erik lundegaard

Thursday February 03, 2022

What is Brad Pitt 'Known For'?

From IMDb's page on Brad Pitt:

Me: Um ... So what is it with you guys and producers anyway?

IMDb: What do you mean?

Me: Brad Pitt is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, yet your website, the biggest, most important movie website in the world, says he's best known for producing “Ad Astra” in 2019.

IMDb: Yes.

Me: How do you figure?

IMDb: We don't. It does.

Me: The algorithm.

IMDb: Yes. You see, the “Known For” titles are automatically chosen through a complex weighting system. Some of the factors of this complex weighting system include what the job is—a credit as director will have more weight, for example, than a credit as production assistant—as well as the frequency of the credit in the context of the person's filmography.

Me: But ... Brad Pitt has 84 acting credits and 65 producing credits. He's more frequently an actor.

IMDb: Yes.

Me: And you have producing first.

IMDb: Yes.

Me: So ... [shakes head] ... does that mean a credit as a producer is given more weight than a credit as an actor?

IMDb: That's proprietary information.

Me: Because you also suggest that Tom Hanks is mostly known as a producer (of “Cast Away”) and Steven Spielberg is mostly known as a producer (of “Schindler's List”).

IMDb: Yes.

Me: Tom Hanks. The most popular actor of his generation. And Steven Spielberg. The most successful director in movie history. They're “known for” producing. 

IMDb: Yes. 

Me: How?

IMDb: It says.

Me: Where?

IMDb: On their page.

Me: That's your page.

IMDb: But users create the results.

Me: Via your algorithm!!!!

[Long pause]

[Longer pause]

Me: [Heavy sigh] So let's get at “Ad Astra” then. Why is Brad Pitt's role producing “Ad Astra” at No. 1 rather than some other movie he produced? Like “Moonlight” or “World War Z” or “12 Years a Slave”?

IMDb: Several other factors in our complex weighting system include the popularity of the title, the average user rating, and any awards won by the title.

Me: So how does that explain “Ad Astra”? Among Brad Pitt's credits, on your own website, “Ad Astra” ranks 68th by IMDb user rating, 29th by IMDb number of votes, and 19th by IMDb “popularity.” And it won no Oscars. So how do 68, 29, 19 and zero add up to 1? 

IMDb: We rely on other indicators.

Me: Which are?

IMDb: Proprietary.

[Long pause]

[Longer pause]

Me: I know this is a small thing, given all the problems in the world, but IMDb is such a trove of information about the history of cinema. It's important. You're important. But the stuff you're churning out, this stuff, is less information than misinformation. And right now we have way too much misinformation. Don't you want to try to fix it?

IMDb: That's up to yooooooouuuuuuu.

[And with that, IMDb, the biggest, most important movie website in the world, retreats back into a realm where Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are best known as producers, Peter Bogdanovich is best known as an actor, and Bo Derek, the original “10,” isn't known for “10” at all.]

Posted at 06:55 AM on Thursday February 03, 2022 in category Technology  
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