Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September Expiration Watch: Roads Not Taken

This month's expiration list looks mighty familiareither because we've seen most of these titles expire before or because they only recently made their way to streaming. In the latter category, a good half of those leaving on September 30 arrived in either July or last October, which means a lot of three-month and one-year contracts are up.

Will they be renewed? Hard to say. Although given the resilience of Netflix repeaters like Mean Girls (2004), Barefoot in the Park (1967), and Legends of the Fall (1994), I'm guessing they're in that sweet spot of popular-but-not-too-expensive that will assure a return.

I'm less confident about those perennials that have been around so long it seemed they'd be available forever: titles like The African Queen (1951), Battlestar Galactica, Law & Order, and The War Zone (1999)a motley mix, for sure, but a high-quality group whose absence will make Netflix Instant just a little less special. Also unlikely to return anytime soon are big-ticket items The Hunger Games (2012) and Safe (2012), which are wrapping up what appear to be 18-month contracts.

Meanwhile, let's hope the more outlying titles like Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), Mädchen in Uniform (1958), and Don't Look Now (1973) are shown some renewed love in the coming months. There can never be too many classics on Instant, as far as I'm concerned—or too many Coppola or Roeg films.

What I'm noticing about lists like this month's is how seeing the same titles come and go on a regular basis, even those I've never watched, gives the same feeling as skimming past those neglected but still-worthy titles sitting untouched in your queue month after month. You know, the ones you have to be in "just the right mood" for, or that are too long for a weeknight, or that stars that guy with the weird hair, or that are so universally acclaimed you had no choice but to add them even if you're pretty sure you'll never actually click Play.

Those titles and their little thumbnails grow so familiar, you begin to feel like you've already seen themor if not seen them, then like they're somehow...compromised. And the more times you scroll past them, the less worthy they become, until you hardly pause anymore before bypassing them for something less familiar.

Prime Suspect
But then one day they receive that cruel stamp of streaming mortality, an expiration date, and you suddenly think, "Oh my god, they're going away!" And so to the top of your list they march, displacing the newer, sexier titles (and all those crappy TV shows you can't get enough of)—perched high now in the single digits, eager and a bit breathless, their credibility miraculously restored, ready to prove themselves at last!

In some ways it's a relief, that expiration date. It forces us to confront our long-ago choices, and allows a final chance for closure. It also makes our decision-making a whole lot easier. Suddenly all that nightly agonizing over what to watch is narrowed down to (if we're lucky) half a dozen titles. And when the marathon week of watching is over and those stubborn hangers-on are at last purged from our queues, what a sense of accomplishment! It's the same giddy lightness we feel when, packing for a move, we throw away boxes of stuff we thought we could never part with.

But...the funny little corollary to rediscovering the titles in your queue marked to expire, is...discovering the expiring titles that aren't in your queue. Because if familiarity breeds contempt, then strangeness surely breeds desire. And the fact that these unknown creatures are about to become unattainable makes them doubly intriguing.

They could be titles you've never heard of, or never took seriously, or that turn out to star someone you've since learned to like. Or maybe they're just too weird to pass up.

But next thing you know, you're clicking them into your already overstuffed queue only days before they'll disappear, bumping down more worthy (and loyal) contenders. And you find yourself watching The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012), or Bellflower (2011), or The Final Countdown (1980). And sometimes you're disappointed, or disturbed, or pleasantly surprised (respectively)or maybe you're just happy to impulsively experience something you knew absolutely nothing about.

This month there are any number of flicks, for one reason or another, begging to get on that list:

Sugar Hill (1974) - blaxpoitation zombies!
The Keep (1983) - early Michael Mann!
Blood and Wine (1996) - Jack Nicholson reteaming with Five Easy Pieces director Bob Rafelson (and J-Lo!)
Golden Chicken (2002) - Hong Kong weirdness!

I even cop to being curious about the mostly panned Sigourney Weaver-starrer, Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997). Why? Because, 1) it was shot in Prague while I was living there; 2) I met the then-unknown, very pleasant Gil Bellows at a press party; and 3) I campaigned (unsuccessfully) for weeks to get an interview with Ms. Weaver. So: personal history!

Which brings up a final category of wayward titles: the false familiars, i.e., those I've heard so much about over the years that, even though they've never appeared in my queue, I feel like I've already seen them. These are the films I dismissed for whatever reason when they were released, and ever since they've remained off my radar despite my knowing I'd probably like them if I just gave them a chance. Movies like Dead Man Walking (1995), King of New York (1990), Primal Fear (1996), and Uncommon Valor (1983). Have I ever considered adding any of these well-regarded flicks to my queue? How could I, with so many other titles already being ignored?

Which is why I'm resolving this month to step outside such faux familiarity (and contempt), to reach beyond my regular queue and give some overdue attention to the unfamiliar and the long-ignored. Even if it means watching a Jason Statham movie (the supposedly kick-ass Safe) or, if timing and mood miraculously align, something as seemingly hard to resist as 1971's The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant.

Will I be able to plow through all of the above in the scant week remaining? Not if I expect to work, eat, keep up on this blog, and otherwise live the life of a well-adjusted grownup. But hey, if I'm lucky—if we all arethere will always be next time.

The King of New York

September 29

Chunhyang (2000)
Day of the Falcon (2011)
Prime Suspect (1991-2004)
Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-1975)
The War Zone (1999)

September 30

28 Days (2000)
The African Queen (1951)
Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009) - Review
Barefoot in the Park (1967)
Beyond Borders (2003)
Blue Chips (1994)
Body of Evidence (1993)
Blood and Wine (1996)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Breaking Away (1979)
The Cape (2011)
Center Stage (2000)
China Girl (1987)
Code Monkeys (2007)
Crimson Tide (1995)
The Dark Half (1993)
Dead Man Walking (1995)
Death Wish (1974)
The Delta Force (1986)
Don't Look Now (1973) - Review
Eden of the East (2009)
Eight Men Out (1988)
Fatal Attraction (1987)
The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012)
Ghost (1990)
Ghostbusters (1984) / Ghostbusters 2 (1989)
Girl in Progress (2012)
Golden Chicken (2002)
Heavy Metal (1981)
The Hunger Games (2012)
The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) - Review
The Keep (1983)King of New York (1990)
Law & Order (1990-1997)
Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2006-2011)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2006-2010)
A League of Their Own (1992)
Legends of the Fall (1994)
Little Birds (2011)
Major League (1989)
Mean Girls (2004)
Meet Wally Sparks (1997)
Patriot Games (1992)
Primal Fear
Pumpkin (2002)
The Sand Pebbles (1966)
Safe (2012)
The Skeleton Key (2005)
Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)
Sugar Hill (1974)
This Must Be the Place (2011)
The Thomas Crowne Affair (1999)
Two Family House (2000)
Uncommon Valor (1983)

October 1

Mädchen in Uniform (1958)



Battlestar Galactica is one of my favorite sci fi tv shows and I have watched all the episodes in one long marathon spanning a few days. I really enjoyed it and I thought the ending was brilliant too.

David Speranza said...

Definitely good stuff. Is that your list of shows? Seems to cover about everything!