Netflix and Chaos

Sometimes I feel sorry for Netflix. Well, as sorry as one can feel towards a combination of old style in-home Blockbuster and new-age Artificial Intelligence.

You see, there are three individuals who use Netflix in my house, and we could not be more different. Can you imagine the havoc we must play on the poor program’s algorithms?

First, you have me. I love horror. I’m not ashamed. Love it. “No One Lives” is one of my favorite movies – the name sort of gives away the plot, but hey. Great movie. Classic B movies such as Dead Silence? I am so there, popcorn in hand. BUT. I’m also addicted to British crime and mysteries such as Miss Fisher, Midsomer Murders, and Ripper Street. Throw in period dramas like Pride and Prejudice, Peaky Blinders, The Tudors, Versailles, and The Borgias, along with a smattering of off the wall shows like Psych and Monk, and well…you’ll kind of get a sense of my eclectic taste.

On my chaotic watching alone, Netflix could not be blamed for pulling its hair out when trying to pull together a cohesive list of matching shows.

But then you add in my kids.

There’s the daughter who watches anime along with sitcoms like Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Office, and Parks and Rec. BUT. She also likes superhero movies and so gets her fix by watching Gotham and Daredevil. Continuing her love for animated movies, she watches those frequently, but only certain ones – namely Megamind, Moana, Emperor’s New Groove, Road to El Dorado, Zootopia and the like – no standard princesses for her. Add in her love for stand-up comedy, especially that of John Mulaney, and movies such as The Way He Looks and Out in the Dark, and you’ve got quite a confusing trend for Netflix to track.

The boy on the other hand, he watches a different kind of anime (I’m told there are MANY varying styles of anime) and Seth Rogen movies (ugh!), and a surprising number of stand-up comedians I’ve never heard of before but that I’m assured are hilarious. BUT. He shares my love of comic book inspired entertainment and watches Iron Fist, among others. So, that’s a good thing.

I can only imagine what Netflix’s algorithms must think about our household. As many of you probably already know, Netflix loves to make recommendations “for your viewing pleasure.” It’s one of the system’s more endearing qualities. Netflix’s complicated programming allows for it to analyze your extensive viewing selections and then based on that analysis, the system generates a list of shows it recommends that should, theoretically, match your past selections.

Well. With the diverse t.v. viewing going on in my household, how on earth can Netflix condense these wide-ranging choices into a coherent recommendations list? One answer. It can’t. And for that, I feel sorry for it. The little man in there must be really scratching his head. Or pulling his hair out. One or the other. I don’t blame the system. I mean, it must truly appear that at times we are simply choosing shows at random. You should see some of the recommendations we get in return. I find it quite amusing myself.

After checking our “top picks for you” list recently, I found that next to Axe Murders of Villisca, is Minions. The Unborn has a place next to That 70s Show. Secret Life of Pets is immediately to the left of Twin Peaks. Chicken Little? It resides beside Doc Martin. Arrested Development was next to Octonauts for god’s sake. Last Airbender is followed by It Follows (a movie about a sexually transmitted curse – I had to check the plot after seeing the name). British comedian Jimmy Carr’s latest stand-up is listed right beside an anime called Mushi-Shi. The odd pairings go on and on.

So yeah, quite the eclectic list of recommendations, I must say. It’s sort of like my bookshelf, I suppose. If anyone wants to come in and go through the list without asking, they get what they deserve.

 

 

What Did You Say??

I was watching a Hallmark channel love story this past week – one of their typical “June wedding” movies.  And as I usually do, I had the captions on because, having the attention span of a gnat, I don’t always catch the dialogue of t.v. shows and the captions help. Usually. But in the case of this destination-wedding themed bit of escapism, the captions let me down. Big time.

I can’t be the only one to have noticed. I mean, I realize these movies cater to a very particular niche, but nonetheless, I’m sure they have a somewhat broad audience who, like me, partake in the weekly guilty pleasure. You’d think with the revenues generated by the romance industry, especially considering it’s Hallmark of all people, that there would be a higher quality of closed-captioning available. Well, you would be wrong.

Now, I realize that most captioning is mechanized these days and with automated translations come massive translation fails, especially when the actor on-screen is speaking a language the captioning program doesn’t understand.  I’ve seen some very good, high quality movies or shows where the caption states “Jane Doe speaking Vulcan…” or “John Smith speaking in High Valyrian,” which demonstrates an obvious programming flaw, but at least in those cases, even the caption program realizes, hey, I need to be respectful here even though I can’t make heads or tails of whatever it is they’re saying. If we’re really lucky, the movie’s internal production system kick in and the translation appears via subtitles built into the movie. Sadly, that’s not always the case, as proven by my foray into the wilds of Hallmark movies previously mentioned above.

