Saturday, May 08, 2010

Instant Watch Addiction "Plug In"

If you have Netflix have you been using their instant watch service? It's obviously both the future and way too empty calorie addictive. It's like Fast Food Movies. So many films available right that very second. Just click a button. Even if you're only mildly curious about something... why not? You've already paid the subscription free.

Surgeon Bill Matthews (Derek Long) loves that static electricity

I recently sat through an entire movie, Socket (2007), about a man who survives a lightning strike and gets seriously addicted to electricity, but sitting through an entire movie is not the norm. Usually instant watch encourages quick perusals and scan-throughs... which is nothing like a real movie experience. It's more like channel surfing on only one channel until you realize "yeah, this movie is not for me." Then you change channels and start over. But you might be fooling yourself because that's no way to watch a movie. It's like dipping your toe in the water and calling it swimming.

I am reminded of one of my all-time favorite quotes.
"Instant gratification takes too long." - Carrie Fisher
I even bought the t-shirt.

All of this impatience is addictive itself. Movies are consistently spoiled for us by the internet and by their own advertising campaigns. And the faster things get, it's still never enough. We want it quicker. Or I do at least. Maybe I shouldn't speak for you. I even get antsy while Netflix is "downloading movie information... determining video quality... buffering... verifying content license" and that takes like 2 to 3 seconds. It feels like an hour.

What is wrong with me (us if you have the same problem)?

Well, at least I'm only addicted to movies and not electricity like the Socket cast because that gets nasty. Pretty soon you're surgically altering your body to "plug in" to your lover in whole new ways. Ewww. We're visiting the kingdom of body horror in this low budget affair... the kingdom where David Cronenberg rules with the crown grafted onto his head with much higher budgets.

I'm not sure how I made it through all of Socket --given the "next!" component of this instant watch addiction. While it's far from perfect, I appreciated that it was a gay film that wasn't even remotely about being gay. That's so rare. And mostly it held my interest by being consistently engaging, unusual in topic and employing sexy actors who get naked (Hello Matthew Montgomery your left with the beard).

Don't judge. I'm only human!

Now, I'm not trying to be suggest that nudity makes a movie good because that'd be laughable. God knows Netflix instant watch (and straight-to-DVD bargain bins before it) is cluttered with horrifyingly bad movies that offer up plenty of skin but no reason to be staring at it. But nudity is one of a list of things like quality acting, unusual concepts, great dialogue/screenplay and interesting camera work or staging that don't add significantly to a film's budget and can make up for a lot of constraints in that department. At the very least any of these things, should a DIY movie choose to employ them, can distract the viewer (momentarily) from noticing how cheap the movie is.

If you're a no budget filmmaker, do you maximize the list of cheap good things?

Do you have a Netflix addiction... or anything comparable and if so, have you made any discoveries we should also check out?


Laika said...

Grrr - I have a LoveFilm account, and have to pay to watch movies on demand that way.

On second thoughts, that's probably a good thing, because otherwise, I'd be in there for weeks at a time.

verninino said...

In addition to the 3-5 Netflix mailers I rotate through a week, I'll watch up to two instants (mostly because the only computers in the house are laptops and our TV screen is cable-free and tiny). I also have about 700 of my favorite films/TV series on DVD.

The downside of my addiction manifests itself differently than yours. With rare exceptions if I start a movie I finish it. But lately I've noticed that I don't like starting movies if I suspect they'll end in soul-sucking disappointment. I call this my Dark Knight Syndrome. I seldom see movies in theaters now-a-days because I don't have the patience for the expense, the commute, the preview preshow, the inane cell phone chatter... all preludes to a mediocre filmic experience that leaves me grumbling for a week.

I somewhat blame Netflix for this. Going to the theater for me now is like being (brace yourself for an overextended metaphor) a heroin addict with a premium home-delivery service going out on the cop-infested streets to cop a bag of diluted weed.

And things are only going to get worse as Netflix adds more features (from lagged Instant to instantaneous high fidelity with Extras).

I think my only gripe with Netflix is they shut down the friends features. I never used it much because I only befriended two friends, nevertheless my friends regularly made much better (surprisingly, unpredictably good) recommendations than the (improved!) algorithms Netflix uses.

verninino said...
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Unknown said...

It sort of sounds like you're making excuses for not wanting to finish movies and for wanting to stare at naked men.

