|Altman's 3 Women|
FEBRUARY marked the site's first significant bump in readership thanks to a highly ranked post on Reddit, with monthly hits more than tripling. This prompted a look back on the blog's philosophy and some of what had come before (a post I may need to revisit myself, since I feel I may be wandering a bit from my original purpose). The month was also notable for an influx of excellent 1970s flicks, four of which received short reviews, although three of those later expired—as is so often the case on Netflix these days. Another film, 1974's Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, merited its own full review, mostly because I've always had a soft spot for car chase movies of the early 1970s. February also saw the passing of writer/director Harold Ramis, a true mensch of 1980s and '90s comedy, along with the loss of a number of notable French films, including two starring French heartthrobs Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo. One of those, 1962's A Woman Is a Woman, represented Jean-Luc Godard's lone entry on Netflix.
APRIL continued the trend of beefing up Instant's back catalog, with Marilyn Monroe titles inflating (temporarily) to nine, a couple of new Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee films, and more Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies than you could shake a nine-millimeter Uzi—or boxing glove—at. This marked the first appearance of all the original Rocky movies on Netflix, which would subsequently expire, then return, before expiring again on December 31 (I'm exhausted just writing about it). Sadly, the month also saw the expiration of a handful of important '70s flicks, as well as 1941's The Lady Eve—the only title available by comedy genius Preston Sturges—and Al Pacino's insightful and entertaining take on Shakespeare, Looking for Richard.
MAY brought lots of zeitgeisty 1980s and '90s titles (The Big Chill, Starman, Single White Female, Romancing the Stone, Forrest Gump), along with a boatload of Toho's Godzilla flicks and the year's first glimpse at the moving target that is the James Bond films. I was personally excited to see the return of Peter Bogdanovich's Paper Moon, one of my all-time faves (now expired), and found myself losing my head for Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, the second season of which later arrived (and which I still need to watch).
|Paul Mazursky, 1930-2014|
JULY started with your humble reporter a bit slow on the uptake (it was a lazy summer), but eventually I was able to wrap my head around what turned out to be a truly impressive batch of new titles. That wide-ranging roundup was joined by standalone reviews of the neat little indie, Stuck Between Stations (which is not the gay drama Netflix seems to believe it is), and the surprisingly decent '80s sci-fi flick, The Final Countdown, which unfortunately expired but is worth a watch the next time it lands on your radar. That was joined by a number of other painful expirations, including Paper Moon, Donnie Brasco, and Easy Rider, none of which have returned.
|The Fisher King|
|Battlestar Galactica: gone but not forgotten|
OCTOBER was off to a great start, with the blog featured in a news story on Twin Cities Live that brought in all sorts of new readers. Meanwhile, so many titles arrived this month, they had to be broken up into two posts: the Woody Allen movies and everything else. This also marked the third month in a row with a section devoted to family films—an area I'll continue to cover as the situation demands. I couldn't wait to give a big thumbs-up to the debut of Lake Bell's very funny In a World, while in the spirit of Halloween it seemed appropriate to spotlight a few notable horror movies (but only ones from other countries). It's just too bad Netflix took the holiday literally and cast a black spell over so many of its better movies, eliminating a swath of 1980s faves, classics like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and some notable sci-fi that included Silent Running and (gasp!) Joss Whedon's Serenity (thankfully the Firefly series remained available).
|The dark insanity that is Snowpiercer|
|Another classic bites the dust|
In fact it's managed to squelch some of the joy out of reaching a record number of readers this month (thanks to a fortuitous mention in The Verge)—even while the blog's subscribers and Twitter followers multiply at an unprecedented rate. Also multiplying: the number of contributors to the site's monthly expiration list, which has grown to become the most thorough—and fact-checked—source for expiring Netflix titles on the Internet. To all of you (especially Lisa, the two Brians, and you recurring Anonymouses), I give my thanks. It's been fun probing the quirks of the Netflix interface together and figuring out the best ways to determine what's actually leaving (and when).
The Year AheadAs far as what to expect in 2015, I'll continue to do my best to track the ups and downs of the Instant streaming library. The optimist in me wants to believe Netflix will see the perceived value of maintaining its back catalog, especially its classics. But when I see all the new, original programming the company is investing in (understandable given that three quarters of streaming is TV shows) and hear of its plans to shift content toward higher-rated and exclusive titles with "a little bit less depth" (according to CFO David Wells)—I feel like the great fracturing of content across the web has truly begun.
That's my biggest gripe with exclusive streaming deals (original content aside): it doesn't serve those of us who actually pay to watch this stuff, and ultimately amounts to a greedy land-grab by streaming sites and content owners to make sure we pledge our viewing fealty to as many of them as we can afford. After all, along with the inconvenience their strategy entails, it means the longtime cord-cutters among us will inevitably be facing monthly streaming costs that approach the extortionate cable bills we've adamantly tried to avoid. The upside: we get to watch what we want, when we want it, and (with the exception of Hulu) commercial-free. But the downside is the increased splintering of streaming content into more and more specialized "channels"—something else we hoped to avoid when we first cut the cord and took our eyeballs online.
The Netflix of a year from now may look very different from the one we know today. It will likely have far fewer pre-1980 classics and far more original series and movies, much of which I'm sure will be worth viewing (I'm looking forward to the Marvel shows as much as I'm dreading the Adam Sandler movies). Will it offer enough variety of content, undiscovered indies, and obscure classics to warrant WoNN's continued existence? Let's hope so. In the meantime, I plan to enjoy what's still available and share as much of the good stuff as I can. Thanks for your interest and support in 2014, and have a happy (streaming) New Year!