September 6, 2002 4:39 AM   Subscribe

Netflix may be driving me crazy with popup ads but I love their service. Where else can you rent L'Avventura, The Seventh Seal, Run Lola Run and Rashomon?

It encourages me to explore more movies, which has led me to several "greatest movies ever" lists. I'm thoroughly hooked and my film snob rating is slowly rising. Is this a good thing? I can't even stand to watch drivel like Signs anymore, and my family is tired of subtitles and refuses to watch No Man's Land with me. Anyone else in this predicament? By the way... has anyone seen a good book about the greatest directors?
posted by kevin123 (56 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Peter Bogdanovich has written a number of books on great directors, though Amazon only carries two.

If you're enjoying yourself, it's a "good thing". However, there's a danger in taking things too far: not every great film has to be in black and white or be subtitled. People are still making great films all over the place. You just have to look around.
posted by yerfatma at 4:45 AM on September 6, 2002

I posted a chronicle of my bad experiences with Netflix here. I've since received scores of emails relating similar experiences. I'd love to hear that they've improved their service in the meantime.
posted by muckster at 4:53 AM on September 6, 2002

I visited their site and nary a single pop-up. Could be 'cos the POW! anti pop-up prog really works well....and it's freeware!
posted by dash_slot- at 4:58 AM on September 6, 2002

There are lots of good books on various directors out there. I haven't checked it out myself, but there's even a DVD series of documentaries called 'The Directors.' The complete set is available on Amazon for $180.

I also really like Roger Ebert's writing; he has a site listing 100+ Great Movies -- this has led me to some fantastic flicks I hadn't heard of (or bothered to seek out) otherwise. (Mr. Hulot's Holiday, Gates of Heaven, Ran, &c.)
posted by Vidiot at 5:02 AM on September 6, 2002

Where else can you rent L'Avventura, The Seventh Seal, Run Lola Run and Rashomon?

Ummm.... your local independent video store?
posted by Gortuk at 5:04 AM on September 6, 2002

This sound suspiciously like viral advertising to me.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 5:21 AM on September 6, 2002

Many towns don't have a independent video store. Viva netflix, i've been a member for over 2 years and have had 0 problems.
posted by corpse at 5:26 AM on September 6, 2002

And, just for kicks, Maxim's (sorry!) 50 worst movies of all time list. Travolta is in at least 5 or 6 of them.
posted by adampsyche at 5:26 AM on September 6, 2002

Kurosawa, Goddard, Truffaut, Altman, Polanski, Lumet, Peckinpah, Jodorowsky, Resnais, Kubrick, Tsukamoto Shin'ya, and more. It's not a book, but this place has a lot of links and info about a lot of directors.
Books on multiple directors tend to be region-specific. (Greatest Directors of Hollywood's Golden Age, Greatest Hong Kong Directors, Best Of Indian Cinema, etc.) So, it's tough to find a good book that goes into any detail.
posted by Fabulon7 at 5:35 AM on September 6, 2002

Fabulon7--I'm glad someone else recognizes the genius that is Jodorowsky. Now, if only "The Holy Mountain" or "El Topo" would arrive on DVD.
I'm not sure if it's still going, but Faber used to publish a fantastic annual journal on filmmakers and filmmaking called "Projections." All kinds of journals, interviews, writings, and screenplay fragments by international filmmakers.
Haven't tried Netflix, but my local public library (Saratoga Springs, NY) has a fantastic DVD selection. In one weekend I brought home the Criterion Collection editions of "Children of Paradise," "Nights of Cabiria," and "Juliet of the Spirits." Beat that!
posted by ghastlyfop at 5:56 AM on September 6, 2002

Totally agreed with yerfatma's rec for "Who The Devil Made It". Great interviews there. For slightly more lowbrow stuff there's a great book called "Kings of the Bs : working within the Hollywood system" though it's now unfortunately out of print.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 6:15 AM on September 6, 2002

i know that i can rent all of those and more just around the corner at videodrome. why worry with shipping and handing?
posted by grabbingsand at 6:16 AM on September 6, 2002

Because there isn't any shipping and handling. You pay a flat fee. I live close to one of their distribution centers, so movies are usually in the mail for only one business day. During times when I have evenings free, I can easily watch enough movies in a month to make my per-movie cost substantially lower than renting from the store around the corner. (And Netflix's selection and availablity put my corner store to shame.)

