Rotten Tomatoes, the website that aggregates reviews of films, is a great resource if you want to find out whether a director or actor has lost their stride (or gained momentum). It’s got a huge database, but for the ordinary user, it’s hard work getting this all into meaningful graphs. Well, Slate has teamed up with Rotten Tomatoes, and they present the Career-O-Matic, a tool to automatically graph people’s careers. It’s not perfect, as they say themselves:
The first thing we learned was that a film’s Tomatometer rating is strongly influenced by its age. Films from the 1920s, for instance, have an average Tomatometer rating around 91 percent, while films from the 1990s average around 55 percent. Movies might have gotten worse since the Great Depression, but not that much worse. The golden-oldies effect may be explained by a bias toward reviewers reviewing, or Rotten Tomatoes scoring, only the best movies from bygone eras. Rotten Tomatoes includes a score for Casablanca from 1942, for example, but leaves out clunkers from the same year like The Corpse Vanishes and Lady Gangster.
But it’s good enough to play around with for a while and draw your own conclusions from, say, Christopher Walken’s rollercoaster career graph: