Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Trouble with IMDb

Newsday Tuesday

The Trouble with IMDb
The Look:
I mean is there any real point continuing with this post. All you have to look at is their current homepage to  realise the extent of which they’ve ruined what was a perfectly useful, information-filled site. Just from glancing at this screenshot (right top) you have to question whether you’re even on IMDb. The Amazon Prime Instant Video (could they not think of a catchier name?) logo is so f*cking humungous, and yet they still felt the need for another squeezed in over on the right there. 

 Then there’s all the filler images that take away any clean space that used to make the site relatively neat.  Countless pictures of the titles that Prime offers, and often not even good ones, I mean Taken 2?, christ sign me up! 
 I’ve thrown in this older screenshot of the site for comparison. I will agree that, although heavily nostalgic, the 2007 screenshot (below) really does look like it could have been 1997 instead. On the other hand I think they did lose a lot of that initial identity as the site drastically modernised. It didn't need tonnes of pictures and adverts to make it interesting, it was just a Database after all. 

The Ratings:
Now this is a tricky one because you can easily be held up to the argument of differing taste when it comes to disagreeing with certain movies’ ratings on IMDb. Having said that, there is a fundamental problem with the system and as I’ve watched the site’s popularity grow over the years I’ve been finding the ratings less and less useful. 
 To start with, there is a huge rating bias to the newer releases. In just the few years since 2010 there have been 30 films that have made the Top 250 of All Time. That seems incredibly high and it’s a shame because the Top 250 was, for a long period of my early film watching life at least, that staple go-to when wanting to find something that I was confident would be a great picture and one which had earned its place in this hall of fame. Now though it seems that any popular new release will just jump straight in there regardless of its comparable merit. I didn't really want to name any specific releases but Interstellar being the 21st greatest film of all time really proves the point here. And if the reason for that is purely the recent hype factor and that it's rating will likely decrease over time, unfortunately Avengers Assemble is still 201st on the list. 
 For me I’ve had to move on from IMDb ratings. The older films and lesser-known indie releases I do find have a moderately greater accuracy but the skewed system of people seemingly voting only 1 or 10 for new & popular titles has unfortunately tarnished my adulation of the top 250 and their entire rating setup. If you're after suggestions all I can recommend is to look around. Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are much more honed than this mess. 

Message Boards:
Having avoided them for years and years I was going to give the Message Boards a real new look when I decided to do this post. However, the first one I came across, for Whiplash, I was faced staring at “Maybe Hitler would like Jazz after this…”. Naturally curious I delved in to find the first line heralding: ‘Whiplash represents exactly today's dominant neoliberal ideology’. I really think that says everything you need to know about the state of IMDb’s Message Boards. If you're interested in a chuckle and reading on about what would have been Hitler’s passion for Whiplash, and believe me you’ve been warned, this is the link here

So What Is It Good For?
 - Trivia - There is always some great things you can learn in here about the film’s production, inspirations, actors who were in the mix, etc. Great section if you have some time on your hands and/or are particularly interested in a title. 
 - Filmographies - Has to be the first site you go to when you can’t quite recall the film that actor/actress has also been in. Also great to discover the bodies of work from directors you’ve liked. 
 - Release Dates & Trailers - I do think the specific trailer section of IMDb could be improved, but it rarely doesn't have the trailer for a film you might be considering. 

 - Plot Synopses - Speaks for itself.
 - Lists - An underrated section of the site I think. If you can wade through the “My Top 1000 Favs” and “Every film I’ve ever seen ever” trash then you can actually get some top recommendations. 
 - Personal Ratings - The truth is once you’ve been a part of the site long enough you amass such a large quantity of Rated Films that you can't let that go. I do wish they’d add a feature that allowed them to at least estimate what you might think of titles you haven't watched based on an analysis of your current ratings though. Something similar to Netflix which I’ve found surprisingly accurate so far, apart from the odd few shockers.  

 Overall it's a shame that this site has turned into what it is. The look and feel of it has descended to one big Amazon advert. The public rating factor is what used to make it brilliantly unique. However, with the increase in non-dedicated/one-time users, what has developed is a large majority creating accounts, voting 1 or 10 (and likely on films they might not have even seen yet), to go along with the crowds or in an attempt to push a title further up or down and not reflecting what they actually would score a film out of 10. The Trouble with IMDb seems to be that currently, the Bad outweighs the Good. 

