Posts filed under Flicks

Jinni - Movie Recommendations Site

Music recommendation services like Last.fm do a fairly good job of picking music based on your listening habits, and comparing those sets with similar users. Frustrated with trying to figure out what to rent from the local video store, I looked into similar service for movies. I started out back at IMDB.com, which is ok if you really only want a homogenized general rating of a film. Basically, a high rating will ensure a movie's general public appeal, but not necessarily whether I would personally like it. Like musical tastes, our tastes in movies is a pretty subjective and personal thing. Last.fm's approach of just mindlessly processing consumption habits (number of times listened to), isn't likely to work for movies. A movie lasts a fair bit longer than a song, so I'm unlikely to watch 2001: A Space Oddessy over and over enough to automatically rank it as a favourite film. Similarly, I might have seen Anchor Man based on a friend's recommendation and really disliked it, which would mean I've seen it almost as many times as Dancer in the Dark, one of my favourite films (if only because its content is so heartwrenching to watch). Enter Jinni.com, the online movie recommendation service. I've only been playing with it a couple of days, but there's a lot to like (and a quite a bit to improve yet). It appears that Jinni uses a pretty rich ontological system (contextual relationships between different terms to descibe characteristics of the media in question) to categorize films. You start out by ranking a bunch of films that they've selected to create profiles of different 'taste types'... Social Animal, The Individualist, etc. This information is then used to create a set of recommendations for you. The really cool power of Jinni though is its contextual search, where you can type in words like "historical drama gripping bleak" that describe different characteristics of the kind of movie you want to see and it gives you recommendations based on how movies in the database have been tagged.

It's all pretty fun to play with and the interface is very Web 2.0 (more on that in a  bit). One issue I had, was that the recommendations based on my 'Taste Types' and the tag-based 'ontological' results seem to exist in separate domains. The results of the tag-based search don't seem to be weighted by my 'taste types' or take into account movies that I've already seen and rated. Perhaps there could be an option to use personal taste weightings, or turn them off. My main qualms with the site were with its interface. The user interface makes use of a lot of rich-media tricks like dynamic mouse-overs and interactive button elements. This, however, seems to put a fairly high load on the Jinni server as well as my bandwidth. The responsiveness when making selections can be very sluggish as a result, and I had a couple browser freezes while using the site. A more specific niggle is that movie 'synopsis' text in the mouse-over is about 1.5 short lines of text, which often isn't enough to figure out what the movie is about. Clicking on 'more' (eventually) takes you to the movie's entry page... where you actually have to click 'more' again(!) to expand the synopsis.

From what I've seen though, Jinni is real step forward in figuring out what movie I want to watch. It's still in beta, so I trust that many of the technical issues can be worked out, and additional usability features brought online. If you'd like to try it out yourself, fire me off an email and I'll set you up with a beta invite.

Posted on January 30, 2009 and filed under Flicks.

Christmas gift idea

If anyone out there is feeling particularily generous this upcoming holiday season, I've found the perfect gift. Essential Art House - 50 Years of Janus Films is a deluxe collection of fifty classic foreign and 'art house' films plus an illustrated book. This is the same company that the Criterion Collection uses for its catalogue,  and the selection is mighty impressive: 400 Blows, Grand Illuision, Jules and Jim, M, Rules of the Game, Seven Samurai, The Seventh Seal, etc. Basically the greatest films of the greatest directors (Bergman, Fellini, Hitchcock,Truffaut). Amazon has it listed at $649.99, a bargain from its $850 list price. Still, the Criterion versions usually go for $30-40 each, so these actually are pretty cheap at €13 per film.

Posted on November 9, 2006 and filed under Flicks.

Cinema Completism

A recent conversation about favourite movies (which of course had to be broken down into two separate lists of 'greatest cinema' and 'entertaining or guilty pleasures') prompted me to check on IMDB's top 250 list, just too see what classics I was missing. I was actually pretty surprised that I had honestly seen nine of the top ten (missing only Seven Samurai, which I'm sure I've told people I've seen because it's just too embarassing for a cinemaphile like me not to have seen). I was just as surprised to find that my coverage of the top 50 was almost as complete-- missing only nine, and I have a fairly good proportion on DVD. So I've decided to plug those holes over the next weeks and maybe once I've finished the top 50, I'll keep working my way down the list. Here's my list. I'll crosss them off as I've seen them.

Leave a comment and let me know how many you're missing in the top 50.

Posted on October 5, 2005 and filed under Flicks.

