Monday, June 10, 2013

The very small number of decent movies streaming on Netflix: an incomplete list

Occasionally, I get free month-long trials for Netflix, which usually extend to two months because I forget to cancel them until I see the charge on my credit card, and then promptly kill that money-sucker. This month a free trial was occasioned by the release of the disappointing fourth season of Arrested Development. But usually, the free trial is activated so that I can re-watch the first five seasons of Buffy for the eleventyeth time. Whatever the initial purpose however, I use these free trials to watch as many movies as possible, in a storing up acorns for winter kind of way, since I normally see about three movies a year.

The problem with this strategy is that Netflix has a worse selection of instantly streaming movies than a small-town public library in Wyoming. I have watched the first 20 minutes of so many terrible movies, I can't even count them. Practically the only public service Netflix streaming performs beyond allowing you to watch all the episodes of Buffy in one surreal weekend is hosting the first movies of some subsequently good directors (Wes Anderson, Whit Stillman), some Monty Python movies, and the (incomplete) library of classic high school flicks of the 1980s.

So, as a service to others like me (should any such exist), here is a list of non-terrible movies available on Netflix instant, rated according to James Bowman's extremely useful simplified system of see/don't see, except there are no zero star films here because "don't see" is the Netflix baseline, so there are only 2 stars (good movie), and 1 star (decent movie). These are mostly limited-release movies, but since anything released before about 1995 is limited to me on account of my having been either unborn or pre-conscious then, you will have to pardon some older but more popular inclusions as well.

1. Metropolitan **
2. Lust, Caution **
3. Heathers *
4. Tiny Furniture **
5. Ping Pong Playa * (** for simple but effective jokes though)
6. Jesus Henry Christ *
7. Bottle Rocket *
8. The Lost Embrace * (there used to also be other Burman movies available, but apparently no longer)

If you can think of more, let me know. Because I will probably watch them.

ADDENDUM: Commenters and emailers reminded me of/suggested to me some more:
Paper Chase **
Life in a Day*


alex said...

harold and maude! although you might hate it.

Miss Self-Important said...


alex said...

why are they decreasing the selection of streaming movies?

Miss Self-Important said...

I'm told they add new titles (not necessarily chronologically new titles; just ones they didn't have before) and take off old ones for reasons having to do with the rights to them? Bottle Rocket was not available last time I had a free trial. And now the Argentinian guy's movies aren't. So I guess this list is not "a possession for all time."

But at least Buffy is forever. (I hope.)

Alpheus said...

Do you really want recommendations? I think there's more good stuff on Netflix Watch Instantly than you think -- they just don't make it very easy to find.

I was looking at the "Watch It Again" section of my Netflix Watch Instantly account the other day. Not knowing your tastes, I'd feel safe recommending: Double Indemnity, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, The Paper Chase, Miller's Crossing, A Shock to the System, Dead Again, The Artist, The Grifters, A Fish Called Wanda.... If you like Chris Eigeman, I recommend The Treatment. If you like Joss Whedon, there's a whole range of stuff (Firefly, Serenity, Cabin the Woods, etc.)

But you may have seen all these (or not care to). In which case, I'll just mention that the low-hanging fruit of Netflix Watch Instantly are documentaries and foreign films. Those are the easiest places to find something really good without trying very hard.

Miss Self-Important said...

Paper Chase! I'd forgotten about that, which I did in fact watch via Netflix instant several free trials ago. I've seen many of these, but not all the circa 1990 ones, which I'll look into. Firefly and Serenity didn't live up to Buffy-dom.

I have also pursued the foreign movie and documentary roads, but there are so many boring documentaries and effectively pornographic foreign films.

Jacob T. Levy said...

I'm not denying the problem, but...

Chinatown **
Duck Soup **
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid **
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind **
Pi *
Existenz *
Metropolis **
Lost in Translation *
Extract *
Being John Malkovich **
Barton Fink **
Big Night *
Monsieur Lazhar *
Raising Arizona **

Miss Self-Important said...

Good! Although Metropolis is more like a historical relic than a movie by my standards.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Mine too-- I'm a lot closer to your age than I am to 1927!-- but it's a relic worth watching.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Captcha word was "likewise" with an 18th-century f-like s. Appropriate for pofting here.

hardlyb said...

Gosford Park * (or ** if you are an Altman fan)
The Long Goodbye * (or ** if you are REALLY and Altman fan)
The Lady Eve ** (not Sturges' best, but even mediocre Sturges is very good, and this is his top half)

hardlyb said...

Here's another one I remembered:

In the Mood for Love ** (can be a bit of a downer, but a gorgeous movie, and I found it very touching)