Writ 340 - Formula

Writ 340 - Formula - from The New Yorker October 10, 2006...

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from The New Yorker October 10, 2006 ANNALS OF ENTERTAINMENT The Formula What if you built a machine to predict hit movies? by Malcolm Gladwell 1. One sunny afternoon not long ago, Dick Copaken sat in a booth at Daniel, one of those hushed, exclusive restaurants on Manhattan's Upper East Side where the waiters glide spectrally from table to table. He was wearing a starched button- down shirt and a blue blazer. Every strand of his thinning hair was in place, and he spoke calmly and slowly, his large pink Charlie Brown head bobbing along evenly as he did. Copaken spent many years as a partner at the white-shoe Washington, Burling, and he has a lawyer's gravitas. One of his best friends calls him, admiringly, "relentless." He likes to tell stories. Yet he is not, strictly, a storyteller, because storytellers are people who know when to leave things out, and Copaken never leaves anything out: each detail is adduced, considered, and laid on the table—and then adjusted and readjusted so that the corners of the new fact are flush with the corners of the fact that preceded it. This is especially true when Copaken is talking about things that he really cares about, such as questions of international law or his grandchildren or, most of all, the movies. Dick Copaken loves the movies. His friend Richard Light, a statistician at Harvard, remembers summer vacations on Cape Cod with the Copakens, when Copaken would take his children and the Light children to the movies every day. "Fourteen nights out of fourteen," Light said. "Dick would say at seven o'clock, 'Hey, who's up for the movies?' And, all by himself, he would take the six kids to the movies. The kids had the time of their lives. And Dick would come back and give, with a completely straight face, a rigorous analysis of how each movie was put together, and the direction and the special effects and the animation." This is a man who has seen two or three movies a week for the past fifty years, who has filed hundreds of plots and characters and scenes away in his mind, and at Daniel he was talking about a movie that touched him as much as any he'd ever seen. "Nobody's heard of it," he said, and he clearly regarded this fact as a minor tragedy. "It's called 'Dear Frankie.' I watched it on a Virgin Atlantic flight because it was the only movie they had that I hadn't already seen. I had very low expectations. But I was blown away." He began, in his lawyer-like manner, to lay out the plot. It takes place in Scotland. A woman has fled an abusive relationship with her infant son and is living in a port town. The boy, now nine, is deaf, and misses the father he has never known. His mother has told him that his
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father is a sailor on a ship that rarely comes to shore, and has suggested that he write his father letters. These she intercepts, and
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This note was uploaded on 12/14/2009 for the course WRIT 340 taught by Professor 11:00-12:20pm during the Spring '07 term at USC.

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Writ 340 - Formula - from The New Yorker October 10, 2006...

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