Monday, November 16, 2009

The Netflix Problem

For my birthday a few months back, I got a gift subscription to Netflix. It was a lovely gift--who doesn't want access to free movies?--but over the last few months I've also been reminded why the service is so frustrating.

Inevitably what will happen is I'll be running through my queue at a nice, steady pace when a movie will come in that doesn't fit the mood the I'm in. For example, I'm really in the mood to see Without a Paddle (not a real-life urge, mind you; just a theoretical) but something from Fassbinder or Bergman will arrive instead. It's like getting a salad when you want a patty melt served in a chocolate-covered bread bowl.

Now, I'm caught in a dilemma. Being a relatively smart person, I feel that I should soldier on and watch the serious movie. But I don't. I wind up reading a book for review, or scurrying to see a bunch of movies to write up. Something else comes up. So the serious movie sits on top of my TV, mocking me for my low-brow tastes and mental sluggishness. It gets to the point where the red Netflix envelope looks like a tongue sticking out, mocking me.
"How can you call yourself a movie fan, and you haven't sat through the collective works of Wim Wenders? What, is there an episode of "Seinfeld" you've only seen a dozen times?"

"Can't I return you and pick up something fun?"

"Serious thought is fun, moron! You don't rent movies for yourself! You rent them to impress people at cocktail parties."

"I don't think I've been to a cocktail party. Who am I, F. Scott Fitzgerald?"

"You could be if you watched Preston Sturgess' early work."

The other wrinkle is that my tastes and the girlfriend's tastes sometimes don't merge, which is why An American Werewolf in London sat on my TV for a good six weeks before I watched. (Verdict: I was born too late. Scream corrupted me.) She hates scary, gory movies so I have to wait for a sliver of time to watch such a movie alone. And with my schedule being nuts lately, free time to watch an endless parade of movies is dwindling...And, well, I kind of like having a girlfriend.
I guess that's one of the pratfalls of being a critic. You get to watch movies and read books to your heart's content, but often they're not the ones you want. And when you actually have a social life and work is coming in--and, honestly, I consider myself blessed for having both--being a fan takes a bit of a back seat.


Suzanne S. said...

I completely agree. I have tried, and canceled, Netflix twice for the same reason. No way I can anticipate my mood.

Anonymous said...

I share your view.... but I've found that making a backup of the DVD for later viewing is a viable solution