Friday, June 30, 2006

Tales of the Video Store: Prospective Employees

Whenever you are at a video store and you marvel at the totally irresponsible, brain dead employee behind the counter, try to remember this – the manager turned away about 50 or 60 people who were worse than this one.

Interviewing new hires was one of the worst things about being a video store manager. The common perception is that working in a video store is a lot like shopping in a video store, or better yet, just hanging out in a video store. Most job interviews just consist of explaining to the prospective employees that the job is not just hanging out and watching movies all day, but instead an unending stream of merchandising, stocking, cleaning, and selling.

I would often begin an interview with a little question to measure the selling ability of the prospective employee.

“So, what’s your favorite movie?”

“Action Jackson.”

“And what do you like about that movie?”

“I like movies with a lot of bass in them. And that movie – that movie has a whole lotta bass in it. It shakes your chest, it is that good.”

Sometimes, prospective employees get past the salesman test. That leads to a general discussion about the employee, who they are, why they are interested in the job.

“Why do you want this job?”

“Welllll, I wanna be an actress, and I feel that – you know, me and a video store, I mean, hellloooo!”

Video stores attract crazy people like nobody’s business. Video stores also make sane people crazy.

“So, let’s talk about employee benefits. We make a store schedule once every two weeks, and you’re expected to-”

“I need to take certain days off.”

“Sure, we have a process for requesting days off. We make a schedule every two-“

“I need days off for my religion.”

“Sure, we make a schedule every two wee-“

“My religion has monthly holidays.”

“Well, you’re in luck, because we make our schedule every tw-“

“They’re based on moon cycles.”

“Excuse me?”

“My days off are based on the moon cycles.”

“Ooookay. We have a standardized process for request-“

“I’m a Wiccian.”

“Have I mentioned the employee discount?”

“Do you know what Wicca is?”

“Ok, I’ll bite. What is Wicca?”

“A lot of people have negative misperceptions about it. They call it something else.”

“That’s good because our company doesn’t discriminate based on personal belie-“

“I practice witchcraft.”


“Yeah, a common misperception about Wicca is that we’re evil. We’re not. People just don’t understand that we believe in existing in harmony with nature.”

“So… why do you want to work in a video store again?”

Thursday, June 29, 2006

SALON-a-thon: What is SALON?

Before mp3s players, before computers, before television, people would entertain themselves with music. Sheet music sold more than recorded music. Instead of gathering around the television, families would gather around the piano and sing.

People would learn how to play the piano or sing and the family would gather around the latest batch of sheet music and sing away until the wee hours of the morning.

SALON is an attempt to recapture these moments of human connection facilitated by music. A host opens his or her home to a crowd of people. The crowd brings food and wine. Musicians show up. A good time is had by all, and then a hat is passed.

Simple, huh?

SALON focuses primarily on jazz and classical musicians. The theory is this – if you have an acoustic guitar, three chords, and the truth, you can perform at just about any coffee shop or open mic night. If you are, for example, an opera singer, open mic nights just aren’t a good opportunity to share your talent.

Christie Turner has been organizing and performing SALONs for over six years, now. She hasn’t performed at one for at least three or four years. Until this past weekend. Here are the results:

Christie Sings!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Good-bye Yellow Brick Video Store

This concludes the list of movies I plan on watching over the course of the next five years.

While trying to come up with something to write to accompany each chunk of th movie list, I started thinking about how much Netflix keeps me out of the brick-and-mortar video stores. The last time I was in one, it wasn’t for renting a movie; it was being an extra in a short film. During the shoot, I had a chance to talk to the video store manager about business, especially business after Netflix. He said that cable and satellite affect his business more than Netflix does. He also said that he can tell every night the cable goes out, because his store is packed. I’m glad he still has his livelihood, but as far as I’m concerned, I will not be much of a customer.

To be completely honest, there is nothing fun about going to the video store for me. Having been on the other side of the counter, the experience only reminds me of hard work and sleepless nights. Walking down the aisles, all I can think of is display assembly, box art, and film classification. Did they group by genre or by actor/director? Is a film like 2001 in the Ts or is it placed before the alphabet? Which titles are spine-facing and which ones are front-facing?

When you make a job out of something you love, you are setting yourself up for all kinds of hurt, because income generation is all about taking and love is all about giving. Why do you think movie or music store clerks are such bitter people?

One of the funniest scenes in the movie “High Fidelity” is the one where the sales clerks show up and do their jobs on their days off. This really happens all of the time. People are willing to do the job for free, and if the workforce wants to volunteer for the position, wages are driven down. Movies teach us all to live our dreams, but very few of them cover basic supply and demand.

It continually surprises me how much people tended to glamorize the video store. Day in and day out, at least one customer would smile at me and say, “This must be great – you get paid to watch movies all day long.” For the most part, it was a miserable existence. The view of humanity from the video store manager’s perspective is a limited and skewed one at best. Whenever someone says, “I want to see the manager,” it is not to give the manager a kiss on the cheek.

Plus, video stores attract crazies like nobody’s business. There are some genuine crazy-crazy people who like to hang out in shopping malls, but there are plenty of entertainment-crazy people,too.

For example, I was once approached by a guy who wanted me to hire him to be Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Here was his pitch – He would dress up as Data and hang out in the Star Trek section, and people would ask him questions about Star Trek and he would answer them… as Data! My counter proposal was this – he could be a regular part time clerk, staffed on nights and weekends for about 8 to 12 hours a week. One night a month, he could do his Data routine. But as Data, he would still have to file and shelve videos. He couldn’t just stand around and talk to customers as Data. He didn’t like this idea, but was willing to talk about it. That is… until we got around to wages. He wanted $25 an hour. I explained to him that the clerks made straight minimum wage and managers (like me) only made $10 to $12 an hour. There was no way we could afford him. There was no way ANY video store could afford him.