I have a hard time believing that any significant portion of the serious film-watching crowd skims through movies like that. If anything, the Netflix service gives cinephiles the opportunity to see more movies in their entirety.

Would you have watched 'Socket' at all if not for the Netflix service?

As for the average movie-watcher, sure, maybe they'll sample several titles or start and stop a movie at will, but again, they'll be exposed to more movies than they would have been otherwise. And how is that any different from rotating the DVD tray, or picking up a few scenes of a movie on TV?

And about getting antsy during those lightning-fast loading times, I think there's a pill for that. ;)

KTibbs617 said...

I do have a Netflix account and had been thinking about canceling - but not anymore. Partially because the DVD drive on my laptop is highly temperamental and because I, too, can't stand the "buffering".
Recently I had mailed to me their new feature to instantly watch movies through the Wii - which, in my home, hooked up to the preferred
TV. There is just the time it takes to load (under 2min) and I have yet to be interrupted by buffering. Hallelujah! While, yes, the selection isn't exactly my dream there are a lot of random movies and documentaries that I wouldn't want to wait the 3days to get on DVD. There is always something better to be atop my list. You do find the occasional surprise - Summer Hours is an instant view option, as is Gomorrah - which I'd missed.
The best is being able to catch up on a ton of classic movies that I haven't been able to get to and (again) don't want to wait to see. While Ellen Burstyn's Oscar winning performance in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" is something to watch, it isn't a movie that was on my "must" list- but instant viewing made it easily accessible. And I'm glad it did. If delayed gratification is a sign of maturity than I'll forever be immature when it comes to my viewing habits.
My best find has been Phoebe in Wonderland w/Felicity Huffman and Elle Fanning.

Jude said...

The best movie I've watched on my Instant Queue was Brokeback Mountain. The only movie I've had to stop is The Mirror Has Two Faces - yikes.

Ben said...

I also like it for those movies that never quite make it to the top of my queue but turn out to be worth watching.

My best find? Peggy Sue Got Married. How had I never seen that? They also do have some quality indies to watch. "Wendy and Lucy" was great, and I really enjoyed "Humpday" as well. I also liked "Broken English," probably mostly due to my Parker Posey love.

I've also found it's great if you can find a good TV series for those 1/2 hour or 1 hour time slots you need to fill in your life... I watched all of This American Life and Friday Night Lights over the past year or so. I recently tried Dexter, but it didn't really hook me. Any other recommendations for good shows on Instant Watch?

So, a bit Netflix addicted? Yeah.

Nick Duval said...

I think what Netflix Instant and Itunes has done to the film experience is very sad. I hesitate to rent blurays off netflix in physical if they can be instant queued or Itunes bought (even if they'll look better) because they're easier to get. It's definitely sacrificing quality for quantity.

That being said, I was able to catch "35 Shots of Rum, "Brick, and "Yojimbo" and that made me happy. My not discovery was "Ballast," which I ended up really disliking.


Nick -- that's exactly what i'm talking about. I love it but quality of image definitely suffers and i care so much about that that i feel guilty when i'm instant watching.

Kimberly -- exactly. things you'd always meant to see but didn't are so accessible which is good.

Verninino -- the theater chains definitely need to think about making that experience more enjoyable. not annoying. I've always hated their pricing strategies. I can't justify $4.50 for a soda so i always sneak stuff in. And I'd rather support the theater chains so i'd pay double street value for food no problem. But quadruple the street value? No thanks.

Adam -- i guess that means that I am not a serious member of the film watching community then because I skim if the film isn't hooking me. It's also probably just the newness of the instant watch idea. playing with a toy. I suspect I'll calm down.

forgot to mention the very best thing about instant watch is research for film articles. Being able to call up a scene you want to discuss (the best use of skimming) is just beautiful. And you don't even have to own the DVD to do it.

Dino said...

I use the Netflix instant account the same way I use the mailing service; I make a queue of what I want to see and watch them in preferential order. Also, I mainly use the instant account during the in between days I am waiting for my DVDs to arrive.

In my opinion, there is no reason to skim through a movie if you haven't seen it; the whole value of a movie (music or even a book) is to experience it thoroughly. I too have felt this impatience (boredom?) when watching a movie and I usually take that as a clue that I'm watching too many movies and should take a break for a couple of days. This usually works, and after a short interim, I am excited, appreciative and fully engrossed in the cinematic experience again. So maybe try taking a break.

