Saturday, February 23, 2013

MASH (1970): Widely Acclaimed / Vastly Overrated

MASH is one of Robert Altman's widely acclaimed films and I am one of the many people who do not get the greatness of this movie. MASH is defined as hilarious, ground-breaking, audacious, surprising, anti-war, etc. Well, I can agree it has been audacious at the time of its release. As for the rest of it, I am not quite sure. MASH has its funny moments but it is far from a film I would call great. I consider it a vastly overrated movie.

If you look into IMDb's description of MASH, you will see the movie is about a field hospital (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) whose staff uses humor and sex to escape the terror of the Korean war. MASH teems with disobedience, misogyny and disputable jokes. How we are supposed to know though that keeping their sanity in a good state is the doctors' actual motivation behind their behavior is beyond my perception of the movie. Indeed, there are lots of jokes, many of them really funny but I do not see how they make this an anti-war film or a film about people looking for salvation from the horror of war. The setting for these jokes could have been pretty much anything else and it would have (or have not) worked nearly as well.

The lovers of MASH have a variety of arguments in their bag: the movie has been very efficient at the time of its release but many things have changed in the decades that have passed; the film is funny and horrifying simultaneously and the often brutal jokes are result of the doctors' hopelessness; the same persons would behave differently in a "sane" world.

Now, these arguments are not completely devoid of sense but they are not very strong either. For example, there are many older movies about war but their age doesn't make them less anti-war or worse. Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory is a good example for an older and much better movie. And if we have to rely on the funny moments in MASH in order to appreciate it, I have to disagree once more that this is a very successful presentation of the terror of war. Just take the Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film from 2001 No Man's Land and you'll have a movie that is a way better in every aspect - it's both funnier and more horrifying than MASH while at the same time it demonstrates the actual drama and insanity of wars.

Of course, MASH has a few virtues. Some of the jokes and the situations are comical despite often showing cruelty or indifference. The cast is not bad at all featuring Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Robert Duvall and Sally Kellerman who has been nominated for Oscar for her role of nurse "Hot Lips". Most of these actors have been in far better movies though, playing better roles and demonstrating better acting. Finally, airing audacity and anti-establishment is the movie's last quality I can think of but it is considerably devalued by time.

So, if you are a fan of Robert Altman or you want to see all of the films on the 100 Years...100 Movies list of the American Film Institute, you have a reason to see MASH. If you want to see a good comedy, drama or anti-war film there are better options. The aforementioned No Man's Land is just one of them.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Few Comments on Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns

Google have just introduced their so-called AdWords enhanced campaigns. Here are a few thoughts provoked by these recent AdWords changes, which I would like to share with you.

At first sight, introducing new possibilities always looks good but after I've given the changes a second thought I am not so convinced about their benefits and I wouldn't called them "enhanced" if I had to name them.

What does not sound good is Google's intention to "upgrade" all AdWords campaigns to "enhanced" after June 2013. As I see, enhanced campaigns actually have some limitations: impossibility to target specific device types, sitelinks' character limit, etc. I do not see why it won't be possible to have separate dedicated campaigns for desktop or mobile devices. In many cases the separate campaigns would be far more convenient, not to mention that probably there are advertisers who want to target just mobile or just desktop users.

Apart from that, I also do not see any significant benefits coming from any of the new possibilities introduced with AdWords enhanced campaigns. They are not useless but I do not find them very useful either. Combining all kind of devices in one campaign will save usually just one redundant campaign at most and at the expense of a weakened control. In the case of combining many locations in one campaign the advantage could be bigger but at the same time if you want to have a separate bid for a particular location, most probably you would like to have separate ads and keywords too, which is actually not possible and practically devaluates the new feature.

On the other hand, if I have to think of some useful changes in a similar to the enhanced campaigns vein and give some actual suggestions, I can immediately think of two things.
1) A possibility to choose (or at least to exclude) locations per ad group would be very helpful. It will limit unnecessary keyword replication across multiple campaigns and will be also more convenient for initial creation and subsequent management. For example, if I would like to create a campaign with 50 ad groups and 100 locations but I want to exclude a particular location (one of these 100) different per each ad group, at the moment I have to create 100 separate campaigns with these 50 ad groups and their keywords. In case of having location targeting per ad group this would be achieved with just a single campaign.

2) Another good feature would be the possibility to select (or at least to enable/disable) sitelinks per ad group (if not per ad). I think this is probably a better treatment in regard to sitelinks cause each ad has it's own destination URL so setting sitelinks at campaign level only doesn't seem very logical. Apart from logic, it would be just more convenient cause the same pack of sitelinks is not always the most appropriate one for each ad in a campaign. In addition, AdWords system does not always show the ads with their sitelinks (depending on where the ad is shown on the page with the search results), so an option to have a different main destination URL per ad depending on whether sitelinks are displayed or not seems also a proper and useful addition.