I've been a Netflix customer for over two years, and I've never had a problem. I love their selection, the rental queue, and their eerily accurate predictions of how you'll rate the movies.

I don't have any complaints about the service, and only two complaints about the site. On the home page, they've recently started recommended movies I've already seen, or even movies that I just returned. The detail page for the movies pushed the commentary about the movie below the cross-sell (members who like this also liked these) section.

Oh, and I think the popups kevin123 was talking about are the ones on other sites. Netflix frequently has popups on a lot of the sites I visit regularly. Love the service, hate the popups (I have a similar problem with Orbitz). There should be a way to turn off the ads if you're already a subscriber.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:42 AM on September 6, 2002

"Where else can you rent L'Avventura, The Seventh Seal, Run Lola Run and Rashomon? "

Same place everyone seeking an alternative to Netflix has been going to: greencine. All four of those titles are there, their collection leans deliberately toward off-the-wall and independant film (though not to the exclusion of big-name titles) and the system works similarly to Netflix: infinite rental times, a "slot" based rental allocation, a queueing mechanism, flat monthly fee....

"[W]hy worry with shipping and handing?"

...and prepaid mailing envelopes, same's Netflix, too.
posted by majick at 6:46 AM on September 6, 2002

Two parted posts, gotta love 'em.

Part A: August was my 2nd anniversary with Netfilx and I can't say enough good about them. I have given out probably 10 of the "let a friend try a month" certificates. My shipping time went up about a day or two also, but I moved from a metro area to a small town. Then, they opened a new warehouse in Atlanta (?) and my orders now arrive faster than they did when I was in the metro. In 2 years 1 disc has been "lost" and I just filled out an online form and all was done. Especially during my first year of membership, you were lucky to find more than a couple dozen DVDs at your local video store. Price you pay for being on the front end of the curve. And I'm VERY thankful Netflix was there to pick up the slack.

Plus, a DVD rental in my town is ~$5. If you rent 4 movies that month you have paid for the Netflix service. If you're a voracious movie monster, either upgrade your Netfilix account to the 8 DVDs "out" at a time or just use the Netflix as a subsidy to your local video store membership. If you have the 8 out plan, you could easily get yourself on a rotating receive/watch/ship schedule to where a new movie arrives every day, all 30/31 days a month, and most likely much more often than that. I doubt the shipping would take over 8 days.

Part B: I get completely exasperated with people who insist that the only good "cinema" is either black and white or in a foreign language. "Film snobs" make it a self-fullfilling prophecy because of their preconceived notions. I am very close friends with two film snobs, and they are both aspiring film makers. The films that show 2 people staring at each other for 120 minutes across a table in the dark except for one lone candle are not enjoyable in the very least. I watched about 30 minutes of "The Mirror" (Tarkovsky) and I was ready to kill someone. After great begging and persuasion I watched "Barry Lyndon" (Kubrick) and was surprised at the awful acting and how main characters would just drop out of the storyline like discarded apple cores.

Film snobs spend a vast amount of time and resources doing nothing but boring the "uninitiated" and participating in mental masturbation with other film snobs.

Movies are entertainment. They are not religion.
posted by Ynoxas at 6:50 AM on September 6, 2002 [1 favorite]

NetFlix (and by extension greencine) if a great deal if you have a modicum of organization and discipline.

If, on the other hand, you’re disorganized and slack, and lose the disks for five weeks (they ship in thin tyvec sleeves that quickly go to ground behind books, etc) or don’t get around to watching and returning the movies for *months* at a time, maybe you’re better off getting your movies from a store with regular disk containers and late charges to keep your useless butt in line.

