If A Decade Under the Influence turned you on to American film in the ’70s, then this collection is for you. It’s also a great way to see Jack Nicholson before he entered the realm of self-parody. Also, Henry Jaglom!
Yesterday I downgraded our Netflix account from three DVDs at a time to two. Have I gotten so much as an email asking me why? Nope! Netflix may be the most successful company I use that doesn’t seem to care about catering to their subscriber base. What makes me say that? Since I signed up, I can’t think of a single feature they’ve managed to improve. You might say, “But they rolled out streaming for your precious Xbox,” but even that came with its own set of problems. Netflix is absolutely nowhere when it comes to solving the issues that would make their service better without the costly expense of new content.
Here’s what I’d like them to fix:
- Shared queues. This is a great feature that was spared the chopping block in the past year. It’s the thing that ensures that Helen and I share our account and that everyone gets their picks. Historically, Helen’s gotten two discs and I got one; she’d burn through seasons of TV while I slogged through art house flicks. It’s pretty great, right? It’d be even better if Netflix could tell us which titles were on streaming for both queues, instead of just selecting my queue and leaving it at that.
- New releases. I get it. This is an embarrassment that Netflix wants you to forget by bringing you more streaming content. I’m not convinced. Even if we can’t have new releases for 28 days plus however long it takes to get them to us, could we at least see what new stuff is out there, even if it’s just to pointlessly update our queue. Is that so much to ask?
- Social features. These were horrible when they had them, but they might’ve improved them rather than wiping them out outright. I know social features aren’t easy to do. It’s hard to know what people want. But I can’t think of any other online movie service that people love more than Netflix. I’m guessing the community could’ve made helpful suggestions. It wouldn’t have had to involve much work probably. At this point they could probably get away with some degree of Facebook integration and let that platform do the heavy lifting.
Now, I’m thrilled that they’re leveraging their streaming content to the max. Putting that stuff on any screen is great. I’ve heard plenty of people say there’s nothing good in the streaming library, but that’s just because they’re not really into the art house content. I love it! I can’t wait until I can watch an episode of 30 Rock on my iPhone as I ride the train. I just think that these tweaks will go a long way to improving the service for the long haul.
So, go ahead and surprise me, Netflix!
Great little post over at Pullquote about how to rationalize adding even more Criterion Collection titles to your personal DVD library. Trust me, I feel this guy’s pain. When I was really a movie hound, especially when I started taking advantage of Deep Discount’s massive biannual sales, I would agonize over which titles to buy. To wit, I still haven’t purchased a copy of Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour because I felt it was too expensive for one disc AND that it would surely go out of print when a new print was invariably discovered. This is the exquisite pain that only truly insane observers of the DVD remaster market can feel.
Conversely, how stupid do I feel for having ever bought Equinox, which I watched exactly one time? I think I’d hasten to add a follow-up to Pullquote’s post: how many DVDs do you own that sit on a shelf or in a drawer that are untouched? I confess to more than my fair share of these.
I feel sheepish even taking part in conversations like this now. I used to eagerly await regular emails from Criterion about their latest titles and then make notes in priority order about which I’d buy when they went on sale. Now that I’m less bullish on buying any sort of physical media, they’re hardly a blip on my radar. I will admit that I nearly jumped for joy when I read that they were releasing Red Desert, which is possibly my favorite Antonioni movie, even though I always say it’s L’Avventura.
What an affecting film. Worth watching twice, trust me. It has an interesting backstory, too. Originally intended for a direct-to-video release, before Fox Searchlight gave it a shot at theatrical release. Hard to believe a movie with Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, and Robert Duvall would go direct-to-video. It’s the stuff the movie business eats up! It’s a music biopic! Remember Walk the Line and Ray?
Better than either of those movies, Crazy Heart doesn’t bite off more than it can chew. We don’t get Bad Blake’s life story; rather, we see him in his twilight years, fall down drunk and at the end of his rope. His songs are proof that he once had a career worth talking about. He’s Haggard and Jennings and Kristofferson and it’s amazing to watch unravel. Shame that Bridges won the Oscar for a composite character, but he channels the Outlaw ethos so perfectly.
The music’s not half bad either, and I have historically hated anything T‑Bone Burnett touches.
My friend Eric tweeted late last night,” ‘Up in the Air’: politely misguided liberal fantasy, or egregiously clueless and downright offensive in parts Piece Of Shit?”
It made me think of the clip above. I watched Up in the Air earlier this week and wondered what the fuss was about. It tries to do a lot, but I’m not sure it accomplishes very much. It’s boilerplate romance-gone-wrong fare, freighted with a message about how our priorities are wrong and somehow the horrible economy will help us figure out what’s important. Sorry, Mr. Reitman, but the notion of making lemonade doesn’t work when you can’t afford the lemons in the first place.
For people who’ve never been laid off, it seems like the stuff dreams are made of. You’re freed from a job you probably hated anyway; you get some severance, or at least unemployment; and you can reevaluate things and move on. Which is the logic that informs this amazingly hilarious Onion article I read way back in October 2003, when I was about six months into what would be a 2+ year underemployment bid.
I felt that the testimonials that came at the end of the movie from folks who’d lost their jobs in the recent downturn echoed the hope the Obama campaign gave them. Their optimism and their reliance on family to support them in their time of need were both very poignant, but Reitman conveniently leaves out all the stories from the past few years about folks who’ve lost their jobs and have then gone on to violent attacks on their workplaces and communities.
Is Reitman the new W.D. Howells, that is, someone who puts a smiley face on realism? There’s but one “dead end” in the movie, the woman who follows through on her threat to commit suicide. Everyone else just goes on their merry way, for better or worse. Whether it’s finding a new job, or having an affair, or just running away from it all thanks to a nearly infinite supply of frequent flier miles, everyone can find an escape from the humdrum, if not outright happiness.
I think it’s that that people dislike about Reitman’s movies. The simple-mindedness. The breezy dialogue. The beautiful people. The whole ‘resiliency of the human spirit’ trope, which sometimes just seems a little more realistic than the way it’s presented here. Reitman’s youthful, privileged worldview makes it difficult to see things differently than he does, that is, through a lens of infinite possibility. The problem is that Reitman’s skies, like those in Up in the Air, are sunny and cloudless.