In addition to being a financial prognosticator of some renown, Dr. Ed Yardeni, chief global economist and investment strategist for Deutsche Bank Securities in New York, is a film critic. Yardeni's Web site includes ratings Yardeni has made of various movies, in the form of plus and minus signs. Judging from his current crop of movie ratings, the highest score Yardeni hands out is three pluses, and the lowest is three minuses. (In marked contrast to his financial pronouncements, no commentary accompanies Yardeni's movie ratings.)
As Chatterbox observed in an earlier item, within the realm of financial predictions Yardeni tends to stick his neck out. This served him well during the 1990s, when he predicted accurately the astonishing growth of the U.S. economy. It didn't serve him so well this week, when his dire warnings that Y2K computer glitches would create a massive worldwide recession failed to come true. Chatterbox wondered: Does Yardeni go for the extremes in his movie ratings, too?
Indeed he does. Out of 90 movies rates, Yardeni gave maximally favorable or unfavorable ratings to 25. In other words, fully 27 percent of the films Yardeni sees strike him as being either great or terrible. This doesn't jibe at all with Chatterbox's moviegoing and movie-rental experience, which would put the "great or terrible" proportion no higher 10 percent. (Even Mrs. Chatterbox, whose view of life is somewhat more Manichean than Chatterbox's, puts the "great or terrible" proportion only at 20 percent.)
In contrast with Yardeni's Y2K views, but in keeping with the "New Wave" economics he championed throughout the (mostly recession-free) 1990s, Yardeni's movie ratings are heavily favorable. All but one of Yardeni's "great or terrible" ratings fall in the "great" category; the only movie Yardeni appears to have outright hated in recent years was Boogie Nights,* a film that Chatterbox would assign at least one plus sign. Overall, only 16 percent of Yardeni's movie ratings consist of one or more minuses, while fully 84 percent consist of one or more pluses. To Chatterbox's thinking, this is bullishness taken to an irresponsible extreme. (Chatterbox would put the proportion of worth-seeing films at no more than 60 percent; Mrs. Chatterbox puts it a little higher, at 70 percent, but stipulates that only 2 percent warrant going out and hiring a babysitter.)
Among the films Yardeni inexplicably assigns three pluses to are Contact, Deconstructing Harry, and Pleasantville. More conventionally, he gives three pluses to the popular-but-dreadful films As Good As It Gets, Good Will Hunting, and Titanic. The only top ratings Chatterbox can endorse are Yardeni's three pluses for Saving Private Ryan, The Full Monty, and Wag the Dog.
In the few instances when Yardeni does respond unfavorably to a film, his negative judgments are highly questionable. There is no way The Big Lebowski deserves less than two pluses, but Yardeni gives it two minuses. The ambitious but flawed The Thin Red Line deserves at least one plus for Nick Nolte's fine performance, but Yardeni gives it two minuses. Armageddon, Bullworth, and the new Star Wars movie all deserve at least one plus as well, but instead get one minus.
*Boogie Nights's three-minuses rating might fairly be characterized as the cinematic equivalent of Yardeni's prediction of worldwide recession in early 2000.