“But- but I NEED $25 an hour… The make-up costs money!” he sputtered.

Part of me wanted to go, “Oh, the make up! THAT changes everything!” but instead I pelted him with the type of verbal bile normally reserved for Holiday Shopping season.

Thank you, Netflix, for giving me a reason never to go back to a video store ever again.

Currently in the Rentlist Word document:

  • Intermission
  • Tanner on Tanner
  • Maria, Full of Grace
  • Code 46
  • King of Kings
  • The Killing
  • Lavender Hill Mob
  • Kensey
  • Finding Neverland
  • Hotel Rwanda
  • Smile
  • Judgment at Nurenberg
  • Marlene Dietrich: In Her Own Song
  • The Caine Mutiny
  • Dark Passage
  • The Petrified Forest
  • Angels with Dirty Faces
  • The Roaring Twenties
  • Mister Roberts
  • I was a Male War Bride
  • Hitari!
  • Only Angels Have Wings
  • Red River
  • Monkey Business
  • Barbary Coast
  • The Villain
  • Paris holiday
  • Faster
  • Speaking in Strings
  • Paradise Lost 2
  • Tideland
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Sarah Silverman
  • My Summer of Love
  • Broken Flowers
  • Munich
  • Everything is Illuminated
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • MI: III
  • Cache
  • Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
  • Neil Young: Heart of Gold
  • The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
  • Secret Life of Sherlock Holmes
  • Walkabout
  • Fever Pitch
  • Inside Deep Throat
  • The Revolution will not be televised
  • Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
  • Uber Goober
  • So Wrong They’re Right
  • Mysterious Skin
  • Double Dare
  • On the Waterfront
  • My Man Godfrey
  • The Gods Must be Crazy
  • How to Irritate People
  • Pickup on South Street
  • Kiss Me Deadly
  • Milagro Beanfield War
  • My Architect
  • Saint Ralph
  • Oklahoma!
  • Audition
  • Kiss Me Kate
  • 1776
  • Night and Fog
  • Jabberwocky
  • Casino Royale
  • The Big Red One
  • Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice
  • Four Seasons
  • Morning After
  • Shivers
  • Haxan
  • Shadowlands
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • F for Fake
  • Journey of Nattie Gann
  • The War Within
  • Wolf Man
  • Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Your Friends & Neighbors
  • Battle Angel
  • The Front Page
  • The Fighting Sullivans
  • The Blue Angel
  • The Kid
  • Out of the Past
  • Sweet Smell of Success
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr.
  • Only Angels Have Wings
  • Meet John Doe
  • Open City
  • Artists and Models
  • Mogambo
  • Othello
  • Twentieth Century
  • Gloria
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • Laura
  • The Crowd
  • The Rules of the Game
  • The Merry Widow
  • Holiday
  • Aguirre: The Wrath of God
  • Nosferatu
  • Woyzeck
  • Fitzcarraldo
  • Cobra Verde
  • My Best Fiend

Monday, June 26, 2006

Netflix Overflow II: For the Love of Netflix

So much of the film industry is based on instant gratification. The most expensive time to watch a movie is opening weekend. There is this frantic energy around each new release. I’m not sure if I’m just aging out of the target market or if I don’t want to be a Slave to the Now anymore, but there isn’t much out there to compel me to trudge out to a theater on opening weekend. I can wait a few weeks, and voila! Netflix brings the movie to me.

Netflix is for people who want entertainment on their terms, not the terms of the movie marketers. Because it delivers movies through the mail, there is a built-in cooling down period. There is no way to see a movie the day it comes out. There is no way to get instant gratification. Instead you learn patience. And with patience comes curiosity towards what is known in the industry as… “the catalog titles.” These are consistently steady sellers. They may not turn up on the sales charts, but they don’t go out of print. Think Casablanca. Think Citizen Kane. Think It’s a Wonderful Life. Try not to think of Mars Needs Women.

There are over 100 years worth of movies out there, and time works wonders with the movie-watching experience. For example, I have the same experience with every Ron Howard movie – I enjoy it when I watch it, but the next day, the film evaporates completely from my mind, leaving only this vague residue of OKness. Good movies stick with you, and great movies compel you to revisit them.

Some movies have built-in expiration dates. A year from now, what movies will you look back and remember fondly? Five years from now? Ten? Twenty?

When I watch films that have remained entertaining, accessible, and popular for more than 50 years, I am overwhelmed. It is like time has filtered out 99.99% of the crap. I am sure there were crappy movies made 80 years ago, but none of them turn up on Favorite Movies of All Time lists.

Since Netflix can’t feed the hyperactive “Guaranteed In Stock New Release” mentality fostered by most video establishments, it has to rely on the catalog. It has to foster an interest in something beyond the now. It has to make people aware of all that is available out there.