As for low-budget filmmaking, it is essential to realize what you have and to realistically come to grips with what you do not have. Don't try to paint a rainbow if you only have two colors - your not gonna make a low budget special effects blockbuster, sorry. However, if you look at most great movies, they are purposely choosing limited color palettes, camera techniques, best suite their story. So the low-budget filmmaker must decide what style and techniques he can best pull off on his/her no budget and adhere to those faithfully throughout. I mean shit, there are more than enough affordable filmmaking tools out there(Final Cut, HD Cameras...) to make a quality product, its really how the filmmaker uses them. We've all seen golden and crap movies whether the budget was $5,000 or $50 million; good movies are created from the intelligent resourcefulness and artistic choices of the director, not the money in his/her bankroll.

Robert said...

I find that Instant Watch just further exacerbates issues I've always had.

I have about 3000 movies on my "to see" list and I always feel guilty about not adding new ones, but the list is so overwhelming as it is, who has time for new discoveries?

And secondly, at what point do I throw in the towel on a movie? Life is too short to watch bad movies (or at least movies that just aren't doing it for me). But now with Instant Viewing I can shrink the window, put it in the corner of my screen and pursue other online distractions. At that point why watch it? Just to say that I have? Yeah I feel guilty about it... really genuinely guilty.

Robert said...
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Robert said...

And as for nudity... if I were a struggling filmmaker (which itself is probably many notches above what I am now on the ladder of film professions) and people were to watch my movie to see some skin, I'd take the audience any way I could get it.

But where I stand now, professionally I'm really in no position to tell someone to take their pants off.


Robert -- you crack me up.

Dino -- great advice. When I was watching all those first features for Nashville I was thinking about this very thing. You can be ambition in terms of theme and ideas but it's probably not a good idea to be ambition with things that indies have trouble with.

anyway -- i think maybe this article is too honest. There HAS TO BE other people who desperately love movies who are struggling with this. I'm sure i'll get over it. I don't really skim through DVDs so it's a new problem. But while we're judging people (ha ha) i will say the one habit everyone seems to admit they have that i think is very detrimental to a film experience is to watch your 2 hour story in bites until you're done with it days later...the cumulative effect is gone.

adelutza said...

I don't think Netflix instant is such a bad experience. If you have a good internet connection and a good HD TV, it's no worse than DVD or, in some cases, even Blu-ray.
Of course, it doesn't get near to the movie theater experience, but not necessarily because of the image quality. The local Landmark theater has screens barely bigger than my TV.
For me, the theater experience is much more than just watching a movie in a dark room. It starts when a movie is announced, then it gets a release date and then the anticipation builds up day by day . It all culminates in the theater , but sometimes that brings as well disappointment ... so in some cases the anticipation is better;
But I digress ... the other day I felt like watching "Singing In The Rain", and I realized I don't own a DVD . Luckily, it was available on instant Netflix :-)

Jake D said...

I rarely go to sleep without Instant Watching something- which means I have a lot of half-seen movies (do I need to watch the end of Funny Games?).

My one great discovery was Neo Ned. Jeremy Renner is GREAT in it. Dear Zachary was an amazing doc, and I finally caught up with Being John Malkovich too (amazing/awful that it didn't get a BP nod). There have been a lot of clunkers (Brick, Passengers, Easier With Practice), but most hit the **1/2-*** range.

So yeah, I'm addicted.

Dino said...

I agree, the whole "watching movies in bites" is very detrimental to a film experience, and in the case of people and critics that have influential power, their critique of their in-cohesive and deflated encounter of a film is misguiding. When I was watching Cache with my friend, she couldn't take it anymore, and she made me turn it off right when the rubber-band of suspense was turning white with tension. When I tried finishing the movie the next day, my taught tension was slackened and I completed the movie feeling like I cheated myself out the full potential of the film's experience. I had missed my one chance to ride the wave the film. Now I can never go back and experience it for the first time, nor can I give an accurate critique of its whole effect even though I have seen the whole movie.

Maybe that's a good topic for discussion: Movies that you have one shot at, that require an attentive first and complete viewing to get the full intention of the filmmaker, compared to movies that benefit from repeat viewings.

verninino said...

Ooh, I forgot to say what I've been queuing.

