On Netflix and Movie Projects

I think one of the most interesting things about the modern era is how our endless choices so often result in people choosing apathy, or being oppressed by options into indecision. Never is this more apparent than in people’s netflix habits. Thousands of movies all available to you, but what do you watch? How do you keep the discs moving? Let’s be honest for a second, how many of us have kept a disc for over a month? Three months? More?

Somewhere in the second or third month of getting my netflix account I realized that just scattershot grabbing movies when my mood depended upon it was a really poor way to make effective use of the service I was paying for. I’d grab movies on a whim, then they’d get here and sit around. I’d agonize for hours over what I’d want to watch next, mostly because there was simply too much to properly begin the mental process of assigning priority.

The greatest opportunity for a modern cinephile, or the greatest potential for shame.

I decided pretty early into this process that if I was going to keep using netflix to replace my previous DVD-buying habits, this was going to have to stop. I needed focus. Discipline. Some semblance of self-control. Concepts that people talked about but that I typically only have a dim understanding of in my own life.

And so began the idea of netflix projects.

Netflix projects aren’t really a difficult concept. It’s choosing a goal to explore a certain topic in movies and then composing your netflix queue to achieve that. Because it was easy and because its how I usually compose my thoughts about movies, I chose directors as the way to construct my projects.

There’s no great secret to how it works. I just dumped their filmography into my queue, and then I would always have one slot being active. I’d get discs and make an effort to move one a week (at least). The second disc slot, should you have a two disc plan, can be whatever you want. Another project movie, something on a whim, maybe a suggestion from friends.

And its really done the trick. I’m prone to going through phases with my interests, so there are still times when my netflix envelopes sit around a while, but it’s never been as bad as it was at the beginning. The projects provide a goal, something to make the decisions when you don’t want to. Don’t know what to get? Doesn’t matter, your project will give you at least one new disc.

I’ve found the projects endlessly rewarding. So far I’ve gone through the filmographies of the Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson, Kevin Smith, and as of the writing of this am finishing up my biggest project to date: Martin Scorsese.

One of the best parts of the project is how it provides movies that you otherwise wouldn’t have sought out. Rare gems, sometimes buried deep in a filmography, will be exposed and can surprise the hell out of you. In researching and understanding the historical context of these project movies, the internet will often suggest new movies and directors in relation to these movies that you’ve never even heard of. And even if that doesn’t happen, the exploration of the evolution of a director (or writer or actor if you chose those as your project theme) help inform your opinion not just about your subject, but about film in general.

This is all kind of a meandering prelude to what’s going to be a series of articles about my Scorsese project now that it comes to a close. It’s been a wild ride, but I have a whole week devoted to one of the greatest living filmmakers, with pieces about his filmography and themes in general, and more specific pieces about his best movies and my personal favorites. I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy it all, because I’ve certainly enjoyed writing it all.

So, sit tight, and soon you’ll be awash in film talk about a whole array of movies. And in the meantime, I’d love to hear about any movie projects you’ve done, or similar ideas you’ve come up with to fill in gaps in your knowledge or to expand your horizons. And if you haven’t done it before, I encourage you to consider maybe taking advantage of the wealth of content available to you and think about what you would love to explore.

I’ll go first: after Scorsese, my next movie project is going to be Steven Spielberg. Because believe it or not, I haven’t seen Close Encounters or Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan, and I barely remember Jaws and ET. Huge gaps in my knowledge that need filled in. I’m excited about watching a whole bunch of movies.

Which is, thankfully, the point.

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About M

Artist, ne'er do well, militant queer.
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