Here's what's wrong with IMDb

The Internet Movie Database, also known as IMDb, is the biggest and best film database on the Internet. It is a golden fountain of goodness for film geeks like myself, and I would stipulate that it is in fact the best thing on the Internet.

If you are unfamiliar with this website go to www.imdb.com at once, and promise to feel a bit ashamed while you revel in its glory.

However, to power-users such as myself - who visit the site at least once every waking hour - it is not without its flaws. But rather than just complaining, I figured I would offer up my suggestion on how to improve the site. Here goes...


More options

I hate the user comments. I hate the user ratings. If they were useless that would be one thing, but they have ability to totally destroy a film. I want to be able to remove them. I don't want to see them. I realize user interaction is an important part of the site, but I don't care for the ratings, and I don't want some random user's random comments to soil my first impression of a film. I also don't care about the release date of a film in my home country. I want to know the release date in the country of origin.

What I want is the ability to control how these things are displayed. There are so many other preferences I can control, it should be possible to include the things I've mentioned here as well.

Poor images

IMDb.com is the biggest film site on the planet, why does it have the worst image galleries in creation?

I can't save the images *. The images are too small. The galleries are a big mess of press events, stills, DVD covers and all sorts of crap. Some films have several hundreds of images in their galleries, others have but a few, and that's perfectly okay, but why do some of the older films have a gallery comprised of 20-30 almost similar DVD or VHS cover scans? It's so odd! Also, since IMDb was bought by Amazon a random DVD or Bluray cover is often used to represent the film, rather than the poster, which really bugs me.

A little further down on the film pages you'll find "External Links > Pictures". Here is a bunch of links to other sites where you can find plenty of gorgeous galleries with large, beautiful, relevant images. Here is my question: Can those responsible for IMDb live with the fact that I have to go elsewhere to get my movie imagery? Can they live with the fact that IMDb is no longer my first stop, when I'm looking for posters? And that I often check out (and have luck with) my favorite gallery sites, when I look for film stills, in which case I completely ignore IMDb.com (and the advertisements they live off, I might add)?

Get those images on the site. There is no excuse not to fix that.

* Note: This is possible in the Pro version, more on this later.

Fix the recommendations

And the prize for The Understatement of the Decade goes to whoever wrote this:

"The system produces excellent results most of the time but since recommended titles are not manually chosen, occasionally they may include less than perfect matches."

I would put it like this: The recommendations are worth s**t! In fact they are often so laughable and out of place that they almost seem deliberately misleading.

Imagine you've just watched Aliens and are hungry for more of the same. IMDb suggests the following films: The three other Alien films, which is pretty bloody useless since none of them match Aliens in style, story or mood. They also suggest Return of the King and Star Wars? Huh?! If I check out Titanic, IMDb has some very solid suggestions (The Notebook, Gone With the Wind, Across the Universe, A Night to Remember), as well as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Tin Drum! The Tin Drum?! What the what?!

I understand the problem of having proper recommendations for every title. It's a difficult thing to do. So maybe, you shouldn't do it at all. Maybe this is one of those instances where one could actually use the IMDb users more effectively?


Story time. Once upon a time when the web was young, people didn't know what to do on a website. So to help them and show them what to do, links would be underlined. This is NOT necessary any more, Internet users are now familiar with the concept of links. Look at the front page of IMDb... Go on, look. It's UGLY as hell. EVERYTHING is underlined, because EVERYTHING is a link. Stop doing that! It clutters the view and it makes everything hard to read.

Look how I've done it on one of my websites. This is a list of titles. People know they can click on each title to go to another page. There's absolutely no need to underline each and every freaking link. Notice how the links only shows up, when you move the mouse over a title. That's all you need.

Another thing about links....  In the sidebar menu, why is the "Promotional > trailers and videos"-page always empty? Why can I click on menu items that have been shaded to indicate they are offline? If they're offline, there shouldn't be a link.

