Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Homo Box Office

For the past three or four years everyone I know has badgered me about not being a member of Netflix. But even in the heyday of "Make it a Blockbuster night," I was never the movie rental type. The main reason was because I AM the type who goes to the theater see new movies that interest me when they come out. The secondary reason was an ugly incident back in '88 when I kept Woody Allen's "Another Woman" for an extended period of time and ended up paying 60 bucks in late fees. (Remember when VHS tapes of movies "retailed" for $125 or something?)

As I struggled to figure out how to make space in my apartment last month most readers suggested "going digital." While their (meant-to-be-rhetorical) question of "When was the last time you actually pulled out a CD and listened to it?" was responded to with a resounding "EVERY DAY -- usually more than once!" the like-minded "When was the last time you actually watched a movie you own?" was greeted with the expected "Never" response. (Well, maybe "almost never." I did make Michael sit through "Desperately Seeking Susan" when I found out Love Saves the Day was closing down. Have you seen the ridiculous "original" ending on that DVD??? What a riot!!!!)

So I relented and tossed out my dusty old collection of videotapes and a handful of DVDs (I never collected DVDs the way I did tapes; my DVDs of "Strangers With Candy," "Parting Glances" and "James at 15" aren't going anywhere). But afterward, I suddenly had this anxiety attack about not having access to DVDs anymore. All the video stores in my neighborhood have closed, so even though it's a rare event around here, I suddenly felt a compulsive need to be ABLE to do it. Suddenly, Netflix seemed like the perfect solution. Although I started with the two-out-at-a-time plan, I quickly downsized to one. (I DON'T RENT MOVIES!!!!) But now that the "pressure" has been reduced, I'm slowly getting into the Netflix groove.

At first, I literally couldn't think of a single DVD I wanted to put in my queue. ("Citizen Cane," maybe?) But then some friends shared their lists with me, and I was suddenly able to come up with a dozen titles to get the ball rolling.

So far I've forced myself to watch watched a movie a week, and feel like I'm getting my money's worth. (I won't talk about the fight I got into the envelope the first time I tried to open it, though.) I blog about my Netflix adventure because I'm hoping by sharing what I've rented each week it will provoke responses and recommendations from you guys. (Like I said, even though Netflix has virtually everything, it's hard to come up with ideas off the top of your head.) Here's the story so far:

Week 1:
"End of the Century: The Ramones" (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)
This is a compelling documentary about the legendary punk rock band that never really "made it big." Fascinating interviews with all the members (Joey had already died, but was interviewed in the years right before this was released) and lots of rare footage. I thought I knew a lot about the band already, but this one's good for even a hard-core fan.

Week 2:
"Chinatown" (RECOMMEND)
I had seen this movie as a kid, but was surprised that even as an adult it was VERY CONFUSING. (Admittedly, I'm not good with faces or plot twists -- but I already knew the "big" twist and I was still confused!) Still, Roman Polanski's extended scenes of minute details are compelling and groundbreaking. And Faye Dunaway is truly one of the last Movie Stars.

Week 3:
This 1980 high school drama was one of my favorite films when I was junior high, and for the most part it held up well. Jodie Foster's acting really stands out in this coming-of-age tale set in the San Fernando Valley even if ex-Runaways singer Cherie Currie's "look" best captures the moment. A young Scott Baio is worth the price of admission, but the dark tone of it all might surprise you. (It was the feature film debut by Adrian Lyne, who later gave us "Flashdance," "Indecent Proposal" and "Fatal Attraction," which kind of tells you everything you need to know.)

Next up:
"In Bruges"

So there you have it. Three recommendations and from me. Your turn.


Unknown said...

When Netflix first started, I subscribed on the 3 DVD plan, and when faced with what to put in my queue, I realized that even though I'd been to film school, I'd only seen about half of the movies on the AFI Top 100 list. Even though the merits of the list are debatable, there were enough cultural touchstones on the list that I'd never seen, so I queued them all up and watched the ones I hadn't seen. Of course, I put the ones I was most interested at the top of the list, so a couple of months into it I was left with a bunch of westerns and war movies. But it was a good exercise, and I saw a lot of movies that I would never have chosen for myself, but wound up liking.

David in Houston said...

I'm planning on joining Netflix today. I checked out the 50 greatest gay movies of all time at AfterElton.com (link below). I figured I'd rent two movies at a time. One gay themed, one mainstream.


I made a list of the movies I thought I'd be most interested in and checked out their scores on RottenTomatoes. Here are six I plan on renting:
The Adventures of Felix, Big Eden, Get Real, Shelter, I Think I Do, Latter Days

Others I might rent: A Touch Of Pink, Bedrooms & Hallways, Summer Storm, Mysterious Skin, Just a Question of Love, Simon

Unknown said...

...been doing netflix several years now---give it time and you'll be hooked!

Danny in WeHo said...

