According to the parallel universe (or “multiverse”) theory, our entire universe exists in a bubble, and all around (or possibly inside!) that bubble are other bubbles containing other universes. It’s been a theory among physicists for years, because those guys are WAY into magic mushrooms. And also because of math. Or something. What do I look like, a physicist?
Anyway, if you take this theory seriously, that could mean that there’s another universe out there with another version of you, reading another version of this very blog post (though, to be fair, he may have better things to do… Hey, you don’t know Alternate You. Whatever.)
At Ranker, this intrigued us. Not enough to actually go out and learn more about cosmology, physics, string theory and the elegant science behind universes. That sounds hard. But definitely enough to get interested in Autumn Spragg’s awesome look atpop culture alternate universes. Top of the list, naturally, is the Fox science-fiction show “Fringe,” which is largely about the combative relationship between our world and a parallel reality.
Wait, in an alternate reality, I’m a Harvard scientist? What’s a Harvard?
The 2012 presidential election was also in the news this week, as the Republicans held their annual straw poll in Ames, Iowa, which helps to determine some of the front-runners in the party’s primary election. The big loser this year was former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who had been an early favorite among pundits but who came in a rather disappointing third place, and soon after dropped out of the election entirely.
What was his downfall? Perhaps these Tim Pawlenty Quotes from the campaign trail can shed some light on why Iowa voters failed to connect with him.
The big winner, by the way, was another Minnesotan,Michele Bachmann, who not only took first place in the straw poll but also contributed this photo to Internet culture:
And for that, we are forever in her debt.
On the movie front, following last week’s surprise success “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” expectations were high for a few big new releases. “The Help,” based on an already-popular novel, seemed to score with audiences despite some controversy over its handling of the civil rights movement. Less controversial, but almost assuredly more stupid, was the fifth entry in the “Final Destination” series, in which attractive young people cheat death only to end up temporarily delaying it. Which really irritates Death, who is fond of keeping to tight schedule and enforcing the rules, somewhat like a high school Vice-Principal, but less terrifying.
I said show me your hall pass or you can forget all about the Winter Formal, young lady! (Photo by Mario Valencia)
Finally this week, a petition spread around the Internet asking the Children’s Television Workshop to finally declare Bert and Ernie to be gay, and to hold a wedding for them on air. The CTW has denied that Bert and Ernie are lovers, arguing that they are puppets, and thus not capable of having a sexual orientation. But, come on… Kermit and Miss Piggy are clearly heterosexual, despite being puppets. Let’s have some consistency, Muppets!
Anyway, we at Ranker have no opinion about these singing roommates’ proclivities in the bedroom, but user Joanne has nevertheless written up a fairly compelling argument that Bert and Ernie are gay. (To be fair, most male roommates don’t spend too much time together while bathing but this is hardly conclusive evidence.) Read on and see if you’re convinced…
Not THAT kind of love. Like the love of a man for his pigeon. Get your head out of the gutter.
What is it about swimming areas that makes people into daredevils? Why is it that, all of a sudden, when some people are surrounded by water and people they want to bang, they think that they can pull off moves that professional stuntmen would charge extra for? I think we can all agree with user Robert Wabash: movies are most likely to blame.
So, not sure if you’re keeping up with all the latest news on the Internet, but it seems YouTube darling and expert day-identifier Rebecca Black has come to the difficult decision to run for the Republican presidential nomination. NO! Where did that even come from? She’s actually leaving her Anaheim, CA, high school early, and will continue her studies at home under the careful tutelage of her mother.
Why? Probably because getting to high school took so long! (She could never decide which seat to take. Hey-o! See what I did there?)
Guh, that joke’s practically older than ME at this point. Although, to be fair, so is 90% of the food in your refrigerator.
In all seriousness, though, Black has partially blamed excessive bullying from her classmates for her early departure from high school. And I quote:
“When I walk by they’ll start singing ‘Friday’ in a really nasally voice,” she told Nightline. “Or, you know, they’ll be like, ‘Oh hey, Rebecca, guess what day it is?’”