The pro version

Yes, there's actually a pro version of IMDb, which you can access if you pay $12.95 for a month, or $99.95 for a year. The pro version gives you contact information, more detailed box office numbers and some useless crap called the STARmeter and the MOVIEmeter. It's rather snobbishly aimed at "industry people".

Other than that, what do you get? Well, let's see... An even more cluttered design! Several pages actually look worse than on the regular site! The information is not structured very well, resulting in endlessly long, almost empty pages, which - even though they present the exact same information - look far less inviting than the same pages on the regular site. Good news is that now you can save the images. Bad news is: Sometimes the images ARE SMALLER than on the regular site. Are you kidding me?!

The price is... Well, I suppose it's fair, considering how much I use the site, but the advantages I get are laughable. I don't mind paying, not for quality, but making me pay more for less is just not right.


Final thoughts

The simple fact is that there is no viable alternative to IMDb. Even with the problems I've mentioned here, and those I haven't, nothing comes close to this site, NOTHING.

I asked around among my friends, and several other issues came up: Problems with spoilers on the front page, problems with the way TV-series are presented, the credit order on some films are baffling, and so on. I guess there's also personal taste to consider, not everybody will agree with my issues, we each have our own preferences, but that's fine.

Some of the problems on IMDb are simple design issues. A redesign could solve those. Other problems could be solved by allowing the user the ability to personalize the site. The rest will take some effort.

IMDb is the biggest and best film database on the Internet. That brand comes with an obligation. If IMDb takes its users for granted that obligation has not been met.


Here are the links to my favorite image sites.
  • For all those cool posters go to IMP Awards.
  • Ecranlarge is a French site, with awesome image gallleries.
  • OutNow also has great images, but watch out, sometimes they're tagged.
Special thanx to Dennis Rosenfeld and Anne Petersen.


The Easter Film Program

I do this every now and then. Usually, being a working stiff and all, I'm rarely able to watch more than one film a day, perhaps two, but then one of these unprovoked religious holidays come along and I suddenly have all the time I need for a quick little movie marathon. I know some people do 20 film marathons, but I get no enjoyment from that. Four is the perfect number of films for me.

I use these mini-marathons to reacquaint myself with old favorites, so they can only include films I've seen before. I pick film that I've been keen to re-watch for a while, and I try to design a program that will make them flow well together. It usually means: A film for the morning, a film for the afternoon, and two films for the evening.

The upcoming Easter holiday presents an excellent opportunity to do this again. This particular program I've put together is also a potential Bluray marathon, since all the films here have been released on high-def.

But enough talk, let's fight:


Film #1: The Goonies (1985)

"OK! I'll talk! In third grade, I cheated on my history exam. In fourth grade, I stole my uncle Max's toupee and I glued it on my face when I was Moses in my Hebrew School play. In fifth grade, I knocked my sister Edie down the stairs and I blamed it on the dog..."

We open the ball with an Eighties classic. This should be watched lying on the couch in your pajamas, while eating breakfast.

Richard Donner directs the story of a bunch of mismatched kids who go on a treasure hunt in an attempt to save their neighborhood. It's fun, full of adventure, and most importantly: It's not exclusively aimed at kids. Plus, Steven Spielberg wrote the story, what more do you need? They sure don't make films like this any more.

Film #2: Twister (1996)

"The Suck Zone. It's the point basically when the twister... sucks you up. That's not the technical term for it, obviously."

Ex-cinematographer Jan De Bont directs this tale of a band of hurricane chasers and does it with the subtlety of a nuclear explosion. This is so bad. And yet, so much fun. Gotta love the way Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt just COMMITS to the whole ridiculous thing. And it's got Philip Seymour Hoffman in it as well! He won an Oscar you know.

In the wake of Jurassic Park Hollywood tried to figure out just how much they could push the envelope with CGI. They haven't stopped pushing yet. This, though, belongs to the early days of the big CGI films, which makes it kinda charming.

Film #3: Smokin' Aces (2006)

"How bad?" "Mortal..." "What?" "Mortal!" "No! F**k!"

