I have been a Netflix user off and on for well over five years. I briefly cheated on Netflix when Blockbuster started their online service, but I found Blockbuster to be lacking for at least three reasons.
1. I often got the wrong movie.
2. I often received a damaged movie.
3. Their website was TERRIBLE.
One of the things I hated about their website was its recommendations. Even after I rated numerous movies, it would still recommend movies I KNEW I would hate...Judge Dredd, anyone?
Netflix has created a recommendation engine that is top notch. I can nearly guarantee I will like a film Netflix recommends to me. On the other hand, I have, a few times, had friends and acquaintances recommend a movie and, when I looked on Netflix, the website suggested I wouldn't like it. What did I do? I rented the movie, of course. I can trust my friend over a computer right?
Wrong. Netflix is inside my head. They know my movie predilections better than my friends do. Only once, that I can remember, has the site ever steered me very wrong. It said I would really like "Secretary," and I didn't like it much at all. Other than that, Netflix's recommendations have been stellar.
Right now, I am fighting the urge to rent "American Gangster." Many people have recommended it to me, but Netflix says raters like me have only given it 2.9 stars. I've rented 2.9 star-type movies before, and, while I don't hate them, I have decided not to waste my valuable viewing time on movies that make me go "meh". Sorry, friends, I gotta go with Netflix.
The NY Times recently published a story about Netflix's offer of a one million dollar prize to the person/team who can improve Netflix's recommendation algorithm (called Cinematch) by ten percent. Many people are trying now, and the team in the lead has improved it by 9.44%. What keeps all the programmers from the 10% grail is Napoleon Dynamite...and movies like it. These films are polarizing films, quirkly films, ones that tend to get only a one star or a five star rating. According to the Netflix message board, following are the films that produce the most difficulty for the programmers (notice "Secretary" is on the list).
"What the #$*! Do We Know!?"
"Lost in Translation"
"I Heart Huckabees"
"The Royal Tenenbaums"
"The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou"
"The Passion of the Christ"
"Kill Bill: Vol. 1"
"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy"
"The Office: Series 1"
I notice a few patterns among the films.
1. There is a notable lack of blockbusters. The only one I see is Armageddon.
2. Many are more "contemplative" films, like Lost in Translation and Before Sunset.
3. There's only two films that might even be considered political: Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Passion of the Christ. The rest of the films divide us for aesthetic reasons, it seems.
4. The only director I see with two movies on the list is Wes Anderson, with The Life Aquatic (which I didn't like) and The Royal Tenenbaums (which I did like).
I could probably look for more, but I'd like to hear what you think. Any surprises? Patterns?