Or, for that matter, the mysterious and alluring Boxxy, who was essentially forced off the Internet after developing such an intense following on message boards like 4Chan.
Don’t worry, we don’t really get it either.
For most of these individuals, there was light at the end of the tunnel, and the bullying eventually gave way to a kind of grudging Internet respect. So take heart, Rebecca! Oh, and please stop recording horrible, horrible songs. That’s not bullying. Just honestly.
[DISCLAIMER: Obviously, we at Ranker do not endorse bullying, or even cyberbullying for that matter. I mean… Come on… Grow up.]
Yes, it’s that time once again. For the swallows to return to Capistrano. And for Ranker’s blog post about the timely lists that were made on the site this week. That swallows thing is weird, though. Where are they going? Why go back to San Juan Capistrano when, seriously, Newport Beach is not that far up the coast and has better restaurants? These are just some of nature’s mysteries.
It’s no mystery whey Ranker has so many great, timely lists, though. Because they’re so fun and easy to make. (Segue!)
For example, earlier this week, the FBI announced there may be a break in the long-standing D.B. Cooper hijacking and disappearance case. (For those of you who aren’t up on your relatively obscure ’70s cultural memes: Cooper hijacked a plane and received a $200,000 ransom before parachuting out and essentially vanishing.) It was only a few hours after the news broke that we had a great Ranker list of Criminals Who Vanished Mysteriously. Some of these guys, like “Whitey” Bulger, have since been captured, but a few remain at large, including three guy who escaped Alcatraz.
Pretty sure this one’s being held at the Castle Brunwald on the Austrian-German border.
Or there was that interview Mila Kunis gave about her new movie “Friends with Benefits” that included her telling off a reporter in her native Russian:
You insult Kunis during an interview? STRAIGHT TO SIBERIA!
Kunis doesn’t play that. Should have known by now.
Anyway, this inspired Ranker user Calistyle to take a look at amazingly bilingual celebrities, some of whom you may not even have realized could speak multiple languages. (And no, before you ask, Pauly Shore is not speaking another language… That’s just gibberish.)
Finally, another week means a raft of new big anticipated summer movies, and even though it’s August, Hollywood is still going strong. The most anticipated movie this weekend was, of course, the new prequel to Planet of the Apes, starring James Franco as the human who explains why our species deserves to be wiped out. (Which, I suppose, means he’s playing himself.)
Listen, smart guy, if you don’t want your hyper-intelligent chimp to lead a monkey revolution against your civilization, maybe don’t call him CAESAR. Asking for trouble. Also, NAPOLEON would be a good one to avoid, particularly if you have a pig farm.
While we’re on the subject of movies, by the by… You should really check out Ranker’s in-depth statistical analysis of our Worst Movies Ever list, if you missed it the other day. We get Medieval on our Crowdranked guide to the Worst Movies Ever Made, using high-level mathematics to split the worst movies into groups and look at what they have in common. Using this research, scientists may one day be able to create the ultimate Terrible Movie, that is equally displeasing to everyone who sees it. Well, that’s the dream, anyway…
Y’all on Google+ yet? Ranker wanted to join, but then Google said you had to be a real person with a real name to join and not just some company. And they caught on to our “Ranky McRankerson” plan pretty quick. Clever girl…
Anyway, we’ve now been reduced to sitting on the sidelines and encouraging our faithful users and employees to do the +1-ing for us. (Please give it a try! It’s that colorful +1 button you see under the titles of every Ranker list! Vote us up and I’ll come to your house and hand-deliver to you a delicious muffin basket!)
NOTE: We have no intention of really giving you a muffin basket. How do they even keep the muffins fresh long enough to basket and then deliver them? This is not a good business strategy.
