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Netflix phenomenon (NYT article)

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Netflix phenomenon (NYT article)

Old 12-04-03, 04:53 PM
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Netflix phenomenon (NYT article)

I saw this and thought if anyone else has had the same experience

NYT (reg. required)

Catching Up on the Classics? Bring Tissues.
By JONATHAN D. GLATER

Published: December 4, 2003


MY wife and I are victims of Netflix, and it is our own fault.

In August we signed up for the service, which allows us to rent as many DVD's as we want, up to three at a time, for a flat fee of $20 a month. The DVD's arrive in our mailbox in cheerful bright-red envelopes. Each time we return one, Netflix sends us the next DVD on our list.

Netflix would be, we hoped, the silver lining in our decision to cancel cable television to save money before a move. We thought the service would be a wonderful way to catch up on all the great recent movies we have missed and on classics that we should have seen but didn't. We were right, and that has been disastrous.

Unfortunately, most of the classics - and even most of the contemporary movies that we managed to miss seeing on the big screen - are of the depressing variety. When Jen and I sat down to choose the movies that we wanted sent to us at Netflix's Web site (<a href="http://ads.kleinman.com/cgi-bin/adcycle/adclick.cgi?gid=72&cid=241&mid=3573&id=466'>www.netflix.com), we did not think like D.J.'s. We did not consider the mix of films we would get.

To be movie-literate people, we signed up for "Citizen Kane," "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull." A few weeks ago "Sophie's Choice" arrived. This searing study of a Holocaust survivor did nothing to improve our moods after sitting through "Taxi Driver."

We have endured "Kramer vs. Kramer," "In the Bedroom" and "Sunset Boulevard," which by that point we considered merely dark comedies. Then there was "Amores Perros," one of the best movies we have seen, but certainly not cheery. Coming soon is the mob movie "Miller's Crossing." And we have had "Apocalypse Now Redux" sitting on top of the television for at least the last month.

Things are so grim around the television that we have debated sending one or two movies back unwatched. As I pointed out one night - after we chose to read books rather than watch another dark downer of a film - no one would know we had not watched everything on our list.

We have managed to get our fix of lighter cinematic fare in theaters, where we have seen "Finding Nemo," "Intolerable Cruelty" and even "Down With Love" (that one was Jen's idea). But this means that we will not have those movies to vary our Netflix viewing in the future. Now we are debating whether to skip movies while they are in theaters so that we can mix them into our Netflix queue. (We could also simply update the queue, one friend pointed out, but so far we have not done that because we fear that we might never order the must-see movies.)

Friends who have subscribed to Netflix say they have encountered a similar problem, with the result that they cycle through the lighter movies quickly while the serious ones sit gathering dust for weeks or months. Indeed, I have a theory that Netflix's records would show that all of us tend to keep serious movies for much longer than we keep the lighter ones.

When "A Shot in the Dark" arrived a few weeks ago, we were so desperate for comedy that we watched it that afternoon. Inspector Clouseau never seemed so funny.

Lynn Brinton, a Netflix spokeswoman, said she sympathized with our situation. " 'The Deer Hunter' is the one that's on my TV stand," she said, adding that it had been there for six weeks. "Another friend of mine had a DVD for eight months before she watched."

Ms. Brinton said that Netflix did not track how long people keep different kinds of movies. But she speculated that people take longer to watch movies that are recommended by friends or that they think they should watch. "We find that people put a lot of peer-pressure-driven titles in their queue because they're able to, and those titles too may be the ones that take a little longer," she said.

My wife and I have tried to coin a word for our situation. We are Netflictims but cannot blame Netflix for our plight (although we do). Perhaps we suffer from Netflixia: an inability to take a holistic view of the movies to be shipped by Netflix. It is akin to myopia.

Jen has livened up our list by signing us up for "Shanghai Noon." It has not yet arrived. Fortunately we moved a few weeks ago and promptly had cable service installed. "The Real World" never looked so good.