I think these suggestions are quite easy for implementation, which could be achieved in various ways. I do appreciate Google's work to improve AdWords so my intention is not just to criticize the new features but to offer some constructive feedback. I saw missing AdWords features in the past, which I thought would be helpful, had been implemented later. So it seems Google actually use users feedback to improve AdWords and I hope they will reconsider their current plans in regard to enhanced campaigns and come out with another (better) solution.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Beginners (2010): Realistic and Well-Acted but Underwhelming

I often complain about certain movies not being believable or characters' behavior not being adequate and realistic enough. Usually, I dislike them partially or entirely. And now, here Beginners is. It's completely believable. It's acted out quite well. Even the not so common events portrayed in the movie seem absolutely possible. And despite all of these the movie is somehow boring and not fully entertaining. Maybe its total realism makes it less cinema friendly and at the end less involving. Beginners is good on its own yet it failed to absorb me.

Beginners is about Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor), a young man who after losing his mother is shocked by his father's announcement that he is gay. Father Hal Fields (Christopher Plummer) is also diagnosed with cancer and dies after a few years leaving Oliver sad and confused about love and life. Oliver often thinks about his father's last years and his happy relationship with considerably younger male lover Andy (Goran Visnjic). He also thinks about his early life with his queer mother and her marriage with his father. These thoughts determine his uncertainty in his own relationships with women. One day he meets Anna (Mélanie Laurent), a French actress, which has also unstable former love life. Both of them like each other but love is not enough to keep them together. They have to deal with their fears and find hope and inspiration in order to end up in a successful relationship this time.

The story of Beginners may seem more interesting as I write about it than it actually is while you are watching the film. There are not any substantial twists. You know from the very beginning that the father will die and that he is gay. Whether Anna and Oliver will end up together or not does not really matter. So, the interesting stuff that has to capture your attention should be hidden in the particular scenes. And there are really some interesting moments but as a whole they are not enough to make for a captivating movie. The characters of Andy and the mother (Mary Page Keller) are in a way fascinating but they are not among the ones having the most screen presence.

Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor perform well. And as I've said everything you see in Beginners is feasible although not everyone in real life is gay and it's even rare a 75-year-old man to find an attractive young male lover. Being believable is not enough though and boredom is not an alien to this film. Personally, I do not find the usage of stills from particular years in the movie to be an effective presentation device either. On a positive note, I think to employ a character of an elderly father revealing himself as gay and achieving happiness at the decline of his life is a good idea when seen as an inspiration to his son.

So, Beginners offers a real life story, good acting and some colorful characters. It's hardly a comedy but you can smile a few times. What the movie doesn't offer is real involvement and caring for the characters. I find it underwhelming and remotely entertaining. Watching Beginners once is not a complete waste of time but it is not a fully rewarding experience either.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Farewell to EuroDNS!

Instead of a list of EuroDNS voucher codes valid for year 2013, this time we are going to announce our parting with this European domain name registrar. There are various reasons for our decision and below are a few of them.

In 2012 EuroDNS discontinued their long-lived practice to offer voucher codes valid for renewals in addition to new domain registrations and transfers. EuroDNS' prices rarely have been the best and their main advantage has been the convenience of offering a variety of domain extensions at one place combined with discounted prices due to their frequent coupons valid for renewals. Now, when the discounted prices are gone, EuroDNS' regular pricing hardly can win permanent customers for the majority of the domain extensions they sell. Their pricing model is just not attractive anymore.

Over the years EuroDNS support services have never been great and while this was bearable in conjunction with their previous advantages now it is not really acceptable. The culmination of this charming customer support experience was last year when there were cases when about ten emails were needed in order to receive a decent and not misleading answer from them. It was nothing more than a painful experience.

Finally, they used to offer an affiliate program offering lifetime commissions for orders made by referrals you had sent. They discontinued it too. And this would have been generally Ok if it was valid only for new referrals an affiliate recruited. The problem is they also discontinued the lifetime status of the older referrals, which in essence means they've been dishonest in the first place. True, this does not directly affect customers registering domain names but it demonstrates the way the company is doing business and for us it is not a reliable way.

The above were the main reasons that drove us away from EuroDNS. It takes more than just a few false promises and an incompetent support team to win devoted customers. We do not like to support such companies so we do not recommend this domain registrar anymore.