Part II of the Two-Envelope problem was not too friendly, so here’s something that is.
Via HotAir, I came across the site Marginal Revolution, in which was featured a graph showing the career trajectory of director M. Night Shyamalan. I loved it. The graph, I mean. Not Shyamalan’s movies.
The picture shows the ratings, culled from Rotten Tomatoes, for each of Shyamalan’s offerings, presented through time. Higher ratings are better; the ratings are an average from “approved critics”.
If the picture had any flaw, it was fitting a linear trend to the data, which, if extrapolated, would give Shyamalan negative ratings for any movies released after 2015. Much better would have been to let the data alone, which is what I have done here in this recreation of the original.
A precipitous drop! I have only seen The Sixth Sense, which was decent, and Signs, which was ridiculous at best. The trailers for The Last Airbender—in 3D!—never rise above absurd, a movies are almost always worse than their trailers.
Most of Shyamalan’s movies are leftest fantasy morality plays; never big sellers, but they usually are greeted warmly. That his were not must then imply that they were extraordinarily poor.
What struck me was a comment to the original picture in which somebody said, “A lot of artists has the same kind of trajectory.” I wondered whether that was true.
Mel Gibson is in the news, and has been in a Shyamalan movie, so I thought it would be fun to create a similar chart for him. Only live-action movies in which Gibson played the lead are shown. It’s important to understand that the Rotten Tomato ratings are for the movie and not the man. Of course, since the man was the star vehicle, a lot of the credit for the success of failure of a movie goes to him.
The movie names are more difficult to read because of their number. With some departures to stinkhood (Air America, Million Dollar Hotel), Gibson’s career has been one of a steady, downward trajectory toward mediocrity. It’s easy to imagine his recent run-ins with the press will not help his career positively, so a crude extrapolation makes for a safe bet.
And then there’s John Wayne, my personal favorite.
Wayne jumped around a bit. He would star in something great and always-watchable like The Quiet Man, and then appear in something crude like The High and the Mighty. But immediately after that lackluster movie came The Searchers, one of the best of them all.
This was quickly followed by the dull North to Alaska, a movie forgotten after the not-to-be-missed The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. And after the next low of Circus World came the fantastic El Dorado.
Then Wayne stepped into politics, right-wing politics, then as now a forbidden subject in Hollywood. So we mustn’t give too much weight for the abysmal rating of The Green Berets. His next low, Brannigan was bad, but it was followed up by one of his best, The Shootist.
There’s somewhat of a downward trend in Wayne’s career, but it’s not as clear as in the case of Gibson or Shyamalan. Of course, with a sample size of only three, we cannot say whether all or even most artist’s careers are similar.
It would be fascinating to see how true a decreasing trend is for actors and directors in general. Or perhaps to classify the kinds of careers: meteoric rises and falls, steady increase and plateaus, and so forth.
If we just had access to that Rotten Tomatoes’ data…