How To Pick A Movie

Do you ever use rating systems for movies? The kind that Netflix and Yahoo Movies use? People rate movies they’ve seen and then it spits out its prediction if you’ll like a movie you haven’t seen.

The two systems are vastly different. Yahoo asks you to rate a movie from A+ (Oscar-Worthy) to F (All-time Worst), while Netflix’s system rates from 5 (Loved It) to 1 (Hated It).

See the difference? Yahoo asks you to be a movie critic, while Netflix just wants your emotional reaction. Don’t worry about the acting, camera work, or script. Did it grab you? Or did it make you feel ill?

In my experience, the Netflix system is phenomenally accurate, while Yahoo’s is iffy. For instance, there’s a movie out called Giant Monster Attacks New York! Yahoo thinks “I’ll Probably Like This Movie” whereas I can categorically state I Would Hate That Movie. And further, the chances of me spending nine bucks to watch a giant monster attack New York yet again are few to non-existent. Giant monsters bore me after ten seconds. I can’t help it. It’s the way I was made. You got a problem with that? Go see Al Pacino.

Netflix won’t comment. Not enough data in from people who share my predilections. And no wonder.

But Netflix said I would LOVE a groaning old classic called Children of Paradise, made in France during the Nazi occupation. At this point, I figure Netflix is trustworthy so I ordered it from the downtown library. It arrived on two ancient videocassettes.

Well, Patrushka and I flipped! Finally, a real movie about people who are bigger than normal people, who feel more joy and more sorrow and suffer more but with great actorliness. A whole unknown world of mid-nineteenth century theater and crooks, a great mime and a super-villain wannabe and a beautiful but doomed courtesan and…well, we both flipped, okay? You got a problem with that? You like giant monsters, I like Balzac. Netflix doesn’t care. Just tell ’em what you liked already.

The one thing I have to stop doing is listening to critics. They mostly come from the desensitized generation, the young ones who have some kind of skin over their eyes I don’t have. I went to see There Will Be Blood because the critics shouted Yippee, Finest Film Of The Decade If Not All Time! and it won fifty-eight awards and it was about oil scandals in LA in the 1920s (like Chinatown, or so I thought)…but I came out ready to commit suicide. It is one of the bleakest, most unrelenting views of disintegrating human hearts and minds I’ve seen. In fact, every character in the film with the exception of the little kid victim, is a hypocrite, a power-grabber, a fool or a fraud. In its universe, love is a laugh. So ‘Ugliest” would be a good award category for it if the Academy would start one, please. There isn’t even any humor to give us a few moments of respite. Just straight over the cliff for one hundred and fifty-eight minutes. I finally went and sat in the lobby until my pals came out. So I missed the part at the end where the hero bashes in the skull of the hypocritical preacher.

On the Yahoo system I would have to give that movie a B+ (Memorable). The acting and camera work and all that baloney were fine. But on Netflix I gave it a ringing ONE (Hated It!) because, guess why…I hated it!

Wouldn’t it be handy to have a Netflix recommendation system for music, books, refrigerators, cute little kitties, and prospective spouses? I think so. No more guesswork! Where are the algorithmic visionaries when we need them? We’d never again have to suffer through cruel refrigerators and hypocritical thermos-bottles. We’d be on the Road to Utopia. Which was a very funny movie starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour. Don’t worry, you can trust me. I’m not now and never have been a movie critic.

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