Eclipse Of Venus – 3 Population and Groups

How the way the mass thinks affect the groups in making decision? Ideally it shouldn’t since the group is supposed to make a weighed, calculated and balanced decision, not swayed by the ‘mood’ of the population, unless it is called for. But do they?

This is the age of wide all pervasive social media, and all the people as well as their ardent followers are looking everywhere for the feedback from mass (like and dislike buttons) and that makes the the outcomes to be heavily influenced. It is not only the politicians who have to look at these signals and modify their policies and speeches, even the courts are not immune. They might not change their stand entirely, the guilty remained guilty of the same charges and were not acquitted or the innocent punished, due to mass outcry, but the degree of punishment had most certainly been colored, and in a few cases, that is even on record. I have even noticed that sometimes the judgments were biased, by hardening the stand (ego?) against the public or softening in support. But I won’t take those blips in my radar, anyway they are rare enough to be the exceptions to prove the law (of the land). It is of course by the courts, who could afford to do it, politicians are not that immune.

But is it right? When we look at the response of the populace, it is short term outlook and corresponds to the current mood. However, the expert group should be looking towards something more substantial, and the effects of decisions in a long term.

  • When a political cabinet meets for a policy decision, it is for something that would have consequences a few years down the line.
  • When a court pronounces a verdict, it is not only for the defendant, but also it is a message to the people in general, that if a certain act is done again in future, what could be the result.
  • When a company board meets, it formulates policies, which would guide the company for next few years.

If the ministers start following the short-term public sentiments, courts start considering the defendant as an isolated individual (hence the verdict that they pronounce would be an act in isolation and won’t affect others), the company board takes policy decisions based on the demands of the labor unions, the systems are doomed. It is not because the demands of public, society or labor unions are wrong, but because they are with narrow and short-term outlook.

How much these short-term mood swings taper off, or may be even reverse, as the time moves forward by a few years? Do the new crowd, consisting of new members and the old ones, senior by a few years, think of the situation and the decisions in same way? They do have a precedence to look at and they know the mistakes committed and right things done. But if it wasn’t there? Had that particular incident happened now, would they have reacted the same way? Or what was right them is now wrong, or at least sub-optimal?  

Probably so, after all Odin, one of the most revered deities of ancient times, was equated to Devil by Ingmer Bergman in The Virgin Spring (1960).  Obviously with no one to take up the cause.  Of course he proved what was said by Prof Luke Timothy Johnson “Early Christians frequently misinterpreted virtuous gods as demons. It is impossible, not to recognize that paganism is the furthest thing possible from the demonic. It is indeed a form of religious expression from which we can learn much, and at the very least we need to respect.”  Bergman proved, through his movies, that it was not only the early, but even current ones think of them as demons. 

But that was after a millenium after all the defenders had been removed. I am not talking of such a long time, What about the outlook towards things in general, when the crowd have aged by a few years? And of course things are not that grim now, again, thanks to a few movies like “Thor” and the comics associated, where the pagan Gods are no more demons, only aliens.

Are the so-called experts too affected by the mood swings of the society, or are they immune, being experts and people with far outlooks? If they are not immune, are they at least partially immune or they float along with the stream, gathering whatever floating by them, rather than making an effort to swim against, or at least across, to reach a particularly tasty fruit hanging just in the reach?

I used my own non-patented method to look at it, through movies.

Any movie is made based on current mood of the population. Unless that is catered too, it is doing to be a dud in the box office, which no producer and financier would like. This mood however could be

  • As per the current situation  in the society, or
  • Completely opposite to it, the Utopia, people want to be in, 
  • Or a means to escape, to help forget about it.
  • Or situation twisted in favor of certain agenda.

At different time of the history we would see one or the other having a small but significant edge over other.

  • There were times when audience lapped up Mobster movies;
  • The feel-good movies and musicals, who especially at difficult times were using weighbridges to count cash collected in the box office;
  • In the time of great depressions, we had the hero and heroines struggling and making good
  • And of course, we had the one which had most nincompoop, inefficient, brutal and stupid foreigners. Depending on the time, they could be Nazis, Soviets, Vietcong, Libya, Iraq, North Koreans… but all of them shared the same stupidity and brutality. Our protagonist is obviously highly outnumbered, almost pure white (not necessarily but most often, in skin color too), though he would be in general a nervous wreck, and due to it he might stray occasionally, though temporarily, into grey areas.

