Over the past ten or fifteen years, Rotten Tomatoes has bolstered its power and become one of the key arbiters of a film’s quality for millions of people around the world. A film’s Rotten Tomatoes score follows a movie around online, often being presented next to a title and giving potential viewers one more thing to think about before they click “play.”
Running Scared director Wayne Kramer thinks that sucks. So he’s laid out a proposal to change the way things work, suggesting that after a film has been out for ten years, filmmakers should have the ability to lodge a Rotten Tomatoes appeal and have their movies be reconsidered with a new rating.
Wayne Kramer Has a Plan For Rotten Tomatoes Appeals
JoBlo pointed us to a Facebook post from writer/director Wayne Kramer, whose films include The Cooler, Pawn Shop Chronicles, and the terrific-but-underseen Paul Walker neo-noir Running Scared, which came out in 2006. In it, Kramer lays out a proposal which would chip away at the power that a Rotten Tomatoes score currently has by introducing an accompanying score for movies that are over ten years old.
Here’s the text of his post, which I’ve altered only to fix spelling errors and remove excessive capitalizations.
“Here’s an idea for Rotten Tomatoes,” he writes. “Allow filmmakers to lodge an appeal over their RT score for a film that is over ten years old and currently scores more than 6.5 on IMDB. It takes a decade (or longer!) to know the real impact of a film and I’m sure quite a few critics might reverse themselves after ten years. I’ve heard from several critics who feel they got it wrong on Running Scared and might consider it differently today. Unfortunately, their original score is still shackled to the film on RT – and every filmmaker knows that a RT “rotten” score is worn by a film (and the filmmaker) like a Scarlet Letter.
“The Rotten Tomatoes score is visible on most streaming sites right next to the title of a film and I, personally, find it insulting. I’ve never been a fan of Rotten Tomatoes. I hold firmly that the site has contributed to the dumbing down of movie criticism – and ultimately movies themselves. When a film is judged like a gladiator in the ring with the emperor giving it a very black & white thumbs up or thumbs down, compounded by occasional critics’ herd mentality – which, trust me, is a real thing – then all the nuance involved in reviewing goes out the window.
“Scarface gets an 81 on the Tomatometer today — but that’s a completely revisionist review. Scarface was trounced by critics upon its initial release in 1983. A film I regard as one of the finest crime/action films of all time, Tony Scott’s Man on Fire (2004), is rated a paltry 34 percent on RT with a 7.7 on IMDB. HOW CAN THAT FUCKING BE POSSIBLE? Man on Fire is a freakin’ masterpiece, up there with Michael Mann’s Heat, and in no way deserving of a rotten score on RT. My own film, Running Scared – the most popular of my films and rated 7.4 on IMDB – rates rotten on RT with a 41 percent score. Antoine Fuqua’s underrated Brooklyn’s Finest (2009) is another candidate: 6.7 on IMDB and 44 percent on RT. I’ll add another undervalued Fuqua as well: Tears of the Sun. 6.6 on IMDB, 33 percent on RT. I’m sure I can find many other examples…
“I’m not joking. If anyone has access to the execs at Rotten Tomatoes, please forward them my proposal. I’m sure hundreds of filmmakers would sign on — as well as more than a few critics. It can be called ROTTEN TOMATOES ON APPEAL. Just like a misguided NC-17 rating might be changed to an R or an R to a PG-13 on appeal with the MPAA, I believe RT can – and should! – reevaluate certain films that have proven themselves with audiences after a decade of being scorned on RT.”
Would This Plan Work?
In theory, Kramer’s idea is pretty great. (Just take out the IMDb rating component – let any film get a ten-year review, I say!) I completely agree that audiences should not hold Rotten Tomatoes up as an end-all, be-all decision-maker. It’s a collection of reviews boiled down to a number, but I have to think that most audiences just glance at that number and make an assessment without actually reading those reviews and engaging with the nuances of a movie’s positives and negatives. While Kramer’s suggestion wouldn’t change the way audiences interact with Rotten Tomatoes, it would at least add one more piece of data for them to contemplate while making a decision about whether they should watch something – and that piece of data could provide a huge benefit to movies that were ahead of their time.
But in practice, I’m not sure how it would work. When the ten year mark passes for a particular film, what exactly happens? The director reaches out to Rotten Tomatoes for an appeal…and then what? Rotten Tomatoes individually reaches out to every critic who provided an initial rating for that movie ten years prior and asks them to give the film another shot? I know it can be easy to think writers just sit around and watch movies all day, but as the journalism landscape has changed, movie reviewers wear more hats and are busier than ever. Without incentivizing the writers to reassess those movies, I have a hard time seeing how this tactic will result in enough responses to warrant a change in rating. But I’d love it if someone could figure out the kinks in Kramer’s plan, because I’m a big fan of the sentiment behind it.
Here’s the trailer for Running Scared:
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