Twitter owes a lot of its present popularity to the A-list cast of celebrities who frequent the microblogging service. I mean, can you imagine ever hanging out there if Kanye West weren’t sharing insights about Persian rugs with cherubs on them constantly? UNLIKELY!
Will the same happen for Google’s upstart new social network, Google+? It seems increasingly possible. The site is already being called “the fastest-growing in history” and has added over 25 million new users while still in beta. (For comparison, it took Facebook 3 years to get to 25 million users, and Twitter nearly 30 months.) And now, the celebrities have started pouring in.
Check out Ranker’s guide to Celebrities on Google+for a fairly thorough listing of everyone who’s using the service, from NBA great Carmelo Anthony to socialite Paris Hilton to Dell Inc. founder Michael Dell. (Dude you’re getting a Dell…post!) Imagine, being able to experience Soulja Boy cranking that in REAL-TIME. Truly, we live in a remarkable age.
The glasses are helpful whenever he forgets his own name. Hey, it happens.
Perhaps you didn’t know Ranker had a whole large laboratory full of scientists in neatly pressed white coats doing crazy, some might even say Willy Wonka-esque experiments. We try to keep that sort of thing fairly under wraps. The government’s been sort of cracking down on evil science ever since that Freeze Ray incident a few years back… you know the one I mean…
A rare glimpse behind the curtain at how Ranker lists are made. Photo by RDECOM.
Anyway, recently, our list technicians have been playing around with CrowdRanked lists. We get a lot of Ranker users giving us their opinion on these lists.
(Ranker’s CrowdRankings invite our community members to all gather together and make lists about one topic. Then everyone else can come in and vote on what they think. When it’s all been going on for a while, and a bunch of people have participated, you get a list that’s a fairly definitive guide to that topic.)
One list that has interested us in particular is this one: The Worst Movies of All Time. Almost 70 people have contributed their own lists of the worst films ever, and thousands of other members of the Ranker community have voted.
And what do we learn from this list? Everyone really, really, really hates “Gigli.” I mean, hates it. That movie is no good at all.
Ben Affleck does his impression of everyone watching more than 5 minutes of ‘Gigli.’
It comes in #2 right now, with almost 700 votes upholding its general crapitude. The only movie topping it in votes right now is Mariah Carey’s vanity project, “Glitter,” which, to be fair, barely qualifies as “a movie.”
But our scientists – because they are seriously all about science – thought, there must be something more we can do with this data now that we’ve collected it. And wouldn’t you know, they came up with something. They call it “FactorAnalysis.” I call it “The thing on my desk I’m supposed to write about after I have a few more cups of coffee.”
So What Is FactorAnalysis Anyway?
Here’s how the technicians explained it to me…
We’re going to perform a statistical analysis of the votes we collected on the “Worst Movies Ever” list. (Just the votes, not the lists people made nominating movies.) To do this, we’re going to break up the list of movies into groups based on similarities in people’s voting patterns. (That is, if a lot of people voted for both “Twilight” and “From Justin to Kelly,” we might group them together. If a lot of those same people voted against “Catwoman,” we’d put that in a separate group.)
Sometimes, you’ll be able to look at the grouping and the common thread between those choices will be obvious. Of course the same people hated “Lady in the Water’ and “The Last Airbender.” They can’t stand M. Night Shyamalan (or, perhaps more accurately, they can’t stand what he has become.) Not exactly a shocking twist there.
The Airbender gains his abilities by harnessing the power of constant downvotes.
But other times, the groupings will not be quite as obvious, and that’s where the analysis can get more intriguing. Once we collect enough data, we’ll be able to make all kinds of weird connections between movies, and maybe figure out a more Unified Theory of Bad Movies than currently exists! (Hey, a blogger can dream…)
When doing this kind of factor analysis, you first must determine the number of groups that exist in your data. We used something called a Catell’s Scree Test to determine the number of groups. (This is fancy-talk for saying: “We plot everything on a graph like the one below, and look for the elbow – the point where the steepness of the dropoff between factors is the greatest.”)