For now we are keeping Netflix, but given our track record in choosing films, we may return total control over the programming mix to the faceless people who run the 300 or so channels we have. Then our only challenge will be avoiding "Law and Order" every night. That is much less daunting than the prospect of "Apocalypse Now Redux," with its promise of 202 minutes of escape from reality to something worse. That movie is still sitting next to the TV, unwatched.

----
this guy should learn how to use the queue
Old 12-04-03, 05:01 PM
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what a nitwit... if he doesnt want dark films, why does he keep ordering them from netflix? dumb azz.

j
Old 12-04-03, 05:33 PM
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I conciously vary the type of films I order to avoid this problem. It it starts looking to "heavy" I just mix in some comedy. Why is this hard?
Old 12-04-03, 05:36 PM
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This guy is an idiot...

...oh wait, I forgot, he writes for the New York Times.
Old 12-04-03, 05:45 PM
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Stupid article.
Old 12-04-03, 06:28 PM
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It's like he has no concept of cause and effect.
Old 12-04-03, 06:38 PM
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i guess netflix is choosing the dvds he should rent?

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Old 12-04-03, 07:05 PM
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I think you've all completely missed the point of the article.
Old 12-04-03, 07:35 PM
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Originally posted by Mr. Salty
I think you've all completely missed the point of the article.
How so? This jackass is complaining about dark movies. DONT RENT THEM MORON. Before I go see a movie I do about 2 minutes of research to see if I will enjoy it.
Old 12-04-03, 07:48 PM
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And that point is? I think his point is that perhaps some people don't use Netflix to rent movies they want to see, but movies they think they need to see. I think the author believes there are a lot of people signing up for Netflix because of "peer pressure" and rent lots of things they wouldn't have rented if they were going to the video store. If so, then this couple really aren't the type of people who should be renting from Netflix.

If the author's real point is that most classics or "must-see" movies are depressing--that's just ridiculous.

It also seems like watching movies seems to be the only thing they have going on in their lives, which for people who clearly don't appreciate film as much as they think they should is sad.

I'm giving my parents a gift subscription to Netflix for Christmas, so I'll see if they're really cut out to be "Netflix people". Luckily I think they're more cultured and appreciative of film than the author and his wife, so I think they'll use it to get movies they actually want to see. I'll just remind them that they can make their queue as long as they want, but that they can move stuff around so that they can get what they really want at any given time (which is exactly what I do).
Old 12-04-03, 08:50 PM
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I don't understand how people can feel so obligated to watch a movie just because they already rented it, especially a netflix rental, I mean come on 8 months, send it back already, I guess I probably watch a hell of a lot more movies than the people that tend to have this problem
Old 12-04-03, 08:55 PM
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I found it funny. But Netflix is indeed a phenomenon. it is a one-up on urbanfetch and that other one hour delivery service.
Old 12-04-03, 09:34 PM
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If someone rents movies because they think they 'need' to see them, that's their own fault....someone tell them they 'need' to rent/buy only the OAR ; )
I definitely vary mine--when they're about to send me something, I think Okay, my queue has 100+ items on it, what am I in the mood to watch next? [except in the case of tv series, where I want to watch them all in one batch.]
I have had one movie for about six months, my wife actually chose it, and just never got in the mood to watch it [but not because it was dark.]
Don't they tell the kids to avoid peer pressure? And here is an alleged professional and his wife bowing to it. Oh, but they'll sit in front of the TV and watch The Real World and "may return total control over the programming mix to the faceless people who run the 300 or so channels we have." That's better, slave to the machine. I don't want you to have a membership to Netflix anymore.
Old 12-04-03, 09:48 PM
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Originally posted by angryyoungman
And that point is? I think his point is that perhaps some people don't use Netflix to rent movies they want to see, but movies they think they need to see. I think the author believes there are a lot of people signing up for Netflix because of "peer pressure" and rent lots of things they wouldn't have rented if they were going to the video store. If so, then this couple really aren't the type of people who should be renting from Netflix.

