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Movie Habit

Comedian Mark Malkoff, mildly famous for a series of bizarre and thoroughly entertaining stunts (many of which are on his YouTube channel), has done it again. His latest wild accomplishment is The Netflix Challenge. An answer to the question: What is the best value an individual can get for the $7.99 a month it costs to get unlimited streaming on Netflix? That answer, apparently, is 252 films (404.25 hours) at 3.2 cents a film. I’ll let you watch the above video if you want any additional details.

I love that idea, and I’m mildly jealous at the number he was able to hit, averaging over 8 films per day (as grueling as that must have been). I’m pretty sure I’ve never gone higher than 6, and the most films I ever watched in a month was 46, and that was several years ago. I don’t always manage to see 252 films in a year, let alone in a single month. Of course, that’s true of almost everyone, but I’m not like almost everyone. I have a bit of a movie habit.

I think I heard somewhere once that it was once possible to have seen every single movie ever made, but sometime in the 1960s the rate of new films being produced combined with the backlog of old films began to vastly outdistance the human lifespan. Half a century on from that, I’m not even sure it’s possible to see every worthwhile film ever made, but I quietly hope that it is, even though I continue to waste time on far too many inferior movies (sometimes more than once!), to say nothing of the great films that I watch over and over again.

Eight years ago, I began keeping a log of the unique movies I was watching (no repeats), and since then, I’ve tried to make a point of seeing at least one movie a day that isn’t yet on the list, as nearly as possible. Eight years ago, I was in college, and even though I realized I had a lot of free time on my hands, I really had no idea how much I had. As time has passed and I’ve gotten married, gotten a job, earned a Master’s degree, and had a child, I’ve often gone several days without seeing anything new, but the thought of that next movie is rarely far from my mind.

As I look back at my record, which is nearing 1850 films, I see that my monthly average during the last eight years is nearly 19 films. That’s one every day and a half or so. And that’s feature-length films, not counting TV shows, or any films seen more than once. Not bad, all things considered. This wouldn’t have been remotely possible without Netflix, which I’ve subscribed to since February of 2004, and particularly without instant streaming through the Roku box that I’ve had connected to my TV for the past few years. It’s a great time to be a film buff.

I have two Netflix queues: one for DVDs and one for instant watching. I don’t know how many people are aware of this, but there is a maximum length for Netflix queues. Netflix won’t let you add more than 500 films to your queue, and both of mine have been maxed out for years (with maybe 100 films-worth of overlap as movies come and go from “Watch Instantly”). I literally can’t watch movies fast enough to keep my queue unclogged. Really the only reason I’m ever able to add new things to my instant-watch queue is that a bunch of movies expire off of it before a batch of new ones become available.

In other words, I could match Malkoff’s ridiculous rate for a month and still have nearly 3/4 of my Netflix list left to watch. To really clear it out, I’d need to keep up that pace from now until October. Ouch. Of course, a fair portion of my instant queue is made up of TV shows, some of which have literally hundreds of episodes, so it would actually take longer, but never mind. The point is, I’m not going to run out of things to watch . . . ever.

As it happens, though, even before I saw the Netflix Challenge, I was already casually shooting for a personal best this month. It’s been a few years since I managed to average a film a day for a full month, and I wanted to try for that number and see how far I could exceed it. And that’s why, even though I watched Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line earlier today, and I’ve just finished The Tailor of Panama, and my daughter will probably be awake in 7 hours (if I’m lucky and she sleeps in a bit), I’m still going to watch Dirty Harry before I go to bed. That’ll make 21 films so far this month, not counting the 3 repeats I watched, and the hours of TV shows (which is my wife’s Netflix viewing preference . . . she likes her entertainment in smaller chunks).

I don’t think I’d care to try to break Malkoff’s new Netflix record, though it would be physically possible. 3 movies in a day is kind of fun; 9 films a day would be exhausting. More importantly, they’d all blur together into a kind of weird fever-dream, and I wouldn’t really be experiencing them. I track my numbers rigorously because I’m obsessive about lists and records, and I like big numbers, but it isn’t about sheer quantity. It’s about enjoying and engaging with cinematic stories from a wide variety of traditions, cultures, eras, and genres. I’d like to write about more of the things I watch and engage them even further, but when life is busy and I have to choose between watching movies and writing about them, I just watch.

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~ by Jared on June 14, 2012.

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