So, as I said, the plot was centered around a destination wedding set at a resort in Acapulco, Mexico, complete with white sand beaches, turquoise water, the obligatory romantic tension between completely dissimilar people, and Spanish-speaking locals…you know how they do…in Mexico. With such a heads-up as to the setting of this movie, you’d think that a strategy would’ve been put into place to cover and possibly translate any oh, I don’t know, Spanish dialogue. But there, you would be wrong again.

I’ll set up one of the scenes in question for you – zoom in on a beachside table at which sits the starring couple, who just happen to have perfect teeth and great tans, and who also just so happened to be in love years ago though it didn’t work out because they were completely unsuited for each other and who now reluctantly find themselves thrown back together while planning the wedding of a friend and whilst doing so forget that they’re completely unsuited for each other and eventually fall in love all over again – but, BUT before they realize they are once again besotted with each other, it is time to try out different foods for the dinner aspect of the aforementioned wedding they are planning – hence sitting beachside, surrounded by food. Enter one Spanish-speaking local who, apparently flustered by the couple’s nitpicking at each other, does his nervous best to describe the food he has prepared – and the results are these impressively awful captions.

 

 

I don’t think that means what you think it means…

I pretty much had the same look of utter confusion, though admittedly my teeth aren’t nearly as perfect. So. Yeah. I’m hoping before Hallmark releases another movie with bilingual dialogue that they sort of up their game on the whole captioning thing — on so many levels. One can only hope, but in the meantime, I won’t hold my breath.

 

Midsomer Lifestyle

Have any of you ever seen the show Midsomer Murders? It a great show from England about two detectives, The Barnabys (first there is Tom, played by the incomparable John Nettles, who lasted for 14 seasons and then Tom’s younger cousin John, played by Neil Dudgeon, who takes over when Tom retires) and their varying Sergeants who assist in their crime-solving routines. If you haven’t seen it yet here’s the basic premise: Set in the fictional county of Midsomer, the Barnabys take on and solve murder cases, which are never in short supply given the area’s shockingly high murder rate. I. Love. This. Show. I’ve been binge-watching (or rather, re-binge-watching) this week to my daughter’s dismay.  To say she isn’t into languid, picturesque British detective shows is an understatement.

the cousins Barnaby

The villages of Midsomer — many named Midsomer something, as in Midsomer Florey or Midsomer Worthy, or perhaps something as delightful as the jaunty Badger’s Drift — are so tranquil and charming that I don’t see how anyone would be angry enough to commit murder there. But murder they do, and the perpetrators never seem satisfied with just one, either – more often than not, there are multiple per show.  It’s like potato chips with these people. There was only one episode in the history of the series that had zero murders, and from what I understand, fans were outraged with that singular murder-free storyline…go figure. Who knew there were such rabid viewers addicted to rampant violence running amok amid an idyllic backdrop?  If you’re a fan of fun crime dramas this is for you. There’s no shortage of material. The show started in 1997 and as of right now 19 seasons have already aired.

If you’re a fan of breathtaking English countryside, this is also the show for you. The locations in which they shoot are always beautiful, historical, and quaint little hamlets. They’re so quiet and comfortable-looking that I’ve daydreamed about buying a little cottage in one of these villages and living that Midsomer country life. You may be asking, “But what about, you know, all the murders that happen there?” I’ve thought about it and while it would be a disadvantage if my neighbors were getting iced all the time, it just might be worth the view. These towns are REALLY pretty. And you know, the violent crime rate does give everyone something to talk about down at the local pub. So there’s that.

Amazingly enough, while from the outside, these locations seem about as far away from modern technology as one could be, everyone (in the later episodes of course) have a laptop and a smart phone. Flip phones were all the rage in the earlier shows. It’s not just the “old-money” rich, either, in their truly opulent homes, and who seem to outnumber the middle-class residents of the area by a landslide. No, everyone from the farmer down the lane to the Lord who renovated that castle up the street have electronics that make me envious…and the data to back it up, despite nary a cell tower cluttering up the landscape. I mean, I can’t even get service in my local grocery store, let alone when travelling between towns on our rural backroads.

Outside of the steady flow of homicide, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to live in Midsomer. If it existed, that is. With the lovely to-die-for (ha!) scenery AND the possibility of unlimited data, I think I could ignore the rampant carnage.

Seriously though, how is Wi-Fi not an issue in Midsomer? That’s the real mystery I think the Barnabys should spend some time investigating.

