5 links to stretch your movie knowledge

January 12th, 2009 by Ben

At Jinni, we aim to offer a new approach to choosing movies that’s richer and more meaningful than the usual genres and keywords. Of course we have other favorite sites that offer different perspectives or unexpected insights into the world of movies. Here’s a list of 5 interesting links to check out.

Are you good at recommending?
Video Store Clerk is an addictive game based on real Netflix data. Given a customer’s past ratings, guess how they rated a featured film. This is an effort at a “crowdsourcing” solution to the Netflix million dollar challenge to improve their recommendation algorithm. The idea is that these human predictions can be part of a better model than the purely algorithmic one being worked on by various teams competing for the prize.

What’s filming near you?
The Movie Map lets you search by title or location to see where your favorite films were shot – or what’s been filmed near you. Though the site is still missing a lot of photos and related links, it’s a fun way of bringing film closer to home.

Is your perspective international?
The world may be flat but aesthetics still vary widely among cultures. Seeing posters from around the world can open up new perspectives on the films you know – or offer a new and gratifying visual experience. This isn’t a single link but check out 50 incredible film posters from Poland or 50 stunning Asian movie posters.

Can you sum it up?
So many farfetched ideas, ridiculous dialogue lines… and pretentious filmmakers. The Editing Room takes it all down to size with hilariously abridged scripts that sum up several hours in a couple thousand well-chosen words. The scripts (and the writer) are sometimes to be found on Cracked as well.

What’s your movie taste?
Of course we have to mention Jinni. Powered by the Movie Genome, search, recommendations and a unique user taste model are based on cataloging each title by plot, mood, style, setting, and more. Take a closer look at your taste in movies with the Jinni Taste Test. Are you a Drama Addict, Escape Artist or Hero? Since most people like a variety of movie types – you might be more than one. You’ll need to quickly sign up here for Jinni to check it out.

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Popularity: 6% [?]

Kevin Smith and cinema’s biggest slackers

October 27th, 2008 by Barak

While you’re waiting impatiently for Zack and Miri Make a Porno to open in theaters this Friday, let’s talk about director Kevin Smith. In the style of many geniuses before him, Smith dropped out of film school, worked as a video store clerk, and sold his comic book collection to make his first movie, Clerks, on a budget of $27,000. Flush with $3 million at the box office and critical acclaim, Smith went on to make Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jersey Girl, and  Clerks 2. What do nearly all these movies have in common? Slackers. So in honor of KS’s favorite character type, here’s our list of top cinematic slackers. Grab that dirty clothing off the floor, collapse on your ratty couch, stuff stale cheetos in your face, and get inspired…

1. The Big Lebowski, 1998

Jeff Lebowski, known as the Dude, is a cheerful burnout whose world turns upside down when he’s mistaken for a millionaire with the same name – and finds himself in the LA underworld. The plot is frenetic, the dialogue is hilariously absurd, and the soundtrack and acting are unexpectedly stellar.

2. Clerks, 1994

Chronicling a day in the life of a Quick Stop clerk, Clerks captures the hilarity of the humdrum even as it raises slackerdom to existential proportions. From behind his counter, Dante Hicks tries to bring some order to the crazy customers, his mixed-up love life, and his incorrigible friend and fellow clerk Randal.

3. Knocked up, 2007

Lazy, immature 23-year-old Ben sporadically works on a pseudo-porn website in between smoking up with his roommates – until a one-night stand with Alison, a glamorous career woman, leads to accidental pregnancy. The parents-to-be have practically nothing in common, but they decide to keep the baby and give their relationship a chance.

4. Clerks 2, 2006

In this funny, very raunchy sequel to Clerks, it’s been more than 10 years but Dante Hicks and Randal Graves are still working at the same Quick Stop video and convenience store in New Jersey – until it burns down and they find jobs at Mooby’s, a nearby fast-food joint. The film features cameos from Jason Lee and Ben Affleck and a soundtrack ranging from Smashing Pumpkins to Alanis Morissette.

5. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, 2001

Kevin Smith’s fifth and final installment in his New Jersey Chronicles is a chance for scene-stealing stoner Jay and his taciturn sidekick Silent Bob to carry their own movie. It’s a lovingly crude comedy rife with celebrity cameos, slapstick movie spoofs, and clever jabs at Hollywood.

