Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Netflix, or How I think it knows a wee bit too much about me that website...

So, as all you Netflix users must know, lately the DVD-rental site has been narrowing down their recommendations (not just from what films you're "interested in" - read: rented/have on queue, but also from answering a bunch of inane questions about what you like). Here's what it's been offering me lately:

Dark Movies based on classic literature (and hell if I ever thought I'd see 'Sci Fi's Tin Man and Grapes of Wrath in the same category...)
Romantic Screwball Comedies about Marriage (Who knew that was a 'genre'?)

Movies starring Meryl Streep (can't go wrong there, can you?)

Understated Movies Featuring a Strong Female Lead (sounds about right...)

Romantic Comedies Featuring a Strong Female Lead (Oddly enough, Netflix has yet to offer me anything with a "Strong Male Lead" or with a "Weak Female Lead"...)

And I had to share this, because it always makes me eyes roll and reminds me that you don't get snobbier/more pretentious than NYC:
How about you? What's Netflix been offering you?


Ed Howard said...

I have to ask: why is watching foreign movies always a sign of being "snobby" or "pretentious" rather than just, you know, a sign that you like foreign movies?

mB said...

I take your point. And I didn't mean to imply that liking Foreign films = being snobby. The comment was meant much more tongue in cheek than it came out.

I guess what I was getting at is that NYC, as the prime urban center of America makes for a good representative case of what in some circles would be called "snobbery/pretentiousness" (in others it'd be called "cultured/worldliness") especially if compared with - say Auburn, Alabama (the first Netflix city in their drop down menu) whose choices are:
1. Batman
2. The Longshots
3. Airplane!
4. Double Jeopardy
5. Bones: Season 3

And while I understand that the comment made it sound like I was ascribing intent where I shouldn't have ("don't assume that if people like foreign films they are automatically snobbish") I was simply trying to present a(n albeit - now that you mention it, close-minded) case of how NYC-Netflixer tends to have a more... worldly taste than - say - what Netflix believes MY taste is.

But I do take to task people who say that simply "liking foreign films" isn't in itself a cultural/political indicator, albeit one which need not be collapsed onto such trite labels like "snobby" and "pretentious" especially, because from my experience an apology for liking foreign films is usually premised on their de-factor superior quality simply by being foreign.

In any case, I wasn't trying to make as elaborate a point or cultural critique as this comment is making it sound, it was just... an aside tempered with a wink.

Ed Howard said...

Ahh, OK, I see what you were getting at; sorry for taking it wrong. It's definitely true that as an approximation of "local" taste, that particular list could come from nowhere but NYC. I can only see that as a good thing, though. Foreign films are not intrinsically superior to American films -- that'd be a ridiculous assertion, although sadly there are probably people who would make it anyway -- but I think it's fair to say that it's desirable to have an awareness of foreign films in addition to American ones. Just as it's desirable to be aware of older films rather than just the newest thing. It's the breadth of experience that makes one "cultured," not just thinking that something must be cool because it's in French.

So long story short, we agree. Sorry for pouncing on you!

FeedFlix said...

Just wanted to let you know about our site FeedFlix- FeedFlix is a free site that helps Netflixers make the most of their Netflix subscription. FeedFlix uses the Netflix API and it only takes a minute to get started with FeedFlix.

J.D. said...

Scarlett Johansson as a "strong female lead" in GWAPE, pffft.

Jose said...

I wish there was someone/something offering me "The Philadelphia Story" too!
Then again if we had Netflix here I'd never leave the house...I think.
Oh and La Notte rocks!

mB said...

@ Ed Howard: Pouncing is encouraged and welcome. It gives me ample opportunity to fire back and clarify and expand on my thoughts :P

@ J.D.: Yeah... When has ScarJo played a "strong female lead" anyways?

@ Jose: Yeah, Netflix is a bit like crack... hard to let go of it once it's there. Which is how I average a movie a day.

aStorygirl said...

I've been using Jinni (http://www.jinni.com) which has free features quite similar to what Netflix introduced more recently. The best part is the search, which lets you slice and dice in interesting ways - or throw together a bunch of terms and see what comes out.