Friday, March 25, 2011

My Netflix Nemesis

I'll say it: I think my Netflix account has been taken over by a ruthless, vengeful android. I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out.

I'm sitting there crying on my couch after a really touching film about something like childhood prostitution, an exonerated convict, or genocide in a far away land (I watch a lot of documentaries), and Netflix catches me off guard and at that moment "innocently" asks me to rate the movie, immediately. I feel like I owe it to these people to express my concern for their plight and my gratitude to the director for making such a powerful film by rating the thing 5/5 stars. "More people should watch this!," I think to myself. What an idiot.

Netflix wastes no time in using my moment of weakness against me. My account fills before my eyes with only the most depressing, horrific movies. Romantic comedy? Ha. "Our best guess for Lisa: 2/5 stars based on your previous ratings," Netflix taunts. Comedy? "Our best guess for Lisa: 1/5 stars, you cultural elitist - why don't you go watch another documentary." Netflix hates me and clearly has me pegged as some morose fatalist who gets off on watching lots of people die in movies.

So I try to beat the system. I start rating movies not based on their quality, but instead based on how I would feel about being tied down in a room and forced to watch movies like that all day, every day, for the rest of my life. I stand in my apartment with the rating prompt on the screen and point my WiiMote like a gun. "What did I think of the Holocaust movie? 1 STAR! Screw you, Netflix recommendation engine!"

Netflix responds with a quick and silent blow, filling my account with movies that are horrible in a whole new way, clearly to teach me not to trifle with the dark overlord. I gave Zoolander a decent rating one night while I was drunk, thinking that might invite more comedies instead of movies about war crimes. What follows? A queue full of "5-star" SNL movies, buddy flicks and movies directed by the ever-illustrious auteur himself: Ben Stiller. Netflix schooled me, plain and simple. Tropic Thunder, for the lose.

My last resort was to just start rating EVERYTHING 3 stars. Good, bad, amazing, horrible - 3 star rating. Neutral. Switzerland. Boom. What now, Netflix? Bring it on.

Some people never learn.

I go into my queue the other day to find that Netflix started giving high projected ratings to movies which, based purely on their description, sound kind of good, but I'm not familiar with them. Maybe they deal with headier issues than a modeling competition, but they sound enjoyable, at least films you'd want to watch without cutting yourself. Just the thing for an empty queue that needs filling. Add to queue. Add to queue. Add to queue. Emails confirming immediate shipment. I'm feeling good, triumphant even! And then I see it:

"Based on your interest in these movies, we also recommend the following similar films:

Life is Beautiful
Casualties of War
Simon Birch
Sophie's Choice
Bambi."

Dude, seriously?

Okay, I surrender. YOU WIN, Netflix! Okay?! Can you hear me in there?! You are smarter than me, I don't know anything, and trying to prove otherwise was clearly a poor life choice. I'm so over it. Go back and tell all your superhuman friends - Watson, Hal, whoeverthehell you hang out with - humans are no match for you. Okay? So please leave us alone. God, computers are seriously the worst. I'm gonna go call Ken Jennings now so we can have a good cry. Smug bastards.

1 comment:

Erik said...

I'm quite the prude with my 5 star rating. It is given out maybe once every few months, and never immediately after viewing. (moment of weakness you mentioned)

I demote and promote stuff a lot, too. Weeds went from 5 to 4 stars. Ponyo (<-watch if you haven't) just went from 4 to 5. The evil netflix android hasn't taken over my recommendations yet, but it's firing some warning shots. It still thinks I want to watch this Karate Kid remake with Jaden Smith, Eat Pray Love, and the genre "comedies featuring a quirky female lead".