college football playoff far from an original idea, but others are doing much of what I intended to do a lot better than I would have.

That said, unlike the SuperPower Rankings, I’m still doing this next year. I like the Golden Bowl name, I’m hoping Da Blog grows enough in the next year that I won’t have to break ties at all, and I feel that a lot of simulated playoffs or proposed brackets blindly follow the BCS standings. I’ve heard it argued that a plus-one system would have ignored Georgia or USC in favor of Virginia Tech or Oklahoma; what that ignores is that a plus one would have forced the pollsters to pay more attention to the top four the way they pay attention to the top two now, which likely means #5 Georgia would have gotten past V-Tech or the Sooners, since they arguably had a stronger case for a national title shot than either. (Yes, I know V-Tech was my number 1 seed.) A true simulated playoffs that follows close to what the reality probably would be should follow the NCAA guidelines.

So, this ends the brief spurt of productivity from Da Blog from football. Sure, we’re a few steps away from the Super Bowl – the Patriots just blew past their 17th team, as reflected on the site – but that’s a fairly small part of what we do around here.

No, don’t run away! Come back! I know a lot of you are here for the football, so what can I do to get you to stick around?

Well, let’s start with my 100 Greatest Movies Project, which has been described in the past on the off chance you came here before it was cool. If you happen to be a fan of the movies, and not just the standard popcorn fare but all the classics from Hollywood’s golden age to the present day, I could use you to explain to the masses why they better recognize. If you want to write tributes and descriptions for Hollywood’s greatest films, let me know in the comments or at mwmailsea at yahoo dot com.

But I have another plan to induce the teeming masses to come here. And stay here. I have plans for a new regular feature that I have high hopes for, one that could potentially attract a much larger audience than what I’ve achieved so far. One that could start as soon as tonight.
What is it? Well, let’s just say you can expect to see a lot of this sometime soon:

Da Blog in LA Recap (what prodigious output!)

For the most part, my week in LA consisted of little more than hanging out around my dad’s house. I had some enlightening conversations with him about heavy topics and briefly caught up with some family, but not much happened.

Some catchup from the week that was:

  • NFL Lineal Title news: Carolina picked up the core Lineal Title off the Rams. They face Houston next week. The Colts will be defending against the Titans next week. If Houston and the Colts win unification would come Week 3. Atlanta and New Orleans are rooting for Carolina and Tennessee to win respectively.
  • After a week of no CFB lineal changes we get changes galore this week. Florida held on to the Princeton title against Troy, while LSU demolished Virginia Tech to retain the 2004 Auburn title. But Boise State falls to Washington while BYU loses to UCLA, making unification between the 2006 Boise State and 2004 Utah titles likely. UCLA plays Utah next while Washington plays Ohio State; the latter has a very high risk of averting unification. Unification is certain, however, if both teams retain.
  • SuperPower Rankings will start being hosted on the web site tommorow. They are currently delayed; Sporting News is joining the race but SI appears to be dropping out and if USA Today has any power rankings ongoing they don’t have this week’s up yet. My Week 2 picks are partly dependent on the SuperPower Rankings and are similarly delayed.
  • The voting-method-for-100-greatest-movies poll received no votes whatsoever in almost two months. I’m ashamed of you.

Remember what I said about posting on the Project again?

I’m still waiting for the person I’ve already lined up and my own pace has dramatically slowed. I’m still taking anyone who wants to contribute to the Project by writing up their favorite films. A link to my e-mail is available from my profile; link on the right side. A firm list of taken films won’t be available until I’m back from LA. Feel free to provide your own suggestions if you want to contribute.

Changes to Da Blog that also affect Da Web Site (and other musings)

Very few people who visit Da Blog appear to be going from there to my web site. In a related story, my sidebar has become rather cluttered.

Therefore, I’ve added a link to the web site to the right side and booted Da Counter to the bottom, since it’s the element of Da Blog you’re probably least interested in.

Have you noticed that I have a lot of rather short posts? And that I tend to talk a lot about Da Blog and my web site, and not about actual, substantial things? Seriously, Technorati says my most common tags are “blog news” and “web site news” followed by “my comments on the news”. Just shows how much I need you to help give Da Blog direction.

Of course, in a sense you could say I need direction.