The “Eigenvalue” that you see along the Y axis there is a measure of the importance of each factor. It helps us to differentiate between significant factors (the “signal”) from insignificant ones (the “noise”).
Once we decide how many factors we have, it’s time to actually extract factors whereby we determine which movies load on which factors. It sounds precise and mathematical, but there’s some amount of subjectivity that still comes into play. For example, let’s say you were talking about your favorite foods. (Yes, yes, we all love “bacon,” but be serious.)
One way to group them would be on a spectrum from spicy to bland foods. But you could also choose to go from very exotic foods to more ordinary, everyday ones. Or starting with healthy foods and moving into junk food. Each view would be a legitimate way to classify food, so a decision must be made on some level about how to “rotate” the factor solution.
In our case, we chose what’s called the “varimax rotation,” which maximizes the independence of each factor and tries to prevent a ton of overlap. This allows us to break up the movies into interesting sub-groups, rather than just having one big list of “bad” films (which is where we started out.)
Doing that yields the below chart.
Along the top, you can see the factors that were extracted. The higher the number a film gets for a certain component, the more closely aligned it is with that component. Using these charts, we can then place movies in “Factors,” or categories, with relative ease.
Unfortunately, the program can only get us this far – we can see the factors, but we can’t tell why certain items apply to certain factors and not others.
So What Can FactorAnalysis Tell Us About the Worst Movies?
First, our lab rats managed to split the entire Worst Movies List (containing 70 total films) into 5 different categories.
Category 1 (we called it “Factor 1”) contained the most movies overall, so whatever the common thread was, we knew that it must be something that people immediately identified with “bad movies.” Some of the titles that most closely correlated with Factor 1 were:
- “Monster a Go-Go” - “Manos: The Hands of Fate” - “Crossover” - “The Final Sacrifice” - “Zombie Nation”
We decided that “Classic B-Movie Horror” was the best way to describe this grouping. Of the group, 1965’s “Monster a Go-Go” was the most representative item, and it didn’t really overlap with any of the other groups. The film is a fairly standard horror/sci-fi matinee of the time. An astronaut crashes back to Earth having suffered radiation poisoning, and then goes on a rampage.
So when most Rankers think about what makes a movie “bad,” they tend to think of older, low budget movies that fail at being scary, and maybe have a sci-fi element as well.
Factor 2 was a bit harder to pin down. Lots more movies seemed to fall into or overlap with this category, but it was a bit tricky to pinpoint what they had in common. Representative Factor 2 movies included:
and the most representative of all for Factor 2 was “Gigli.” (See all the movies relating to Factor 2 here.)
We settled on “Cheesiness” as a good common thread for these movies. (Especially if you continue on down the list: “Battlefield Earth,” “The Room,” “Batman and Robin,” “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”…yeesh…)
Note here that “Gigli” was the film that most closely correlated to Factor 2 (what we have deemed “cheesy movies”), and “Glitter” was also considered highly cheesy. Yet “Glitter” is the overall most popular “Worst Movie” on the list, when going by straight votes. This seems to indicate that “Gigli” was hated SOLELY because it is cheesy, while “Glitter” commits numerous cinematic crimes, including cheesiness.
Factor 3 had even fewer films that closely correlated, but it was very simple to figure out what they all had in common. Consider the movies that were most representative of Factor 3:
- “The English Patient” – “The Family Stone” - “Far and Away” - “Legends of the Fall” - “The Fountain” - “Eyes Wide Shut” (oh come on are you guys kidding it’s freaking Kubrick!) – “What Dreams May Come”
Let’s call this the “Self-Important Pretension” group. People who hate movies that are self-consciously “artsy” and “important” REALLY hate those movies, and will pretty much always pick them over other bad movies from other genres. These folks are just outnumbered by the people who think it’s worse to be old-fashioned or cheesy than pompous. (At least, people ON RANKER.)