Currently in the Rentlist Word document:

  • Z
  • Funny Bones
  • Hype
  • Tokyo Olimpiad
  • Into the Arms of Strangers
  • Spider
  • Hair
  • Paper Moon
  • The Last Detail
  • Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
  • Landmarks o/Early Film
  • Woodstock
  • Afterglow
  • Night and Fog
  • Sexy Beast
  • Bitter Moon
  • The Contender
  • Les Miserables
  • Schizopolis
  • Tokyo Story
  • Pretty Devils
  • L’Auberge Espagnole
  • Knife in the Water
  • The Silence
  • I Don’t Know Jack
  • Scarface
  • Umberto D
  • La Strada
  • The Horse’s Mouth
  • Double Suicide
  • Honeymoon Killer
  • Quai des Orfevres
  • The Element of Crime
  • Jubilee
  • Written on the Wind
  • Down by Law
  • Closely Watched Trains
  • Persona
  • Shame
  • The Passion of Anna
  • Hour of the Wolf
  • The Serpent’s Egg
  • Lilies of the Field
  • The Organization
  • For Love of Ivy
  • Saboteur
  • Jamaica Inn
  • Number 17
  • The Paradine Case
  • Secret Agent
  • The Skin Game
  • To Catch a Thief
  • Topaz
  • Under Capricorn
  • Born Yesterday
  • Now, Voyager
  • A Place in the Sun
  • Gettysburg
  • Gods and Generals
  • The Good Thief
  • Man on the Train
  • Man without a Past
  • Decline o/t American Empire
  • Barbarian Invasions
  • The Dish
  • All the Real Girls
  • Miracle
  • Stone Reader
  • Femme Fatale
  • The Leopard
  • Smiles o/a Summer Night
  • War Photographer
  • Bus 174
  • Pather Panchali
  • Aparajito
  • The World of Apu
  • My Girl
  • Intolerable Cruelty
  • Uptown Sat. Night
  • Story of Flotn Weeds
  • Hour of the Wolf
  • Shame
  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips
  • Doctor Faustus
  • Man without a Past
  • Picture Bride
  • Trekkies 2
  • The Man Who Knew Too Little
  • Short Eyes
  • Last Samurai
  • Goodbye Lenin
  • Mean Girls
  • Eddie Murphy: Raw
  • The Bad Seed
  • Slacker
  • Early Summer
  • Port of Shadows
  • Golden Coach
  • Elena and Her Men
  • Funny Haha
  • In the Soup
  • Derrida
  • City Lights
  • The Towering Inferno
  • Monsieur Verdoux
  • When Mountains Tremble
  • Human Resources
  • Stir of Echos
  • Home Movie
  • Zardoz
  • Duel
  • Man w/t Movie Camera
  • Heroic Trio
  • I’ll Sleep when I’m Dead
  • The Hunger
  • He Knows Your Alone
  • That’s Entertainment 1,2,3

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Netflix Overflow - Part 1

Ok. So the Netflix Queue has 500 films in it and the website just won’t let you add any more. How do you handle this?

The first piece of advice I would give is realize what a movie-obsessed life you lead and go cold turkey. Turn to a great outdoor experience for your kicks, or, if you just need media, stick to reading. Do something that involves human interaction, like a book group. Try to avoid screenwriting groups, because you want HUMAN interaction.

If that just doesn’t sound appealing, then try keeping the names of extra movies in your head. If you need to interact with the Netflix website, set up a Queue Overflow list of some sort. If you look around the Netflix website, you’ll see these.

If you need to keep a comprehensive list of over 200 DVDs, use your favorite data storage application. If you want to make an Excel spreadsheet, make an Excel spreadsheet. If you need to set up an Oracle database to record all the DVDs you want to see, go right ahead. If you want to write the name of each movie down on a yellow sticky note and decorate your house with these, go right ahead. (The advantage of the sticky note method is that you can ceremonially burn each sticky note when you move the disc from your overflow list to your actual Netflix list.)

I just use a Word document. I use the highlighter tool to color code the movie titles, assigning quality and priority to the discs.

Once, though, I was in a film shoot in a video store. I played, “Guy in the background, looking through the videos.” I spent hours walking around the video store, looking at videos. I thought the character would want to remember all of those videos he was looking out, so I pulled out my checkbook and started writing interesting film titles on the back of it. Here are the results:

Currently in the Rentlist Word document:

  • Alias (S‑1) 3,4,5,6 (S‑2) 1,2,3,4,5,6
  • Battle o/t Planets 1,2,3,4,5,6
  • Prime Suspect 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
  • Crime Story (S-1) 1,2,3,4 (S-2) 1,2,3,4
  • The Wire (S-1) 4,5 (S-2) 1,2,3, 4,5
  • Northern Exposure (S-3) 1,2,3, 4,5,6
  • Kids i/t Hall (S-1) 1,2,3,4 (S‑2) 1,2,3,4
  • Shakespeare BBC Series (Com) 1,2,3,4,5 (Tra) 1,2,3, 4,5
  • Deadwood 1,2,3,4,5,6
  • Taken 1,2,3,4,5,6
  • Curb Your Ent (S3) 2 (S4) 1,2
  • Astro Boy 1,2,3,4,5
  • Lone Wlf/Cb 1,2,3,4, 5,6
  • Tom Jones 1,2
  • Buffy (S‑2) 1,2,3, 4,5,6 (S-3) 1,2,3,4,5,6 (S-4) 1,2,3, 4,5,6 (S-5) 1,2,3,4,5,6
  • Red Dwarf 1,2,3,4
  • Brideshead Revisited 1,2,3
  • War and Remem. 1,2, 3,4,5,6,7,8 9,10,11,12
  • The Presidents Collection (R) 1,2,3,4 (D) 1,2,3,4
  • Victory at Sea 1,2,3,4
  • Cosmos 1,2,3,4,5,6,7
  • Zaotichi series 1,2,3,4,5,6, 7,8,9,10,11, 12,13,14,15, 16,17,18,19, 20,21,22,23, 24,25,25
  • 35 Up, 42 Up
  • The Jazz Singer
  • A Place in the Sun
  • High Noon
  • I am Curious – Blue
  • War and Peace
  • The Children’s Hour
  • Of Mice and Men
  • 1984
  • Equus
  • Bad Girls
  • Open Your Eyes
  • Full Frontal
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • Little Man Tate
  • Bartleby
  • Tin Men
  • Love in the Afternoon
  • Twist
  • Cries & Whispers
  • Tumbleweeds
  • The Cranes are Flying
  • The Horses Mouth
  • Ballad of a Soldier
  • Hearts & Minds
  • Ratcatcher
  • Five Easy Pieces
  • Kiss Me Kate
  • Rabbit-Proof Fence
  • The Soldiers
  • The Decameron
  • Anna and the King
  • Paris, When It Sizzles
  • Sleuth
  • Sophie’s Choice
  • Big Jake
  • Le Mans
  • Rio Lobo
  • Little Big Man
  • The Ruling Class
  • Sophie’s Choice
  • Heaven’s Prisoners
  • Malice
  • The Walter Ego
  • Plain Clothes
  • Hoffa
  • Things Change
  • This Boy’s Life
  • In Praise of Love
  • Benedict Arnold
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Outlaw Josey Wales
  • Woman of the Year
  • Menace II Society
  • Swept Away
  • China Moon
  • Day for Night
  • Smoke
  • Blue in the Face
  • The Cherry Orchard
  • Egypt’s Golden Empire
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
  • Desk Set
  • Paris Holiday
  • Winter Light
  • The Silence
  • Heartbreakers
  • Passion Fish
  • Tortilla Soup
  • Mildred Pearce
  • The Paper Chase
  • 300 Spartans
  • Unchained Memories
  • Shampoo
  • Kissing Jessica Stein
  • The Rose
  • Cry Baby
  • The Fast Runner
  • Decasia
  • Winter Sleepers
  • Made
  • Swingers

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Rounding out the Netflix List

If the Netflix list looks like a sloppy jumble of everything, that is because it is a sloppy jumble of everything. The only discs that really matter are the first five, and the rest of the Queue is just a repository of titles. As long as I have Ctrl+F, there is no reason to order or classify the discs in a particular way.

A lot of time, the list is on auto pilot. Being a cinematic omnivore usually means you just take what is given to you and appreciate it as much as you can. Sometimes, though, it is important to bump a film up to the top of the list.

Movies tend to get bumped to the top of the list when I know there is a movie conversation coming up. For example, I was recently involved in a conversation about the film, “City of God.” The movie was in the 400 range of the Netflix list, but after this conversation, it moved to the top spot. The next time I’m in a similar social situation, I’ll conduct a follow-up conversation about “City of God.”

And that is how it works. Steady stream of entertaining jumble until interesting human interaction happens, and then things get reordered. Because no matter how much I like watching movies, I like the ideas behind the movies more. I like talking about the ideas and discussing films.

In a super-saturated media culture, I think many pundits forget why people ultimately rely on media so much – they want to connect with other people. We watch Saturday Night Live so we can talk about (or even reenact) the skits. We troll MySpace to find someone who seems to have similar interests. We work through 3 to 5 Netflix films a week so we know what we’re talking about when we proclaim the one of the signs of the apocalypse is surely the pairing Akiva Goldsmith and Michael Bay to re-envision the TV show “Simon and Simon” as a big-budget action flick.

Currently in the Netflix Queue at approximately the 400 to 500 positions:

  • Macbeth
  • Luther
  • Brigadoon
  • Tanner '88: Disc 2
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Saved!
  • Art in the 21st Century: S 1 and 2: Disc 2
  • Support Your Local Sheriff!
  • The Great Ziegfeld
  • Body Heat
  • Star Blazers: Ser. 3: Bolar Wars: Part II
  • Amores Perros
  • 28 Up
  • Star Blazers: Ser. 3: Bolar Wars: Part III
  • Star Blazers: Ser. 3: Bolar Wars: Part IV
  • Space Battleship Yamato: The New Voyage
  • In Search of Shakespeare: Disc 2
  • Star Blazers: Ser. 3: Bolar Wars: Part V
  • Star Blazers: Ser. 3: Bolar Wars: Part VI
  • Grave of the Fireflies
  • Be Forever Yamato
  • Final Yamato
  • Keep the River on Your Right
  • Eat Drink Man Woman
  • Empires: Martin Luther
  • Faust
  • Northern Exposure: Season 2: Disc 2
  • Paradise Lost: Child Murders at Robin Hood
  • Northern Exposure: Season 2: Disc 3
  • Northern Exposure: Season 2: Disc 4
  • Mayor of the Sunset Strip
  • Freaks
  • The Thomas Crown Affair
  • King of the Hill: Season 6: Disc 3
  • Light Keeps Me Company
  • The Wire: Season 1: Disc 4
  • The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
  • Alias: Season 1: Disc 2
  • Nobody Knows
  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
  • Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
  • Secret Honor
  • In Cold Blood
  • Identity

Currently in DVD limbo at the bottom of the Netflix Queue:

  • 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould
  • Arrested Development: Season 3
  • Brick
  • Explosive Dance
  • Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Les Vampires
  • Marlene
  • Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel)
  • Nico Icon
  • Phantasm
  • Richard Pryor: Live in Concert
  • Roots: Disc 2
  • Roots: Disc 3
  • Serial Mom
  • Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense
  • Thank You for Smoking
  • The World at War: Disc 1
  • The World at War: Disc 2
  • The World at War: Disc 3
  • The World at War: Disc 4
  • The World at War: Disc 5: Bonus Material
  • Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl

Friday, June 23, 2006

How to Convince People You Know More about Movies than Anyone

Somehow, I have this reputation for being an expert on movies. Not sure how this happened, because all I know is that I don’t know that much. However, I learned from being a video store manager how to fake it through a movie conversation and make it sound like I know more than I do.