And God Created a Movie Critic

I was staying up late one night, as so often happens, and watched a movie that I first saw years ago (and no, not when it first came out).  It was And God Created Woman, filmed in 1956, starring the French sex symbol, Brigitte Bardot.

First off, if you surf the web at all, you may have seen photos of an elderly Bardot (she’s 82 by the way) with the headline “Stars who have aged badly.” These so-called headlines bring you to a site that just wants to sell you something, but the principle of it is what really irks me.  The woman is 82 and these types of sites implicitly criticize her, and other former sex symbols, for not looking exactly the same at 82 as they looked at 20!  How dare they not get a facelift and a tummy tuck so they can age “gracefully.” Yet if they do get a facelift or tummy tuck, then the criticism is, “Oh, how dare they try plastic surgery to stay young, they should just get old like everybody else.”

It’s hell to be a former sex goddess, I can tell you. (Well, not from personal experience, but hey, it’s just common sense!)

Anyway, that brings me to And God Created Woman. It wasn’t my cup of tea when I first watched it and this next time around sort of cemented my disdain.

You’ve got to understand that European films have always been distinctively different from American films. American films had a film code that limited what could and could not be shown on-screen, whereas European movies were much more permissive. So a European movie made in 1956 would be exploring themes that were explored very differently in American films – if they were explored here at all. But even for all that, And God Created Woman was quite scandalous for the time period.

god-created-woman-pic

I haven’t researched it enough to know if others think like me but I do know in the official descriptions of the film and in media content about the film, no one mentions anything about what I’m about to say.  There was just one critic, Dennis Schwartz, who sort of seemed to support my opinion:

“The public loved it and it became a big box-office smash, and paved the way for a spate of sexy films to follow. What was more disturbing than its dullish dialogue and flaunting of Bardot as a sex object, was that underneath its call for liberation was a reactionary and sexist view of sex.”

Bear with me as I explain the plot to make my point.

The film follows an orphan, Juliette, who was taken in by a family in a small fishing village. She’s gorgeous and on the surface of things, appears to have a very high sex drive with exhibitionist tendencies, and a desperate need for men.

However, in the character that I saw on the screen, I saw depression (she has severe mood swings), anxiety, a severe and deep-seated desire to be loved and accepted by men that could stem from depression, childhood trauma, or some other issue left undeveloped on-screen.

Every man around her uses her. The older brother, Antoine, despises her, yet sought her out to sleep with her, used her, then left her. Of course it was her fault he wanted to have sex with her. So he carries the torch of contempt while continuing to toy with her emotions. The mega-rich, and much older, businessman, Éric, acts in the same manner – he sees in her something he wants, much like his proposed casino, and is determined to manipulate her to his own needs and desires.  While these men are chasing her, they are at the same time criticizing, mocking, and talking bad about her…how her looks are meant to destroy men, her high sex drive makes her a slut/whore, and they vilify her – while at the same time, wanting her. To me that sounds like rationalization, manipulation, and misogyny at its finest.

At one point, the older brother knows his younger brother, Michel, is in love with Juliette, yet during a boat trip with her, after Antoine and she get stranded…what does he do?  Has sex with her. But in the end, he blames her for his transgression (because obviously he has no control over his own impulses) and accuses her of manipulating him when it was clearly the other way around (to me) and he took advantage of what is obviously a vulnerable woman. Not to mention betraying his brother’s trust. But no, that was all on her. Couldn’t blame himself for not keeping it in his pants. I mean, come on.

No one, with the exception of Michel, truly cared for her. Michel. He saw past her mood swings, her so-called sex drive (which to me always seemed “put on” in an effort to be accepted and loved by men rather than a true sex drive), her obvious manic episodes…he saw the real her and loved her. At the end, he is the only one who stood by her, albeit a bit roughly.  However, his attitude and actions convince Juliette, finally, that he’s not leaving her side despite her frenzied behavior. And this in spite of the others trying to convince him she was a bad person. Michel was the only male character to rise above and do his gender justice. Quite frankly, I felt this was the movie’s only saving grace — the ending — when Juliette finally discovered the “one” who truly loved the real person she was inside.  We should all be so lucky.

But even as the credits rolled, my thoughts remained snagged on the general theme, rather than the final scene.

While not her first movie, this particular film made Brigitte Bardot a global “sex symbol.” Or a “sex kitten.” And what did those words mean to men at the time – or even now?

Not a beautiful woman, self-confident, who had the respect and admiration of men, but rather someone whom they lusted after – whom they would possess if they could and whom they would equally despise if she allowed them to possess her. Much like the character in the movie.

