back to article Rom-coms, period dramas are rubbish: Mathematical proof

American boffins have carried out detailed research into movies down the decades using chaos theory, and decreed that auteurs have - by a process akin to natural selection - gravitated towards a shot rhythm which matches an underlying mathematical pulse beat found in music, economics and even engineering. However, some genres …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    Lewis, I salute you and thank you from the deep end of my heart (the one with the rocks and seaweed - and watch out for the shark). You have saved my life. Cheers mate, have <-- on me.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Still needs a good story

    plus decent acting and a sympathetic audience.

    Without those, no amount of mathematical justification (or praise from the critics, which probably counts for more) can turn a turkey into a hit. Personally, I take the opinions of some, select, reviewers and invert them - that's my most reliable indicator for knowing if a film is worthwhile.

    1. Ihre Papiere Bitte!!
      Thumb Up


      I'm sure that Transformers hit the 1/f, but it was still pants. And your inversion of critical acclaim seems to apply to that one too!

      Predator (first one, none of that Aliens vs Predator rubbish) = (1/f)^15 petazillion.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      I beg to differ...

      Er... 2012? (Or pretty much any brookheimer movie for that matter)

  3. Roby
    Thumb Up

    Let's watch this

    Sorry, no. It's mathematically proven to be unwatchable.

  4. Cucumber C Face
    Paris Hilton

    Grumble flicks?

    Where would pr0n movies fit in the ranking? They have a highly stereotypical rhythm (so I am told).

    Paris - no stranger to the 1/f fluctuation herself.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    I would have read the entire article...

    ...but my attention span wasn't long enough to do so.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      no title

      I would have read it if the pdf wasn't a poor quality scan,

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apropos maths

    A proper research psychologist will know a thing or two about statistics, which is so notoriously tricky you need a statistician to handle it, not a mere garden variety mathematician. In fact, statistics is the mainstay of psychology and, for that matter, sociology research. Given the usually ``soft'' image of the research or maybe the researchers, they can count themselves lucky that even most betas aren't versed enough in statistics to even know whether the research is backed by valid use of statistics, nevermind retracing the logic through the data and verifying the calculations.

    The proverbial ``86.2% of all statistics are wrong'' and ``68.4% of all statistics are made up on the spot'' are rooted in the sheer trickiness of statistics and how to use them properly. Most mentions of averages, for example, and that includes mentions in media like el reg or even the numbers used to back government policy, don't include mere details like the associated standard deviation, without which the number given for the average is all but meaningless. Understanding that this is so is not widespread at all, which is exactly the point here.

    Apropos this research, I'm sure it'll be used to science-up media a bit. Like, marketeering. When will the first ``so virulent as to be dangerous'' advert end up on the objectionable materials internet block list?

    1. Professor Tinklepants

      You what, now?

      See title.

  7. Ye Cats
    Thumb Up

    Books next, please

    I wonder if this applies to literature too. I await vindication for my preference of genre fiction, such as science fiction and crime, and my aversion to anything that might get on to a Booker Prize list (except the odd good book that gets on there by accident). "Booker" fiction: life with the interesting bits taken out (to paraphrase somebody or other).

    1. ravenviz

      Re: Bookes next, please

      I was thinking along these lines, or more to do with film adaptations of books, especially drama. I really enjoy a good drama as it makes you think about the complex situations created, it's very human at a more intellectual level. I feel the research proves the more animalistic nature of human behaviour responds to "spoon-fed" action movies where thinking is not required. Evolutionarily surely we should work out formulas for more developed film making - well actually we don't have to there are many most excellent non-action movies about that I am sure deviate from the 1/f chaos theory presented.

  8. Anonymous Coward


    Now, to apply the 1/f fluctuation to my lottery numbers...

  9. Stewart 3
    Paris Hilton

    For those of us too cheap...

    If you don't have access to those paid paper sites (damn my dropping my ACM library subscription!) then here's some free and easy information on 1/f:

    Oh, and yes, you do need a good story.