6. Dazed and Confused, 1993

Stoners, jocks, and snobby sorority girls wait for classes to end with drugs and parties. Richard Linklater’s movie is a comic, nostalgic cross-clique look at high school, with a painfully familiar and unforgettable cast of characters.

7. Billy Madison, 1995

To gain control of his family’s billion dollar business, a slacker must go back to school and get through grades 1-12 again in 6 months. The fact that he’s a hopeless goof who failed it all the first time doesn’t help.

8. Mallrats, 1995

When a couple of well-meaning slackers lose their girlfriends, they set about trying to reclaim their pride – and their women – in the most obvious place: the mall. The film marked Jason Lee’s debut as a leading man, and though it failed in theaters, it became a cult classic on video.

9. Big Daddy, 1999

Adam Sandler stars as Sonny Koufax, a perpetual adolescent whose girlfriend gives him an ultimatum: take some responsibility or kiss her goodbye. Magically, his roommate’s child turns up on his doorstep, and Sonny decides to care for the child and prove his maturity.

10. Slacker, 1991

Texan filmmaker Richard Linklater’s debut indie feature takes an original approach to narrative, creating an entirely new form of cinema in the process. Shot at a leisurely pace with a style similar to Robert Bresson, Slacker follows the unmotivated inhabitants of Austin, Texas over one day as they waste their time talking about politics, philosophy, and pop culture.

Want more? Search on Jinni for –
Slacker * Buddies * Stoners * Dropout * Indie * Life turned upside down

Popularity: 8% [?]

The President, starring as…

October 23rd, 2008 by Ben

This campaign season has unquestionably been a media circus. With characters and stories overshadowing real issues, sketches and parodies racing around the Internet, it sometimes feels like we’re watching a movie and not a serious political event. Or rather several movies, each candidate starring in their own version of events. If so, which movies do we feel we’re watching? And more than that, which movies do the candidates think they’re starring in? Below is my take. Feel free to add yours in the comments!

Barack Obama starring as… Harry Potter in Harry Potter


He’s the boy wonder who rallies those around him in the fight for good. He stirs hope in the tired elders and malice in his many enemies. He’s got a whole lot of new spells to learn, but his bravery and dedication will win in the end.

John McCain starring as… John McClane in Die Hard


A tough guy and maverick, with a history and a set of principles – and a wife who’s a whole lot more glamorous than he is. Now the world needs him once more – and he will save the day at any cost.


Sarah Palin
starring as… The Bride in Kill Bill


Life’s given her some hard knocks…and made her stronger. She’s not kind to her enemies (actually she likes to impale them) but her ruthless skills wow everyone. And she’s a mother too.


Joe Biden
starring as… Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting


He’s a blue-collar lad with some traumas in his past. He can be too direct – and he and his friends sometimes disappoint each other. But he’s smart and might just know how to win love.

What do all these movies have in common? Based on the Movie Genome that powers our website, Jinni.com, they all have themes of Underdog or One Man Army or both. Now who gets to play Rise to the Top (and a whole new batch of movies) on November 4…? Feel free to add your take below!

Popularity: 4% [?]

What’s wrong with genres?

October 5th, 2008 by Yosi

Genre is the entertainment industry’s main organizing concept. And Wikipedia tells us the problem: “Genres are vague categories with no fixed boundaries.”

If I say, “This is an action movie,” do you know enough to risk several hours of your time?

Without better ways to organize content, market leaders like Netflix invented a set of new genres to reflect variations on a few. Check it out to see whether the approach is easy to use. I don’t think so.

In the end, genre is good enough when professionals select content for us, but too limiting when we’re selecting for ourselves. While genre is a useful secondary concept, we need a more expressive primary language.

I believe we understand video experientially and emotionally – and that’s how we naturally look for what to watch. (e.g. “I feel like a light, upbeat movie.”) Genre just doesn’t capture that. At Jinni, we aim to create a multifaceted discovery engine that does.

Take Assassination of a High School President, which is releasing March 2009. Usually it’s catalogued as a comedy. On Jinni, it’s catalogued based on our Movie Genome. Users could come across it by searching a mix of words and phrases including Clever, Suspenseful, Cheating, Journalism, Teen Life, Neo-noir or while looking for movies that are similar to Brick, Young Sherlock Holmes, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and more.

Popularity: 3% [?]