This is, of course, completely user error, and not NetFlix’s fault. My point is simply there are personalities not suited to their subscription model. Man, I’m sure they were sorry to see me resign, they loved my ass.
posted by mojohand at 7:04 AM on September 6, 2002

great directors online
posted by dodialog at 7:05 AM on September 6, 2002

I think part of a love affair with film is the ability to take the high with the low. If you're unable to appreciate the merits of both, you're missing out on a lot.
On that, I forgot to mention the late, great Pauline Kael. For Keeps is a fantastic anthology. She had an acute sense of the value of "trash art" in film.
posted by ghastlyfop at 7:06 AM on September 6, 2002

ghastlyfop -- Jodorwosky's The Holy Mountain is available on a PAL region 2 DVD, but supposedly, the transfer is just awful.

What a movie, though. What a movie.
posted by laze at 7:13 AM on September 6, 2002

Movies are entertainment. They are not religion.

Movies can sometimes be art, too.
posted by panopticon at 7:15 AM on September 6, 2002

kevin123: Someone who's truly advanced in their film appreciation will always find something of interest in the movie theaters. Signs [self-link] isn't the greatest shakes, but Shyamalan is a unique technical craftsman for his generation, and he at least puts ideas in his movie (albeit usually just beneath the surface) that reward a little intellectual investigation into them. Looking at the Top 10 movies of this summer, or this season of any year, a truly refined cineaste will always find something of value, curiosity and artistic merit. (This year, I think Minority Report is the top dog, but it's definitely a reasonable-people-disagreeing situation.)
posted by blueshammer at 7:16 AM on September 6, 2002

"I get completely exasperated with people who insist that the only good "cinema" is either black and white..."

Independant film is often shot in black & white because the equipment and processing is cheaper, and when handled by a skilled DP, black & white film has absolutely oodles of texture and atmosphere and realism. While that hardly means the only good film is film with no color, it does mean that color is not a prerequisite for a good film.

I submit to the court as evidence: a pair of good films, one entertaining and thoughful and one entertaining and mindless, both black & white, created on shoestring budgets, and damned fine in spite of (the latter) or in part due to (the former) the choice of photography.

Take all this with a grain of salt, though, as I'm hardly what could be called a film snob.
posted by majick at 7:20 AM on September 6, 2002

Count me in the fan club. I'm new to Netflix and I've become so obsessed I actually stopped a guy carrying a new DVD player out of a store to rave about it. (His wife was markedly unenthused but I live in an area where, unlike NYC, strangers don't talk to each other on the street.)

I'm sure it's only the first flush of infatuation, but I spend hours of work time at the web site, finding new movies to rent, rating ones I've seen, writing reviews and - best part - slamming the "unhelpful" button on other peoples' stupid reviews. (Apparently there are still a lot of people who think Spinal Tap is on the level.)

For me, the big attraction isn't that you can keep a movie for months for free if you want (or if you forget), or the pleasure of seeing the new red envelope in the mailbox, or even the zippy web site, but the solution to my perennial movie problem: the random lists of flicks I want to see that are never available when I stand moronically in Blockbuster wondering what to get. Now my list is in one place, and they are sending it to me three movies at a time. Woo hoo.

My biggest complaint is the lack of older movies, but that's because so few are on DVD. They promise to get them when they are released, and I guess we shall see.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:25 AM on September 6, 2002

Majick - I agree wholeheartedly with your film examples.

In response to the comments here - I suppose I feel like a film snob in my family, who are only interested in watching the latest blockbuster or Rush Hour 2 (again). Some found the Royal Tenenbaums too "artsy", Pi was "just horrible", Lawrence of Arabia "too old" and Safe "too weird". It's nice to connect with others who enjoy great film at every level, from The Bicycle Thief and Seventh Seal to Fargo and Star Wars.

