There’s a problem with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There’s also a problem with Rotten Tomatoes. And it’s the same problem: They overthink movies.
Last week, the Academy announced a new award for outstanding achievement in popular film, the so-called “Popcorn Oscar.” They had to create this condescending category because a top 10 box office movie hasn’t won a best-picture Oscar since 2004. For most people, this makes tuning in to the Oscars about as much fun as watching American Idol without actually getting to see the contestants perform.
Before 2004, popular movies used to win best-picture Oscars regularly. Academy members now seem to view popular success as an absolute disqualifier. Which is clearly loony because most great American movies were also box office gold.
The unwatchable, irrelevant Oscars can go the way of the dodo for all I care. What really worries me is Rotten Tomatoes, a new cultural force that seems intent on forcing Hollywood to make only the kind of dreary movies that would have a real chance of winning a best-picture Oscar.
Rotten Tomatoes is a website that gathers movie reviews from hundreds of critics; determines, using their own in-house process, whether each review is positive or negative; and then assigns them a Tomatometer score. Any movie at or above 60% positive reviews gets a “Fresh” score, below 60% gets a “Rotten.” Simple enough.
But the Tomatometer scores have become so crazy powerful that most movies adjudged rotten usually don’t make much money. Which means movies similar to those they deem rotten are less likely to be made in the future. That’s way too much cultural clout for a dinky website with 36 employees.
The problem is that most movie critics are of the tendentious, virtue signaling variety. They like movies that most people would only watch if they were strapped to a chair with their eyelids pried open, like Alex in A Clockwork Orange. The forgotten best-picture winners for the last four years, all of which received over 90% Tomatometer scores, pretty much give you the flavor.
By and large, Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t like comedies that are unironically funny. And they hate action movies if Americans are unambiguously the good guys and the bad guys are truly evil. You know, the kind of movies people actually like, reminisce about with their friends, and watch on TV over and over again.
I bring all this up because I saw Mile 22 last week which received a whopping 21% Tomatometer score. And, I’m almost embarrassed to admit, I liked it.
It’s a Mark Wahlberg, American hero, shoot ‘em up also starring the very dangerous Ronda Rousey; Ika Uwais, the baddest martial artist in movies; and John Malkovich, who coolly delivers the only cool line of the summer. In other words – and this is very high praise for a movie – it has absolutely no shot at winning a best-picture Oscar.
If you could use a little break from your seemingly unsolvable problems, and if, like most South Texans, you’re sick and tired of it being as hot as the devil’s instep outside, then Mile 22 just may be the movie for you.
Best of all, if you see it, you get to poke at the exquisitely delicate sensibilities of our cultural overlords at Rotten Tomatoes.