This summer, for me, has become dominated by the Greatest Movies Project. I’ve been writing 1-2 entries a day and goofing off the rest of the day. I’ve gotten a bit better at writing entries on movies I haven’t seen as I’ve gone along. As I write this I have about 28 entries written, two more written in incomplete form, and some ideas on entries I haven’t written. Six or seven of the entries are, in my opinion, rather great – up to about one-fourth from about one-eighth a few days ago. Most of the entries are from 1953 and earlier; the rest pretty much is composed of films at the very beginning of the list. At a rate of two a day, I could finish in 36 days by myself. That would get me a ways into September, and I could probably start posting entries before I’d completely finished. I’d probably rather get them done a little quicker, though. I have one person lined up to help write entries but I’m still open to any other movie fans who want to lend their expertise. I may post a list of off-limits films later this week.

In early September I’ll be taking a trip to Los Angeles to visit my dad. At the pace I’m on, I would hit 50 entries right as the trip started. I’m hoping to hit 50 before then and 100 by the end of the trip. Then when I came back, most of the work would involve formatting it for the site.

I’ll have more on things I’m looking for when I post on the Project again later this week.

What makes a movie great?

I recently watched On the Waterfront, to knock off a film from the list of films I haven’t seen, and help put me in the mood for the upcoming 100 Greatest Films list. When writing the entry for the film afterwards, I realized something. Having to look up the plot wasn’t my sole deficiency. In On the Waterfront‘s case, I could decipher the plot to some extent, but I didn’t really know what it was that made it so great. I realized that I was too little of a film buff to know what made certain films great, how they served as an influence on the medium.

Then I realized something else. Something worse. Some films did not influence people to come after them. Some films aren’t even useful to study for their art. They’re just considered great, entertaining films. Professional film critics would be hard-pressed to say what exactly makes them great; I would be woefully underqualified. And I certainly don’t know how to analyze the art of a film, even if I have watched it.

The AFI often brings in luminaries in film to comment on the films on its lists, and often all they say is how much they like the film, or particular parts of it. Several lists are accompanied by brief blurbs on the films, but they don’t do them justice. I want to take some time to explain the films and why they are so often considered among the greatest of all time, but I don’t know one lick about them. I’ll probably turn over many films’ entries to others (remember, I’m taking applications!) But that doesn’t make me look very good.

So, I’m turning this over to you. What is it that makes a film, and specificially the films so often mentioned among the greatest of all time, great? What should a layman like me who knows nothing except the films he’s seen recently know about the films he’s probably only heard of through the various greatest films’ lists but should know in greater detail? Feel free to leave a comment to this post.

Soon To Come: The definitive Greatest Movies List!

When you think of lists of “100 Greatest X”, you think of one “x” above all else: movies.

There’s no way I can make my own list of greatest movies. There are so damn many lists out there already, created far more scientifically, that I’m only making more noise. (In the future I hope to make lists in fields where there has been limited input.) There’s also the small problem that I have seen very few movies.

These lists cause plenty of debate over whether this film should be rated higher than that film. With so many lists, there’s a lot of noise out there. But what if all the lists became one list?

That’s what I aim to do with my entry into the Greatest Movies pantheon, which will be one of the first features on the website I’ve been talking about for months now. There will be three lists: an Overall list of the 100 Greatest Movies, a 50 Greatest Movies list as chosen by critics, and a 50 Greatest Movies list as chosen by the people.

Why these distinctions? Some of the greatest movies lists, like AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies, are voted on by a panel of experts. Others, like imdB’s Greatest Films list, are selected by a much larger audience of the general public. The Overall list will be a cobbling together of both types, while the Critical and People’s lists will focus on just one type of list. The two methods produce very different results, and there are pluses and minuses for both. People can have their debates on which approach is superior, but this way they can have their own list that isn’t contaminated by the other group, or the Overall list that treats both equally.

I will base my list on the following lists, and you are welcome to submit other widely-published and in any way authoritative lists:

  • AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies. The one that started it all; the “10th Anniversary” 2007 version will be used.
  • TV Guide’s 50 Greatest Movies on TV and Video (1998). Tim Dirks’ website indicates this was compiled by the editors, but Wikipedia says it was a poll. In any case, the main criteria is “how fun is it to watch?” which leans more towards the people’s list side.
  • Sight and Sound’s Decennial 2002 list. Probably one of the most authoritative in the industry. Heavy emphasis on foreign films.
  • Empire Magazine’s 100 Greatest Movies (2003). There’s also a 2007 version not on Dirks’ website but it was conducted by Empire Australia, which is a bit confusing and will result in two Empire lists.
  • FilmFour’s 100 Greatest Films (2001?) Tim Dirks indicates this was an experts’ list, but Wikipedia has a BBC article to confirm that it was a people’s list. Certainly the composition is more consistent with a people’s list.
  • Entertainment Weekly’s 100 Greatest Movies (1999) may be second only to AFI in prominence with the general public. Non-American films allowed, and there are some interesting choices.
  • LA Daily News poll (1997). Supposedly a people’s version of the AFI list based on the same list of nominees. Only top 30 will be considered because it is littered with ties.
  • Empire’s Ultimate Movie Poll (2001). As though the Empire lists weren’t confusing enough, Empire also has a top-50 list that was part of a larger effort to rank like crazy!
  • Mr. Showbiz Critics’ and Readers’ lists. This ancient list, according to Dirks, was made “a year and a half” before the AFI list on a now-defunct site.
  • Village Voice 100 Best Films of the 20th Century. A critics’ poll assembled at the turn of the century. Very weird and foreign-heavy.
  • Time Out Film Guide Centenary List (1995) and Readers’ List (1998). Limited reliability, and both lists are so riddled with ties I had to cut them short at 40 and 60 respectively. Less than that will go into the making of this list.
  • imdB’s Top 100. I’m limiting imdB’s role to the Top 100 because A, it would be just too much work to do the whole Top 250, and B, depending on the method used (see below), it might not matter. This is often biased towards recent releases.
  • I also hope to consider Total Film’s Top 100 Films of All Time (2005) – and the 2006 update which was a people’s list. Neither is on Tim Dirks’ web site due to being very recent. Also, both lists take a turn towards the weird and disregard critical consensus in favor of the recently popular.

How will I make the decision on how to rank the movies? That’s a daunting question. I will aim to choose from among these voting systems, which you can vote on in the sidebar in a brand new poll:

  • Repeated plurality voting. The system we’re all used to in the states. I choose the movie that gets the most votes among those movies on the top line. Then I remove those votes and move up the other movies on those lists. Repeat. This system is vulnerable to ties. I will run runoffs in those cases unless every single list nominates a different film. Which is extremely possible.
  • Instant runoff voting. In some ways the opposite of repeated plurality. If one film has the majority, that film wins. Otherwise eliminate the films with the least amount of votes and bring up the other movies until a majority exists. Restore the votes and start over. This has the problem that a film’s performance can be singularly tied to when it gets a first-line vote. It’s also very vulnerable to ties, and there are several schemes to resolve the tie:
    • Refer to the previous round of eliminations and eliminate the film with the fewest votes in that round. If you reach the point where no one had been eliminated, go back to the determination of the previous rank.
    • Apply the Bucklin method below, but to eliminate the film with the fewest votes.
    • Determine whether, if one film is eliminated, any other film involved in the tie would not also be eliminated immediately or at least remain at risk of elimination. Eliminate the option that would preserve the other(s). This rarely works as elegantly as described, at least for ties of three or more, and often becomes complicated.
  • Repeated supplementary vote. Similar to repeated plurality, but I hold a runoff between the two films on the top line with the most votes. Technically a Sri Lankan supplementary vote. Could easily result in a top-line tie.
  • Coombs’ method. If one film has the majority, that film wins. Otherwise eliminate the film with the most last place votes until one film has the majority. Restore the votes and start over. In both this and instant runoff, I will eliminate all films right off the bat that a) do not appear on the top line on any list, and b) do not have at least one list in which they defeat a film on the top line on another list, for simplicity. This particular method does not work well because some lists are not 100 films deep.
  • Borda count. Most common method for creating ranked lists. #1 = 100 points, #2 = 99, and so on. This method is not iterative and can be commenced at once. It’s also the most likely choice unless I get talked into one of the others.
  • Bucklin method. If one film has the majority, that film wins. Otherwise add in the votes on the second line. Repeat until one film has amassed enough votes that it would have a majority of the top-line votes. If more than one film passes this threshhold in a single round, switch to plurality voting. Restore the votes and start over. Because of the varying lengths of lists and their disagreeing nature this doesn’t work well past about 15 films or so.
  • Condorcet method. If one film would defeat all other films in one-on-one matchups, that film wins (the “Condorcet winner”). Remove the winner and repeat. There is not always a Condorcet winner – there may be two or more films that beat all other films but tie each other, or Film A may beat Film B, B beats C, but C beats A. There are actually several “Condorcet methods” that treat this problem differently:
    • Copeland’s method. The film that wins more one-on-one fights than any other wins the rank.
    • Switch to one of the other approaches. Possibly apply one of the other approaches to a subset of the whole, which contains only the Condorcet winner if it exists: the Smith Set, which beats all films outside it; one of the Schwartz Sets, which is unbeaten against all films outside it; or the Landau Set, consisting of all films for which, for every film that beats it, it beats another film that beats the film that beat it. (For example, and not reflecting reality, if “Citizen Kane” beats “The Godfather” but “The Godfather” beats “Casablanca” which beats “Kane”, then, assuming “Godfather” loses no other battles, it’s in the set.) Instant-runoff applied to the Smith set is common. However, past the top 3 or 6 the Smith set becomes huge.
    • Kennedy-Young/VoteFair method. This approach actually boasts that it is designed to produce a ranked list – it is not iterative! For every possible sequence, add one point for the number of lists that agree with each one-on-one ranking that agrees with that sequence. In other words, if the ranking under consideration ranks “Citizen Kane” #1, “Casablanca” #2, “The Godfather” #3, and “Star Wars” #4, then the number of lists that favor “Kane” over “Casablanca” is added to the number that favors “Kane” over “Godfather”, “Kane” over “Star Wars”, “Casablanca” over “Godfather”, “Casablanca” over “Star Wars”, and “Godfather” over “Star Wars”. The ranking with the highest score is the final list of Greatest Movies. The problem? If there were exactly 100 movies under consideration (there are more than that), then there are 100! = 9.3326215×10^157 (that’s more than half a googol of googols!) possible sequences. (That’s 100 factorial for you non-math geeks.) I have to rely on shortcuts (like considering the Smith Set or the set combining the top line with all films that beat films on the top line on at least one list) to narrow down which sequence to choose. Fortunately, it produces results similar if not equal to ranked pairs in practice.
    • Minimax. Basically, the film for which the film that scores the most victories over it is still fewer victories than the equivalent film for all other films wins. If “Citizen Kane”‘s worst defeat involved losing to another film on 6 lists, and all other films lost to at least one other film more than that, “Kane” wins.
    • Ranked pairs. Take every possible comparison of two films. The largest margin of victory (or the largest number of lists that agree) is locked in. Any defeat that contradicts the defeats already locked in is ignored. In other words, for an A>B>C>A situation, the defeat with the smallest margin of victory is ignored. Also results in a massive comparison; if exactly 100 films are involved. 100 x 99 = 9900 possible matchups must be considered. Since there are more films than that, the number goes up parabolically.
    • Schulze method. Take the Schwartz set. Drop the tightest race. Determine the new Schwartz set. Repeat until a Condorcet winner appears or all the members of the Schwartz set account for no defeats even amongst themselves.
  • Single transferable vote, iterative version: If one film has the majority, that film wins. Only votes over the majority are transferred to other films, in proportion to what films were on the next line. If no film has the majority, eliminate the films with the fewest votes and move up new films until a majority exists. There is a non-iterative version that doesn’t do any ranking unless you’re lucky, but there are so few lists and so many spots to fill that it won’t work.

Precisely when I’ll start putting the list up is partly dependent on when the web site goes up, what suggestions you might have, and what pace I can write the entries at. Since I’ve seen maybe four of the movies that will be listed, if I’m lucky, I invite anyone knowledgable to guest-write an entry or two; to apply, make a comment to this post (make sure you let me know your e-mail address) or e-mail me by clicking on the Complete Profile link on the right side.

Will this post mark the start of a revolution? Maybe, but probably not. However, it will be a lot of fun, and hopefully produce some new perspective on an old, recurring topic.

Yet Another Greatest Movie List?

Last week the AFI updated their 1998 “100 Years… 100 Movies” list with a “10th Anniversary” update to the list. (Let’s not get into the fact that it technically hasn’t quite been 10 years.) I’m not going to give my opinions on the list, which you can see on Wikipedia here, mostly because I’m not qualified to have any, not being a movie watcher. (But yay for Do the Right Thing cracking the Top 100!)

However, it’s apparent that lists like these appeal more to our desire to list things (and my magnetic pull to countdowns) more than anything else. That’s why regardless of anything else, the future “greatest lists” mentioned on one of the polls will become part of the future of Da Blog.

I just need people to pick some initial topics for listing, which you can do in a comment to this post for now; later I’ll introduce a more robust topic-picking system.