Sick Boy: It’s certainly a phenomenon in all walks of life.
Mark Renton: What do you mean?
Sick Boy: Well, at one time, you’ve got it, and then you lose it, and it’s gone forever. All walks of life: George Best, for example. Had it, lost it. Or David Bowie, or Lou Reed…
Mark Renton: Some of his solo stuff’s not bad.
Sick Boy: No, it’s not bad, but it’s not great either. And in your heart you kind of know that although it sounds all right, it’s actually just shite.
Mark Renton: Right. So we all get old and then we can’t hack it anymore. Is that it?
Sick Boy: Yeah.
Mark Renton: That’s your theory?
Sick Boy: Yeah. Beautifully fucking illustrated.
But that can’t be it, right?
A fairly common discussion we have around Mole Hole HQ is one revolving around whether or not our favorite artists, usually directors, generally fall victim to the Sick Boy theory.
For those unfamiliar: Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson is a character in a series of novels by Scottish author Irvine Welsh, most notably played by the recently-released-from-movie-jail Jonny Lee Miller, in the film adaptation of Trainspotting.
If you haven’t seen the movie,or, struggled to navigate those dense, Edinburgh accents, and started this article somewhere other than the beginning; the theory basically claims that everyone who has “it” loses “it” at some point. The more Topo and I talked about it, the more horrified I was to realize that almost all of my favorite directors seemed to drop off in quality as their careers rolled on. But, that was us just talking. What was really needed to come to a place of stone cold scientific fact was: a questionable math formula I made up, and a motherfucking tournament!
Now remember, this is a tournament to find the director that’s lost it the least, not a way to determine the best director ever. That’s John Hyams.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to present to you:
I split the directors filmography in half. In cases where there were an odd number of films, I gave extra film to the second half of the career to give the second half the output points bump (I’ll explain in a second) unless it alters the outcome of the match-up, in which case, that film is dropped from the cumulative score. Only live-action feature (no animated, no shorts, no docs, no TV) films are counted, all directors must have at least ten features to qualify. Unfortunately, that disqualified George Miller. He would have been disqualified anyway, as I imagine that making one of the best movies ever when you’re seventy makes you a humongous outlier.
Also, only directors that generally write their own movies, or have the stroke to alter the script as they see fit were included, along with directors who don’t do a lot of sequels and re-makes; which is why Robert Rodriguez is out, and Kevin Smith is in. The opening round seeds were generated randomly, with Kurosawa, Spielberg, Lynch, and Eastwood given first round byes.
The scoring is as follows: each feature’s Rotten Tomatoes (RT) score is added to its Flixster/RT Community (FLX) score. The two are then averaged to create the cumulative score.
(ex: Clerks: RT-88 FLX-89/2=88.5 cume)
I used the RT scores because it’s already an aggregate of the majority of available critics’ reviews for a movie. The way they arrive at fresh or rotten can be kinda stupid, but at least there’s a statistically significant amount of reviews per movie. Usually. I chose the Flixster reviews rather than the IMDb ratings because they tend to be less obviously insane. The IMDb reviews are a special kind of wacky. It’s like Yelp, but without as many brutal misspellings of foreign food.
The cumulative scores of the first half of the director’s career are all added together, then divided by the number of movies in the first half.
The cumulative scores of the second half are also added together, but, because I think output is a tremendously underrated factor in how an artist is judged; the director receives two extra points per film after their tenth movie to add to the second half score, before it’s divided by the number of films.
(ex: Director A made twenty movies. For this example, let’s say that each film scored a ten. So: the first half would be 10×10 = 100/10 which would be a first half score of 10. The second half scoring would be (10×10) + 20 = 120/10, for a second half score of 12.)
We then find the percentage change between the first half and the second, to arrive at the SBI (sick boy index) number. The greater value wins, so -2 beats -4, 6 beats 2, etc.
Still with us? Then let’s do it.
It’s fair to argue whether or not Kevin Smith ever had “it.” But, I’m of the opinion that he definitely had something, and certainly had a big impact on movie fans around a certain age. That’d be my age, and I made the brackets. Nobody whose opinion matters would ever argue that John Carpenter had “it.” I have a pretty good idea of where this is going, but let’s see how it plays out.
Kevin Smith 1994-2014
- Clerks 88.5
- Mallrats 68.5
- Chasing Amy 85.5
- Dogma 76
- Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back 64
First Half Score: 382.5/5= 76.5
- Jersey Girl 44.5
- Clerks 2 73.5
- Zack and Miri Make a Porno 66
- Cop Out 29.5
- Red State 56
- Tusk 38.5
Second Half Score (372+2)/6= 62.3
Kevin Smith’s SBI: -18.5% Smith definitely falls victim to the Sick Boy theory. Clerks 2 boosts his second half score considerably, even though there’s a fairly large discrepancy between the RT (63%) and the FLX (84%).
Biggest surprise: The difference in Dogma‘s RT score (67%) and FLX score (85%.) For some reason, I thought that Dogma was pretty well received by critics.
John Carpenter 1974-2010
- Dark Star 73
- Assault on Precinct 13 88
- Halloween 91.5
- The Fog 66.5
- Escape From New York 80.5
- The Thing 86
- Christine 64
- Starman 74.5
- Big Trouble in Little China 83
First Half Score: 707/9= 78.6
- Prince of Darkness 59
- They Live 81
- Memoirs of an Invisible Man 27
- In the Mouth of Madness 60
- Village of the Damned 28.5
- Escape From L.A. 46
- Vampires 42
- Ghosts of Mars 22.5
- The Ward 29.5
Second Half Score: (395.5+18)/9= 45.9
John Carpenter’s SBI: -41.6% Wow, just wow. Carpenter’s number transcends the Sick Boy theory. We may have to call this the JCI number going forward.
Biggest surprise: According to the RT score, Assault on Precinct 13 is Carpenter’s best reviewed movie (97%). I would have guessed it to be The Thing, but that weighs in at a shockingly low 80% on RT. It is however, the fan’s choice at 91% FLX.
The Verdict: I’m sad to say that Kevin Smith crushes John Carpenter on SBI at a score of -18.5% to Carpenter’s abysmal -41.6%. That’s not to say that Smith hasn’t been, and may continue to be on a substantial slide, but Carpenter slid, hit a bump, fell off a mountain, and landed in a six hundred-foot chasm. In another dimension.
I’m too bummed to write any more today. Thursday’s first round match-up is Ridley Scott vs William Friedkin.