Like general audience, I too am a commoner, and hence similarly prejudiced, but in opposite direction, being an iconoclast. Frankly I rarely watch any of these unbalanced movies. I don’t have any particular reason to watch these genres of movies either. My patriotism doesn’t goad me to watch the Americans (or British of MI6) with individuals of IQ- 300 meting out justice to a bunch of Russians or Cowboys/ Frontiersmen doing the same with Apache Indians, in each case, the combined (not average) IQ of the villains is around 100. I don’t really blame them in this white vs black (some time skin too) fight, the IQs have to be unbalanced if 300 has to fight against 30,000 of Xerxes. I prefer the Meet the Spartan over the 300, where the IQ levels of the two combatants were most certainly matching – and of course it has the playmate in it, who has an extinct fly (of all things), named after her. It is not limited to any particular wood though, all the Indian woods, at least including obviously and prominently Bollywood, too have lapped it up. Long back Jai and Veeru did it against scores of retarded people of equally retarded Gabbar Singh and it happens in almost all movies where there is a villain.

Talking of the IQ, I had come across a funny reading “Scientific” analysis on IQ by a pair of British and Finnish Professors, who claim to be Professors, and seemed to have missed that I in the IQ stands for “Intelligence” and has nothing to do with the color of the skin and the national poverty. For my part, I will ignore the prejudiced.

Anyway, as I said, I don’t watch the Cold War, Vietnam, WW-II etc. movies, and limit myself to the good movies, (what I think are good movies). If any of the movies related to war that I watch, it is about the veteran’s adjustment in the society, more of a psychological adjustment angle, though not many of them have much to recommend either (e.g. First Blood). But the mushrooming of the movies of specific subjects, in specific time-era does give the mood of the particular nation on those periods.

Obviously as the time changes, the mood too does, and so does the theme of movies. Best way to gauge the mood of the people would be to get the Hit to Flop ratio of subjects for each of the time-range. But that would be massive exercise. Getting the list of the movies of a year won’t be difficult, but then each is to be analyzed on the theme. Also I have to know that the flop was for audience rejection of the subject or was it because their favorite was badly treated and mauled by the director and actors. If I take say a fifty-year period to study, this exercise would take may be a couple of years. If that isn’t bad enough, most of these, especially the flops, won’t have their names in the web, leave aside the nut-shell story.

I didn’t dare to attempt such an extensive job, and decided on a shortcut. Obviously, even the top production houses won’t go against the flow and produce the movies that are not related to the prevailing mood. To compound the matter, fortunately in the same direction, any jury sitting for evaluation too would have similar mental frame. Why don’t I look at Oscar winners of the years and make a list of these? Probability is very high that the awarded movies of the year would reflect public sentiment. Fortunately, the Oscars follow the box office more closely than the Indian National Awards, where the Noir movies, which could go diametrically opposite to the money churners would garner the medallion, probably the Filmfare awards would be more in the moods of the Oscars.

So, my first premise is that the Oscars reflect the mood of the year. But there are multiple Oscar awards. Probably the best measure would be the ‘Best Film’, the subject matter encompassing the whole. But there would be some other soft hints too, like Director, Actor and Actress, who too could help the mood. This year (2017)’s results, though a bit too apologetic of last year, amply prove the wind of what the system wants.

Note it need not be what the public wants. They may or may not want it, but they definitely won’t hate it, and make it bomb in box office.  The system here is the top brass of the film fraternity, not the viewers. These are the people who decide whom to award. Our, the viewers’ responsibility is only to get the movie known enough (through number of footfalls in the theater) to win it a nomination.

The system has declared that it prefers a specific behavior pattern, but do the public listen and follow their dictate? Are the Oscar winners replicating the behavior in box office? We know that these are not the greatest hits of the years, though they are money earners. For example, this year’s top movie, Moonlight has grossed around 30 million, one tenth of the loser, La La land, indicating that though the public didn’t wholeheartedly agree with the Bosses, but didn’t go totally against either, since even the awarded movie was a box-office success. This feature isn’t limited to this year only, and could be seen quite often that the prize winners and box-office winners have disconnect.

To gauge the public perception, instead of Box office, I used another metrics, the votes available on the websites, for example IMdB. This would directly give the measures of what the viewers think of La La land (8.5) vis-à-vis Moonlight (7.8). But even this score is transitory and keeps on changing as the viewers jump at new toys (movies). I remember Bahubali, in the initial stages had as high as 9+ but now is down at around 8.3. Not that it deserves it, in fact it certainly doesn’t, but this is a measure of public opinion, and I as an individual isn’t supposed to force my judgement down the throat of others, and veto the IMDb marks.

