Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Close Reading of My Netflix Queue

I love Netflix. I love the control it gives me over my movie and television viewing, I love that I never watch commercials, and I love that the U.S. Postal system doles out Netflix at a tolerable rate. That is why I don't have cable-- not because cable sucks-- but because cable is too good; I can't handle the all the excellent programming. Netflix puts a much needed governor on my viewing.

I also love the Netflix queue. When you add a movie to your Netflix queue, there is absolutely no commitment involved. This is unlike when you buy a book, and feel an obligation to read it because you have spent money on it and it is taking up room on your bookshelf (and you also feel guilt for the tree that died to make the book).  The Netflix queue isn't analogous to taking books out of the library either, because you still need to physically store those books while you're not reading them, and you have to physically return them so you don't accrue late fees. Even pirating music engenders more responsibility than queuing a movie on Netflix, because you still feel you should give the music a listen as it is taking up space on your hard drive.

Because my Netflix queue carries none of this responsibility . . . because it is an abstraction that takes up no physical or digital space in my life, it has swollen to 223 movies. This is more movies than I could watch in five years . . . if I were planning on watching them. But I'm not. I'm never going to watch 95% percent of them. But I can't remove them either. They have sentimental value. So they sit in the queue, serving no purpose other than-- under close examination-- as a revealing tour of my consciousness, moods, personality, and aspirations. Let's get to it.

Queue Numbers 184-189: Shakespeare's An Age of Kings (Discs 1-5)

The Netflix blurb: "Explore the history of the English monarchy through the prism of Shakespeare's plays with this 15-part BBC series that features many of England's top actors. Originally broadcast on television in 1960."

Analysis: Why is this on my queue? Ostensibly, because I teach a high school Shakespeare class, I teach several of the history plays, and-- short of taking a college course-- this would be an excellent way to further my knowledge of the bard. But I teach a high school Shakespeare class . . . so all I need to know is a bit more than your average high school nerd knows about Shakespeare; this is way more information than I need to effectively teach the course, yet in some deluded moment I thought I might educate myself above and beyond the pale. And I refuse to remove this from my queue. I entertain the notion that someday I will become an expert.

Assessment: I am fooling myself.

Queue Number 219: Pierrot Le Fou

The Netflix Blurb: "Director Jean-Luc Godard's popular 1965 drama captures '60s French cool as only Godard could depict it."

Analysis: When I first joined Netflix, I thought I might become a film buff. I had always wanted to be an aficionado of some sort, and movies seemed to be a relatively painless thing to become buff at. I have never taken a film class, so I decided I would watch all the classics: Fellini, Godard, Kurosawa, etc. Instead, last week I watched Hamlet 2.

Question: Is this film the predecessor to The Blue Man Group?

Answer: I have no idea. Ask a film buff.

Assessment: The only time I will be a buff is when I am in the buff. Even then, I'm so hairy that it is hard to tell that I am naked.

Number 11: City Island

The Netflix Blurb: "When he recognizes his son, Tony (Steven Strait), whom he hasn't seen in more than 20 years, among a crop of new inmates in the jail where he works, Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) decides to bring the troubled young man home with him, much to the surprise of his wife and kids."

Analysis: My friend Terry made me put this on my queue, and I often check my queue when I'm in the English office at the same time as Terry, so I need to keep it near the top to assure him that I'm going to watch it . . . but I never feel like watching it, so any time it gets near the top, I push it down to number 11 again. At this point, Terry must realize that I'm never going to watch it (at least not while The Walking Dead, Madmen, and Black Swan are available options).

Assessment: I'm so polite that I am rude.

Queue Number 23: Zombieland

Assessment: Jesse Eisenberg went to the high school where I teach, and so I feel obligated to have the movie on my queue (but not to actually watch it).

 Queue Number 25: The Road

I loved the novel by Cormac McCarthy and-- in an abstract way-- I am curious as to how John Hillcoat translated this apocalyptic story into film, but when it comes to actually choosing a particular evening to watch this film, it never happens. Why? Because there's never a specific night when I say to myself: I really need to see someone roast and eat a human fetus.

