The Lovefilm 'low priority' list's place in film society (and your heart)



For those of us still using the Lovefilm physical rental service - now owned and operated by Amazon - the 'low priority' functionality holds a level of psychological insight. If you have any meaningful number of films in your 'high' and 'medium' priority areas then Lovefilm's wonderfully obscure lucky dip algorithm is likely to leave your bottom third untouched, so to speak, begging a question around what purpose it therefore serves.

The list, at least for me, acts simultaneously as a cinephile badge of pride, a social engineering tool and a dedication to procrastination. It is full of a mixture of films that I probably 'should' see, films I have heard recommended but have no real desire to watch and a third category whose origins on the list are now as mysterious as the retrospective and belated success of Hanson.

The first category holds shame and satisfaction in equal measure. Picture your 'to watch' list, wherever it may be. Wherever it is, it is likely to be relatively unloved, unactioned and unlinked. You have titles on a list, but you rarely get close to watching them, except in the happy coincidence that one appears on Netflix or your streaming vehicle of choice. The Lovefilm 'low priority' list offers the illusion of progress. You'll never see the films on it, but at least there's a chance that someone will step in and decide otherwise. In placing a film upon it you create a chance, however remote, that the algorithm and Lovefilm warehouse pickers are going to conspire to decide that yes, this is the day you are going to be forced to sit through Requiem For A Dream. You have outsourced your cinephiliac credentials to hi-viz wearing deities in a warehouse in Peterborough. In this category my own incense-like offerings include Kurosawa's High And Low, Hotel Rwanda and The Pianist. Fan of any of those and think that I need to see them? Direct your prayers to the gods of shelf selection. I've done my bit.

The second category, at least on my personal 'low priority' list holds numerous sub-categories headed by the 'films which have been recommended to me but look a bit too scary and/or shit'. This includes undoubtedly dubious Horror offerings such as the remake of Black Christmas and Cold Prey. This section though is my most valued. It presents refuge from the conversations with acquaintances and colleagues which begin with 'oh you're a film fan? You must see...' and end with someone telling you how wonderful the latest Underworld is. The reply 'oh great, I'll put it on my list', has never had less meaning, but at least you can avoid an awkward ten minute exploration of the themes held in Kate Beckinsale's leather catsuit, as well as the guilt of no such list actually existing. There is of course the odd chance in several-hundred that you will have to watch something recommended, but there's equal chance that by that point your time here may have passed, along with your time discussing Underworld and thinking that rolling the bottom of your trousers up is fashionable.

The true mystery of the low priority list lies in the vagrancies of human memory, understood only by those who eschew alcohol and place letters after their name, presumably forming a secret code which helps them to remember things which are beyond the rest of us. Why, pray-tell, is Nine on my list, when I don't remember it being particularly well reviewed and have no fondness for musicals? What worth is there in The Informers sitting on my list: a 2008 Thriller with a 5.1 average on IMDb and apparently very little going for it beyond a Bret Easton Ellis screenplay and Rhys Ifans as 'Roger'. Will I lose anything by never seeing Three Blind Mice, an Australian Comedy (possibly) with one single Amazon review (four stars!)? Who knows.

Removing those films though, some of which have been there since I signed up for Lovefilm many, many moons ago, feels somehow wrong. The list is mine and mine to bear alone and should the list decide to one day send me The Burrowers, a 2008 Horror featuring Clancy Brown, I will watch it, lest it be a hidden gem known previously only to a handful of cinephiles and Clancy Brown completists.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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