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Monday, September 20, 2010

I came home from the Toronto International Film Festival with the most amazing cough, which has hammered me for a whole week.

But that's not why I didn't see any films. I go to festivals like TIFF to see people in the biz. I rarely catch films at festivals, unless someone I know made one. You see films at festivals to find out what's new and who's hot; to see films with fellow fanatics; and to see pokey offbeat gems from strange places that may not get distribution. If you just want to see a film you'll like, your odds are better waiting for the reviews to come in. And almost everything gets at least a DVD release.

But how do you wade through the thousands of films that get released on DVD every year?

Lifehacker recommends five websites. Netflix you surely know about: it's the DVD rental service (and now Video on Demand service) that puts your own movie ratings into a complicated algorithm that spits out new recommendations. They offered a million dollar prize for the best improvement to their algorithm. Darn them for not serving Canada; I have to make do with, which has lots of movies but no special fancy recommendation heuristc.

I didn't know about the other systems: Jinni, Movielens and Criticker, which all let you put in recommendations; plus RottenTomatoes, which just gives you a wad of movie reviews. Criticker sounds much like Netflix:
Criticker uses an algorithm called The Probable Score Indicator to pick movies for you. They index the top 1000 users with the most similar tastes to yours out of the millions of Criticker accounts and ratings, then use that to compute the probability of a match. When you browse movies, the PSI score is displayed beside the movie listing. You're not just told that you'd like a movie, you're shown that it's 95% probably that you'd like it.
MovieLens sounds more interesting:
Movielens includes an interesting search feature known as Movie Tuner. Using Movie Tuner you can tweak the search results to find, for example, a movie like Pulp Fiction but with more action and more non-linear movement—or any other number of factors related to the movie.
And Jinni has some bells and whistles:
Unlike many other movie recommendation services, you can also explore movies by mood, plot, genre, time period, place, audience (e.g., kid-friendly, "girl's night out", and more), and by buzz surrounding the movie (such as controversy, critical praise, popularity, award winning, cult status, and more).
Has anyone used these sites, and how do they stack up?



Obviously all these recommendation sites require a bit of work up front in rating films. I've tried all three (Jinni, Criticker and Movielens)and only use Movielens.

The great thing about movielens is that you don't have to rate that many films right off the bat. You rate a few random films they provide and based on your results they put you in a group. (I'm not sure how those groups are created, but my husband and I have the exact same tastes except perhaps for his fondness of Kubrick and sci-fi, and we are in two seperate groups).

When you look up a film, Movielens provides the number of stars it thinks you would give the film based on your group's ratings. And I'll tell ya those ratings are surprisingly accurate.

The only issue I've encountered with Movielens is the site being slow after 10pm. But I highly recommend them.

By Blogger Lise, at 9:54 AM  

Hi, I found your post after a google search. That's the reason for the slow response.

I am a happy user of Criticker. I used Movielens for a while though and their systems are similar.

I settled on Criticker due to their "social" features and because I like the design of the website better than Movielens. Apart from that they should both be pretty accurate when you have rated enough movies.

By Blogger Thomas, at 11:58 AM  

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