By the way - thanks for the great response to my first MeFi post!
posted by kevin123 at 7:32 AM on September 6, 2002

I have never tried this, but a friend of mine told me that the way to get the DVD's on NetFlix that are hard to get is to empty your queue and only put the one film in your queue that you want and you will get it.
posted by internal at 8:10 AM on September 6, 2002

... faster than if you had other things in your queue with it, because they will automatically ship what is available and skip over the hard to get titles.
posted by internal at 8:12 AM on September 6, 2002

was it not woody allen that said everything about life is in the movies?
posted by clavdivs at 8:17 AM on September 6, 2002

my film snob rating is slowly rising. Is this a good thing?

yes yes yes!!!
if you like foreign films, check out film festivals near you for the latest in the international scene.
when you make that jump from viewing to purchasing, as we all inevitably do, is a great source for foreign, particularly asian, films and their service is great!

as for great directors, a more fruitful approach is looking into directors that have made films you particularly like (as opposed to trying to find one book on 'great directors'). if you do an imdb search, their complete filmography is listed so you can check out their other stuff. and if you're interested in reading about them, there's always the library, as well as 'official' sites.

happy viewing!
posted by uberchick at 8:30 AM on September 6, 2002

With the fall here, and my girlfriend spending a semester away, I have packed my Netflix queue with 220 of the must-see movies that I've never seen. I probably won't get to all of them, but not having to worry about late fees and always having new movies on their way is well worth the money!

I'm getting a complete education in the best films ever made and about the most highly-regarded directors. And they're all DVD's which means superior audio and visual quality. Such an opportunity for $20 a month is great.

I am wary of the horror stories, but I plan to stick around as long as I'm happy. (Really, this isn't an ad. Netflix is the first service I've been this excited about since the Kozmo days.). Does anyone think Julien Donkey-Boy was as good as Gummo or Kids? I don't.
posted by VulcanMike at 8:33 AM on September 6, 2002

no but ewan bremner is a mighty good actor
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:40 AM on September 6, 2002

The reason we (okay, my roommate) canceled Netflix was their infuriating tendency to simply not stock some episodes of series (particularly anime). There's no point in watching episodes 1, 2 and 4 or 2, 3, and 4 of a series. :P

Greencine eh? Hmm.
posted by Foosnark at 8:43 AM on September 6, 2002

i once rented Run Lola Run from Blockbuster.
posted by fore at 8:45 AM on September 6, 2002

was it not woody allen that said everything about life is in the movies?

I don't know, but one hopes this is true about all the arts. Sounds like something Allen would say, though--it has that uniquely myopic ring to it.

Anyway, not that I don't enjoy movies, but if you're interested in snob value and getting away from the screen and some refreshing immediacy, there's always live theater.
posted by Skot at 8:55 AM on September 6, 2002

I cancelled Netflix a year or two ago because they were too slow and all the movies I wanted were perpetually out of stock.

A couple of months ago a friend came over raving about Netflix so I decided to give them another shot.

They opened a new warehouse in my state so I get the movies waaay faster now - 2 days instead of 4 or 5. And they seem to have fixed their inventory problem too. I'm happy with them again, at least for now.
posted by L. Ron McKenzie at 9:03 AM on September 6, 2002

I've been very happy with NetFlix. Don't Look Now is arriving today.

It was a bit of a wake-up call, perusing the titles on offer there, just how many of my favorites aren't yet available on DVD. I would like to see more of Herzog and Wenders' work (like Where the Green Ants Dream and Kings of the Road) released on DVD.

A couple of things about NetFlix: the user reviews prove that you should never ever pay attention to user reviews. Also their search feature can be unreliable.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:48 AM on September 6, 2002

Also, as far as I'm concerned the Time Out Film Guide is like the movie bible.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:52 AM on September 6, 2002

I hated Netflix and stopped service last year but after one outing to the local videostore and the astronomical prices- I reluctantly went back. Luckily, they've opened more centers and had more movies in stock so I was pleased this summer. Except now it seems that they are perpetually out of stock on certain films, so I'm wavering once again about them.

And not to be too crabby about this but a front page post just to netflix without commentary about netflix (other than you finding the site. I mean maybe an article about them going public or opening up new distro centers, but netflix is advertised on nearly every DVD box)? It's not like the place is a secret or offer movies that a good video store doesn't have.