If the author's real point is that most classics or "must-see" movies are depressing--that's just ridiculous.

It also seems like watching movies seems to be the only thing they have going on in their lives, which for people who clearly don't appreciate film as much as they think they should is sad.
What he said, except for that last graph. I don't think you can draw the conclusion that watching movies is the only only thing going on in their lives, especially considering that he writes that they're behind in their movie-watching.
Old 12-04-03, 09:56 PM
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This guy and his wife are on crack, depressingly bad movie crack that is. If he's so damn depressed, just clear the queue and put in some comedies, or better yet, cancel netflix. I hope he doesn't committee suicide and takes his wife along, or vice versa.

Just finished watching the 3 volume Woody Allen Collection, but you don't see me complaining and bragging about how depressing some of his stuff are.

The guy seriously need to join a swinger's club or something to cheer himself (and maybe his wife) up.

Last edited by FuzzyBallz; 12-04-03 at 10:01 PM.
Old 12-04-03, 10:06 PM
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I think the author raises a very good point, which is this:

People rent differently via Netflix and their competitors than they do if they go to their local Hollywood Video. There are undoubtedly a number of reasons for this, but a few are most certainly:

* There is not an immediate payment --> DVD relationship with Netflix. Each individual title doesn't carry the same feeling of monetary investment because we pay a flat rate for the service regardless.

* They have a better selection, by far, than any B&M video store. That opens up huge assortments of viewing options to the customer not previously available through rental, such as every classic film on the format, documentaries, musical titles, etc. This is far more than the whole wall filled with 300 copies of The Hulk experience we get at the average Blockbuster.

* There is a substantial delay between the time one signs up to see a film (i.e., puts it in their queue) and the time they get to see it. As such, "mood" becomes almost a non-issue (or a much larger factor, depending on how you look at it).

In the mood to see a light-hearted romantic comedy? Too bad. What you have in the house from Netflix is Shadowlands and Winged Migration with The Pianist en route. This leads to putting none of them in and watching the edited version of When Harry Met Sally on TNT instead...or watching something you already own...or perhaps making that now-archaic trip to Video Warehouse.

I believe there is definitely a greater tendancy for many using a rent-by-mail service, myself included, to en queue titles that we feel like we ought to see but that we might not otherwise rent or buy anytime in the near future.

Is this kind of stupid, as many here have pointed out? Yes, in a way it is. It is threatening to make a chore out of something we are supposed to enjoy. Also comes the feeling that sending back something unwatched is counter-productive, leading to the title that just sits there for weeks before we finally watch the damn thing (often to our delight, wondering why we waited so damn long) or say "screw it!" and toss it back into the mailbox unseen.

Believe it or not, Netflix is the reason I bought a DVD player in late 2000. A co-worker told me about it and I was so enthralled at the idea of renting by mail I ran right out and bought one of the original Apex's so I could accomodate the format that made the whole idea possible.

Since that time I have signed up for and dropped my Netflix membership twice and am now on my third iteration of membership there. I also belonged to RentMyDVD.com once as well. The reasons for cancelling memberships have probably had much more to do with the phemonenon described in the article above than with any disgust I have had with the services themselves.

Mr. Salty is right. I think many of you completely missed the point of the article.
Old 12-04-03, 11:17 PM
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JustinS,

I totally agree. I don't want to say my thoughts about those who called the article stupid. I know about 3 people on Netflix, plus myself and we have ALL experienced the same thing. I can make all the same claims, though I wouldn't really call it complaining. I guess if you perceive the article as complaining, then it is kind of stupid. I perceive it more as observing.

It's not that I don't want to see "Spirited Away," "Secretary," and "Whale Rider." It's just that often times when I have the choice of watching TiVo or watching "Tigerland," TiVo might win out due to my mood. Maybe a movie I own will win out due to what my wife wants to watch.

