Sunday, February 25, 2007

Movie Pig

On this Oscar night when Little Miss Sunshine should be the obvious pick since Blood Diamonds, Idiocracy, and Clerks 2 didn't get nominated, I will be ranking a couple sites that claim to know your tastes as as well or better than you.

Despite the the pretty piggy interface, is not quite as smart as a pig. You'll probably need to rank over 100 films before it has a clue. Despite it's claims to be able to accurately judge your taste, it is consistently way off even after entering more than 50 films, even after I entered 90 picks.

I decided to give it a try after reading a couple glowing reviews in shill-trusted resources, like news columnists of large, corporate-owned newspapers and TV that show teens the best sites on the Internets. Teens always get shown the best stuff.

I logged on as PigTester (you can see what I ranked) and started ranking.

After a while, I started testing it, dropping films I'd actually already seen to see if its software actually predicts how I'd rank it. It was consistently wrong, even after ranking films it requested I rank so it could make a better prediction (it does this after every rank request even after 90 picks, so I think it's actually part of some target marketing scam).

One of the biggest and most obvious failures came after I ranked about 50. I ranked the Illusionist, then a couple more. Then dropped in Prestige. Except for the film studio shills who would argue over which is the best simply to get you to see both, they are in fact very similar films, and both worth watching (and I say this despite not receiving an upfront shill fee). Yet the little piggy failed to go to town, even asking me for to rank some more before predicting, and then still failing.

Equally horrendous is it's incompleteness, lacking greats like The Truman Show, Blade Runner, Alien, A Clockwork Orange, Misery, Deliverance, Midnight Express, or Fight Club. They appear to be limited to the last five years. Unacceptable when the Internet, cable, and film rentals give anyone a far more expansive personal history to better judge their own tastes.

I'm predicting the moviepig is in fact just a nice front site to get people to watch recent films they wouldn't bother watching otherwise and to advertise more stuff to them.

It's hard to criticize a site like that. Even after 90 picks, the 91st was pretty much recommending raw hindquarters (mmmm, yummy) to a vegetarian.

I tried out criticker afterwards. While it lacks the pretty piggy interface, it guesses better, provides nearly as many films as IMDB, and the ability to easily see what actual critics tend to have a similar taste as you. You also get to read summaries of their reviews. The major drawback is the speed. The site even freezes at times. But you don't have to enter 100 films before it starts making useful predictions. You do need to enter in hated and OK films along with your favorites in order for it to work. Unfortunately, if you've seen a lot like me, its predictions get worse as your number and complexity increases.

Which brings us to this years Oscars. Its users actually like departed the best of the list. Apparently having Scorsese and Nicholson on the same film get you lots of brownie points, because it really doesn't deserve an Oscar nomination. Of those picked, Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Queen all are solid films that deserve their nomination. Little Miss Sunshine is easily the best, but I'd be surprised if it gets the pick.

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