I'm not aware of a great book on director's but The A-List is a pretty straightforward collection of another list of top 100 films.
posted by rodz at 10:16 AM on September 6, 2002

Kafkaesque--Wim Wenders's official site has a page devoted to the upcoming dvd releases of his films.
I don't know about any of you, but this is the best dvd news I've heard in a while.
posted by ghastlyfop at 10:26 AM on September 6, 2002

Where else can you rent L'Avventura, The Seventh Seal, Run Lola Run and Rashomon?

echoing someone above, these are available at some Blockbusters. the one around the corner from me doesn't have the same selection as the one two mines down the road.
posted by tolkhan at 10:26 AM on September 6, 2002

uh, that would be "miles down the road," in case you were confused.
posted by tolkhan at 10:27 AM on September 6, 2002

Netflix has improved immensely in the last year. Titles that were perpetually back-ordered and out of stock are now frequently available. Turn around time is much faster for hot titles (like the Sopranos discs), and the service is usually good at stocking requested titles. I'm a happy customer.
posted by Down10 at 10:28 AM on September 6, 2002

I didn't like Netflix so much after the honeymoon. I do, however, love commentary tracks.
posted by McBain at 10:53 AM on September 6, 2002

This sound suspiciously like viral advertising to me. --Dr_Octavius

posted by dejah420 at 11:24 AM on September 6, 2002

Has anyone mentioned that the "viral marketing" suspicion has been MeTa'd in a thoughtful way?

kevin123, you might want to check it out. I have to admit I felt the same way upon seeing a direct link to a company like Netflix.

Btw, slightly OT, but has anyone else found IMDB links almost universally unhelpful in getting a sense of what an unfamiliar movie's about? I usually go for RottenTomatoes or a Google search for interesting articles instead.
posted by mediareport at 11:43 AM on September 6, 2002

grabbingsand: i know that i can rent all of those and more just around the corner at videodrome.

Videodrome's cool. Go a ways farther north, though (into yuppie territory, alas), and check out Movies Worth Seeing at 1409 Highland. It's even better.

I agree, ghastlyfop. Didja see that Reggio's new movie Naqoyqatsi is on the festival circuit? It's coming out in general release in the US in October.

Now if someone would only release Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line, A Day at the Races, and some of the Worst. Movies. Ever. on DVD, then I'd have it made. Who'll make the popcorn?

(c'mon, even this is available on DVD, f'r cryin' out loud.)

and on preview: The IMDb is my first place to visit to find out more about a movie -- less for their Leonard Maltin reviews and user comments than for their links to external reviews. And, they link to Rotten Tomatoes.
posted by Vidiot at 11:47 AM on September 6, 2002

I subscribed to NetFlix for several months a couple of years ago. I gave it up because of the long turn-around time from their warehouse in California to my house in Atlanta. I got the same form letters about complaining to the post office, as if that would help move California closer to Georgia. So I cancelled. I saw in a post that someone mentioned a new warehouse in Atlanta -- if that's true, I may have to give it another shot. I think the concept is a good one, but they probably should have rolled it out on a regional basis.
posted by spilon at 12:11 PM on September 6, 2002

I opened a Netflix account in Jan. 2000 but cancelled it earlier this year for various reasons:
1) Their prices kept going up and up.
2) They only have region 1 discs.
3) Their customer service was awful.
4) Shipping was slow at times, but I know about the new shipping centers so I won't complain about ship times too much.
5) They removed the "delayed" button and so I wasn't able to juggle as many out movies as before. I started using the "lost" button instead but I'm sure after awhile they would have said something.
6) They didn't really care that I was a long time customer and that I referred lots of people to them.
7) It was annoying when they started breaking multiple disc sets into separate rentals.
8) If I'm going to spend money on dvd rentals, I'd rather spend it a local video store that's 100X better than netflix.
9) My local library has tons of great DVDs (two-lane blacktop!) that are free.
posted by gluechunk at 12:58 PM on September 6, 2002

i think the imdb user comments are great :) plus the newsgroup reviews are good sometimes, and always if they're by harvey s. karten! facets has a nice selection btw.

as for my film snob movies, i've been wanting to see éloge de l'amour, hypercube, no such thing and time out :) oh and claude chabrol kicks ass!
posted by kliuless at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2002

kliuless: Time Out is fantastic. Facets -- enh. I'm really disappointed that they don't have more along the lines of new wave Japanese horror. And what they do have seems to be for sale, not rent.
posted by blueshammer at 2:16 PM on September 6, 2002

0th NetFlix (literally) from the beginning. They've had quite a few ups and downs - mostly due to their own success. Like everyone else has mentioned, they have gotten MUCH better in the past year. One thing that hasn't changed is the "game" you have to play when selecting movies with NetFlix.