Queue Number 13: The Black Cauldron

Netflix blurb: Disney's first PG-rated animated film is a swords-and-sorcery epic set in an ancient land, where young pig keeper Taran dreams of becoming a warrior, and the evil Horned King (voiced by John Hurt) is trying to obtain the Black Cauldron to raise an army of the dead.

I loved this series of books as a child, and want to introduce the characters to my own children, but not more than I want to get the next Walking Dead disk or more than I want to overcome the "long wait" for disk one of Season Four of Madmen.

Assessment: My kids are already spoiled enough, and they don't know what they're missing.

 Queue Number 167: Not Quite Hollywood

Netflix Blurb: "Explore the unofficial history of Australian cult film with this provocative documentary on the "Ozploitation" flicks of the 1970s and '80s. Filmmaker Mark Hartley explores the violence, sex and nudity rampant during this period of lax restrictions."

This movie sounds like it might have lots of nudity, but I've yet to watch it.

Assessment: If I want to see naked girls, I don't need to get a movie from Netflix. I have an internet connection.

Netflix Queue Number 198: A Very Long Engagement

Netflix Blurb:  Amelie's Audrey Tautou stars as Mathilde, a young Frenchwoman who vows to find out what happened to her missing fiancĂ© (Gaspard Ulliel) during World War I. He appears to have died after a court-martial, but she needs to know for sure. As she looks for the truth, she discovers unexpected things about herself and the people she meets along the way. 133 Minutes.

My wife put this on the queue. 133 minutes?  About a missing fiancee? If I stay vigilant, this will never make it into top one hundred, let alone the top ten.

Assessment: My wife may control our household's budget, but I'm the man of the house when it comes to the queue.

Queue Number 197: Little Otik

Netflix Blurb: In this bizarre fantasy from the Czech Republic, an ordinary couple, Karel and Bozena, are unable to conceive a child. When Karel digs up a tree root and whittles something vaguely resembling a human baby, Bozena's strong maternal longings transform the stump into a living creature ... with a monstrous appetite that can't be met by baby's formula!

My friend Eric "recommended" this movie. Actually, he said it wasn't great but the description is so absurd that I have kept it on my queue for shits and giggles.  If I had a daughter, I would name her Bozena.

I invite you all to take a closer look at your own Netflix queue, and report what you find there. I am guessing that it is a mirror into your soul. Perhaps I am wrong . . . perhaps the rest of you keep a neater, more spartan queue; a practical queue, a queue of only things that are intended to be watched, but-- when the cost of adding a film to the queue is nothing-- I strongly doubt it.


TR said...

This is some grade-A filler. Excellent.

And Zombieland is pretty watchable.

rob said...

i have no netflix queue. i think it's a conspiracy.

zman said...

I wish Edwin Jackson wasn't on my bench.

mayhugh said...

Zombieland indeed watchable. The Road is toned-down significantly from the book, but just as pointless.

mayhugh said...

And for the AI viewers in the house, Constantine's performance of Unchained Melody tonight was unwatchable and unlistenable.

T.J. said...

Zombieland is quite entertaining...and z, what did my boy EJax do?

TR said...

EJax went 8 strong with 13 Ks. He got the win and gave up 4 hits, 1 walk and 1 earned run.

He's 2-0 with an ERA of 1.93 so far. Boo ya.

zman said...

Constantine's performance was almost as bad as the Red Sox's performance so far this season.

rob said...


KQ said...

What the hell is going on over at GTBHQ? (Besides the Teej's liquid lunch) Not a single Masters comment or post? And how is Alvaro Quiros not on my Masters fantasy team? Welcome to Team Hotpants, Alvaro.

Shlara said...

Dave, you don't have cable?
That is insane.

Dave said...

it's true-- maybe if i had cable i wouldn't be rolling in at one AM on a school night . . .