I have filed my queue to almost the 500 title limit! I use Netflix for "the ones that got away" or "I certainly wouldn't pay 12 bucks to see that". There are many classics that I'd like to see, a lot of funny/campy crap I've missed and plenty of horror titles. I enjoy movies and I can't imagine what it is like being one of those people who sees maybe four or five movies a year... INSANE! Lately, I haven't had much time to watch what I have, but the magic of Netflix is you can hold on to that little MFer 'til you watch it, with no late fee. I love Netflix especially when I'm taking long flightrs and have time to watch stuff. On my recent trip to NY, when my dear mother wasn't using my portable player, I got watch two "ones that got away". SON OF RAMBOW and KABLUEY (which I saw because of your recommendation). I really enjoyed them both and it makes my monthly fee worth those two experiences alone.

Matthew said...

In Bruges was surprisingly great. One thing you and I don't have in common—I find it hard to rent old movies. I tend to catch those on the tube or see them in revivals or to learn so much about them it just FEELS like I've seen them.

I tossed out all my VHS except some that seemed rare and bizarre, if even those. I used to have 100s of snippets of, like, Madonna on ET at Cannes in 1991 and, like, "Madonna angers Evansville residents." Tossed.

Anonymous said...

Ken, the best thing you can do is add "friends" in Netflix. You can get a lot of ideas from the movies your friends watch and rate, especially if their interests are similar to yours.

AJ said...

Hi Kenneth,

I love your blog! I don't know if you like foreign films, but I have two to recommend. The first one is a little French film called "A Question of Love" and the second (from Quebec) is called "C.R.A.Z.Y." (and it happens to be one of my favorite films!) Both are available on Netflix so look them up.

Marc Lallanilla said...

You can add friends to your Netflix page and share recommendations that way. It's a little creepy, though, since someone's Netflix list is like a window into their soul. Here's a starter: for pure 80s romantic adventure, rent "Choose Me." Rae Dawn Chong gets beat up -- that makes any movie worthwhile for me. And if you haven't seen "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," it's amazing, if only to watch Joan Blondell own every scene she's in.

Peter Chan said...

I suspended my Netflix for a few months recently because I got sucked into the vicious cycle of "I want to watch more to get my money's worth". I think a few months away from Netflix would be enough for me "detox"... we'll see- the suspension is scheduled to be lifted on the 22nd of this month.

But recommendations... 'Frozen River' is released today and it's a little gem of a movie.

GuyDads said...

I love Netflix. I've been a 3-at-a-time member since 2003. 75% of the movies we rent are gay themed. Who knew there were hundreds and hundreds of such titles. 6 years later and I still have almost 200 films in the queue.

Anonymous said...

In Bruges is excellent. One I missed in the theater but loved on Netflix is Gone, Baby, Gone.

But the best part about Netflix is that you can watch crap you wouldn't go to the theater for and wouldn't waste money on either -- like Hamlet 2. Didn't work as a movie at all, but the last 20 minutes is priceless. So fast forward to that, watch it, put it in the mail and then wait for Citizen Kane to come!

Alex said...


I have been with Netflix for many years now. Being that your in the 212, I think you will enjoy renting Shortbus. It's a funny and sexy journey into self discovery set in Underground NYC in the 80's It was too sexy for Blockbuster to carry but thankfully Netflix has it.

columbusbuck said...

The best movie I've seen over the last year or so was "Land of the Blind" with Donald Sutherland. Give it a chance.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the 3somes I get from Netflix!

Plus, seeing FOXES reminded me of a time when they did the movie with DRAG QUEENS and all here in Hollywood. With the same exact words. It was hilarious!


Anonymous said...

I hate Netflix. They have this sleezy rule, where if you are renting too many movies, they don't send you as many new releases. Instead, they send them to the people that rent fewer movies, because they are the more profitable customers. Secondly, if you are mailing back too quickly, they suddenly delay registering that your movie has been returned by a day. You tell yourself, "But I've been on netflix for two months now, and they've always gotten the movie back the next day. What happened? Now it's taking two!" Oh no, they got your movie, it's just that they want to slow you down because it's been cutting into their profits. I got annoyed by their little tricks and shut off my account. People need to know how they really operate.

Bradmo said...

I applaud you from atop my 400+ disc Netflix queue.

Soulsearcher said...

Kenneth -- one of the things that I have enjoyed most about Netflix is the on demand viewing where you can watch certain dvds on the fly, right there on your computer screen. Now my laptop comes to bed with me and lulls me to sleep with the sounds of Tina Fey and 30 Rock episodes.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree about Frozen River. AFAIAC, one of the best films of '08. Ditto I've Loved You So Long, which comes out on DVD in early March.

Gone Baby Gone and In Bruges are already on cable now, FWIW. Both very good.

Randomly looking at my own list, I would add:

Chop Shop
The Band's Visit
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
The Wackness
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

But I don't know what you've seen/not.

P.S. I just saw Son of Rambow over the weekend (ie, before the BAFTAs). I ♥'d it.