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I Obsessively Searched for the Perfect Formula to Recommend Films and I failed. Or did I?

by Michael Howkins 14 days ago in movie

If you're like me, then you'll like this

I'm taking a deep breath in as I sit down to write this article because I know what the task ahead of me involves:


And it's not external. It's the same self-induced pressure I experience whenever I set out to do something creative that will be seen, read, and judged by others. It stems from an attachment to the concept of perfection.

It's also rooted in my desire to connect with other people.

I want to communicate my experience and I want to do it as accurately and precisely as possible. What I really want is for you to understand me.

What does that have to do with anything? You might ask.

Well, isn't that what writing is about? Isn't that what art and movies are about? And isn't that why we love to recommend the films and shows that we hold close to our hearts?

I believe it is.

When we strongly recommend a film to someone, what we're really saying is, there is a piece of me in this film, it represents a deeper aspect of myself, it touches me and, perhaps, it expresses the experience of being alive in a way that I cannot. We all want to be understood, we all want to connect with others.

I misspelled Melancholia due to manic fervor

You see, I've given this article a lot of thought. I've written draft after draft. I've stayed up late into the night obsessively planning, reviewing, scrapping, and then starting all over again.

When I thought I had a good idea,

I would quickly discover that I had a better one.

Then I realized that, much like my approach to life, I might be taking this entire thing a bit too seriously. So I tried to lighten up a bit:

At the very beginning of this whole process, I made several lists of films that I love and thought of all the overlapping themes and motifs they shared. Regardless of the genre, the director, and the actors involved, I always found links between them. It didn't matter how different they were on the surface. Much like particles in the quantum world, all films are connected.

So what prompted all this superfluous effort?

Firstly, I really love films. Secondly, I did this because I wanted to be logical, methodical, and precise. I needed to be sure that the films I recommended would hit their target. I did it because I truly wanted to find the perfect formula for recommending films.

I also did this because I'm obsessive, compulsive, and I overanalyze everything. I'm a hapless perfectionist.

To summarize, I can be a bit intense.

My partner says that I'm overthinking it, and perhaps she's right. When she saw me pacing in front of the whiteboard that was covered with algebraic formulae and equations, she asked, "do you even know what that means"?

In truth, I was no closer to figuring out the perfect formula for recommending my favorite films, TV series, or even those mind-blowing cinnamon buns from the cafe down the street. Whenever I felt like I was making some progress, my thoughts kept returning to the British comedy series The Mighty Boosh.

I'll explain.

Nothing elicits more surprise and, dare I say it, horror than when I tell people that I couldn't get into The Mighty Boosh. They always say similar things in response: But it's so good! It's just your type of humor! I really thought you would have loved it. Maybe you should try watching it again, etc. These are the reactions from people I trust.

I can understand their initial shock. I can see that it is a good show. I can see why they suggested it to me. The funny thing is that I even surprised myself with my reaction.

It has so much in common with some of the great absurdist comedy series that I love: Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Monty Python, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, Toast of London. If you love The Mighty Boosh (or hate it) you might want to check these out.

But for whatever reason, not only could I not get into it, I almost found it irritating. And it's not just my friends that got it wrong, even the omniscient algorithms belonging to Google, Amazon, and Netflix missed the mark.

So I asked myself, what chance do I have to recommend the right films - the ones that I love for very specific and personal reasons - to a bunch of people that I've never even met?

I made another list.

And then, like a thunderbolt of divine inspiration, it hit me.

I realized that the perfect formula was not to be found in mathematics and logical reasoning, nor in artificial intelligence, but that it had been existing with me all along. It was so obvious!

Hang on, because it's about to get even more meta…

Writing about the search for the formula contained the formula I was searching for

If you're still with me, it probably means that we have a few things in common. Maybe you also like the greatest romance film ever made, Before Sunrise?

It also likely means that you've been pretty patient with me as I've meandered into meta-realms, so I'll try to cut to the chase.

The essence of my realization is:

This article is my formula.

"If you like this, then you'll like that" could be replaced with, "if you're like me, then you'll like this."

What I'm trying to say is, if you like this article, then you might be like me. If you're like me, then you'll probably like these films.

So what are the films that I love and what do they say about me?

Well, I'm going to break Hemmingway's infamous rule of show, don't tell here and just tell you. All the films and series I recommend are scattered throughout this article. (There's also a bunch on the pictures of the whiteboard)

The truth is that right now, I can't decide what I want to recommend to you. I've tried and tried again and there are just too many movies to choose from. There are too many links, too many connections, and variables. So for the sake of my own sanity, this is where our journey ends. 

The abrupt and anticlimactic ending 

Much like all films, this article has an ending, and like some of the greatest films, this ending might not be exactly what you had in mind - think No Country for Old Men, which is one of my favorite films, by the way. And if you liked it too, you should really watch Under the Skin

Maybe you've seen some of the films mentioned in this article and you didn't like them. What does that say about me and my perfect formula? what does it say about this article? Nothing much. In the same way that me not liking The Mighty Boosh says nothing about my friends or even anything about The Mighty Boosh itself. It doesn't even necessarily say anything about me.

It simply says that we're all humans, we're all individuals, and, to a certain extent, unpredictable. We're simultaneously perfect and flawed, and perfectly flawed. And if you think that's cheesy, then maybe we don't have anything in common after all. Though we probably both liked Joker.

Michael Howkins
Michael Howkins
Read next: Best Customizable Games
Michael Howkins

I am a writer and advocate for personal growth and spiritual development. My aim is to empower people through writing about my own experiences.

See all posts by Michael Howkins

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