So Rotten Tomatoes keeps track of what critics have to say about movies. It looks at as wide a range of reviewers as possible to attempt 'general critical consensus' about the quality of a movie - ultimately, whatever the reviewer's own rating system, classifying each review merely as a praise or a pan. Valuable resource.
Slate.com has taken that information and used it to chart the 'career trajectories' of directors and actors. I might add more later, but at the moment, here are five of its findings:
Steven Spielberg still, all these years later, carries around a reputation as a maker of user-friendly blockbusters whose successes are more commercial than critical. But Rotten Tomatoes makes a lie of that: Spielberg's critical performance has been as good as anyone's over the past 25 years: only one movie in 17 drops below the 50% mark (Hook, with a sad 26%). At 97%, Schindler's List is an obvious career peak, but Catch Me If You Can is a rather surprising follow-up at a nearly-equal 96%. And how on Earth did Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull get 77%?
James Cameron, by any reasonable standard, probably out-Spielbergs Spielberg by now as a maker of blockbusters. And yet his critical standard is also sky-high, with a 69% for True Lies being his worst performance in the last 25 years. Mind you, he's about as prolific as James Joyce, so perhaps it's tough to make bombs when you're not really making much of anything at all. He tops Schindler's List twice: with Aliens at 100% and with Terminator 2: Judgement Day at 98%.
Ang Lee's chart is remarkably consistent, with only one dip below the 50th percentile - and that's surprisingly not Hulk, which got 61%. Instead, it's Taking Woodstock, with a not-too-shabby 48%. Top of the pack is Sense and Sensibility at 98% and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at 97%.
Clint Eastwood's been remarkably consistent as a director down the years: 19 films at or above the 50% line, only two below: even those 'bombs' (Absolute Power and Hereafter) are hardly stinkers, at 46% apiece. His career highlight since 1985 is, unsurprisingly, Unforgiven (96%). But Pale Rider, The Bridges of Madison County, Million Dollar Baby and Letters from Iwo Jiwa (whatever that is) all get 90% or more.
Uwe Boll, in a brief five years as a director, has totally reset the bar for 'bad'. Blackwoods, the first one here, scored 11% - and that's a career best. Alone in the Dark gets an impressive 1%. His overall average is less than 6%.