    Paris 'cause she's... easy but I doubt free

    1. Jerome 0
      Thumb Up

      Nice one

      Cheers, just what I was searching for after reading the article, and for once my google-fu was failing me.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    You don't say

    "Even rom-coms ... can be positively assessed as lying well toward the unwatchable end of the scale"

    In other news: Pope is Catholic, Bear cr@ps in woods, fish live underwater.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    The Real equation is:-

    (Chuck Norris + Fist )/ Bad guys = Ass kicking

  12. Paul Powell

    Compelling != Good

    I admit it, I have a 24 problem. I start watching a box set and it robs me of my sleep, makes me irritable, and here is the shocker - it isn't that good. I don't savour an episode, I wouldn't watch one twice, I just want more.

    Most modern action movies / TV shows are like crack. You get gripped, you get your fix, you forget about it and go after the next one. It's an addiction pattern, not one of appreciation.

    1. Noons

      Drugs make compelling food...

      ... but not exactly very nutritious or wholesome.

      Just because a song or a flick use the "1/f drummer" to keep you under their grip, doesn't mean they're actually any good. Quite the opposite, more likely.

      In fact, this is useful to know. Every now and then I catch myself staring at the box and thinking "why am I watching this? it sucks", and now that I know why, it'll be much easier to switch off.

  13. Red Bren

    It is a truth universally acknowledged

    that my girlfriend insisted we watch it!

  14. Stewart 3

    @Paul Powell

    "Crack" like TV isn't new. I just bought Danger UXB last week (from 1979) and the wife and I can't stop watching it.

    Mind you; it has long scenes, periods of high drama and tension with NO background music to remind us that we're watching high drama and tension and even gets the technology / science / military life right!

    Nerd nirvanah!

  15. BarrySalt

    Faster for fools

    What actually happened, and is not in the paper referred to, is that the cutting rate in Hollywood feature films has got continuously faster over the last 60 years. In the 'forties, the mean Average Shot Length (ASL) was about 9 seconds, while nowadays it is about 4 seconds. Action films were always faster than the mean for the period, and now they usually have and ASL of a bit over 2 seconds. This development has been quite consciously intentional by American film-makers over the last 30 years. The actual distribution of numbers of shots of different lengths in a film usually follows the Lognormal distribution. The Standard Deviation for shots lengths in a film is usually about 1.2 times the ASL for that film. E.g. "Dark City" (1998) has an ASL of 1.9 seconds, and a Standard deviation of 2.1. The wave-like structure in the succession of shot lengths results from the alternation, even in recent action films, of a standard script structure of scenes of faster cut action with dialogue scenes of slightly less fast cutting.

    The same speeding up of sensory jolts for the stupid audience can be observed in literature (where the sentence lengths also follow the Lognormal distribution), with the movement from the nineteenth century multiple clause sentence to 21st. century text-messaging.

    (I am the guy who invented the statistical style analysis of movies 30 years ago.)

  16. Eddy Ito

    Interesting plod^Ht twist

    "We would call for some kind of chaos-theory rating system to be instituted, backed up by a robust policy"

    That would be roughly opposite the governments chaotic policy making as currently instituted then.

  17. asdf

    yes but

    What about Larry the Cable Guy movies? I guess 1/f razzies are quite common as well.

  18. thomas newton
    Jobs Horns

    that doesnt explain

    why most modern films suck.

    what would you rather watch? the first two Alien films or the waste of celluloid that were the AVP films?

    the first three Star Wars films or the most recent three?

    the original Rollerball or the remake?

    and as for these endless 'reboots'... get some original ideas you hollywood c**ts, and stop just looking at how much money you can make. if you make good films, people will want to watch them. it should be very simple.

    Jobs, because he knows all about sucking and producing overpriced twaddle.

  19. Rex Alfie Lee
    Thumb Down

    What a pile of crap!

    Just because the writer prefers action & adventure flicks doesn't mean that everyone else has to. For you this might be true & perhaps after seeing a drama once it's difficult to watch it again but I would say perhaps this is because the truth & all the twists are known. I prefer non-American movies exactly because the story is driven by character & relationship rather than something that upsets everyone's applecart in the true American way.

    Watch a decent movie like "Unbearable Lightness of Being" or "Chocolate" or something that is moved by twisted relationships, things that are far more real than the "superaction" that moves relationships forward in the same fake way American movies do.

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