If you want to be assured getting a popular new release, you need it at the top of your queue and waiting BEFORE the movie is released. (Netflix typically ships new releases a day or two before their actual street date - Tuesdays.)

That wouldn't be so bad, except that Netflix doesn't publicize new/popular releases in any way. You have to know what you are looking for via search/save feature, as Netflix won't be giving you any friendly reminders that Spider-Man is coming out on DVD soon, and you should rent it. (Which makes life better for those of us who already have it in our queue.)

Netflix doesn't make clear when bonus discs are available, and counts it as another selection/movie when you do manage to find them. They should change that and keep the discs together.

They're envelopes are still filmsy as hell.

Turnaround time is great if you live near a distribution center (I live in CA, so I have the best possible mail time).

They have a better selection than you might think. (I was surprised to find several Asian action films in their library.) On the other hand, they still lack many titles (I'm still waiting for Suspiria), and they will always favor an older release over any newer/better special edition versions of the same film.

Best of all, they are not Blockbuster, so that makes them better in my book.
posted by jca at 3:23 PM on September 6, 2002

My problem with IMDb is simple, really: it takes me way too many clicks to get to anything even remotely interesting, let alone valuable. Off the top of my head, I thought of a few movies I liked a lot -- Ma Vie En Rose, The Rapture and Jesus' Son -- and searched IMDb for them. Here's what I got:

Boring plot summary of The Rapture
Silly plot summary of Jesus' Son that gives away scene details but utterly fails to capture the essence of the movie (although there is an admittedly solid user comment)
Lame plot summary of Ma Vie en Rose and even lamer user comment

Now compare with what comes up at the top of simple Google searches for those three movies:
Ma Vie en Rose
Jesus' Son
The Rapture

There's no fucking comparison. IMDb is generally useless, except for ending drunken trivia arguments.
posted by mediareport at 4:58 PM on September 6, 2002

mediareport, i'm going to have to differ with you here, i find IMDB to be absolutely invaluable, but then i never really use it for it's reviews. For me it's always to identify actors and see what other work they have done.

It's that "oh damnit, i know i've seen him in something else, what was it?.." syndrome.

For general reviews i usually prefer metacritic and the Flick Filosopher (for newer stuff) but YMMV.
posted by quin at 5:57 PM on September 6, 2002

2001, Ran, Riffi, dr.stranglelove, Cabnet of dr. calagari (sic sp), Whattleship Potemkin (fun at halloween parties) Take the money and run, Electra Glide in Blue, Blade Runner.

Skot.the beauty of the allen comment is that it's true. Waiting for Godot, make a movie based on the Death of a Salesman. Hoffman ruined that for about another 50 years. Marat Sade? naw to " Dong resin" like. Buchners Dantons Todt? to...political, "political is good just not political political"...I know up the Downstair case, naw, to fonziish and heavy on the teen suicide (which isnt to "bad" if your producing a year ago) How about Cats....:)
posted by clavdivs at 9:54 PM on September 6, 2002

Now, if only "The Holy Mountain" or "El Topo" would arrive on DVD.

Jodorowsky himself said recently that Allen Klein owns the rights to one of those (not sure which), and won't allow it to be rereleased in the US as long as he's still living. I've seen them both on TV and have no interest in seeing either of them, nor indeed anything else by Jodorowsky, again.
posted by H.B. Death at 3:16 AM on September 8, 2002

blueshammer: i was looking for ringu after this thread, but i'm pretty sure after the remake is out in theatres it'll be released on video in the US soon thereafter. hope! also saw this on amazon :) the guardian had a nice article on the adversary btw.
posted by kliuless at 9:12 AM on September 8, 2002

I don't know about any of you, but this is the best dvd news I've heard in a while.

I'm still waiting for this.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:30 PM on September 20, 2002

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