And now, I will share this bit of wisdom, broken down into three easy steps.

1) You can show enthusiasm, but do not gush.

In other words, keep your cool. Sure you may think ‘Kill Bill’ was the BEST FREAKIN’ MOVIE, EVER(!!!!), and if someone doesn’t like it, they should SHUT UP AND DIE IN A MILLION LITTLE PAINFUL WAYS!!!! But don’t say it. Don’t even type it. Just think it. This is your special secret and you do not have to share it with the world. If you need to praise, don’t speak in generalities or hyperbole, just focus on a specific – “That scene with the severed heads was pretty exciting, huh?”

The same goes for negative reactions. If a movie makes your face pucker until you work up a contemptible enough glob of spit, don’t spit at the person you’re talking to, even if they do think ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ was pretty funny. They don’t deserve your spit; they deserve your pity.

What you can do is branch out from the negative experience you had to a semi-positive experience. Say something like, “I understand what you mean. Meg Ryan is such a versatile actress… I often wonder why she doesn’t star in a Lars von Trier movie. He always gets such great performances out of his leading ladies.”

2) Pretend you already know what you don’t know, and then pretend you don’t know what you know.

This is actually a good mantra for life in general, and if not life in general, then at least for middle management.

Say you’re talking about the end of “The Usual Suspects” and you don’t know (nor do you really care) who Keyser Soyze is. Say something innocuous like, “When I found out who Keyser Soyze is… man, that blew my mind.” And then whoever you are talking to will go, “Yeah! Totally!” and then will re-enact the entire movie, scene-for-scene to you. You get the information without having to go to the source. If you keep this up, one day you might become a prize-winning journalist.

Remember the last time you were at the video store? Remember how the person selling you the video told you how the movie was totally awesome and how it will totally rock your world? That person lied. That person read the back of the box and then talked with two customers who watched the movie. Suddenly, the video store employee knows everything good about the movie (or at least, enough to sell it to you), and it only took ten minutes.

The flip side of this is to pretend you don’t know what you already know. This ties in with keeping your cool. Be gracious and let the other person talk every once in awhile. Act surprised when you learn that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie hooked up during the filming of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and act shocked – SHOCKED! – when you learn that Paris Hilton made a sex video. This makes people feel smarter than you, and makes them like you all the more.

3) When in doubt, talk about the cinematography.

A sure shutdown I-am-the-King-of-ALL-Things-Cinema move is to discuss the cinematography. Because even though everyone loves the movies, no one cares about the cinematography. (Quick! Name three cinematographers who are not named Haskell Wexler, Conrad Hall, or Gordon Willis.) Just even threatening to talk about the non-special effects visuals causes most people to throw up their hands in surrender to your absolute movie brilliance.

Just try it. Start a movie conversation with the line, “That was a fascinating use of the color red, don’t you think?” Unless you’re talking about the “Sixth Sense” or a Kieslowski film, no one will even attempt to respond.

Currently in the Netflix Queue at approximately the 300 to 400 positions:

  • Baseball: Disc 2
  • Baseball: Disc 3
  • Baseball: Disc 4
  • Baseball: Disc 5
  • Baseball: Disc 6
  • Baseball: Disc 7
  • Baseball: Disc 8
  • Baseball: Disc 9
  • Baseball: Disc 10
  • More Treasures of the Twilight Zone
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide: Disc 2
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 40
  • Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
  • Paragraph 175
  • I Am Curious: Yellow
  • Ringu
  • Monster's Ball
  • Under the Roofs of Paris
  • The Madness of King George
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 41
  • Otello
  • Star 80
  • Talk to Her
  • The Fury
  • Madadayo
  • The Pianist
  • Audrey Rose
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice
  • Foolish Wives / The Man You Loved to Hate
  • Children of Paradise: Disc 1
  • Shoot the Piano Player
  • Gangs of New York
  • Pecker
  • Band of Outsiders
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 42
  • Children of Paradise: Disc 2
  • Limelight
  • A Nous la Liberte
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • General Idi Amin Dada
  • War and Peace: Disc 1
  • Willard
  • Sister Wendy: Disc 3
  • Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie
  • War and Peace: Disc 2
  • Kids in the Hall: Tour of Duty
  • Through a Glass Darkly
  • The Benny Goodman Story
  • The Andromeda Strain
  • Sister Wendy: Disc 4
  • Sister Wendy's American Collection: Disc 1
  • Sister Wendy's American Collection: Disc 2
  • Sister Wendy's American Collection: Disc 3
  • All That Heaven Allows
  • The Sopranos: Season 4: Disc 4
  • War and Peace: Disc 3
  • War and Peace: Disc 4
  • Cecil B. Demented
  • Pat and Mike
  • War and Peace: Bonus Material
  • Ice Age
  • Nowhere in Africa
  • They Live
  • Pepe le Moko
  • Harvey
  • Enigma
  • The Kid
  • Jeremiah: Season 1: Disc 5
  • Jeremiah: Season 1: Disc 6
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1: Disc 2
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1: Disc 3
  • 12 Angry Men
  • The Pink Panther Strikes Again
  • Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony
  • Hiroshima Mon Amour
  • Gaslight
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster
  • The Blues: Disc 4: Warming by Devil's Fire
  • Twilight of the Ice Nymphs / Archangel
  • The Blues: Disc 7: Piano Blues
  • Dark Angel: Season 1: Disc 2
  • Dark Angel: Season 1: Disc 3
  • Stray Dog
  • Mean Streets
  • The Human Stain
  • The Glenn Miller Story
  • The Hills Have Eyes
  • The Lower Depths (Les Bas-fonds)
  • Foxy Brown
  • Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
  • A Doll's House
  • Carmen: Bizet: Covent Garden
  • Fidelio: Beethoven: Royal Opera House
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth
  • Reno 911: Season 1: Disc 2
  • Swan Lake: Tchaikovsky (Matthew Bourne)
  • Le Nozze di Figaro: Mozart
  • My Son the Fanatic
  • Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
  • The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
  • Underground Railroad
  • The Rutles
  • A Private Function
  • The Bank Dick
  • Two Brothers
  • The Trials of Henry Kissinger
  • The Song of Bernadette
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 3: Vol. 1
  • Fanny and Alexander (Theatrical Version)
  • They Call Me Mr. Tibbs
  • Out of the Past
  • Sweet Smell of Success
  • Dawn of the Dead
  • Only Angels Have Wings
  • Frankenstein / Bride of Frankenstein

