Netflix, using its more amusing of algorithms, has suggested I'd like to watch Zombeavers, a heart-warming tale of, and I quote:
"A group of randy college kids partying in a woodland cabin gets a nasty surprise when a horde of ferocious zombie beavers attacks."
At the end of a long day of rock-climbing, white water rafting, parkour and the like, I enjoy no more than to settle down on the long blue couch here in Das Boot to watch a film. It's a perfect part of the day. The TV remote is mine to command and I have the choice of Telemach cable TV plus, with a bit of jiggery-pokery, BBC I-player and Netflix via the laptop.
The BBC reminds me of the UK, and we all need an anchor. The programs feel more slick than I remember; more American. But excellent shows pop up now and then and I'm grateful for the technology that allows me to see it. Sometimes it makes me feel homesick, but usually it shows me how much the place has changed in the 16 years I've been away, or dispels any myths that may have taken root. My inaccurate ex-pat brain still imagines The Vicar of Dibley to be an accurate portrayal of English life, a trick common among ex-pats, it seems. In America I spoke to a German who held the same feelings about his own country. The reality doesn't match the amalgam of childhood memories and old films.
I often pepper my posts with references to movies, suggesting that maybe I watch too much TV or that I'm a secret film critic. Actually, I'd like to be a film critic but I don't know anything about the movie business. My thoughts would be no more useful than the user comments on Netflix.
That said, I love the user comments on Netflix. I get sucked into the world of amateur critics the way others get sucked into Facebook. Those who comment include the film school graduate-types who endlessly compare and contrast the film with works of obscure directors and must -- simply must -- begin by mentioning the film festival where they first watched it.
Then there's people I take note of, who review with honesty and without reference to enfant-terrible Argentine directors and give a balanced, common-sense opinion.
Sometimes the comments reveal a world of Bible-belt puritanism, xenophobia, misanthropy or just plain dumb ignorance (like any blank slate in internet-land). Some are funny for no real reason. A comment I saw the other night described a film as being "absent of violence or language. My daughter could watch this." Firstly, I quite like language in my films. It helps to follow what's happening. I was also immediately concerned for the daughter, who, I imagine, is locked in a silent room tied to a table. Some people hate sub-titles, others claim to watch nothing else. Some people need action and quickly bore if the principle characters remain un-maimed.
Like all potential entertainment opportunities, I screen and filter, reducing my choices to the point where the vast Netflix database seems devoid of anything watchable. I do that in everyday life too, reducing the vast panoply of Alpine wonders to a quick bike ride or a beer across the street.
I don't watch anything that starts with "An elite group of..."
The same goes for "...is called out of retirement..."
I avoid anything with the word "heist" in the description and flip past "must act quickly to prevent him from killing again." With these I don't even get to the comments section, so loath am I to watch them.
What did I see that puts zombie beavers high on my "Recommended for Pete" list? I watch documentaries, detective, foreign-language films, courtroom dramas, comedy that doesn't rely on shouting or "language," and Indie stuff. I like anything that devotes more to the script than the CGI. Netflix therefore thinks I'd love to see a film where the front cover is a spread-legged girl in a bikini with a lively but dead beaver fast approaching. Maybe I'm being narrow-minded. Maybe Netflix has an altruistic algorithm designed specifically for broadening one's external horizons. Perhaps it's not about getting you to watch more of their films, but getting you to try a different pub, climb a different hill, engage in an activity that's not for you.
Last night I watched "Cracking the Maya Code." These intricate Mayan pictograms -- chiselled into stele erected in their jungle cities -- were a meaningless mystery when first discovered. The detective story of their unravelling required no car chases, explosions or indeed girls in bikinis to keep me enthralled. Cracking the code reminded me somewhat of my trials with Slovenian TV.
A problem specific to living in foreign parts -- greater even than avoiding ferocious zombie beaver attacks -- is that my welter of channels are marked up in a language I don't understand. The films on offer are many and varied and they don't dub them (thank goodness), but I never know what's going to be on.
Some are easy. Later today on TV1000 we have "12 opic" with Bruce Willis. One requires no degree in epigraphy to work that one out. On Fox Movies we are treated to "V iskanju sreče," with Will Smith. Google Translate gives up "In Search of Happiness," so no brain stretching there either.
However, I'm reminded of an amusing list of movies shown in South Korea where they seem to prefer more literal titles. Field of Dreams was changed to "There are baseball players in my garden."
That happens here too. This evening on Cinestar there's a film called "Izginjanje," with Christian Bale. Google translates this to "Disappearance." IMDB is my next port of call to examine the plot of this Christian Bale minor masterwork, but no such film is listed. Plucky and determined I return to the TV info page to read more. The first name given is, I guess, the director. Brad Anderson. He made The Machinist. It stars Christian Bale. That's got to be it.
I first noticed this oddity of nomenclature during my first Christmas. We all like a film at Christmas and I was determined to track one down. Being able to predict the schedule seemed like a good idea. "Battle for Christmas," was playing (at least, that's what Google Translate called it). As a first test it proved a baffling disappointment, because the film was really called "Deck the Halls." A cheap and easily forgotten film, the plot was based entirely around a play on words. It's Christmas and the annoying neighbours are named Hall. A neighbourly fight breaks out. Get it? Christmas? Deck the Halls?
To a Slovenian that would be meaningless. The joke (if that's not too majestic a word) was lost. So they changed the title.
It's a faff, all this walking from the TV to Google Translate to IMDB, trying to remember the unfathomable list of letters that is Izginjanje and finding it's not a literal translation of the movie title. Watching TV in foreign parts makes heroes of us all.
There is no literal translation for "Zombeavers," so if it comes on cable TV it'll be called something else. "Kaj za vraga je, da grize moje pomanjkljivo oblečene noge" is the Slovene for "What the hell's that biting my scantily clothed leg", so that might be it. I shall keep an eye out for it. I don't want to watch it on Netflix for fear of what they'll recommend next.
Oh. If you translate that back into English you get "What the hell is that biting my legs encased inadequate." I'm never going to find it on cable.
Netflix assures me I'll like it, so perhaps I will give their copy a whirl. It could change my whole outlook on life.
[ps...Have you tried the Armchair Detective Challenge yet?]
Slovenia, writing, other things