Factors 4 and 5 are sort of interesting. It’s definitely harder to make a clear-cut distinction between these two groups when you’re just looking at the films. We know they are distinct, because of the voting patterns that created them. But consider the actual movies:
- “Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace” - “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” - “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” - “Spider-Man” – “Godzilla” (the 1998 Matthew Broderick version) - “Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones” - “Pearl Harbor”
Certainly, if you didn’t like Best Picture winners “Forrest Gump,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Avatar,” you considered them disappointments? “Quantum of Solace” was the lukewarm follow-up to “Casino Royale,” one of the best Bond films of all time. And “Temple of Doom” is the sequel to arguably the best adventure movie ever made, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
So how come the movies in Factor 4 closely correlated with one another, and the movies in Factor 5 closely correlated with one another, if they’re BOTH groups of disappointing films? Maybe they disappointed different people, or they disappointed people in different ways?
One theory: Factor 4 films are entries in above-average franchises that are considered not as good as the other films. (This doesn’t quite apply to “Pearl Harbor,” unless you consider Michael Bay Movies to be a franchise. As I do.) The people who agreed on voting for these films felt that the worst thing a movie can do is disappoint fans of other, similar movies.
For example, movies starring Ben Affleck…
This would make Factor 5 the “overhyped” category. Everyone’s “supposed” to love “Million Dollar Baby” and “Avatar” and “Forrest Gump.” And the people who don’t like them feel a curmudgeonly sense of kinship around some of these titles. (One would expect “The English Patient,” then, to fall into this factor. Unfortunately for our theory, it’s most closely aligned with Factor 3, the “Long and Boring” category.)
More theories as to the strange circumstances of Factor 4 and 5 are certainly welcome. We just thought it was kind of an intriguing puzzle.
There were 3 movies that seemed to coalesce into a “Factor 6,” but we didn’t have enough data and enough films didn’t correlate to create a true category in any meaningful sense. So it may forever elude us what “Waterworld,” “The Postman” and “Road House” have in common. Aside from kicking ass, amiright? R-r-right?
Movies That Scored High in Multiple Factors
Some movies didn’t closely align with any single group, but nonetheless scored high for numerous different factors. For example, “Masters of the Universe,” the ill-fated live-action ’80s adaptation of the He-Man line of toys. “Masters of the Universe” was somewhat aligned with Factor 1 – the “dated B-movie genre” group – as well as Factor 3 – the self-important pretension group. Now that is just weird. I mean, yes, He-Man is kind of a blowhard, with all that “I Have the Power!” stuff. But I don’t really think of it as terribly similar to “The English Patient” when all is said and done.
Also, consider “Lady in the Water.” It aligns fairly closely with Factors 1, 2 AND 3, and even makes a showing in Factor 4. This is a movie upon which haters of every kind of movie can agree.
A Look at Things to Come
So, that’s how we’ve gotten started with using FactorAnalysis on some of our CrowdRanked lists. Isn’t it very very very interesting, such that you’d like to tell all of your friends about what you’ve just read? If only there were some kind of digital environment where people could socially interact and share hypertextual links to information that they enjoy with their friends…
Be sure to check out the next edition of Ranker Labs, coming in a few weeks, when we’ll apply some FactorAnalysis to ANOTHER one of our big CrowdRanked lists – History’s Worst People.
Well, it’s Sunday afternoon again, and you all know what that means… time to get WASTED. But first, I’ve got to put up this post of all the great lists that went up on Ranker this week. What a drag, right? I mean, yes, Ranker has a ton of relevant, newsworthy lists that get built by users pretty much every day, sure, and it’s my job to feature and help draw attention to them. But Sundays are for relaxing poolside with the tequila and margarita mix I stole from the CEO’s wet bar when he invited us over for a BBQ last Friday.