Tomorrow’s Where-in-the-World-Wednesday will take a look at the Russian Oscar-Nominated (/loser) ‘Leviathan’, the Danish triumph ‘The Hunt’, as well as German epic ‘Downfall’.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Oscars and the Grouch 2015

The Oscars and the Grouch 
and the Oscar goes to…”

 With the Globes and BAFTAs having been and gone, the stage was set for the Awards that people actually give two sh*ts about. This year’s Academy Awards proved to be a magical night of gowns, glitz, glamour, golden gongs, film celebration and thinly veiled disappointment (you may have noticed I blatantly just gave up on the alliteration there, shameful). For me it was once again a lonely, alcohol/caffeine-fuelled ceremony, beginning at around 01:30am in the UK, which, as expected, resulted in me getting quite considerably more tetchy and aggressive (admittedly to a picture on a screen) as the evening rolled on. However, this did not distract me from the fact that the movies this year were a fantastic collection and that I’ve had the pleasure to watch a very large portion of them, save but a few. Now I know we don't have the time to cover them all but here are the main events: 

  • Best Picture - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  •  Brilliantly unique, black comedy that really set the pace of Oscar season and rightly so. The cast performances were stellar, especially Edward Norton and Michael Keaton, and it was great to see Zach Galifianakis test out his fractionally more dramatic acting chops for once. With the directing and screenplay also winning statuettes it really highlights the success that this picture was in 2014. Congrats.
  • Best Director - Alejandro G. Iñárritu Birdman
  • This was incredibly ambitious to attempt such a style of directing for a fell-length feature film and the result was excellent. Just like the musical score, this hectic mix of dramatically varied elements combined effortlessly on screen to produce a wonderfully memorable film. The credit had to go to Iñárritu for making that possible and you could tell he was thrilled with the award. 
  • (It was, however, slightly shocking for Linklater to still be left out of the Oscar party. He now totals 5 nominations without a win and I was certain one of these top two awards would credit Boyhood, but that's old age academy pensioners for you folks).

  • Best Actor - Eddie Redmayne The Theory of Everything
  • Redmanyne's performance was fantastic and there’s no getting away from it. A clean sweep of the Globe, Bafta and now the Oscar and yet he still acts shocked and surprised about being recognised. You become so engrossed in this movie and the story of Stephen Hawking’s life that you forget the skill of the acting that Redmayne produces. This superb performance truly does justice to the man and inspiration behind the film.

  • Best Actress - Julianne Moore Still Alice
  • Fifth time she has been nominated and without a win she was destined to be the Oscar favourite. A powerful film that ironically stays in your mind for days afterwards, Julianne Moore's performance brings the character to life and more. Always been a fan of hers and if you haven't seen The Kids Are Alright the I implore you to do so. Out of this years nominees though I'll admit I was kind of rooting for Felicity Jones to win but oh well, can't have them all. 

  • The Rest of the Winners
  • Best Animated Feature Film - Big Hero 6 Disney/Pixar - Great film but where was Lego?
  • Best Supporting Actress       - Patricia Arquette Boyhood - Boyhood's only win, well deserved.
  • Best Supporting Actor         - JK Simmons Whiplash - Absolutely, outrageously, stunning job!
  • Best Original Screenplay      - Birdman - Would have been Wes' Grand Budapest Hotel for me!
  • Best Adapted Screenplay     - The Imitation Game Graham Moore - Fair play, but odd speech! 
  • Best Foreign Language Film - Ida Poland - Haven't actually seen this yet, Leviathan was top!
  • Best Documentary              -  CitizenFour - Couldn't have been any other winner, thrilling!
  • Best Original Song          - Glory John Legend & Common - LegoEverything was awesome...

 - The Ceremony - Hosted by: Neil Patrick Harris
 In what seems to be an unpopular opinion I thought Patrick Harris was quite brilliant as host. A great opening number was followed by him seemingly not giving a f*ck about the entire event and adding a (somewhat-diluted) touch of Gervais to the proceedings with his close-to-the-mark quips. Add in a few truly terrible puns, a magic trick and a underwear presentation and it really was entertaining (for the Oscars bear in mind). Really not hard to beat Ellen last year though.

Speeches - I do have some issues with a few of the speeches this year, however, which seemed too often to descend into a podium for each victor's personal gripes about the world. “We need more volunteers…”, “We need more Black's Rights, Women’s Rights, Gay’s Rights, White’s Rights & Whistleblower's Rights” ... Followed closely by "Oh and lastly thanks to Mummy, Daddy, that God bloke for making me so special." We get it you don't w
ant to seem all greedy up there with your new friend Oscar, but how about give it a rest for the evening shall we. This isn't an Awareness Fundraiser it's an Awards Show. Move along.

Music - The musical numbers were also terrifically varied this year. A trippy, Europop-esque performance of ‘Everything is Awesome’ from The Lego Movie really did spark the evening up a bit, although I feel Clint Eastwood might have been faintly disturbed by the entire thing. A shockingly subdued rendition of songs from ‘The Sound of Music’ was performed by Lady Gaga, who managed to change out of her marigolds from the Red Carpet and put on something rather more toned-down. On the whole highlighting the great voice behind the unbearable nutter. And lest we forget the performance of Glory by John Legend and Common, from the film Selma, which received a hardly surprising standing ovation. I'm fairly certain that last night's theatre was rigged up with signage that after every black oppression/Selma reference stated  “Quickly guys last one on his feet is a racist!”

Phew, anyway, well at least that's that done for another year. Come back tomorrow for Newsday Tuesday (still a solid name right there) where we will be discussing a few of the films and trailers on the horizon for the next few weeks.