Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Flickchart is awesome!

Flickchart is an amazing website that not too many people seem to know about.  For cinephiles with too much time on their hands, there's not much on the internet that's nearly as addictive.

Essentially it's FaceMash, but with movies.  It all started with an argument over which was the better movie: Pulp Fiction or The Empire Strikes Back.  In the words of the website "If they're all Five Stars, then which one's the best?".  Flickchart has a pretty great solution to all of this.  If you sign up for a free account, you are given a series of choices between two films.  You click on the poster for the movie you like better, then a new choice is provided.  If you haven't seen a film, you can say so and it won't come up again.

As you continually choose between films, Flickchart gradually fills in a list of every movie you've ever seen, ranked by your preference.  It will start by offering well known films, then using your choices it will suggest films you are likely to have seen.  So far, I have over 1200 films on my chart.  You can also search for a film by title and reslot it into your chart, which I now do for every movie I see.

As a movie fanatic who loves listing things I like, I've become a hopeless Flickchart addict.  It's like a slot machine for me, as I constantly click and am rewarded with movie posters.  Some of them bring back memories, while others inspire me to check out films I've never heard of.  Meanwhile, the website also combines the results of everybody's Flickcharts to create what they hope is a better barometer of film quality than the imdb top 100.

What sucks about the top 100 is that when some hot new fanboy property comes out millions of idiots rate it 10, and suddenly The Avengers is the greatest film of all time according to imdb.  Flickchart has methods of avoiding this.  Recently, they implemented a few behind the scenes algorithms, such as scaling films based on how new they are to counteract "fanboy rush".  Other algorithms are harder to explain, but the net result is a pretty good picture of what self-proclaimed movie fanatics on the internet think are the best films.

It's a work in progress, but I like the list.  It doesn't mirror my personal best of all time, but I think it's accurate.  What's really great about it is that it clearly is a list of people's "favorite" movies.  It's refreshing to see a best of list that's actually populated with movies people enjoy regularly.  While I like Citizen Kane very much*, isn't it more believable that the Internet's favorite film is Star Wars?

Check out my Flickchart by clicking on the banner I just added to the sidebar on this page.  Let me know what you think!  And make sure to comment with a link to yours, if you feel like sharing... I'd love to see!

* Before any smart aleck brings up the 2012 Sight and Sound poll, I haven't seen Vertigo yet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Speaking of Satan

The current travelling circus surrounding Apple's ongoing blackmail of Samsung is darkly fascinating.  It's amazing that trials like this happen at all, let alone that they happen so frequently.  It's not amazing that the average person's reaction is to agree with Apple that Samsung copied the iPhone.  They did.  So what?

Everybody copies.  Copying in itself is not an evil word.  We all stand on the shoulders of giants.  Nobody is that special.  Apple made a brilliant breakthrough with the iPhone, and it clearly was the shot heard 'round the world in the cellphone industry.  Of course Samsung was going to learn from it and apply some of Apple's insight to their own models.  To do otherwise would be to willingly sabotage their own business.

Yes, Samsung's phones look similar to iPhones, because they're rounded rectangles with ginormous screens and hardly any buttons.  Rounded rectangles make logical sense because they are ergonomic and won't chip furniture.  Apple's other innovations have similar practical reasons for existing.  You can't (or shouldn't be able to) patent that.

If Samsung started putting a big stylized piece of fruit on their phones and rebranding them "The iStrawberry", I would see an ethical reason to sue.  At that point they'd actually be trying to FOOL people into buying the wrong phone.  Samsung was not doing that.  It's like some caveman trying to rub two wet fish together and wondering why there's no spark.  Once Og in the cave next door lights a fire using sticks, Oop is going to follow that example unless he's a total incompetant.  Welcome to real life.

Apple does not have an exclusive right to rounded rectangles.  Nobody has ever bought a Samsung phone and been crushed to realize it isn't an iPhone.  Apple are crooks, using the legal system to blackmail their competition.  This should be obvious to anyone with a brain, and it's clearly obvious to the judge of this case, who is doing an admirable job of towing the line of impartiality when one side is so clearly doing the work of Lucifer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Style Savvy: Trendsetters Trailer looks AWESOME

I am tapdancing with joy right now after seeing this new trailer for Style Savvy: Trendsetters.  I've been a ridiculous fan of Style Savvy since it came out on the DS, and while I knew there was a sequel, I didn't expect it to ever get brought over!