I didn’t see an erotic drama in this movie, nor did I see it as a film reveling in the “sexual revolution” or celebrating sexual liberation.  I saw a sad testament of a woman desperately seeking love and acceptance and only finding men who wanted to use her and throw her away.

That’s Entertainment

The following gives you an inside view on Sarah and I deciding whether to watch a movie or not.  Cause I know you guys are eaten up with curiosity over just how we manage to come to such an important decision.

Sarah: That movie looks sooo weird!  Even for us.

Me (*gleefully*): I know, right!?

Together: Let’s watch it!

Her Name was Lola

As all my readers know, I’m a Looney Tunes freak. Key word: freak.  I know this about myself. And of course, I’m old school Looney Tunes.

There is a new Looney Tunes Show with new animation techniques that I don’t like and voices that try to sound like Mel Blanc but don’t, so I just shunned it altogether.

Now, I thought it’d be okay for today’s generation of kids. If you’ve never heard the “real” voices of these characters – as brought to life by Mel Blanc – could you really tell the difference?

So, one day I walked into the living room to find my daughter watching the show, and I decided what the heck, I’d give it a try.

I admit, I got hooked on the characters.  This modern-day Looney Tunes is more of a soap opera than what us “old folks” are used to, but still, it was okay. Not as bad as I thought and certainly more enjoyable than I thought possible once you got used to the animation and the voices.

But then, Lola Bunny came on the scene and my jaw just dropped with shock. Admittedly, I was forewarned by my daughter about Lola’s character, but I was still surprised by how awful her character was. Awful. Let me explain.

Lola Bunny was first introduced as a love interest for Bugs Bunny in the 1996 movie Space Jam (you know the one, where Michael Jordan is transported into the animated world of the Looney Tunes, and has to help the “Tune Squad” play basketball against the “villainous monstars”).

Let me quote Wikipedia about Lola’s character: “She is a tough talking, no-nonsense woman who is extremely independent and self-reliant. She is highly athletic while also incredibly seductive in her behavior.” Okay, so we can do without the seductive part, but the rest was a pretty good role model for kids watching the movie.

Next was a show called Baby Looney Tunes. In this cartoon Lola – like all the other characters, portrayed as a baby – is still intelligent and somewhat of a tomboy.

Now, contrast that with her characterization in the new Looney Tunes Show.

All of a sudden, she has become this complete and utter airhead who exemplifies the “blonde” jokes that are so often bandied about…and then some.

Let me quote Wikipedia again (because, you know, you may think it’s just me over-analyzing these cartoons, but it’s not! Anyone who watches the new Looney Tunes Show can see the complete destruction of her character):  “As opposed to her personality in Space Jam, she is portrayed as a scatterbrained, indecisive, gabby young woman who tends to obsess over Bugs, whom she refers to as “Bun-Bun.” She is very dedicated to achieving goals but oftentimes tends to forget what she was doing. She’s unable to settle on a decision, even for something as simple as what she wants to drink.  …she is overly talkative to the point of irritation.

WTFWhat happened?

All of a sudden Lola has been reduced from a strong female character to the “comic relief,” and not even good comic relief. At least being demoted for the purpose of decent comic relief would be somewhat acceptable. Yes, I get it, it’s the Looney Tunes Show, but she’s not LOONEY. She doesn’t have Bugs’ obnoxious charm or Daffy’s egotistical flair. She doesn’t even have Taz’s glorious rage. Instead, she’s just a stereotypical dimwitted, airhead female character (cause that’s just what we need more of on t.v.) – and just what is she telling the young boys and girls that are watching this show?

She’s telling girls that it’s okay, even expected, to be dim and uninformed about the world around you and to natter on, chattering about absolutely nothing of importance, because you’re a girl, and if boys like you they’ll put up with it. And they’re teaching boys that girls have nothing whatsoever important to say, so just kind of humor them because, after all, they’re just girls and what more should you expect?

And why is this funny?  Someone, tell me – why is this funny?

 

FROM THIS

FROM THIS

 

TO THIS

TO THIS

T.V. Fails

Every time, and I mean every time (because it seems I don’t learn), I’m running through the t.v. guide a bit too quickly and I happen to catch a glimpse of “Keeping up…,” my nerdy, British-t.v. loving brain races with joy for the briefest little moment until, with utter and complete disappointment, I finish reading “…with the Kardashians.”

 

click photo for link to show bloopers -- sooo worth it

click photo for link to Keeping up Appearances bloopers — sooo worth it