Sunday, November 8, 2009

Netflix Math

I recently signed up for Netflix and it has been an interesting experience so far. My main reason for signing up was my screenwriting class where there are at least 6 movies mentioned, 5 of which I've heard of, 4 of which sound interesting, 3 of which I should see, 2 of which I might see, and 1 of which I will actually see. But they're all in my queue, I swear. Of course, the only discs I've been getting through with any sort of speed are the TV shows so I guess I'm not meeting the original goal.

One of the features that I do enjoy is rating movies. I like that Netflix is keeping a tally of the number of movies that I have seen and remembered enough to give a rating. I'm over 300 now which is kind of a staggering number if you think about it. Granted some of those ratings include TV shows, but at least 90% are films. The best part of the ratings is that they will factor into an algorithm for Netflix to recommend more movies and guess how much you will like or dislike movies in your queue. The algorithm might need a bit more tweaking or more info from me: They overestimated how much I would like Obsessed (1.5 stars) and underestimated how much I would like Pageant (only 3.2 stars).

But then there are the groupings...

On the "Movies You'll [Heart]" page, films will be broken down into genres and listed with pictures of the DVD case and recommendations based on other movies you'll like. My favorite example so far: Stop Making Sense because I liked Chinatown, Network, and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. This blew my mind. Though I like SMS, I saw the other three movies within the last few months and I can honestly say that SMS never crossed my mind. Conversely, whenever I listed to the live version of "Life During Wartime" I don't instantly think of Howard Beale, red bicycles, or film noir. Though Netflix is correct in their outcome, the math is baffling.

Chinatown + Network + Pee-Wee = Stop Making Sense

I started looking at other recommendations to see how the math could be tweaked. Here is one example.

Network + Chinatown + When We Were Kings = The Thin Blue Line

I have not seen The Thin Blue Line, but knowing what it is about I can sorta buy the math here. But let's do some algebra:

Network + Chinatown = The Thin Blue Line - When We Were Kings
Network + Chinatown = Chinatown + Network
Chinatown + Network = The Thin Blue Line - When We Were Kings
The Thin Blue Line - When We Were Kings + Pee-Wee = Stop Making Sense

I...can sorta see how that would work. Here's another one:

Taking of Pelham 123 (original) = The Manchurian Candidate (original) + Network + Chinatown

P123 - MC = N + C
N + C = C + N
P123 - MC = C + N

M = Manchurian Candidate + Pee-Wee + The Office (UK Season 1)
M - Office = MC + PW

C + N + PW = SMS
P123 - MC + PW = SMS
P123 - M - Office = SMS


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