Thursday, April 21, 2011

Every Movie is NOT Like Funny Girl

Those of you who subscribe to Netflix are no doubt familiar with the feature whereby when you search for a specific title, Netflix also provides you with similar titles also available on the service. It was last summer I decided to watch To Sir With Love (1967). When I conducted my search I noticed that Netflix recommended Funny Girl (1968) as one of the titles similar to To Sir With Love. How Funny Girl is similar to To Sir With Love I  do not know. To Sir With Love is a drama about a teacher in an urban school in London. Funny Girl is a musical comedy starring Barbara Streisand as Fanny Brice (about as great a bit of miscasting as there has ever been, in my humble opinion). At the time I dismissed it as an error and proceeded to watch To Sir With Love.

It was only a few days later that I was searching for Sixties movies featuring British bands of the era. Quite naturally, I typed in A Hard Day's Night (1964), counting on NetFlix to recommend similar movies to me and so lead me to such films as Ferry Cross the Mersey (1964) and The Ghost Goes Gear (1966). It recommended neither. It did not even recommend Catch Us If You Can (1965), the Dave Clark 5 movie and the only one to match The Beatles' films in quality. Instead Netflix claims that A Hard Day's Night is similar to (yes, that's right) Funny Girl. How A Hard Day's Night is similar to Funny Girl I do not know. A Hard Day's Night is a nearly plotless rock musical starring The Beatles while Funny Girl is a much more traditional musical starring a miscast Barbara Streisand as Fanny Brice. A search for Help! (1965) also yielded Funny Girl as a result. Needless to say Help! is about as similar to Funny Girl as A Hard Day's Night is.

It was then that I realised that this could be a recurring flaw in Netflix's similar movie feature. I then searched for such films as The Knack...and How to Get It (1965), The President's Analyst (1967), Pillow Talk (1959), My Fair Lady (1964), and various other films of the era. In nearly every case Funny Girl appeared among the "similar" films. I must confess I was very much relieved when I searched for Blowup (1967) and did not find Funny Girl listed as being similar to it!

I had not thought much of this anomaly, whereby Netflix apparently thinks a diverse array of movies are all similar to Funny Girl of late, until a few days ago when I searched for Jesus Christ Superstar (1974). What was the first movie Netflix listed as similar? That's right. Funny Girl. Now if anything Jesus Christ Superstar is even less similar to Funny Girl than A Hard Day's Night.After all, Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera based on the life of Jesus, ending with his crucifixion. Funny Girl is, well, about Fanny Brice (or, more accurately, Barbara Streisand masquerading as Fanny Brice).

Now I am not sure why Netflix insists that Funny Girl is similar to such varied films as A Hard Day's Night, The President's Analyst, My Fair Lady, and Jesus Christ Superstar. In fact, it is dissimilar to all of the films I have listed, except possibly My Fair Lady, which it at lest resembles insofar as both are traditional musicals. At any rate it makes no sense to me that someone looking for A Hard Day's Night and especially someone looking for dramas such as To Sir With Love would  be interested in Funny Girl. Hell, I love To Sir With Love, The Beatles' movies, The Presiden'ts Analyst, Pillow Talk, The Knack...and How to Get It, and Jesus Christ Superstar, but I do not particularly care for Funny Girl. In fact, the kindest thing I think that can be said about it is that it is not Hello Dolly (1968).

At any rate, I do hope that Netflix fixes this flaw in their system so that Funny Girl only appears in the similar movies list when searches are conducted for movies to which it is truly similar. That means it should not show up when one is searching for Planet of the Apes (1967) , Our Man Flint (1965), Send Me No Flowers (1964), or Peeping Tom (1960). If a movie is not a traditional musical, a period piece, and a comedy, chances are it is not similar to Funny Girl.


KC said...

I had a similar issue with Netflix recommendations. For some reason, they thought Yojimbo was similar to everything. My major WTF moment was when they recommended The Muppet Show because I liked a David Lynch flick. I wish I could remember which movie it was.

simoncolumb said...

You know that they 'sort' the films into extremely generic categories ... FUNNY GIRL is in the old film categories ... YOJIMBO in the international film category ...

KC said...

You're right simoncolumb--because I know of other people who have gotten the Yojimbo rec. over and over. But I'm still mystified about the Muppet Show thing--sort of.