Hang on, I think I may have gotten this intro swapped with my daily LiveJournal post. Oh well, no time to edit, ON TO THE LISTS!
Well, not yet. That would be a really long season. Some of those guys probably wouldn’t make it. But it WILL return soon, because the players and owners have finally come to an agreement about raising the debt ceiling. (I’m pretty sure I have that right.)
Where do you think he got that tan? 3 hours of daily footwork and tackling drills.
And Ranker users were getting PUMPED, especially with all the last-minute deals and trades being announced every day. FrankieFrank threw together a collection of the most promising teams going into the new 2011 season. Hardtack contributed a ranking of the 25 Best All-Time Quarterbacks. And finally, it wouldn’t be an football off-season without a few dozen NFL player arrests. And thankfully, the temporary NFL Lockout was no different. I mean, what do you expect when you invite all your rowdy friends over on a Monday? Someone’s going to jail!
Late Summer Movies! Those Are Always Good!
The summer movie season kept right on rolling with a bunch of big new releases.
Included was an adaptation of the graphic novel “Cowboys & Aliens” from Jon Favreau, director of “Iron Man,” “Elf” and the underseen “Made,” in which Vince Vaughn plays perhaps the most irritating character in any contemporary comedy. The film was a relative disappointment at the box office this weekend, perhaps because once you’ve heard the title, you’ve basically seen the movie already.
OK, so this comic Western didn’t work out, but that shouldn’t stop Hollywood from moving forward with “Three Amigos 2,” right? Who’s with me??!?
Also opening this weekend, the big screen adaptation of another group of charming comic book characters. Of course, I’m talking about “The Smurfs,” whose story was finally brought to the screen by the esteemed director of “Scooby Doo,” “Home Alone 3” and, of course, “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” Raja Gosnell. Presumably, he managed to squeeze in the production of the film between punching Orson Welles’ corpse and defecating on the last remaining master print of Buster Keaton’s “Steamboat Bill Jr.” Smurfy.
Not all con-ned out after Nerdy Gras last weekend? Then perhaps you took in the YouTube conference, VidCon, that just wrapped up in Los Angeles. The event featured panels and performances from YouTube’s best and brightest, including special effects wizard Freddie Wong, remix masters The Gregory Brothers and the gangsta gourmands of Epic Meal Time.
Yes, another Shark Week is upon us, which means night after night of documentaries in which people foolishly climb into cages next to sharks, for fun, because we all know that taunting wild animals with 18 rows of teeth can’t possibly end poorly for anyone.
There are still some high profile summer movies yet to come – “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “30 Minutes or Less,” um… that one where the kids all cheat death but then die anyway, which feels a bit pointless as a concept to carry five films, but here we are. Nevertheless, most of the season’s high-profile films have no opened, including a long-awaited adaptation of a popular series of graphic novels and helmed by one of Hollywood’s top directors. But enough about the “Smurfs” movie.
Personally, I think they made the CG look too realistic. But I’m not the target audience, I know.
As with every big blow-out collection of Hollywood films, Summer 2011 releases had a number of mobile apps and games come out as tie-ins. Almost none of these movie tie-in apps ever becomes popular. And this year’s crop will likely do little to reverse that trend. Hence Ranker’s Evan Hoovler’s decision to scrape the very very bottom of the barrel, for this list of The Worst Game Apps Based on 2011 Summer Films.
There’s a ton of obnoxious non-entertainment to be found here, but perhaps most egregious? The “Kung Fu Panda 2” staring contest app.
Hey, kids, want to have awesome kung fu adventures with me, Po? Too bad. This app is just about staring straight ahead.
Yes, it’s an app where Po, the improbably panda kung fu master, challenges you to a staring contest and then…proceeds to stare at you. There aren’t even hilarious asides, like when Andy and Conan used to do this on those old “Late Night” sketches. Nope, just an anthropomorphized bear using its cold dead 3D eyes to bore a hole straight through children’s souls.