Netflix erases user reviews and slips in the thumbs-up

I was pretty annoyed (for at least a few minutes) when I found out Netflix planned to axe its user review system, and unless I missed most of the official flaggings, the change seemed to take place with very little warning.
It’s a shame this resource is no longer available. Netflix said it wasn’t important enough to warrant continuation. But I disagree and even do so strongly. User reviews were a big part of my Netflix experience, and without them I feel the loss. They helped me decide whether or not a show was worth watching – if it averaged 2 to 3 stars (probably not), 3 to 4 (give it a go), an exciting mix of polarised 1’s and 5’s (let me at it!)

But Netflix has erased all traces of this useful resource, scrapped the log-book of voices from financial supporters such as myself. Of course we still get to have an opinion. It’s just the scope of our input has been reduced to almost zilch. We get to choose between thumbs up and thumbs down. A hokey, nuance-free icon speaks for us now. Yes or no. Good or bad. These digestible, binary chunks feed behind-the-scenes algorithms, the beasts crunching yays or nays into so-called, ‘deep-learning.’

If I say thumbs up to one show a mathematical construct can determine if I will like another. The digits send signals to central control where Brain gets to know us as valued customer, all the better to please and anticipate our needs, present us with our ‘best fit’ viewing.

The Brain soon learns I like the documentary genre. The Brain comes to find that I don’t like crime. The Brain understands that that I’m fond of foodie porn. But is the Brain at all cognisant of what makes a show great? Narrative structure or sound motivation? And can the Brain well admit that many shows are shit? Is there a Good/Bad continum because if so logic follows, and 50% of all Netflix shows must sit below the mid.

Now how can I let Brain know that I don’t want those?

 

 

 

Food porn–the delicious objectification of vegetables, meats & grains

Tonight, before I get stuck into another episode of the excellent 10-part BBC documentary series  Hitler’s Circle of Evil (available on YouTube without interruptions) I’ll begin my evening’s viewing with a less arduous course. I’ll have the light entree if I may. I’ll settle back for some foodie-themed globetrotting, travel the world and visit homely kitchens and wander the colour-splashed aisles of spice-heaped markets, uncover the cooking methods of ancient relatives and, who knows? Maybe I’ll even discover the true origins of grain.

I’m not so keen on bearing witness to the pedantic art of micro-herb placement, or following the trials and tribulations of restaurant X’s rise to two or three-hat status, but I do enjoy the high-resolution, soft-edged objectification of vegetables, meats and grains currently taking place on our screens –  a genre that seems to be multiplying like mold spores on a delicious, washed-rind cheese.

Because something lovely happens in my brain when I clap eyes on the firm flesh of freshly- captured salmon, buried deep in a thick crust of salt and fired by local yet sustainable log – the succulence of cream-fleshed scallop gently nestled in a cradle of hand-knitted twigs – a plate of scattered pipi awash in a pond of wasabi-infused foam – the slow-motion capture of bubbles rising to the surface of hallowed liquid A or B – the sexy gluten-stretch as air-filled bread gets ripped asunder by plough-calloused hand oh, oh, oh!

What was I saying? Er-hem. Yes…I do love a bit of food porn served up on a rustic platter…

 

Now I’m not 11 with a crush on Paul Stanley, Kiss’s album Love Gun seems a little bit creepy

At approximately 5pm or thereabouts, having satisfied my dog’s daily walking needs for the day, I generally crank up the music and make my daily eats.

Today, whilst preparing another curry to use up the tub of yoghurt instead of letting it turn to yet another mould-topped glump, I pulled out a golden oldie, Kiss’s classic album, Love Gun (1977) to accompany my chopping.

It was my sister’s album back in the day, and for some reason the cover has disappeared, only the dusty, fine-lined vinyl remains. A shame, the cover is quite funny, Kiss standing god-like in full regalia with their oversized, studded cod-pieces on display if I remember correctly. And I do remember correctly oh yes I do.

I was a BIG fan of the band as a young lass and had a crush on Paul Stanley, his semi-gender-bending, hairy-chested effeminate prancings, his status as the front-man, and the thrill of the mystery of the face beneath make-up. Who were these masked men?

However, as a woman matured with significant feminist bendings, I can’t listen to this album without some serious cringing.

And it’s not because I no longer love the music. I’m not older and wiser with a more developed taste in music – I still rate this hard rock pop as much as I ever did, an album chockablock with great songs bar one or two. No. It’s the lyrics that give me the ick.

Okay. Let’s start with the title track, ‘Love Gun’.

