A review of reviews

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What makes you decide to watch a movie? Some people jump into it as soon as they hear it features actors they like or a famous director/production company; sometimes a premise or a trailer is so intriguing that it immediately seduces us; but often a recommendation is what tips us over when we haven’t made up our minds.

I’m not just talking about a friend’s suggestions or movie reviews in the newspaper. When you click on a movie because Netflix’s algorithm suggested it to you, that’s a recommendation. When you watch something because you hear it won an award, or when you search for a movie on Google IMDB rating – this is a recommendation. Even a reference to a movie from a celebrity you admire is kind of a recommendation.

It’s uncomfortable to consider how much our viewing decisions are influenced by the agendas and opinions of others.

Movie critics are frequently asked about the best source for movie recommendations. The answer to this question is two more: 1. How much effort are you willing to put in? 2. What kind of person’s opinion do you trust?

Arguably the most popular sources of movie recommendations are rating sites, especially the big 3, rotten tomatoes, Metacritic and IMDB (IMDB being the big daddy of the Big 3). The reason they are so popular is that they require almost no effort. Google just about any movie under the sun and you’ll likely find an IMDB rating on the first search page.

Rating sites like IMDB are often treated as an objective authority, but few people actually know how they work and what they’re looking at when they see a 6.9 or 2.5 star rating.

You may know that Facebook was designed as a perverse, objectifying way to gauge female attractiveness. In a way, IMDB was too.

IMDB (the Internet Movie Database) is from a Usenet post in 1990 titled “These Eyes”. It was created by a British film buff and computer programmer as a catalog of beautiful-eyed actresses.

IMDB was created by men for men, and while its function has changed, it hasn’t. Anyone can submit a rating on IMDB, and according to an article written by Marcus Beard in 2016, the vast majority of its users are men.

If you check the distribution of grades for the top 100 movies on IMDB, you’ll see that none have more reviews from women than men.

Take a look at the top 10 movies of all time according to IMDB at the moment:

  1. The Shawshank Redemption
  2. The Godfather
  3. The Godfather Part 2
  4. The black Knight
  5. 12 angry men
  6. Schindler’s list
  7. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  8. pulp Fiction
  9. The good the bad and the ugly
  10. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

There is an extremely skewed preference for violent films with male leads. According to Beardromantic comedies and “chick flicks”, notoriously unpopular with men, achieve very low ratings, even when they were wildly successful with women.

There have been several incidents of organized sexist troll groups “bombing” movies on IMDB by creating fake user accounts and giving 1/10 ratings. Captain Marvel, The Last Jedias explained in this 2017 Voice articleand the 2017 sequel to ghost hunters have all been bombarded by male user groups allegedly threatened by female leaders in beloved franchises.

This trend of gender inequality continues on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Rotten Tomatoes gives reviewer ratings as well as user ratings, and the reviewer ratings seem slightly less biased towards violence and masculinity, but their reviewer community is still dominated by men.

This problem was highlighted wonderfully by Meryl Streep at a press conference in 2015. You can see the viral clip below.

All three sites also use unusual methods to manipulate their ratings. Rotten Tomatoes Raise A Movie Higher On Their Lists The More Reviews It Gets, That’s Why The Godfather (97% out of 133 reviews) is a place ahead All about Eve (99% out of 105 reviews).

Metacritic’s ratings are also based on published reviews, but it doesn’t reveal which reviews it cites, only which publications. Not all reviews of included publications are featured, and of those that are featured, some are given a heavier weight than others based solely on Metacritic’s private preferences.

IMDB uses a variety of algorithms to manipulate ratings that have not been released to the public. As stated on his website“The easiest way to explain it is that although we accept and consider all votes received by users, not all votes have the same impact [or ‘weight’] on the final grade… we do not disclose the exact method used to generate the grade.

If you’re already starting to find some dodgy rating sites, wait until you find out who’s funding them. Rotten Tomatoes is owned by Fandango, an American ticketing company that sells movie tickets. Prior to that, it was owned by Warner Brothers. Metacritic is owned by Red Ventures, an American media holding company. Prior to that, it was owned by CBS.

And IMDB? It belongs to Bezos. Amazon has owned the grandfather of rating sites since 1998. If you search Amazon titles on IMDB, you’ll notice that they have surprisingly high ratings. In 2020, search by Cable.co.uk found that the average rating of Amazon titles on IMDB was 7.49 out of 10, while their main competitors, Apple TV and Netflix, scored 7.13 and 7.11, respectively.

So should we stop paying attention to rating sites, grit our teeth, and exclusively read reviews from reviewers? Not necessarily. The key is knowing what rating or review you really get.

When it comes to leisure choices, people are statistically much more likely to follow a recommendation from a friend than an expert. It’s not because we think our friends know something the experts don’t, it’s because we know our friends and what kind of people they are.

If you’re willing to read a full review before choosing to watch a movie, this is definitely your best bet, but you’ll get the most out of it if you know a little about the preferences of the person whose review you’re reading. .

If you familiarize yourself with the politics of various publications, the preferences of a few good reviewers, and the biases of rating sites, you’ll get a lot more out of it, and it might save you from having to read full reviews when you don’t. . no time.

When you know what you’re watching, a glance at IndieWire, a Google search of the review titles of a few familiar articles, and a quick glance at the IMDB rating might be all you need to have a pretty good idea if you’ll enjoy a movie.

That said, if you really twist my arm for a single source of ratings and recommendations, I’d point you RogerEbert.coman American film review website that archives the famous critic’s reviews and ratings, as well as other reviews Ebert handpicked from around the world before his death in 2013.

Each review and rating is written by a single author, so there is no gerrymandering of rating aggregates or claims about objectivity. Again, to get the most out of a site’s gold mine, one would need to be familiar with the contributors.

If you can find reviews (on any platform) whose likes you have a strong interest in, you’ll have a steady stream of trusted recommendations, but that’s not always possible, or necessary if you’re willing to take it into consideration. consider the preferences and schedules of reviewing and evaluating publications.

A means of artistic expression, the film is subjective by nature. Your ability to quickly and easily acquire reliable movie recommendations will always be determined by your ability to interpret the biases of whoever is giving you the recommendation. DM/ML

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