by: Kelsey Carter
It’s hard to believe that Netflix, the online DVD rental service, is over a decade old
now. On the other hand, it’s even harder to believe that Netflix was at one time not a part of my life. Truly, a service that allows me to skip out on film screenings for my classes is one that I’m not ashamed to be hyperbolic about. (Seriously, the choice to walk across a cold campus to watch a movie in a dingy classroom versus watching the same film on “instant watch” in my bed isn’t a very difficult choice to make. I almost always go with the latter.) In addition, Netflix is a large contributor to our increasingly film-conscious society. I suppose one could argue this isn’t a necessarily good thing—if there’s anything we don’t need more of, it’s a bunch of pretentious home bodies discussing the merits of classical cinema—but it’s a phenomenon large enough to warrant observation. Netflix has changed the experience of renting and watching movies by allowing a patron to select a title, have it delivered, and watch it on his own schedule. Whereas theaters require planning ahead (looking up show times and accounting for travel) and traditional rental stores have a cap on the amount of days a movie can be checked out, Netflix capitalized on a demand for convenience, letting customers watch hundreds of movies streaming online and hold on to DVDs as long as they’d like.
In any case, I am thankful for the directors that Netflix has exposed me to. Netflix’s taste algorithm has certainly improved over the last few months of my subscription, allowing for more accurate recommendations. At times I’ll admit that I feel embarrassed to have so much confidence in a rather intangible suggestion-machine, and that having my favorites boiled down to the adjectives “cerebral, dark, mind-bending, and suspenseful” is humbling. Alas, Hal Hartley was a director that I was unfamiliar with prior to the magic of Netflix’s “Top Picks for You.” Indeed, my five-star ratings of Romy and Michele’s High School
Reunion, Reality Bites, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Clarissa Explains it All, and Tank Girl must have hinted at my ridiculous love for the ‘90s, for teal and pink, for too-dark makeup and pseudo-occult fashion (fauxccult?). Additionally, Hartley’s Trust contained a lot of visual gags that reminded me of what I love in early John Cusack films of the ‘80s. Netflix knew I’d like Trust because it compared me to members who have similar tastes. After its end credits, I wanted to hug Netflix. I wanted to crawl into my computer’s monitor and give its iconic white-on-red lettering a big kiss. Since that capability is not yet available, I settled on watching the rest of Hartley’s movies.
Our dalliance doesn’t stop at movies, either. Netflix had added numerous television
shows to its website, allowing me to watch the entirety of Party Down before Starz decided it wanted the show to have a cult-status (thankfully it’s since been put back up). I also gave
Parks & Recreation a second chance; it’s instant-watch status helping me to confirm that no, it wasn’t a mere The Office spin-off. I can watch 10 episodes in a row without worrying about commercials. Watching the series’ episodes sequentially rather than with the interruptions of advertisements has affected the intended experience of TV. Subscribers are subsumed into the show’s running storyline and are able to catch plot holes that would otherwise be forgotten during week-long gaps of live TV.
Without a doubt, Netflix has enriched my life. It’s given me joy, laughter, tears,
friendship, companionship… if you don’t have an account, I suggest
stealing borrowing a friend’s. They haven’t blocked simultaneous instant watch viewings (yet?).