Saturday, February 1, 2014


Given the recent bump in visitors (due to some generous readers on Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter--I thank you all), I thought it would be a good idea to revisit an earlier blog entry so that newcomers have a better idea of what this site is about. Yes, the What's New and What's Expiring lists are always going to be a big draw, especially as word continues to spread. But there's also a distinct point of view to them, and especially to the editorial content. It's never been my goal to cover everything and anything that comes to Netflix. Instead I want to bring a sense of curated content, as informed by decades of watching, studying, and (occasionally) making films. So, you may rightly ask:

"What's Your Angle?"

Or: What Kind of Weird Stuff Will You Be Pushing On Us?

In the course of starting this blog, I may have conveyed the idea that these little writeups are aimed at movie buffs and other heavy-duty Patrons of Cinema. That's not actually the case. At least I hope that's not how this comes across.

Maybe it was misleading to have kicked things off with a classic like His Girl Friday. What I really hope to do here is appeal to not just film geeks but average and casual viewers--those who enjoy above-average entertainment but don't always know how to find it. I'm no film buff myself (honest), but as a sometimes-filmmaker trying to understand the intricacies of his craft, my goal has always been to see as much of the good stuff, and as little of the bad, as possible. That's meant developing plenty of blind spots (which is why I don't consider myself a proper "buff"), but what I do know about I feel pretty secure in sharing.

Smart, sexy foreign stuff: good
So, what kind of titles can you expect to see? Everyone has a comfort zone. Some prefer drama, comedy, horror, or movies about angry gay paraplegics with raging peanut allergies (not that there's anything wrong with that). After decades of ingesting the best and worst of Hollywood--along with an indecent number of obscure '60s French films--I can safely say I gravitate toward the understated and unexpected. Yes, I'll still find satisfaction in old formulas well executed. But I also like to be kept on my toes, even if it means forgiving a film's occasional flaws. After all, a bad David Lynch movie beats a good Garry Marshall any day of the week (unless it's date night, natch).

I prefer subtle and thoughtful over obvious and loud. I've grown far less tolerant of violent movies as I get older, although violence with a point--or taken to Wile E. Coyote extremes--can have its rewards. And as bored as I am of seeing overly muscled men and women outrunning explosions and computer-generated debris, I do confess to enjoying the occasional comic book movie (which can be blamed squarely on a childhood comic book collection). (Okay, I still have a bunch of 'em. What of it?)

Well-executed action: good
In other words, my preference for movies made for adults certainly doesn't rule out bombastic, schmaltzy flicks with genuine heart. But if a director is trying to manipulate me, I will see it and I will resist. Unless you're a really good manipulator (e.g., Spielberg, Tarantino, Scorsese). So, yes, I like to be challenged by anything in a Rohmer or Godard, but I also get ridiculously verklempt watching Fred woo Ginger, or Baby getting backed into a corner; Billy Wilder's acerbic wit gets me all sorts of giddy; while Cameron Crowe's heart-on-their-sleeve fairy tales cause the ducts in my eyes to grin and ooze (I confess, I even liked Elizabethtown). And if that still sounds too deep dish, I also get flustered watching new episodes of New Girl, not to mention old episodes of Mad About You (pathetic, I know).

But this isn't a blog simply about what I like. It's about what I like that's on Netflix Instant that you might have overlooked.

Which means I likely won't be pointing out personal faves like Mad Men, Memento, Manhattan, or A Fish Called Wanda; or worthy popular fare like True Grit, Trainspotting, Twin Peaks, or Super-8. You know about those already, and don't need me to echo what's already up on the marquee.

So I'll do my best to avoid the obvious. Which means I may argue for a kickass French action movie, or a criminally underseen '70s comedy with Richard Dreyfuss as a '20s porn director. I might also stand up for an unjustly damned Woody Allen film that was mistaken for a drama but is actually a pretty good comedy. Or try to convince you there's a place in your life for a silly '80s movie with seemingly no redeeming value. Or that, as charming as Safety Not Guaranteed was, there's a little-seen time travel romance with Marisa Tomei that's equally worth checking out.

Lesser-known classics: bravo
And, yes, I'll certainly continue to whip some black-and-white classics your way, along with a few sexy adult European dramas. I also plan to trumpet a number of short-lived TV shows that genuinely earned their cult status, as well as a number of British sitcoms not called The Office.

Surprising indies: also good
Don't be surprised if I bring up James Caan. Or Elke Sommer. And just to keep you guessing, I'll throw in the occasional smart documentary or indie monster flick or even something out of Bollywood.

Of course one geek's "obvious" is another person's "radical." But for every one of you already hip to some of these titles, I've encountered just as many who are unaware of, or simply resistant to, them (including myself--until I learn better). 

With any luck--and as long as you don't expect something with "Crocosaurus" or "Jackass" in the title (apologies to any crocs or jackasses out there)--you may find on these pages that increasingly elusive thing: a movie that doesn't waste your time. Or at least I hope you do.

So that's my angle, and I'm stickin' to it. Film buff or no film buff.
Jackass: not so good

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