Monday, January 15, 2007

Random notes

I'm so disgustingly happy that Highway 61 is finally coming out on DVD this month, I can't even begin to explain. Now, Netflix will just get it in their catalog, all will be well with the universe.

In a similar vein, I just saw Alan Rudolph's Roadie for the first time. I can't imagine why I haven't before. It's wonderfully charming and quirky, although I'm not sure it puts its terrific soundtrack to as good of use as it could, although that could partly be the DVD sound mix. It's probably not for everyone, being something like Robert Altman's The Blues Brothers might have been like.

It's quite winning, with a charming cast, lead off by Meat Loaf and featuring Art Carney as the inventive Corpus C. Redfish, whose motto is "Everything works if you let it", which is, it turns out, the movie's as well.

Somebody turned me on to Flixster, a wonky movie fan version of MySpace (or presumably Friendster, whenever it was conceived). I can neither claim to be pleased nor can I claim I haven't quickly gotten addicted.

Mind you, I really didn't need another place to go and rate thousands of movies. They're already up more than one place, and I've been quite happy with having them up at the Netflix, which seems to also be easing its way toward a weird social format.

Not to mention that its database of information on movies is shockingly weak. It only lists two movies on the filmography of Dick Miller, as the first example I noticed. And similar things come up with Tomás Milián, despite listings for many movies in which he is the star. And while my complaint here seems specific to my weird cult movie favorites, I'm noticing increasingly how many pretty big movies are also missing substantial credits.

The thing that hooked me, however, is that they have a system to add "if you liked this, you might like this" suggestions to various movies.

This is incredibly wonky, too, although the system acknowledges its still a work in progress.

It works like this, someone goes to the page for a movie and adds a suggestion. It then adds this suggestion to that movie and adds the reverse suggestion to the suggested movie. People then either go to the page for either movie and rate whether the suggestions are worthwhile or rate them as worthwhile or not when they ask for recommendations from the database.

The flaws are many, and perhaps if I cared a tad more I'd email my solutions to the people there, but writing a grumpy blog sounds much more my style.

First, and perhaps most importantly, the site doesn't make nearly clear enough that the suggestions go both ways. I'm quite sure that many people see the suggestion that if you like, say, John Carpenter's The Fog you might like that terrible remake and think, "But that totally sucked, that's a terrible suggestion.", and click the thumbs down without ever thinking that the reverse suggestion might be useful and turn people on to the original... or whatever example works for you, including, God forbid, the reverse.

Secondly, people load up the suggestions with either genuinely random choices, presumably because they're eight, or ones based entirely on title, like people who liked Dark Waters might like Jaws, making me roll my eyes way back into my head, despite enjoying both movies quite a bit. I presume this is the reason someone said my suggestion that if one liked the new Alpha Dog, they might enjoy Mario Bava's Rabid Dogs was bad, despite the obvious plot connection.

Which leads us to my issue, which is that, to avoid having random or idiotic suggestions pop up on people's recommendations, it clearly has a threshold that must be reached before it offers people the recommendation. This is fair enough, but it keeps the very relatively obscure and neglected movies that might be best served by this kind of recommendation system from ever making it into people's recommendations, as no one ever sees them to acknowledge if they're worthwhile suggestions.

And, for some odd reason, it makes me unreasonably happy to think I could influence people someone to watch some off-the-wall favorite of mine nearly by happenstance. I'm not sure what it says about me, but that makes me much happier to think than that I'd write a particularly sharp and insightful review here and inspire people to see something.

Wrapping up the random notes on a more positive note, I saw Bandidas, a Euro Western, co-written and co-produced by Luc Besson, and starring Salma Hayek and Penélope Cruz. It's remarkably charming and fun. Certainly an improvement over Louis Malle's Viva Maria! with Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot, which I want so much to love, but never do.

I'm quite sure it's not going to win over everyone. It's a Euro Western through and through, in every way except obvious imitation of Sergio Leone. As a fan of the genre, however, I loved it, and I can't remember the last time I fully enjoyed a performance by either of the leads, including the former's Oscar nominated turn in the disappointing Frida.

The movie is stolen by Steve Zahn, in the plum role of the 19th Century forensics expert who the leads compete over who can kiss him the best, and Dwight Yoakam as a villain just a hair more dimensional than Snidely Whiplash, but deliciously so. It's all very upbeat and ¡Viva la Revolución! and catfights and all of that.

Have fun, kids.

Remember, everything will work out, if you let it.

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