Another Day, Another Site Addition

I've now simplified my "Media Consumption" sideblog somewhat. Originally all entries, including those to put new media in my reading, listening, and watching lists were all put in my main blog. This meant I could talk about the latest Coen brothers film at length (not that I ever did), or just put the title in the keywords, and it would pop into place in the sideblog. So that the "blank" entries for media rotation only didn't appeared only in the sideblog in the main blog indexes and archives, I employed a rather clumsy set of MTCategory plugin includes and excludes. Sure, it did the job, but something more elegant was called for. Of course, I knew that I could use the MTOtherBlog plugin to do the trick. So now I've created a separate weblog for media consumption, but instead of using MTOtherBlog, I've just used a simple server side include to stick in the index generated from the new blog. Where OtherBlog does come in handy is allowing me to include entries from my main blog in my sideblog. A bit backwards, I know, but it works to good effect. This way if I do make a full entry about a book, CD, or movie it will get picked up in media consumption without having to create a duplicate sideblog entry for it. Class.

UPDATE: Or not so class. It seems MTOtherBlog doesn't behave well with

lastn

when I select multiple blogs. So when I want to get one (1) entry from two (2) blogs I instead get one (1) entry from each, for a total of two (2). Not what I wanted, but I can see how a silly PERL script could get confused. Switching around the nesting order doesn't seem to make any difference. Back to the drawing board. Any ideas?

Posted on September 24, 2004 and filed under Flicks, Site Design.

I'm Crushing Your Head!

Oh, happy day. After nearly wearing out the only two VHS tapes of Kids in the Hall that I've ever been able to find, at long last the entire Season 1 has arrived on DVD. This is simply the best Canadian comedy series ever produced, respect to This Hour Has 22 Minutes and the classic SCTV (also incidentally now on DVD). There's something about Kids in the Hall's sense of humour that's... revolutionary, in a dangerous way. Without resorting to gimicks, slapstick or vulgarity they manage to take totally twisted views on quite ordinary things. Ah, writing about comedy is like dancing about architecture. In this case, you really must see it for yourself. Sorry, I gotta go be enlightened by Buddy Cole...

Posted on May 6, 2004 and filed under Flicks.

Danger: Diabolik!

The film that is the "guiltiest pleasure of them all" according to DVD Savant, is soon to be released on DVD. I've been waiting for Danger: Diabolik since I saw it at a film festival in Jyväskylä in 2001. It's absolutely classic sixties camp combined with awesome retro style. Somehow it manages to be both hilarious and super-stylish and slick at the same time. I really don't know where to begin with this movie, and the DVD Savant tells it much better than I could. June 13th will be a magic day.

Posted on April 17, 2004 and filed under Flicks.

Outstanding DVDs

B00008OIWF.jpgWell, not outstanding in the sense of "really-great" (well, actually in that sense too), but outstanding in the sense of not yet available on DVD. When I first started collecting DVDs it was early days, and many of my favourites weren't yet released yet on the exciting new digital format. Five years on and most everything can be had on the shiny discs, but a few big titles (Star Wars, anyone?) and several of my favourite obscurities remain unreleased. Much to my surprise, I discovered that my favourite movie of all time, Tom Stoppard's brilliant classic Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, was available as a Region 2 disc. So that crosses off my #1 outstanding DVD, so what better opportunity to list my remaining discs.

Danger: Diabolik: A great cult-fave, full of stylish camp. I caught this one at a B-movie fest in Jyväskylä a couple years ago for a midnight showing. Ultra-slick.

Becket: One of the great historical romps, starring Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton. Strangely, I could have sworn that I ordered this on DVD last month, but it seems I confused it with the equally great The Lion in Winter, with Peter O'Toole in the same role as Henry II.

Gaslight: A very cool movie, but I'm not really sure if it's good-good, or just wickedly amusing. I first discovered this moving watching David Letterman years ago, who had Angela Lansbury on as a guest. He mentioned Gaslight, and did a creepy-silly impersonation of Charles Bowyer's "Paula, Paula, Paula...". Even if the suspense is a bit dated (dare I say, hokey?), the visuals and characters give this total class. Here's a short list of other DVD releases that I'm still eagerly anticipating:

Posted on June 27, 2003 and filed under Flicks.

MovieSpace Online

filmreel.jpgI OD'ed on GTA3: Vice City last night, so was left with not much else to do on helatorstai (Ascension Day, I think- we have too many holidays in Finland), but tinker with my web page. Something I've been planning for a while was to put up my DVD collection in a browsable database: moviespace. This is something that I had worked slavishly hard to do with ASP on my previous tabularasa site, but it was more trouble than it was worth, and never really worked all that well. But thanks to the easy MySQL and off-the-shelf PHP scripts, I got the thing running in a couple hours without having to do any coding myself. Now that's much better. Thanks to Ugo Scarlata and his phpDVD scrpt for making my life easier. It's nothing to heavy-duty. I started with only five fields- Title, Year, Running Time, Director, Genre. What more do you need to know, really? There's no record entry page (because there' no more data anyway), but there's a link to the IMDB. Why should I go to all the trouble of replicating the information that's already there, eh?

One thing I'd still like to add is cover pictures. Amazon.com has a much better database of pics, so I might switch the links from IMDB to Amazon (all the same company now anyway). We'll see how this develops.

Posted on May 29, 2003 and filed under Flicks.