Wednesday, August 22, 2007

NetFlix Knows Me!

It's eerie when those algorithmically produced ads and suggestions in your GMail or amid your Amazoning really hit close to home. It is strange to think that some Stanford engineer can write a couple of lines of code to figure you out - your habits, your preferences, your dislikes - and make new, smart, recommendations on new things you are likely to like. Here is what NetFlix has most recently suggested I might enjoy:



Let's breakdown NetFlix's stated logic here. NetFlix is recommending Strong Bad's Emails to me. I've been following Strong Bad, and the greater Homestarrunner.com online cartoon world, since 2002. But NetFlix doesn't know that.

Here, NetFlix supports it's suggestion by saying this recommendation is made "because you enjoyed" several other movies.
  • The first is Throne of Blood (1957). Set in feudal Japan, Throne is Akira Kurosawa's samurai-infused update of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Starring the venerable Toshirô Mifune, the film's conclusion is a visually stunning mix of diatribe, blind ambition, and thousands of arrows.
  • The second is Double Indemnity (1944). Billy Wilder defined a huge swath of film noir with this pulpy murder/insurance fraud/lust fiction. Based on the James M. Cain novel, it was adapted for the screen with Raymond Chandler and was nominated for seven Oscars. Every noirish film since owes a great deal to Indemnity.
  • The third was Arrested Development: Season 3 (2006). Though sadly canceled after only two and a half season, Arrested is hands-down the best television I have ever seen. Pushing the structural limits of the sitcom in new ways, once into its third season Arrested's referential jokes and layered writing was a marvel to behold. R.I.P. Bluths.
So, what do we have? We have a recommendation for an online cartoon based upon my liking a Japanese samurai Shakespeare adaptation, a pulp fiction noir film, and a canceled Fox sitcom. And yet NetFlix is right on the money. Perhaps my taste isn't so nuanced after all.

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