…you pull the trigger on my…love gun, love gun , my love gun, love gun…

As far as I know, my 11 year old self had no idea of the sexual goings on behind this blindingly obvious metaphor, but fast-forward 40-odd years to my current good self, and I can’t help but feel grossed-out by the conflation of the male member with a weapon of mass destruction. And then, it gets a little bit creepy:

you can’t forget me baby, don’t try to lie, you’ll never leave me mama, so don’t try…

Er. Okay. I think it might be time to get the authorities involved here…

Then there’s ‘Christine Sixteen,’ a little ditty about Gene Simmons’ lust for a sexually active young woman who is apparently hot ‘day and night’ for the goods beneath his rather menacing cod-piece.

…I don’t usually say things like this to girls your age, but when I saw you coming out of school that day, I knew, I knew, I’ve got to have you, I’ve got to have you…

Yes. Okay. She’s Christine and she’s sixteen. Not only does she rhyme quite nicely but she’s also reached the age of consent. And:

…she’s been around, but she’s young and clean…

Good to know Gene. Good to know she’s free of disease and won’t infect you with any nasty pox. And then there’s the famous, ‘Plaster Caster’:

Plaster, caster, grab a hold of me faster, if you wanna see my love just ask her…

At least here Gene’s penis is ‘my love’ and not a horrible gun. By the way, the her in ask her refers to the actual artist Cynthia Plaster Caster, who made plaster molds of famous rock-star knobs and boobs. (I understand she turned Gene down when he offered himself up as a subject).

Anyhoo, despite the accompaniment of a few too many dick-obsessed lyrics, the curry turned out very nicely thank you.

And I will be listening to Love Gun again:)

 

 

 

 

 

Who the hell are these people? Blank-slates, The Bachelorette & the state of franchised romance.

Excuse me please producers of reality TV. Would it be possible to witness an actual conversation between the Bachelorette and one of her suitors? An exchange about their respective jobs perhaps? A line or two about something in passing or a few sentences that might provide insight into character?

Because I still don’t know what Ali does for a living (apart from her current role of face-on-screen). All I know is that she’s been unlucky in love, enjoys nature walks, and has a penchant for ‘exciting’ pursuits such as taking selfies and going on speed-boats (they haven’t pulled the helicopter ride out of the hat yet but that might come later).

I wonder why this lack of natural conversation is omitted from the show so rigidly, why every conversation orbits the central premise of the show in such a predictable drone-like fashion.

Personally I’m getting sick of hearing the same conversations repeated over and over. Intimate talks about importance of family, the vital role of trust and communication in successful relationships. Yeah. So what’s new? That a person desires a kind and loyal partner who can communicate feelings effectively should be a given, not a topic of conversation rehashed endlessly from episode to episode.

But we won’t discover any of the contestants political opinions or social values as the season continues – if Ali supports the removal of refugee children from Manus Island or if Box-jaw Bill thinks the Australian government should take immediate action on climate change before the planet dies and there’s no natural habitats left to stage romantic, picnic-rug themed getaways.

Of course it’s too difficult to allow contestants to express their views on subjects. Much less messy to follow a bland set of scripts that reveal next to nothing about the person, but if the producers were to allow contestants to open their mouths I think it would make for much better television. Instead of the current state of stuck-in-a-loop droning we’d got a better look at what’s under the hood, we’d be more invested, be able to make estimations as to compatibility and become more engrossed in the unfolding narrative.

But blank-slates with pretty faces are the staple at the Bachelorette and no doubt will be until the eventual demise of the behemoth franchise, after all, the blissful state of ignorance splices nicely with the workings of romantic love, a love that relies heavily on surface sheen and a whole lot of projection.

Far easier to fall in love with a creation in our minds than a messy warts-and-all person.

Avocado mousse, wrong reasons, & the best Aussie Bachelorette scene ever!

Okay. Lets all give a thanks to the Bachelorette’s Ivan for his supreme lack of culinary prowess. How wonderful that the poor man had no idea about the anatomy of an avocado. How delightful to watch this idiotic show slide firmly into the farcical.

The innocence of dear Ivan’s face as he shoved the two plump, pip-filled fruits into the blender and pressed go. The serious faces of intent as our bachelorette and her other suitor awaited desert, valiantly ignoring the insistent screech of the machine’s impotent grind.

But she kept her poker-face on straight – a task no doubt aided by the modern-day mother’s helper, botulinum toxin – for true love is no laughing matter, and our heroine is heroically and stoically determined to find the truth. Is Bill really there for the Right Reasons? Because Ali’s heard rumors from his rival what’s-his-name – the rugged, sun-tanned one who gets a bit wound up after a few too many vinos.

