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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1 may have the third-biggest midnight opening gross ever — $24 million, a personal best for Potter movies — but it won’t win best-reviewed film at the Golden Tomato Awards Jan. 11.
“Harry Potter is currently at 78% [positive reviews] so that’s out of the running,” says Rotten Tomatoes editor in chief Matt Atchity. Up until last week, Atchity had thought Harry could be a spoiler, beating the first and fifth Potter films, both rated 78% positive by critics. “That’s about as low as this franchise has gone. If it gets any lower, it will be the worst-reviewed of the series, although it’s still high enough to be ‘Certified Fresh.'” On Rottentomatoes, “Fresh” means positive.
“The only realistic contenders to beat Toy Story 3 [246 reviews, 99% positive] and The Social Network, [252, 97% positive] would be True Grit, Tangled, based on how popular Bolt was, and Tron Legacy. For True Grit to be a contender, it’d have to have 98, 99% fresh and upwards of 200 reviews.”
Both the enthusiasm and number of reviews count. “We have a formula that accounts for different amounts of reviews.” Atchity won’t reveal the magic formula, but it’s simple. “It’s more of an accomplishment to get 95% at 200 reviews than 100% at 25 reviews. The secret sauce is, it’s gotta be something everyone feels like they need to review.”
“If Toy Story 3 hits DVD and 25 people write extremely negative reviews, that could affect it,” he says. Critics with more clout don’t count more. “As tempting as it is to say we’re gonna give Roger Ebert 50 votes, or Joe Morgenstern, we count them all the same.” Should RT try a bicameral legislature, like the elite Senate and rowdier, more populous House of Representatives? “That’s not a bad idea,” says Atchity. In fact, the Top Critics tab has a certain Senatorial hauteur.
Atchity has more doubts about True Grit‘s potential than most Oscar pundits. “Why remake a good movie? You’d be better off remaking a bad movie and fixing it.” Steven Spielberg and George Lucas agreed to make Indiana Jones, inspired by adventure serials they’d seen as kids; when they re-watched them, they were horrified at how godawful they were. Then they realized how easy it would be to beat them, and were relieved. Will the Coens regret remaking True Grit instead of true s**t they could transmute to Oscar gold?
Atchity will respect the will of the voters. “We are the largest film critics circle. True Grit will come out on Dec. 22. We’ll see the mass of reviews coming in for five or six days. We’ll be in here over the weekend.”
In this election, there are no recounts, and Atchity is the Supreme Court.
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