By Ted Hope | Hope for Film June 6, 2011 at 10:48AM
Suggestion engines tell you what might appeal to you: i.e. you loved "REPULSION" and "CACHE", so you will also like "MARTHA MARCEY MAY MARLENE". But if you are at all like me, you've already found enough movies to get you well past your life expectancy rate. It's now more you crave, but less!
Now that we mastered the "find", is it time, to start the "ditch"? How do we get rid of that which has no applicability to our lives? Should we remove that which might not be to our liking forever from our discovery threshold?
Luckily we live in a world where we can say with an entirely straight face "Yup, there's an app for that!". Okay, maybe not so luckily, but I am serious about this. Serious that there is an app for that, and serious that maybe more attention should be paid at getting rid of what we already know what we don't want.
LibraryThing has an UnSuggester engine, and I am sure it is only a matter of short time before some clever nut with a bit of the 'ol cognitive surplus builds one for the viddy world. I know I would be far happier if I didn't know billions of dollars were being squandered on the type of movies I didn't want to see. Can't I just erase them from my life?
Unsuggester let's you know that if you liked a particular book there's probably a 100 other books that you WON'T like. If my Queue not only gave me recommendations for things I might like, but also let me remove 100 other items at a time, that I just don't want be bothered with, I would be progressing that much faster to the realization of my own Personalized Pleasure Planet. Sure we want to share what we want with our social graph (remember when they were simply friends!), but what about if we could share what we thought might suck? And what if they could import it (not the actual goods, but the suspected distaste, the simple removal list)? We are well on our way of getting rid of the interaction with anyone and anything that we have the smallest indication might be inappropriate for current level of appreciation.
The Unsuggester is a fun idea, but it also helps us focus on what is one of the wonderful things about art and culture in general. Some of the greatest pleasures we have are not just when we discover something new, but when that artwork helps to demonstrate how expansive we -- and people in general -- truly are. It goes far beyond the experience that young children often have with food that they have always refused to try and that look of semi-astonishment when they finally try it and find they have liked it all along.
The best art shows us that we are far more complex and diverse than any demographic can capture. One of the great pleasures of cinema is that in some circumstances it helps us empathize with characters that we never would have purely of our own volition. Cinema helps us embrace stories and styles that in other presentations we might have said "no, thank you, I prefer not" (or something far more ruder) in day to day life.
We are getting to the point that those discoveries and delights, and even the opportunities therefor, feel rarer and rarer. Film festivals offer a cornucopia of them. As many independent exhibitors morph more into community centers they were always destined to be, they to offer such transcendence of our daily limits. Mass consumer directed society may well be on its way to becoming a stealth version of the Universal Unseggester, and as sweet and shiny that may be for some, my Personal Pleasure Planet is a world of unknown cookies of true discovery, items and experiences I would have thought I would never have liked, but surprise me and remind me of what it truly means to share this planet with the rest of you.