106 Doesn’t Add Up

Apparently no amount of letters to Pat McGilligan and Mark Rowland will get them to use the proper procedure for collecting a consensus best 10 movies from many different critics. The Times doesn’t deserve their particular kind of shoddy work (“Year of the Low-Costs,” Jan. 10).

The correct procedure is the Copeland Rule, used by the wire services for decades for their college football polls: You just assign 10 points for the first movie, nine points for second, etc. (For critics who list their best films in no particular order: If there are fewer than 10 films, assume each is tied for the middle spot. In the case of five films, for example, the tie is for third place, so give each eight points. If there are more than 10 films, give each 55/ n , where n is the number of unranked films.) Ineligible films should be deleted from a list, and the others moved up one position.

After all, just use your common sense. Which is better, appearing 10th on 40 lists or first on 39? In 1992, three films (“Howards End,” “The Player,” “Unforgiven”) appeared on essentially the same number of lists; there is no significant difference between 82, 80 or 76 lists out of 106. Using additional information about list position might have helped you to identify a real winning film.


Foundation for the Analysis of Competitions and Tournaments