To make the matter more complicated, for me, I looked at the AFI list, the 100 years 100 movies. This is based on group of “Experts” who have looked at the movies (not necessarily watched) and decided which of them have the special ingredients. This data could be easily matched with the Oscar awards, since both are (supposed to be) by experts, and the same criteria (of being box office success) applies. The groups chosen to judge the movies, and cast their votes are experts with similar qualifications, for both the long term and the annual. Probably there would be quite a few persons, common in the two sets of experts. Of course, there is one major difference, the movies of say 1940 were judged by the experts of 1940. But when it comes for the best of the century, it is by the expert of today, a few may be old, but certainly not old enough to be young in 1940.

IMdb also suffers from a similar problem here. The people usually put their votes after watching the movies, and mark their opinion on the ballot. In addition they are sometimes influenced by some other factors, for example group dynamics, personal opinions etc. For example, when I go to watch a movie of Kurosawa, Bergman, De Sica or Chaplin, then aware of the director’s name, my impressions about the movie would not be entirely unbiased. One of the best examples of bias may be the change in IMDb ratings before and after a movie gets an Academy or Palme d’Or award. Due to this reason, whether it is IMDb score or any award, a total disconnect from the personalities associated too is not practically possible.

IMDb tops would most certainly be from current era. However, the method of dynamic evaluation has a strength. It averages over time. If I disregard the current breed of movies, (say about 5 years), then the law of averages would take over, and the movies would slowly settle in their grooves, where audience, and not experts, would like to place them. When I look at old movies, then the IMDb score would tell me the longevity of the movie, whether it is a wine, perfectly aging and retaining its flavor, or a soda bottle, which had given out a huge fizz, and is now completely flattened.

The personality cult and the bias due to it probably is equally disruptive in the expert’s psyche. I am not an expert, but if I ask myself to make a list of the best movies of the last millennium, how would my thought process go?

If it is a short list, it would be easy, I will go by memory of the movies directly. The one I have seen, or the one I have heard been talked about highly, provided they suit my taste – no war, no apache, and no mobsters.

But if I am asked to make a list of very few (say best three) or a large list (say 50 movies) then it would become complicated. After the first dozen, my thought process would take a particular route (This may be different for others). I will go by personalities. I might first take up Chaplin (if he is my favorite), and list his movies, which I have (or should have) watched, may be then I will take Korda. Of course, in racking up the brain, I would not limit myself to Directors, the actors and actresses too are there to suggest the list. Leigh, Garbo, Ingrid, Hepburn(s), Bette, Loretta, Gable, Grant… each of them will suggest me names of the movies to include. From that list, I would remove a few if it has overshot the target figure, or go to the web (a beautiful tool available today) if the count is short. I am sure the experts too are not going to work in much different manner.

Anyway, coming back to the topic, I thought of comparing three metrics (IMDb Score, AFI-100 ranking and the Oscars won by the movie). My aim was to find the movies that are Good, and to watch those that I haven’t yet seen, which are recommended by all:  

  •  Experts of the era (Oscar),
  • Today’s expert’s opinion on Longevity and relevance (AFI-100)
  • The public perception on movies (IMDb)

It should give me some idea of what is good and what isn’t, despite the bias due to personality cult. In fact, I too might be under the similar spell.

Oscars are being awarded on multiple fields, and I thought that I should take all these in account. The Director, or Leading Actor, whose role isn’t in consonance with the Boss’s thinking, might not even get a nod for nomination, leave aside winning the statue. A superb acting anyway might make a not too bad movie watchable. Getting a nomination itself, is as we say more than half the battle won. For my comparison, I gave

1/3rd of the winner prize money of a category to the nominated but not won movies. Also, all categories are not equal, some are more equal than others. I allocated

  • 12 (4 for nomination) to best movie of the year,
  • 9 (N=3) to best director and
  • 6 (N=2) to the best actors of respective genders.
  • All the other categories except these 4 are 3 for a win and 1 for nomination.

These are arbitrary numbers, and without any logical or scientific basis. But a good movie should be the most significant, followed by direction, and then the two actors living the major part of the movie. I didn’t give any negative marks for Razzy, which could have complicated the issue (for example in Wall Street where Douglas and Hannah would have cancelled each other).

If I look at some other field, the concept would be easy. I first thought of sports, but that has a big drawback. Most of the sports are not subjective. The results speak for themselves. When Bolt wins a race, he does. The time is clocked, and there is no human factor to decide. That goes with Messi Vs Ronaldo’s fight for the shoe that they won’t ever wear (Golden Boot), even the rankings in the ATP, or PGA are all mathematical and defined, no one could contradict them. Probably except in artistic sports (Gymnastics, Figure Skating, Synch Swimming, Diving, etc.), nowhere a man (or a woman) has any say.

Then I looked at science and found it to be highly unscientific, you definitely can’t call the awards as a good sport, including, and especially, the most sought after of all prizes, the Nobel Prize. Here again experts come in and decide who gets the award, again weighed down with personal bias and prejudices, with sometimes quite funny, and many times politically motivated results.

But this has a great advantage, if one can’t get an award this year, his/ her work isn’t passed into ineligible list, and next year, the same work could be considered. If I look for the similarity, the award is given to the person, whose as yet un-awarded work is considered to have contributed the most in the specific field. Thus, any scientific discovery, which would be considered among the best of the century, has to come from the list of the awarded. For example, in Physics, it could be Rayleigh (for gas conduction and discovery of Argon)? Chadwick (for Neutron), Bragg (for Crystal Structures), Shockley (Transistor), Einstein (Photo electric and quantum physics), Bohr… Definitely, the most important, which gave rise to the most disruption, would feature in the list, and rarely it would go a step down, to the list of nominated but didn’t win.

In the similar manner, the best movies should come from the winners, and since here the nominations are not in perpetuity, till won or become stale, I will take the nominated too in my probables.

In general, like the best of Nobels, the AFI list represents what the Power centers, the specialists of today, thought about the movies of yore and which one they found significant. By significance, I will interpret them as,

  • It has some context even today,
  • It has some effect on the future movies, and probably the effect is still on, either in the same form or with further modifications.
  • More these factors are of relevance today, higher they go up in the list.

IMDb too looks at the movies from the same angle, but with a different mindset. The common audience may not bother about whether a movie has a disruptive effect or not. They would rather look as to whether the movie has still some relevance today, so that they can associate with, and enjoy it. Unlike the experts, who would look for a ‘proper message’ or ‘feature’, IMDb will look at the enjoyment angle, and would rank movies with glamor and glitz above the noirs.

The first two groups, the 100 years and the IMDb have a big list to chose their favorites from, and get confused along the way. The experts choosing for Oscars have a limited choice, and from the handful of the movies, the list of the non-box office duds, that they received, they have to make their choice, in the same way as the first group looked at (relevance, proper subject and positive effect on industry as well as society), and get equally confused, when the quality doesn’t exactly suit their taste. In first case there may be overabundance, and the second case lack of it, but that goes with the job, and there is no use of complaining.

Overall, if I look after a long gap, there must be some relationship between them. Let us say a movie that was very good 40 years back, as told by experts, our viewers of today may not rank them as very good to today’s standard, but compared to other movies of that year, or a year plus or minus, it would still be the one from which the best would be chosen.

Experts of today may have different mindset than that of 40 years back and they might prefer movies of current time, but if asked to rank the movies of say 1955, the rank list should remain similar (not necessarily same though) as was done by the experts of that time.

It would be surprising if they bring in an entirely unseeded and unknown player and nominate as top seed. We all know the name of Ken Rosewall, but how many of us remember Lew Hoad, who was his double partner and singles opponent, and another world No 1? If a list is ever prepared of greatest players, his name could still crop up from his multiple Grand Slam titles, may be Pancho Gonzales  too would be recalled, but I wonder if Pancho Segura will.

I think that I could make a fair guess that the three series will converge. i.e.

  • The AFI’s top list would be from the ones, that have won multiple Oscars.
  • More the Oscars won by it, higher it would be in the pecking order. 
  • It would have almost similar trend in the IMDb ranking too, at least among the movies of approximately same era.
  • It implies that if I sort the list by number of Oscars, especially major Oscars, probably the series would be same as that of IMDb and AFI, with some acceptable errors (which are part of any statistics). 
  • The movies of pre-Oscars era, or those for which the category didn’t exist, could be sandwiched in between, or might even be at pinnacle, but in general they won’t disturb the sequence of others.

 I think my hypothesis is in order.