We're kicking it up a notch with this unbeatable kick-ass-awesome action movie. This is not just style over substance, more like: style has knocked substance down, cut off its face and is now wearing it as a mask.

This is just a story about a lot of contract killers who are going after the same guy, and the cops who try to protect him. Luckily director Joe Carnahan infuses the plot with the most excessive, beautiful, raw action-film style seen since John Woo did The Killer.

Film #4: A Modern Horror film

"It's okay, we're cutting your arm off."

So this is a cheat, because here we have a choice between three modern horror movies. Take your pick!

The Orphanage (2007) is a classic horror film, spliced with Asian horror antics. A couple plans to open an orphanage in the women's childhood home, but it all goes horribly wrong when their son begins to communicate with an "invisible friend".

Silent Hill (2006) is a great combination of mainstream CGI thriller, and dark, underground mystique, as Radha Mitchell search an abandoned mining town for her missing daughter, under the watchful eye of director Christoph Gans and Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen.

Splinter (2008) is a near perfect low budget body-horror film, dealing with a few random travelers who find themselves stalked by a weird parasite at a gas station. It's one location. Four actors. The CGI is used sparingly, but well. Plus, it's just so damn nasty and creepy. A perfect end to the evening.


Final Thoughts

This is my program for a Easter Holiday Mini-Movie Marathon, feel free to use it, or come up with your own. And if you do that, please share it in the comments below.




How can we save the Oscars?


The 82nd Academy Awards were held two weeks ago. Having just finished more than three months of Oscar madness, and feeling absolutely fantastic about it, I'm ready to take stock.

The first question on my mind is: "Do the Oscars really need saving?" The legitimacy of the original question notwithstanding, I'm getting a little tired of people complaining about the Oscars. Sure there are some things about the Oscars we could fix here and there, but it seems to me that most of the stuff people complain about are things you just have to accept about award shows in general. Yes, some categories are more interesting than other. No, your favorite will not win every single time. Yes, the show is long. No, you can't drop the boring speeches, everyone gets to talk. And so on, and so on. Despite this I do think it's reasonable to discuss the Oscars and try to improve the quality of the show. So let's do just that.

Now, what can we do to fix the Oscars, if we assume for a moment that they are in fact broken?


Diversity is the key

We need a better variety of films.

This year was a great example of how it should be done. Avatar was the most successful film of all time, The Hurt Locker was loved by all the critics, Up was loved by everybody, the geeks loved Inglorious Bastards and District 9, the Jews loved A Serious Man and overweight black people loved Precious. There was something for everybody. Almost all the films made money, meaning that people actually saw them.

The previous year The Dark Knight was famously snubbed from the Best Film category, which was more or less the reason 10 nominees were selected this year. That was a good decision, stick with it.

A show comprised of obscure indie yawns, dry dramas, and films with virtually no box office take simply won't work. Don't get me wrong, those films should definitely be there, if they're good, but so should the popular films. Box office success should be something that qualifies a film for the Best Picture race, more that being something that disqualifies it.

The 365 rule

One of my pet peeves is to find a way to make sure that you can release quality films the WHOLE year, and not just the last two months. The release schedule is more polarized than ever, it's hurting the cinemas, it's hurting the audience and it's hurting the Oscars.

Although there are countless examples to suggest it doesn't matter when the hell you release a film (Silence of the Lambs, Crash), studios are still hesitant to put out a serious adult drama during the first 10 months of the year, opting instead to cram them all into a few months, which means that some will inevitably fall by the wayside.

One far out solution that I'd be curious to test, would be to create a sort of semi finale. 10 films would be picked, from EACH quarter of the year, and the 5 or 10 Best Picture nominees would then be found among these 40 titles. This may not be practical, but I'm just racking my brain, trying to find an antidote to the polarized release schedule.