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Journey Through the Netflix Queue

When someone is very analytical, movies cease to be bad. Movies provide so much for the senses, that there will always be something to capture your attention. If the acting is bad, you can look at the costume design. If the lighting is bad, you can amuse yourself for hours with entertaining anecdotes about how this film could possibly have been pitched for funding. (Somewhere, there is a group of dentists funding every terrible pitch their collective nephews have ever imagined.)

The downside to being analytical is that movies also cease to be good. That is, unless the movie has some aspect to it that just overwhelms you totally, that bypasses your mental slicer-and-dicer and just makes you feel something raw and real.

The more you watch movies, the rarer these sock-me-in-the-gut experiences are. How do die-hard movie addicts compensate for this increasing numbness to the nectar that fuels them?

Talking about movies.

The movie conversation is one of the lowest common denominators of small talk, and one that provides a nice little Rorschach test for the person you are talking to. The dangerous side of movie talk is, of course, the Movie Talk Shark. People who cannot have a normal conversation about anything besides movies can smell a movie conversation from three rooms away. They will corner you and devour your conversation. And if they think sense movie weakness, they will not stop until you are lifeless.

There are three ways to deal with socially- awkward- movie- snobs- who- have- cornered- you- because- you- are- talking- about- movies- but- who- really- don’t- want- to- talk- to- you- but- instead- bludgeon- you- with- pointless- trivia- to- prove- their- mental- or- movie- watching- dominance:

1) Beat them at their own game.

2) Tell them you are connected to the movie industry somehow.

3) Bore them.

The first way is the hardest, because you will have to be not only more knowledgeable about movies, you will have to be more opinionated about movies. This is not really recommended unless you happen to be one of those personalities who relishes in saying things like, “I poop on the career of Jim Carrey… Except for one promising turn in ‘Once Bitten,’ he has done nothing worth merit!!!” You also need to insist on typing and speaking with as many exclamation points as possible!!!!!!!!

The second way is fun, because all you have to do is mention, “My cousin the D-Girl” and this borderline psychopath will suddenly become the most fawning bootlicker on the face of the planet. The two disadvantages of this are 1) This person will follow you around like a puppy for the rest of your life, and 2) You will be “pitched” movie ideas from this point on. All of these movie pitches will either involve gangsters, dysfunctional families, misunderstood artistic guys who suddenly find gorgeous women that sleep with them on the first date, or dysfunctional gangster families with a misunderstood artistic guy in them and then this guy happens to land a gorgeous woman.

The third way is also fun, because there is nothing a Movie Talk Shark hates more than entertainment that is enjoyable, well-liked, and non-offensive. Start out by mentioning the pure cinematic genius of “Pretty Woman.” Then rhapsodize about “You’ve Got Mail” and then segway into a deep meditation of entire Meg Ryan milieu. Meg Ryan is the movie snob’s kryptonite.

Currently in the Netflix Queue at approximately the 200 to 300 positions:

  • Three Ages
  • The Navigator
  • Go West
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 36
  • Battling Butler
  • College
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr.
  • A Funny Thing Happened …
  • Tillie's Punctured Romance
  • Chaplin's Essanay Comedies: Vol. 2
  • Chaplin's Essanay Comedies: Vol. 3
  • Chaplin Mutuals: Vol. 2
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 37
  • Chaplin Mutuals: Vol. 3
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 38
  • Interiors
  • White Christmas
  • Bye Bye Birdie
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 39
  • A Night to Remember
  • A Man for All Seasons
  • Amistad
  • Bell, Book and Candle
  • Treasures of the Twilight Zone
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • Godspell
  • Hair
  • How to Succeed in Business Without …
  • Oklahoma!
  • Rage Against the Machine
  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown
  • Tommy
  • The Alamo
  • And God Created Woman
  • Orchestra Rehearsal
  • The Swindle
  • Variety Lights
  • Tokyo Drifter
  • Shivers
  • Great Expectations
  • Laurence Olivier's Hamlet
  • The Mask of Zorro
  • Gray's Anatomy
  • The Long Good Friday
  • Andy Kaufman: The Midnight Special
  • Greeks: Crucible of Civilization
  • Get on the Bus
  • The Tao of Steve
  • Behind the Planet of the Apes
  • The Lost Weekend
  • The Fortune Cookie
  • Elephant Parts
  • Central Station
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  • Diner
  • Silverado
  • Something Wild
  • Sling Blade
  • Aria
  • Dressed to Kill
  • Oliver Twist
  • Oliver Twist
  • My Best Girl
  • Tol'able David
  • Around the World with Orson Welles
  • Great Rupert
  • How to Marry a Millionaire
  • Pocketful of Miracles
  • La Notte
  • Jazz Casual: Basie, Gillespie, Coltrane
  • The Jazz Channel Presents B.B. King
  • With a Friend Like Harry
  • An American Werewolf in London
  • Road to Morocco
  • The Shootist
  • The Horse Soldiers
  • There's No Business Like Show Business
  • Brannigan
  • On the Waterfront
  • From Here to Eternity
  • The Euroshock Collection: Psychomania
  • Following
  • Rio Bravo
  • El Dorado
  • Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note
  • Man Ray: Prophet of the Avant Garde
  • Ocean's Eleven
  • High and Low
  • Rashomon
  • All the Vermeers in New York
  • Gandhi
  • John & Faith Hubley: Art and Jazz
  • American History X
  • Chopper
  • The Deep End
  • Local Hero
  • Welcome to the Dollhouse
  • Office Killer
  • Gosford Park
  • Iris
  • In the Bedroom
  • Swan Lake: Tchaikovsky (Natalia Makarova)
  • Happenstance
  • The Shipping News
  • Robin and Marian
  • The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Contempt

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Netflix Queue 2: Electric Boogaloo

I realize that posting entries of your Netflix Queue is probably one of the stupidest things to do with your blog. It is like one of those three-in-the-morning-after-a-night-of-drinking ideas that seem brilliant at the time, but in the light of day, just make you cringe. (Hey! I’ve got a great idea! I’ll just list a bunch of movies and people will know that I’m interested in silent films and documentaries! That way, I won’t have to write an entry about how much I like silent films and documentaries!)

Still, so many of my conversations wander around to movies. After three years managing a video store, I’m known as a “movie guy” and people tend to listen to (if not necessarily respect – cough cough – Filmspotting – cough cough) my opinion.

Truth of the matter is, I don’t know that much about the movies and more often than not, I just bluff my way through more than half of my movie conversations. There are tricks to sounding smarter about movies than you really are, but that is another blog entry.

I will share this little tidbit about my early relationship with the movies - I made up entire movies based on the commercials of existing movies. Take, for example, The Shining. When that movie was in theaters, I was 7, and there was no way my parents would take me to see it. I became obsessed with the commericals, though. So I made up my own version of The Shining incorporating all of the images from the commercials. I would spend entire afternoons entertaining myself with wild speculation. What was chasing the kid through the maze? Was the shining a gateway to another world? It was like I created a personal version of The Shining each day. When I finally got around to seeing the film years later, I was a little disappointed.

On to the movie list!

Currently in the Netflix Queue at approximately the 100 to 200 positions:

  • For All Mankind
  • October
  • God Said Ha!
  • Kurosawa: A Documentary
  • Xerxes: Handel
  • Sanjuro
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 10
  • Landmarks of Early Film #2: Magic Melies
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 11
  • Nanook of the North
  • National Geographic: The Photographers
  • Strike
  • Mozart: Don Giovanni: Teatro Alla Scala
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 12
  • Great Animation Studios: Fleischer Studios
  • San Francisco Opera: Vivaldi
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 13
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
  • Alexander Nevsky
  • Hitchcock: Bon Voyage / Aventure Malgache
  • Amarcord
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 14
  • Snow Falling on Cedars
  • Monty Python: The Life of Python: Vol. 1
  • Monty Python: The Life of Python: Vol. 2
  • Chaplin's Essanay Comedies: Vol. 1
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 15
  • Annie Get Your Gun
  • A Streetcar Named Desire: Andre Previn
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 16
  • Nabucco: Verdi: Teatro Di San Carlo
  • I, Claudius: Disc 1
  • I, Claudius: Disc 2
  • I, Claudius: Disc 3
  • I, Claudius: Disc 4
  • High Plains Drifter
  • I, Claudius: Disc 5/The Epic
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 17
  • Like Water for Chocolate
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 18
  • Lost Horizon
  • Albino Alligator
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 19
  • Walkabout
  • Jamaica Inn
  • Rollerball
  • Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 20
  • Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars: Disc 1
  • Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 21
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  • Black Orpheus
  • Nosferatu
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 22
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 23
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 24
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 25
  • Rage Against the Machine: Revolution USA
  • Hitchcock: Blackmail and Easy Virtue
  • Murder!
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 26
  • Anchors Aweigh
  • Camelot
  • Carousel
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 27
  • Going My Way / Holiday Inn
  • South Pacific
  • State Fair
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 28
  • Victor / Victoria
  • Wages of Fear
  • On the Town
  • Drugstore Cowboy
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 29
  • Diva
  • Swingers
  • Head: The Monkees
  • The Great Escape
  • Bullitt
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 30
  • Papillon
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • Platoon
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 31
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 32
  • Civil War Films of the Silent Era
  • The End of the Affair
  • The Dead Zone
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 33
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • Reap the Wild Wind
  • Way Down East
  • Orphans of the Storm
  • America
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 34
  • Sally of the Sawdust
  • The Battle of the Sexes
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Barry Lyndon
  • Nashville
  • Chaplin Mutuals: Vol. 1
  • Paths of Glory
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 35
  • Gentleman's Agreement
  • Dracula
  • The Saphead (Silent)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Just how many movies can one person watch?