I love Style Savvy to pieces, and will definitely write an article about the original game in the near future to explain why a metalhead like me would consider picking the girliest game on the planet for his favorite DS title.  For the time being, I'm most excited to see that the game has expanded to include men's fashion as well.  I wonder if this means I'll get to have a male avatar this time?  Then again, I enjoyed making my female alter ego stylish so much that I might not choose to change that :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Green Day - "Insomniac" Album Review

It's hard to remember these days that Green Day didn't used to be a shitty pop punk version of Bruce Springsteen.  Let's travel back to those golden days before the broadway musicals, the collaborations with the cast of Glee (if I just imagined that, well it's not much of a stretch, is it?), and charity team ups with Bono.  Back when Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool, and Mike Dirnt were nothing more than one of the tightest rock bands of their day, making mosh pits go crazy and radio listeners bob their heads in equal measure.  Before Billie Joe was the savior of America he was a brilliant songwriter, and don't ever forget it.  Time to revisit one of the most influential albums of my teenage years:

Green Day - "Insomniac" (1995)

This CD was my go-to rock record for years, and still a personal favorite not just among Green Day albums but rock albums is general.  While "Dookie" captured lightning in a bottle, this is Green Day's peak of songwriting prowess, though perhaps I'm biased in that I prefer music made by crazy people.  And "Insomniac" is clearly the work of a man going slowly insane.  The music is jagged, violent, rough, but still hooky as all getout.

Green Day pull out all the stops and prove what a powerful force they could be as a pure band.  Tracks like "Geek Stink Breath" and "Panic Song" do unexpected things with the band's dynamics.  Mike Dirnt's bass and Tre Cool's drumming have way more color than they need to for this kind of music, and that means that "Insomniac" has more depth and replay value than most albums of this type.  Who'd have thought that Brain Stew, with it's dunderheaded five note riff repeated endlessly could somehow not get boring?  The fact that it climaxes by seguing into the frenetic "Jaded" probably has a lot to do with it's appeal.

Billie Joe Armstrong's melodies had gotten ridiculously tight, the verses and choruses so short and simple that not a second is wasted.  "Brat" is the album in a nutshell,  not even two minutes long, frantic, cynical and hilarious.  I love how the vocals just barely avoid being swallowed up by the rest of the band, as Billie Joe spits the darkest venom at maturity itself: "Got a plan of action and cold blood and it smells of defiance / I'll just wait for Mom and Dad to die - get my inheritance".

Oh yeah, those lyrics.  Not sure what was in Billie Joe's water at this point, but I think it was children and years of touring.  This led to lyrics like "The world is a sick machine breeding a mass of shit", and "I'm blowin' off steam with methamphetamine".  As a young metalhead who hadn't discovered metal yet, I ate this up like mashed potatoes and meat loaf.  Besides, unlike a lot of pop bands with accessible melodies and confrontational lyrics, Green Day had two big advantages: Their melodies were better and the venom was very real.

Some of it was clearly directed at Armstrong and the band itself.  "Walking Contradiction" is the most obvious, with Billie Joe wondering if people might be right and he really is a shill: "I beg to differ, on the contrary / Agree with every word that you say ... My wallet's fat and so is my head... I'm a walking contradiction / and I ain't got no right".

The album's title is entirely apt, drawn from the fact the Billie Joe couldn't sleep during this period, and song after song depicts a mind about to snap.  Truth is, I can often relate, and this music isn't gloomy or ruminating, it's cathartic.  When the world stresses me the fuck out I'm grateful to be able to crank songs like "Bab's Uvula Who" and flail like a crazy person in front of my stereo system.

"Insomniac"'s only flaw is that so many of the tracks are five-star genius that the few three-point-five-star tracks stick out like a sore thumb.  "86" and "Westbound Sign" in particular are frequent victims of the skip button.  But in an album that's barely half an hour long, the songs barely two minutes, it's a forgivable flaw.  And none of it's actually bad.  "Insomniac" is an easy entry into my personal hall of fame, and you should definitely reacquaint yourself with it if it's slipped from your memories.