More Glamour

The Oscars are, more than anything else, about glamour. We need famous people. Hot people. Classic actors. Young talents. We need them all. Not just the ones who show up to pimp a new film, or the ones who are there anyway to present an award. The Oscars must once again be a place you go to be seen, if you want to be something in Hollywood.

More fun

The show needs to be more fun. It has to be big, it has to be glamorous, but it also has to be fun. Stop bringing out stars who are too nervous or uninvolved. Drop the ones who just read the TelePrompter, or the ones who look like a deer caught in the headlights. Get people up there who'll make it look fun, who connect.

Remember the past

Remember the old Hollywood and the old films. Show us montages of past winners, get previous winners to present the awards, not just those from last year, but from ten years ago, twenty even! The quality of the golden age of Hollywood is unbeatable. Use it!

Fix the categories

Why have two awards for sound? Nobody knows the difference! And we don't have two awards for music, one for writing the score and one for recording it, so why should sound get two categories?

The opposite argument could be made for other categories: It would make a lot more sense to split makeup into two awards. Regular make-up and special effect makeup are two very different jobs, and that way nobody has to consider if The Young Victoria is better that Star Trek. And what about a new category for Contemporary Costume Design, so the big boring dresses don't win every year?

Deal with the length

Yes the show is long. Deal with it. Or not...

A radical idea would be to split the whole thing up into two shows. You could deal with the tech awards in a smaller show the night before the big show. Fewer people would see this, sure, but now everybody uses those categories as bathroom breaks anyway, and they drag the whole show down in ratings. Personally I would prefer one big show. It could last 6 hours for all I care, but I'm sympathetic to those who can't deal such a big chunk of awesomeness.

Drop the short films

Actually I would phrase it like this: Show 'em or drop 'em.

Let's be clear: Short films are calling cards for directors, nobody is making any money off these things, so just show them for free. Very few people vote in these categories, because few people have seen the films and nobody.... NOBODY watching at home have ever heard about any of them, because they are not available to the general public. Furthermore, those years when I've actually managed to track down and see the short films, I'm flabbergasted when the winner is announced. There's no accounting for personal taste, of course, but right now we have a situation where, if you want to predict who's going to win the Best Animated Short Film, you just have to PICK THE UGLIEST ONE! True story.

So get the films out to everybody. Make the selection process more transparent. Make sure more people vote in these categories. Do that, or drop the whole thing.

86 the documentaries

Drop 'em. You heard me, drop 'em completely. They have no place among the stars and the glamour, nobody cares about them, and (again) nobody has seen them. They deserve to be treated with respect and get their dues, so make sure that happens, but on a separate occasion.

Singing and dancing

There should be no singing and dancing. I'm going to say that again. THERE SHOULD BE NO SINGING AND DANCING. Period.

The hostest with the mostest

The host should be the center of the evening. Having the host come out, do a 5 minute stand-up routine, and then disappear for half an hour is not good enough. The host is the glue of the evening, if I don't see him for 10 minutes I'm going to assume that something is wrong, or that I'm the target of a practical joke and the real show is happening elsewhere.

The first year I watched the Oscars was 1990. It was also the first year Billy Crystal was host. He was spectacular. In the following years he did the classic opening montages, he arrived in Hannibal Lector mask, he sang the opening song, which had references to the nominated films, and a few jabs on behalf of the overlooked ones. He had the crowd going crazy before the show had even begun.

Go back to one host. Get somebody good. Get the same host every year. In short: Get Billy back. Whatever it takes.

Find a way and find it quick

I'm all for experimenting and trying new things, but there's a limit. From handing out awards in the middle of the audience, to inviting all nominees on the stage, a wide range of experiments have been conducted in the last couple of years. It's been frustrating.

I understand the need to update the show and keep it current, but why do we - the audience - have to be the guinea pigs? Are you telling me the gigantic organisation behind the Oscar show can't lock themselves in a room and figure out what works and what doesn't? Is it really necessary for them to test their ideas live on a billion viewers?

The producers of the Oscar show must get their act together. Fix the cracks in the foundation. Get the show back on track. Fast.

