Beyond the Algorithm

As covered in my previous post, I watched 31 movies in 31 days. (Some may claim that simply suffering through as much of Soul Plane as physically possible without medical guidance requires an “asterisk” on my phenomenal feat, but I stand by my record.) As I looked over the opinions logged about that stint, I noticed something atypical about the movies I watched.

A strong majority of them were good. Sure, I usually watch at least some good movies to justify the amount of time I’m blasting my corneas with the flickering glow of radiation, but like a moth to a flame I have a penchant for diving into an evening of substandard entertainment. One dear friend argued that I’m a masochist, which is arguably true when you look at other facets of my life as well. Someone with whom I work once called me the “king of bad movies.”

I know, I know, I have a wonderfully supportive network of friends. I humbly acknowledge that.

A Little Context

I think I’ve made the disclaimer before, but it’s not just some hipster-doofus reflex that spurs me to watch bad things so I can brag about it how I “love bad movies.” It’s that I legitimately enjoy these movies when they capture the spirit of filmmaking that’s pure and delightful. A movie might be bad like Black Belt Jones, but there’s an exuberance that is infectious.

Even my beloved Star Trek V: The Final Frontier captures that kinetic flash of impish glee. It leaks through, that certain thrill that someone has in making a movie. It’s a combination of childlike impulses and love of creation, that I can’t resist.

Movies like that usually result in bigger risks and less self-consciousness. Things can get crazy. At worst, it’s a fun night spent seeing a product of love and sacrifice.

Some people have pills, I have movies.

Back to the Algorithm

The truth is that my viewing habits in the last year have largely been guided by Amazon Prime’s algorithm. It’s far better than the one on Netflix, which is just some sort of hideous hash designed to promote its latest product at all costs. Amazon Prime’s algorithm seems to weight its recommendations by the real connective tissue, as opposed to simplistic triggers built by some overpaid antisocial half-wit with anarchy stickers on his skateboard.

However, something odd happened in May. As I looked through my viewing habits, and then checked it against past habits, my movie watching took a decided turn for the better. It magically came out of nowhere. But a theory formed.

My subconscious mind, used to escaping the mundane through “bad” movies, has turned to good movies as a salve for the seeming insanity of the modern day. Obviously I needed to escape, the same way people who were living through the 1970s needed Star Wars.

That made me think of something a little deeper.

Also be careful that the algorithm doesn’t steal your brainwaves.

It’s very easy to get trapped by the algorithm. Everything we do is now virtually programmed to force feed what “it thinks” we should eat/see/do/think into our eyeballs by brute force. Looking at how I stepped away, and started choosing things without the aid of an algorithm, and I wound up finding the things that helped me escape my days.

That’s what entertainment is supposed to do. That’s what we are supposed to do. Embrace the things that help us, not cling to the things that trap us. So step away from the algorithm, take a risk, and try something new.

There are plenty of things that will reinforce your habits and ways of thinking. Find something fresh and new.

Failing that, stick with me on Letterboxd. Trust me, I’ll make it a fun ride.