Finding a Last.fm for films

Standard

I love lists. I love films. Surely there exists an online application that allows me to log the films I’ve watched, which then recommends other films I’d probably like?

Last.fm has fulfilled my nitpicky needs for music, and frankly, I would never keep a manual log of music I’ve listened to. However, I do keep a handwritten diary of films that I’ve watched (and I’m comfortable with the image you may have of me after that confession!). The downside of a handwritten record is that, in this age of remix culture and endless tweaking, I can’t analyze the list in any way. So begins my search for the ‘Last.fm for films’.

My criteria include:

  • a satisfying ratings feedback system (rating films must be fast and decisive)
  • ability to filter, export and display list data (to display on this blog)
  • a comprehensive list of film titles
  • a solid and reliable recommendation system

I’m not trying to be impartial – this is a search for the best tool for me alone. Extra points will be awarded for:

  • being UK-centred or at least not wholly USA-centric
  • inclusion of social features (finding people with similar tastes in order to ‘steal’ recommendations from their lists)

I tested each website using a similar technique – I added ratings for a bunch of films (most of the sites require 10 ratings before any recommendations are made). As far as possible, I rated the same films on each website (a mix of my favourites e.g. ‘Rear Window’, ‘Aguirre, Wrath of God’, ‘Bigger than Life’, a selection of non-English-language films e.g. ‘The American Friend’, ‘Il Divo’, and popular films that I disliked e.g. ‘Once’, ‘Revolutionary Road’). Judging the ease of adding the ratings and the resultant recommendations informed the bulk of these conclusions.

Click ‘Read more’ below to read the full reviews of each of the websites.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Pros:

  • clean, clear interface
  • search completes as you type
  • nice rating system for new users – pick a type of film (e.g. ‘individualist’, ‘drama addict’), then rate a bunch of films quickly
  • impressively varied recommendations
  • hover over film images to rate
  • ‘neighbours’ system for people with similar tastes
  • connect to Netflix (no use to me as I’m in the UK – a Lovefilm equivalent would have been fantastic though)

Cons:

  • loading pages individually for full details can be slow
  • rating bar is fiddly and unsatisfying, often last to load
  • USA-centred (in terms of cinema release dates etc)
  • ‘movie personality’ system is gimmicky and limiting
  • no ability (yet) to export lists
  • ‘pulse’ system (updates on user ratings) is irrelevant

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Pros:

  • recommendations classified by genre
  • imaginative recommendations, perhaps promoted due to genre classification
  • large title database
  • colour-coordinated scores in ‘tiers’
  • ability to filter lists
  • ability to export lists as html or plain text, although formatted poorly (e.g. if you filter by year, then export, the year isn’t visible in the resultant list)
  • ability to find people with similar tastes
  • busy, organised and eclectic forums

Cons:

  • can’t embed data within WordPress.com hosted blogs like this one
  • score out of 100 (overly precise – ratings become almost arbitrary)
  • unsatisying rating interface
  • only 8 recommendations per page – lots of clicking
  • fairly dull interface

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Pros:

  • ‘timeline’ is visual representation of films watched
  • ability to export timeline to Facebook
  • simple rating out of 10, satisying ratings system
  • search autocompletes while you type
  • ability to add missing films from IMDB links – although this means that titles are in native language e.g. ‘Sjunde inseglet, Det’ so makes subsequent searches difficult and recommendations obviously don’t include missing titles

Cons:

  • very few non-English language films (e.g. no returns for ‘Il Divo’, or ‘The American Friend’)
  • can’t embed data within WordPress.com blogs, although potentially could create a workaround by embedding RSS feed for your ratings
  • huge banner ads
  • recommendations usually from last couple of years, no filter function
  • poor recommendation engine – FilmGator recommended ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ based on my list comprised mainly of Werner Herzog and Ingmar Bergman films
  • relatively little info on each page due to large images

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Pros:

  • simple rating out of 10
  • ‘movie soulmates’ system – people with similar tastes
  • filter recommended films by genre and decade
  • recommendations are sound
  • rating becomes much quicker when viewing recommendation lists
  • includes UK and USA cinema listings
  • rated films broken down with different filters (genre, score, country)

Cons:

  • unsatisfying rating system using a dropdown menu
  • ugly, outdated interface
  • list filters are fixed, not dynamic
  • no social features other than ‘movie soulmates’ and inbox

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Pros:

  • large database
  • ability to tag lots of films at a time
  • satisfying rating system
  • lots of films per page

Cons:

  • awful recommendation engine
  • no social or crowdsourcing features
  • ugly, outdated interface

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Pros:

  • auto-logs films watched on your computer

Cons:

  • can’t log any films watched anywhere other than on your computer, obviously (NB I didn’t test WHiWA to any great degree, as I don’t watch any films on my computer.)

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Conclusion

Sadly, there’s no out-and-out winner. After plugging over 1000 ratings into Movielens over the last year, the poor recommendation engine means that I’ve given up on that website. WHiWA isn’t for me as I don’t watch films on my computer. I want to like FilmAffinity, but it’s deeply ugly. If Jinni connected to UK’s Lovefilm rental service, I’d be enthusiastic. FilmGator is flashy and the title list should grow with time, but the banner ads and poor recommendations scupper it. Criticker feels like the movie buff’s site, but the scoring out of 100 feels awkward. None of the sites featured here will solve my initial task of logged my recently watched films on this blog.

Picking just one of these sites will mean spending a good deal of time plugging in ratings in order to get the best recommendations. Almost on a whim, I’ll choose Jinni, as it’s neatly designed, has a good database, and importantly has a fantastic recommendation engine.

So, in conclusion, there is no Last.fm for films. What we need is a single application that incorporates the best of all of these websites. Is that so much to ask?

About these ads

7 responses »

  1. This is such a thorough analysis of the “Last.fm for movies” type options – very interesting and thought-provoking. I especially appreciate your analysis of Jinni, both the pros and cons. We’re working all the time to improve our service, so input like yours is really valuable. As we add connections to more services beyond Netflix and add and adjust features, I hope you’ll find Jinni increasingly useful as a one-stop for choosing movies. More feedback always appreciated!

  2. if you like a desktop software, i recommend movienizer, it’s simply great. the last version is not free but you can find the last free version (i use v2.2)
    it downloads movie description from a site of your choice (there are many default sites) and makes graphs/statistics automatically.

  3. Pingback: GetGlue is a foisting machine « Cosy catastrophes

  4. Hey Tim,

    Came across your comparison and just wanted to mention trakt.tv which is a new service we are working on with the goal to provide everything you have listed above.

    We have a full featured API to get your data out and provide some widgets for easy display on your blog or website. Check it out!

    -justin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s