Cut to Ivan’s ongoing emasculation in the kitchen: prodding an avo’s stubborn pear-shaped body further into the blades with bemused consternation. 

Cut back to the hastily staged alfresco table. Is it true Bill? Our fair princess asks. Are you really here for me? Or, shock horror, are you here for the dreaded Wong Reasons? 

No, says Mr. box-jaw Bill, I’m here for you sweet lady, I am but a victim of the suntanned-boozer’s spiteful ways.  

Meanwhile Ivan appears with their pip-infused mousse. It’s a bit rough, he warns. Cut to the valiant Ali tasting said mousse, the spoon slipping self-consciously between plump, princess lips. The air is tense. The mousse is rough. It’s almost time to make her proclamation. Who will stay to win the fair maiden’s hand?

I’m sorry Ivan. The mousse was a bit rough and at the end of the day Ali has to Follow Her Heart. Not much choice when she knows next to nothing about what’s in his head.

 

Hot person over-load and the rapid escalation of ‘same face’ syndrome

Sometimes when I watch a film or TV series I find myself wondering; is that the same person as before or is it another character entirely? I cant tell if woman X with the black hair in a pony-tail is the same woman X in the next scene with her hair worn down…Is any-one else experiencing this problem?

And I don’t think it’s because my brain can’t manage to assemble collections of features into recognisable individuals, it’s because of a growing trend I’m gong to call same face syndrome.

It’s difficult to keep track of who’s who when actors are chosen based on an ever-narrowing set of physical parameters, and I think it is safe to say that while there is more representation of race and gender when it comes to on-screen roles, there is definitely less representation of people who don’t conform to our current hyper-idealised, filter-funneled standards of beauty. Frankly I find the whole thing a bit creepy.  

Of course lovely faces have always been integral to the screen business and I see no reason why that should change – after all, who doesn’t relish the beauty of a heavenly visage? But not all the time. Not in every film and TV show. The way things are heading, diversity of features will be a thing of the past, especially with plastic surgery weighing in to hasten the melding.

You have to wind the clock back to find a larger sample of actors from other planets – ones closer to everyday person instead of centre-of-everything perfection, where noses stand proudly and inclusion isn’t relative to eye-socket spacing or flawless chin projection, where divergence is deemed acceptable and fit for human consumption.

Lately I’ve even noticed the phenomenon seeping into the field of documentary for god’s sake. It may well be the result of subconscious bias, but more and more I see vox pop segments featuring ‘random’ subjects who all lean very suspiciously towards the high-end of spectrum hot.

Our screens are so stuffed to the gills with an over-load of hot people I think it’s high-time for relief. 

Top Model bullying and the right kind of fierce

I’ve watched a lot of Top Model in my time but I think I’m over it now. The bullying leaves a very sour taste in my mouth. It makes me angry. And I’m not talking about bullying among the contestants, I’m talking about the roller-coaster narrative of alternating praise and abuse – lifting a contestant up only to smash them back down again.

Because if in the first week she exceeds all expectations, then (within three weeks at most) she will invariably fall from grace for some minor infraction – failing to extend her foot adequately for example, or not relaxing her face into the perfect-shaped mouth.

One week she is hailed the best thing since sliced bread, and the next she inadvertently catches a snake instead of a ladder, takes a gut-turning slide in the game of Top Model and becomes a terrible and disgusting disappointment for very little reason at all.

Yes, a show needs conflict, character arcs to flame interest, but this pattern of praise closely followed by disdain has very little to do with the actual performance of the contestants. The ‘best shots’ (photo evidence representing the girls’ highest achievement) are chosen based on the week’s predetermined outcasts and favorites, that girl A is either a supermodel in the making, or a total disgrace to the human race – so utterly disappointing compared to last week she even, “seems like a different girl…”

And the photographer’s skill is never in question – the person actually responsible for capturing the ‘best shot’. The girl is always in the wrong. It is her fault entirely if her chin looks too big, or if she failed to angle her head correctly or minimise her perceived bodily imperfections. And she must aspire to ‘editorial’ heights, not to the lowly, ‘commercial’ status within her profession. She mustn’t be too slutty, too bendy or busty, smiley or bouncy, and so, each week she awaits the judges with a tighter face. Waits to be accused of more crimes – a too short neck or an inelegant leg perhaps. And if she dares to talk back she is harangued – for being too sassy and having an attitude, or for not being sassy enough and having no attitude.

She learns to shut up. To agree with the judges’ proclamations no matter how demeaning. She learns to disguise the defiance and growing contempt behind her eyes, because if she wants to win in this no-win situation she has to suck it up, toughen up. Be fierce girl but not too fierce.

Top Model. I’m over it.