Thursday, July 26, 2007

Living a Netflix Life in a Blockbuster Home

I was reading an interesting post yesterday by of the "Top Ten Lies Blockbuster Video Tells Their Customers." written by an ex-employee. In the midst of this behind-the-scenes polemic was an observation about the typical Blockbuster customer.

"the vast majority of those who frequent the shelves of Blockbuster Video... harbor no true love for cinema, no desire to probe deep questions about life, and no ability to enjoy something that might require the slightest bit of effort. In one respect, I can understand this: these people have worked hard during their day jobs – why shouldn’t be allowed to relax and escape with some harmless Hollywood entertainment?
The problem arises in what they watch. Relax and escape, yeah, but at the very least adopt some goddamned standards. If you’re looking for a comedy, don’t rent Phat Girlz. If you want a drama, don’t get anything with Ben Affleck. And for the love of God, do not rent something just because it is new.
I literally cannot tell you how many people come to Blockbuster on a daily basis, just so they can rent the new releases. Not because they’re interested in them. Not because they look good. Simply because they are new.
And while they spend their time and money on dreck like Behind Enemy Lines II and The Break-Up, these people literally refuse to anything that:
-Was made before 1995
-Comes from a different country, even an English-speaking one
-Might be mentally or emotionally disturbing
-Has subtitles
-Has voice-over narration.
Then it hit me. I live in a Blockbuster house. I've written before about my family's disinterest in silent films, but I have to say the rest of this list applies, too. Before we got Netflix I had to endure the latest blockbuster that was rented simply because it was new. Once at the beach one of our college-age children rented "Kill Bill." Everyone was surprised that I was actually looking forward to watching a movie someone else had brought home, but as it turned out, I was the only one who had even the faintest idea of what it was about (or even who Quentin Tarantino is). They only watched the first seven minutes before they took it out the player and returned it.
So why did they rent a movie they knew nothing about? Because it was new.

Now to be fair, my wife and I want very different things in a film. She wants something to entertain her while she quilts. So naturally films that require any kind of reading are counter-productive, such as silent movies and foreign films with sub-titles. She also wants a movie we can watch together.

And so I've seen "Runaway Bride," "Mona Lisa Smile," and other such fare. And so, yes -- one might consider her a Blockbuster customer.

As for me, I want everything a film has to offer. The story, the way its told, the music, the sound, the sets --everything. I want to figure out the context of the film -- how it stacks up with other films of its time, other films in the genre, the history of cinema, and so on.

And don't think I only watch the classics. I have a fine appreciation for cult films and, well, bad cinema in general. Some movies are so awful they're great fun to watch.

So I'm glad there's Netflix where I can roam far and wide through the ouvre of cinema and explore to my heart's content.

Is there hope for us?

Oh yes. My wife usually leaves when I'm watching one of the "those" movies (an episode of "Mystery Science Theatre" seems especially effective room-clearer). Recently, though, she stayed for a Harold Lloyd film -- and laughed. We've also enjoyed a "Thin Man" movie together as well.

Does the Blockbuster employee's description fit someone you know? Just keep watching -- it can get better.

- Ralph


  1. Where does Sneak Reviews fit into all of this?

  2. Well, I live in Orange, so Sneak Previews has never really been an option. I know quite a few folks who use Sneak Previews (an excellent video rental store in Charlottesville for our out of town readers) -- and they're all serious film buffs.

    I suspect they're the kind of clientele the author of the article wished she had encountered.