Whenever people talk about Netflix, inevitably, they start bragging about how their DVD Queue has 25 movies in it. Or sometimes, they’ll smile and brag about how the Queue has close to 80 movies in it. Oh yes, they are cool movie people.

Netflix limits the Queues top out at 500. I know because I have 500 DVDs in mine. Plus I have a word document, named Rentlist, that contains about 200to 300 more discs.

I’m not proud of this, but when people find out, they immediately ask how can I do this? How is it possible? As an answer, I thought I would just post my current Netflix list and let everyone goggle at it.

Because I don’t want to overwhelm everyone, I’ll space it out over a week…. approximately 100 DVDs a day for seven days. Since I average three to four movies a week, this list will be outdated before it is finished. And I reorder the list constantly, so it will be almost impossible to predict what I’ll watch when.

If you want to comment, please tell me which films are going to be a complete waste of my time. Also feel free to ask me, “Why the hell do you want to watch this movie?” and I’ll do my best to answer. Conversely, if you have one of the three movies that are not on my list, please recommend them to me. As you can probably see, I’m not too picky.

Here we go…

Currently checked out:

  • Withnail and I
  • Alias: Season 1: Disc 1
  • City of God (already mailed back)

Currently in the Netflix Queue (approx the 1 to 100 slots):

  • Syriana
  • The New World
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  • Northern Exposure: Season 2: Disc 1
  • King of the Hill: Season 6: Disc 2
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • My Neighbors the Yamadas
  • The Mouse That Roared
  • Fosse
  • In Search of Shakespeare: Disc 1
  • Star Blazers: Ser. 3: Bolar Wars: Part I
  • The Devil's Rejects
  • Jeremiah: Season 1: Disc 4
  • Ordinary People
  • The Wire: Season 1: Disc 2
  • The Blues: Disc 5: Godfathers and Sons
  • Paycheck
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • Henry & June
  • Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t!: Season 1: Disc 2
  • Tanner '88: Disc 1
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1: Disc 1
  • In the Heat of the Night
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Belle de Jour
  • Paper Clips
  • Nights of Cabiria
  • The Wire: Season 1: Disc 3
  • Dirty Pretty Things
  • Art in the 21st Century: S 1 and 2: Disc 1
  • Thief of Bagdad
  • The Blues: Disc 6: Red, White and Blues
  • Baseball: Disc 1
  • Coal Miner's Daughter: Collector's Edition
  • Dark Angel: Season 1: Disc 1
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Coffee and Cigarettes
  • Thrill Ride: The Science of Fun: IMAX
  • Reno 911: Season 1: Disc 1
  • Pink Flamingos
  • 21 Up
  • The Critic: The Complete Series: Disc 3
  • Hell's Highway
  • The Wild One
  • The Mysteries of Egypt: IMAX
  • The Omega Man
  • The Sopranos: Season 4: Disc 3
  • Insomnia
  • The Hours, PG-13, Drama , Now,
  • Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t!: Season 1: Disc 3
  • Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean: Disc 3
  • He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
  • The Virgin Suicides
  • Survival Island: IMAX
  • Bus Stop
  • The Circus
  • A Star Is Born
  • Frida
  • Mother, Jugs and Speed
  • Key Largo
  • Titan A.E.
  • Arlington Road
  • A Chorus Line
  • The Stunt Man
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 5
  • L'Avventura
  • The Best of British Cinema
  • Citizen Ruth
  • Francesco Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur
  • Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
  • Reversal of Fortune
  • Elmer Gantry
  • Van Beuren Studios Cartoons
  • A.K.A. Cassius Clay
  • Last Days
  • Rakes: Stravinksy Salzburg Festival
  • 8 Women
  • The Fairy Queen: English National Opera
  • Quiz Show
  • My Dinner with Andre
  • The People vs. Larry Flynt
  • Cirque du Soleil: Alegria
  • Ikiru
  • Dali
  • The Hunting of the President
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 7
  • Bizet's Carmen
  • Chuck Jones: Extremes and in Betweens
  • Mutiny on the Bounty
  • Rocky
  • Kiri Te Kanawa: Home and Afar
  • God is Great, I'm Not
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Cool Hand Luke
  • Die Fledermaus: Strauss: Royal Opera
  • 13 Conversations About One Thing
  • Rossini: La Donna del Lago: Riccardo Muti
  • Yojimbo
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • The Twilight Zone: Vol. 9

Monday, June 19, 2006

This Call is Being Monitored for Quality Assurance

Here is a little five minute audio clip of someone trying to cancel his AOL service.

Service is the operative word, because the AOL representative keeps insisting on trying to "“help"” the customer even when the only help the customer wants is to be cut loose.

It is easy to hate the AOL representative, until you realize that he probably goes through dozens of these calls every day. And that he is being monitored so his only way of dealing with stress is intolerable customer service.

It continually amazes me that people allow situations to get this absurd. The AOL representative is confined to a script that doesn'’t allow for shortcuts; the caller doesn'’t understand this and just wants to be let go.

Some jobs make us less than human, just like the rights of the customer make us sometimes more inhuman.

I got this link from the Jonathan Coulton website.

Kill Bill = Feel Good Family Film for the Year

The guys at Filmspotting named ‘Kill Bill’ as one of the Top 5 Chick Flicks. They also named Uma Thurman’s character, Beatrix Kiddo, as one of the Top 10 on-screen parents.

I had to respond.

Listen to the ‘Filmspotting’ podcast, especially this part:

15:22-26:32 - Listener Feedback (Kill Turnage-'Chick' Flick Edition)