Movie Statistics?
April 25, 2009, 08:06 PM
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Over time, sports statistics hobbyists have become professional analysts employed by sports teams. Bill James started out analyzing baseball statistics in the 1970s as a boilerroom attendant and now he has a very nice job with the Boston Red Sox. The less mature field of basketball statistics has been losing its leading hobbyists over the last few years to NBA front offices.

With basketball statistics, it's been kind of like the early 1940s when the physics journals that had been full in the late 1930s of of exciting atomic discoveries suddenly had a shortage of new papers from Americans and Brits about splitting the atom. The Germans eventually realized that there was a very big reason for this sudden silence.

One of the main trends in baseball and basketball statistics has been away from analyzing existing box-score statistics to making up new statistics by analyzing video. For example, baseball statisticians have now been reviewing games to see which section of the field balls were hit too.

But let's think about other ways that quantitatively-inclined males can waste time.

For example, are there any movie statistics besides box office totals? The only use of movie statistics I can recall involved the lawsuit against Oliver Stone that was aided by legal novelist John Grisham over Stone's movie "Natural Born Killers," a vile film about a couple who conduct thrill kill murders of random people. A friend of Grisham's was randomly murdered by a couple who had just watched "Natural Born Killers" a whole bunch of times in a row while taking drugs.

"NBK" was made, right after "JFK", near the height of Stone's considerable powers of cinematic razzle-dazzle. To establish the amount of effort put into making "NBK" psychologically powerful, the plaintiff's lawyers counted up the extraordinary number of cuts in the film and compared it to an ordinary film.

So, number of cuts per minute would be an interesting statistic. Which directors or editors use the most, which use the fewest. Is there a sweet spot? Does it change over time for a director? Stone's "W." from last year has many fewer than "NBK."

That's just one thought, but you might have more.