Also, I view my movies on a projector, which makes some of the more weighty material a little more viewable to me. I can't imagine how much more apparent this phenomenon would be for me if I was just watching the movies on a 25" TV.

Anyway, I continue to rent the independent, weighty, and even must-see-because-they-have-a-place-in-movie-history movies. They continue to sit around at times for over a month and I'm fine with that. However, a couple friends who were on Netflix have changed their habits as well. Maybe the author is stupid for not changing his habits. Maybe the article was pointless. But the phenomenon is certainly real.
Old 12-05-03, 03:15 AM
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I agree too...

and to take it a step futher, I can't tell you how many times I have gone into my collection of 300 DVD's and can't find jack to watch because of the preponderance of dark movies and "classics". Again, I collect films usually for "art" or "cinema history" and rarely get any light-hearted comedies. I probably have 20 comedies out of 300 films. 150-200 are foreign or were filmed in B&W.

I tend to buy films I think are "worth owning" rather than "worth watching". As such, I buy the heavier stuff......

I often go to Blockbuster to get a new release and leave the 300 sitting there to someday watch with my kids when they get old enough......

Last edited by Big Quasimodo; 12-05-03 at 03:18 AM.
Old 12-05-03, 03:57 AM
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Originally posted by Big Quasimodo
and to take it a step futher, I can't tell you how many times I have gone into my collection of 300 DVD's and can't find jack to watch because of the preponderance of dark movies and "classics". Again, I collect films usually for "art" or "cinema history" and rarely get any light-hearted comedies. I probably have 20 comedies out of 300 films. 150-200 are foreign or were filmed in B&W.
Hear that. I probably have more of a preponderance of lighter fare in my collection (also 300ish) than you, and it is exactly these films that tend to get watched more often. More often than not, I am popping in a disc just for something to watch, not because I have a strong mood to see anything in particular.

I tend to buy films I think are "worth owning" rather than "worth watching". As such, I buy the heavier stuff......
Again, I agree. The point of my collection is to own my favorite films on DVD, not necessarily the ones I want to watch most often. Hell, I had part of my library stolen over a year ago and I haven't even opened a few of the insurance replacements yet. The War Zone is one example that comes immediately to mind. I just finally opened Shadowlands and watched it again last night. Mrs. Brown finally got opened a month ago. All three excellent films, but not something-you-pop-in-to-kill-the-time-between-the-4:00-game-and-Sunday-Night-Football kinds of films. Yet, I'll watch the cheesy goodness that is Flash Gordon several times a year.

On a related note, I will sometimes rent a film, love it, buy the DVD, and then not even open it/watch it for ages. No Man's Land is one example that springs immediately to mind.
Old 12-05-03, 06:12 AM
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Originally posted by JustinS
The War Zone is one example that comes immediately to mind.
Ha! That was in my DeepDiscountDVD 20% off order this week. Along with Irreversible. Wonder how long it will take me to watch those for the first time (and it will be alone, cause I KNOW my wife won't want to watch either of them).
Old 12-05-03, 07:22 AM
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So basically, many of you buy/rent stuff not because you want to see it [and sometimes I "want" to see stuff that's dark/depressing/etc], but rather because you 'think you should have it'? Or if you buy stuff that's 'worth owning' rather than 'worth watching', then the assumption is that you'll never watch it, so it should be taken out of the 'dark vs. light' ratio of your collection.
I didn't find [bold] Secretary [/bold] dark at all--I thought it was almost perfectly done, given the admittedly tricky subject matter [that said, I watched it on DVR, not DVD]. And I do still record movies on the DVR, sometimes stuff that is on my NF list, but that I haven't felt like moving up to No. 1 [last night I watched Thir1333een Ghosts, which was on NF, but I never got around to having it sent, I've been on a TV/anime on dvd kick from them.]
I will admit NF rewards those who can deal with delayed gratification, more than the people who go to Blockbuster on Sat night thinking 'What do we want to watch tonight?'
I've got enough DVD's of all varieties that I've bought and haven't watched yet, that if I want to watch something 'funny' and all I have from NF is 'dark,' I can.
If I were assigning 'blame' to anyone other than the renter, I'd say this is in part Blockbuster's [and other rental stores] fault for having a preponderance of 'buddy flicks' and 'romantic comedies' and 'big things go boom' flicks and not having the 'darker' [to me, 'Series 7' is dark. '12 Monkeys' kind of is, once you get to the ending.], or shall we say, sometimes more meaningful films.