Final thoughts

I belong to a select group of people who adore the Oscars, who think that Oscar Night - or Big O Night as we call it - is the biggest night of the year, easily surpassing Christmas, birthdays and all other important days. I LOVE the Oscars and for the better part of three months they occupy my time and my thoughts to an almost unhealthy level.

So dear Academy, whatever you do to my beloved Oscar, find something that works, find it quick, and stick with it. It shouldn't be this hard. You've got 11 months.



The List of Shame


After thinking long and hard about this (well, for at least 20 minutes) I've decided to put my List of Shame online. What is a List of Shame, you ask (unless you have one yourself)? Well, the List of Shame is something every film freak, film nerd, film geek, or whatever you like to call yourself, should have. It's a list of important films you really ought to have seen, but for some reason still haven't checked out. Which films will end up on this list is entirely up to you.

Some lists (like mine) may focus mainly on the classics, others could include only current films, or it could be a mix. The point is: This is YOUR list. It's not a list of oh-so important films that some film scholar thinks you ought to see before you die, or the result of peer pressure from your friends, who simply can't understand why you haven't seen the collective works of Weird Al Yankovic. No, this list should include films you WANT to see and are EMBARRASSED not to have seen yet, hence the name.

Let me give you a few examples from my list, to elaborate on this.


Sunset Blvd. (1950) is at the very top of my list (for now). I love film noir, but I haven't seen this one, despite the fact that it is one of the most iconic ones. Every film noir fan should see this film. More importantly, though, I feel like I need to see it, or I'll be missing a piece in my understanding of film noir.

Return to Oz (1985) is also on the list. Yes, this is a weird one, but it's one of only three films nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects since 1972 that I haven't seen (the other two are Stuart Little and Babe, which I don't plan to watch any time soon). I take an interest in visual effects, especially from the 80's, so I need to see this.

A film you won't find on my list is The Color Purple. Even though I love Spielberg to death I can't bring myself to watch this film. I have no interest in the subject matter, it seems like an all too obvious attempt to fish for an Oscar, and it just looks stupid to me. I'm not saying that I refuse to see it, I'm just saying that I'm not ashamed that I haven't seen it, and therefore it's not included on my list.

I also haven't seen a film like There's Something About Mary, but I don't plan to. I find the Farrelly brother's humor almost unbearable. I know it was a big hit, I know a lot of people love it, but I have no desire to check it out. Thus, this is missing from the list as well.

Included on the list are also films I need to re-watch, like The Wizard of Oz, which I haven't seen since I was a kid, or films that I've somehow watched in a weird way. I've seen every second of Full Metal Jacket, for example, but never in one sitting. I've always stumbled over the beginning or the end of the film as I was flipping through channels.


Now, two things are important to remember:

You can't fill up the list with every single film ever produced, just because you have some sort of misconception that you should watch them all to be able to call yourself a real film freak. Then you'll never be able to use the list. It'll be so overwhelming and embarrassing that you'll just want to throw it away and never think about it again. Pick your battles. The list should be short and sweet, always full of great titles that beg to be seen, and then you can use it as inspiration on the days when you feel like watching a film, but you don't know which one.

It's also important to remember that the list is in a constant state of flux. Every day brings the possibility that a film could be crossed out, or a new one added. That's okay, you're not supposed to cross out every title and get down to zero. The list is a guide on your journey through the world of cinema, and it's a journey that will never end.

So that's it. I've added my list to the permanent links in the sidebar. And remember: It's one thing to create a list, it's another to commit to the list and acknowledge your shortcomings by posting it online. But you need to do it. So do it.



The First Post


So I've created a blog. Felt like I needed one. Apparently there's something I need to do that I can't do on any of the other 5 million sites I run. There's a distinct possibility that this will be the only entry I ever make. More likely, however, is the scenario where I'll try to remind myself to post something every week, but it'll end up being once a month. We'll see what happens.

Stay tuned, as the kids say.