Finding Recommendations That Matter

Stephen Baker at BusinessWeek has a recounting of his experience with Amazon and Barnes & Noble throwing him wildly different recommendations in relation to his new book, The Numerati. He suggests, in his attempts to explain the variations, that B&N’s suggestions are based on associated keywords and tags whereas Amazon’s are thematically related books that presumably sell well and are likely to be popular with the same crowd that’s looking for his book.

In some manner, though I’m not sure as to the extent, both of these are also probably driven by human behavior such as purchasing patterns.

While algorithms play a role in what movies are recommended to you by Spout, it’s also largely driven by the intelligence and movie tastes of the community that’s writing reviews, rating movies and assigning tags themselves. The more people you know on Spout the deeper knowledge well that’s being drawn from to build those recommendations. You also need to participate by listing the movies you’ve seen and enjoyed so those who are following you there can know what you did or didn’t like.

Is that community wisdom going to be perfect 100 percent of the time? Not by a long shot. The wiki that is your movie tastes profile is one that’s going to evolve over time. Eventually, though, you’ll be able to see what others are recommending and make a gut call because your sphere of experience will be broader. The Spout community will, in that time, have reinforced some of your tastes and maybe even broadened your cinematic horizons a bit, leading you to movies you might not have otherwise tried out or seen.

Not only will your experiences be changed, but by participating in the community yourself – recommending, rating, reviewing and otherwise discussing – you’ll be making friends and making sure others have the opportunity to benefit from your wisdom. Think of Spout as the “take a penny, leave a penny” tray of movie recommendations.

SpoutBlog and the FilmCouch podcast are great places to start, but don’t be afraid to dive into Spout itself. Setup a profile and drop me an email at chris-@-spout-.-com with the Subject line, “Recommend some movies, darnit!” and the last five movies you’ve enjoyed and the Spout team will put their collective heads together to give you five more movies you should check out. These might be ones you’ve already seen and if so just let me know. I want to make sure you’re seeing worthwhile as well as enjoyable movies so this may require a leap of faith. I’m confident, though, that once you begin seeing what sorts of recommendations you wind up getting you’ll be hooked and start contributing to the conversation around these movies yourself.

Telluride 2008 line-up reactions

There seems to be some consensus around and abouts on the Interwebz that this year’s Telluride Film Festival line-up is a non-starter. Its collection of foreign films, documentaries and classic films – along with a smattering of the more usual fare – seems to fly in the face of the perception of the festival as a launching pad for the next great independent-minded-but-mainstream-accessible crossover hit. Considering last year’s festival included first looks at Juno, There Will Be Blood, The Savages and others that went on to some mainstream success, such reaction is to be expected.

But the – let’s generously say “oddly”  – formed 2008 list doesn’t mean a crossover success is completely outside the realm of possibility. Let’s look at five movies that could wind up getting some decent buzz coming out of Telluride and heading into the remainder of festivals and awares season.

Happy-Go-Lucky: Anything from director Mike Leigh is sure to come with some expectations around it and this is likely to be no exception. While the odds are good this will be somewhat lighter in tone than some of Leigh’s previous films I wouldn’t bet on it being any less a sharp character study. And never underestimate the power of a powerfully perky female lead, which could help Happy-Go-Lucky become a feel-good hit in the non-entertainment areas of the country that are looking for an endearing story featuring a strong love story.

Adam Resurrected: The perception – at least among the staffers at here at Spout HQ – is that a good deal of Jeff Goldblum’s appeal comes from his unpredictability. So with a career that’s had him saving the world, dodging dinosaurs and turning into a fly his latest turn is as a Jewish entertainer in Nazi Germany who survives because of his ability to entertain the children being held at the concentration camps. Combine that with the fact that he and co-star Willem Dafoe are directed by Paul Schrader and you have a film that could make a decent splash with audiences and awards voters.

I’ve Loved You So Long: Kristen Scott-Thomas stars in a story about the members of an estranged family who find themselves coming together after one of them spends 15 years in prison. The emotional arc the story is sure to take Scott-Thomas on is one that is, at least on paper, seemingly tailor-made to please critics (there’s a lot of “Best Actress Oscar” talk from those who’ve seen it). While not a crowd-pleaser it could turn out to be something along the lines of There Will Be Blood should enough critics get behind it and turn the story of someone who might not be completely likable into a must-see movie.