Ultimately the responsibility rests with the renter. To blame Netflix that you're depressed because they carry more serious fare that you feel 'obligated' to rent is merely displacing the blame--don't blame McDonald's when you're overweight because
you feel 'obligated' to Super Size it because it's available.

I will agree, with Netflix and their 'buffet style' renting, I do find myself renting a lot more stuff that I would never rent if I had to pay 3.95 for it and have it back in 3 days. Of stuff I wouldn't rent because it's not available, and I'm not going to drop 70 bucks on a TV series set I've never seen before. And yes, some of those were things that the common knowledge was that I 'should watch them.' [Alphaville and Svenkmaier's Alice come to mind--I could barely get through either of those.] Usually, however, I haven't enjoyed them--so I've learned now. I rent what I want to see, or what I'm interested in, or what people whose opinions I respect suggest, etc.
Nothing's stopping anybody from having NF send them both The Decalogue and Ace Ventura at the same time.
Old 12-05-03, 09:09 AM
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Originally posted by dtcarson
If I were assigning 'blame' to anyone other than the renter, I'd say this is in part Blockbuster's [and other rental stores] fault for having a preponderance of 'buddy flicks' and 'romantic comedies' and 'big things go boom' flicks and not having the 'darker' [to me, 'Series 7' is dark. '12 Monkeys' kind of is, once you get to the ending.], or shall we say, sometimes more meaningful films.
The author is not blaming Netflix. Just look at the title:

"My wife and I are victims of Netflix, and it is our own fault."

If he actually assigns any blame to Netflix, I'm sure he is doing so jokingly.
Old 12-05-03, 12:08 PM
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What I don't like about this idiot is his flip attitude about "dark" films, combined with his slavish surrender to crap television.

...our decision to cancel cable television to save money before a move.

Unfortunately, most of the classics - and even most of the contemporary movies that we managed to miss seeing on the big screen - are of the depressing variety.
Throughout the aricle he makes reference to the fact that an evening spent watching a cinema classic that happens to be dark is inferior to the delightfully cheery evenings he used to spend watching upbeat television. How sad.

Fortunately we moved a few weeks ago and promptly had cable service (re)installed. "The Real World" never looked so good.
Sickening! Just sickening!!!

That is much less daunting than the prospect of "Apocalypse Now Redux," with its promise of 202 minutes of escape from reality to something worse.
Evidently this sheep sees the escape provided by "The Real World" as somehow enjoyable and pleasent.
Old 12-06-03, 04:53 PM
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Interesting thread. I signed up for Netflix less than a week ago and my 40 list queue has me very excited. On a typical weekend I used to rent a big-mother blockbuster and then one smaller foreign or indie flick. I almost always liked the indie flick more. With help from Rottentomatoes I've found a million + 1 fascinating foreign flicks I've never heard of that I can't wait to watch. If they are depressing, BRING THEM ON! I can somewhat understand wanting to see a movie with historical significance and then letting it sit around... I have one movie on my Tivo that's been sitting there for 10 months.

But these movies in my queue I truly want to see. Not one is there just to be there. So cool how a system of renting like this will vary widely what I view each month.
Old 12-06-03, 08:40 PM
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What exactly was the point of that article?

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