Lots and lots of old TV series (we only use the TV for DVDS) so I've been introducing my wife to the STAR TREK canon. Last year we watched THE NEXT GENERATION; now we're lost in the Delta Quadrant with Captain Janeway and the cast of VOYAGER. Kate Mulgrew's resemblance to Katherine Hepburn and another bygone dame (who's name eludes me) will probably lead to some other interesting selections.

About two weeks ago someone triggered a constant loop of Kim Carnes' Betty Davis Eyes in my brain, so I thought watching some of the old girl would eject it. I'd really never seen anything of her ingenue period -- before her voice got husky -- so I've using Netflix to make trips in the wayback machine. (Alas, her Instant pickings are slim.)

Last week I enjoyed her desperate pertness in both THE PETRIFIED FORREST and JEZEBEL; MR. SKEFFINGTON is in the mailbox awaiting me right now...

OtherRobert said...

I do my best to limit my Netflix instant consumption. I have literally gone 24 hours sitting in front of a computer watching TV shows I didn't know existed inter-spliced with horrific straight-to-video horror films that have no place being seen ever. Then, I would go to bed, wake-up, and click one more episode of that show I didn't know existed and realize another 8 hours had passed and my weekend was gone. Damn this addictive personality.

verninino said...

Extending the metaphor yet further, Robert, you, my friend, sound like a crackhead.

Ryan T. said...

I love Netflix's Watch Instantly. I actually think one of these days, I'll downgrade my account from 3 DVDs to just the 1 and do most of my viewings through Watch Instantly.

Sure I won't get many new releases, but there's such a huge collection of older movies I haven't caught that it wouldn't be too bad. Plus I also use Watch Instantly to catch up on TV shows. That's pretty much how I got into 30 Rock, MI-5, etc.

Plus now I can use my Wii to watch it on my TV! Sure the quality is not that great, but I think for most movies it's good enough.


OtherRobert --i just watched a movie about YOU. It was called "The Lost Weekend" only they disguised the true addiction with boring old alcoholism.

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, your perspective is really interesting. I don't skim movies in my Instant Watch queue, but I do find myself being veeeeery picky about them. I'm a terrible judge of whether I like a movie or not until it's over, so I don't end up quitting out of movies very often. The few times I've paused a movie intending to come back, I usually haven't, which tells me that it wasn't my kind of movie in the first place. The lone exception was DOUBT. Holy moly, that was some stellar acting.

I have always had a crap tv, so watching on my computer doesn't change the quality much for me. I do, however, disagree with the person who said that Netflix and iTunes are ruining movies and music, respectively. I think they do the opposite - they allow for a larger range of distribution purely because the distribution is so easy. It allows less solvent filmmakers/musicians the chance to get their music out to an unprecedented audience and thus creates a more capitalistic, "the cream rises to the top" style without eliminating everything at the middle and bottom ranges. If there's anything I've learned from studying history, it's that we the contemporaries of our media are not the ones who pick what is immortal. Millions of books have been lost to history completely by chance, and while some of the literature is actually the proverbial cream, some of it has simply ridden the coattails of other literature. The same will happen in the future with the music and movies being produced today, and we have very little say about it. IMO, the more there is available for future historians to resurrect, the more complete will be the picture of 21st century society.

Ahem, sorry. /soapbox

Nathaniel R said...

@tikabelle -- good points. It is really fascinating the way history both preserves and disintegrates and sometimes there's no knowing.

i think about this sometimes when i'm in museums. I'm like "are we seeing this decade (of whatever exhibit it is) clearly... or are these representations of how people wanted to be seen rather than who they actually were?"

Unknown said...

Why do I always find the posts that I most identify with too late? LOL. Anyhoo, I've actually seen this movie thanks to Netflix's instant-watch feature. Interesting, but not much else.

Lately, I've pretty much resigned myself to relying on Netflix, Hulu, OnDemand, and network websites for most of my media entertainment. Last week I only turned on the TV to watch the news -- and that was just in the morning.

Like you I have also succumbed to skimming to the point that the other week I decided to go into my history and finish watching some of the films that I concluded weren't initially worth my time. As a result, I had a very satisfying movie-watching experience with "Nine Dead," headlined by [...wait for it...] Melissa Joan Hart. Completely preposterous in a lot of ways, but extremely engagins and well-crafted in others.


@troy i'm glad to hear that this problem is shared... and that a recovery is possible. We should be each other's sponsors. "finish that movie"

and there's no such thing as discovering a post too late. Hey, it's still on the front page at least.