Youssou Ndour – I Bring What I Love: Known primarily in the U.S., I’m guessing, for his work with Peter Gabriel in the late 80’s, Youssou Ndour’s story is certainly a compelling one. There’s usually one documentary that breaks out from the pack and earns a place in the queues of people who don’t normally watch them and since the subject matter here is a tad more accessible than that of some other docs, this could be that one.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: No, it’s not actually screening at Telluride, but a sneak peak of it is being included in the presentation of Zodiac: The Director’s Cut that’s happening. If the footage that’s shown of the movie, which stars Brad Pitt as a man who ages in reverse, is any good at all, Telluride could become the launching pad for a lot of buzz going into the remainder of the year.

Picking up the Spare: WALL-E, Dark Knight and Tropic Thunder

WALL-E

WALL-E has been co-opted by Greenpeace for use in a new campaign that’s meant to highlight the tremendous waste of natural resources that goes on in the production of tissues and other similar products. It’s not an actual tie-in, but the character that’s part of the campaign is unmistakeably inspired by Pixar’s environmentally conscious robot.

The Dark Knight

The Hollywood Reporter revisits the day Heath Ledger died and how it impacted Warner Bros. marketing plans for th emovie.

Tropic Thunder

You can now download the entire half-hour Rain of Madness documentary from iTunes. It’s actually quite funny and manages to raise a desire to see the movie, which I’ve not yet done. There are some spoilers for the movie in there, though, so if you also haven’t seen it consider yourself warned.

Pineapple Express

Silicon Alley Insider becomes the latest site to pick up on the fact that YouTube launched a whopping new ad format for Tropic Thunder, something I mentioned quite a while ago. TechCrunch and BusinessWeek also mention it, as well as NewTeeVee and PaidContent.

Rob Walker also covers Booty Sweat and the rise in the creation of fictional products for movies.

Facebook wants to promote impressions with new ads

Facebook doesn’t like the fact that their ads aren’t performing along the same lines as the rest of the Internet’s so they want to emphasize the metrics by which they are performing well.

Advertisers are, though, loving the new MySpace offerings.

Google: No, we’re really serious about selling TV ads

Google asked AdWeek to remind the audience that they’re still looking to sell TV ads. They obliged.

Seriously, though, if Google can bring some form of measureability to TV advertising then it will be a very good thing. But in order to get to a position of any strength and begin to influence the industry at all they’re going to need more partners and more inventory. Otherwise this is a noble experiment that will amout to very little.

With a little help from my (LinkedIn) friends

Professional social networking site LinkedIn is finding success that’s unfortunately coming at the expense of people’s jobs. The site is turning into a communications hub for Hollywood and other entertainment industry professionals who find themselves out of work as a result of cutbacks at studios. The site is sending representatives to industry events to do some education on what LinkedIn has to offer and how they can use it.

Online viewing beginning to trump TV

New research shows that younger people are beginning to prefer go online as opposed to on watching TV. They’re doing research and comparing products, but not apparently when it comes to apparel, a category that they still prefer to try on in person.

I for one am shocked

Who knew there was marketing happening on the Internet. I just didn’t think such a thing was possible.

Think that’s a good idea for a story? How much you willing to pay?

The NYT takes a look at spot.us, a site that asks the community to suggest stories that will then be tasked to investigative journalists. The catch is that those who suggest it are also asked to pony up the cash for the investigation or it just doesn’t happen.

Great idea, but I worry that all that’s going to get reported are stories that people *want* to hear about and not those that they *need* to hear about. That’s still the purview of a professional news organization.

NO CREDENTIALS FOR YOU!!!

No, sorry political bloggers. I don’t care how much pull you think you have, you still need to go through the credentialling process just like everyone else. That’s just the way it is no matter how much you might feel the need to whine to The New York Time which, you should know, is just running this story as a back-handed compliment to your influence.