Monday, June 22, 2009

Switcheroo randomness

Being able to receive movies through the mail is a great thing -- we all agree on this. However, sometimes it results in some rather funny possibilities for human error.

Someone's got to sit there stuffing the envelopes at the local Blockbuster or Netflix shipping center. I'd like to imagine that it's done by some kind of robotic arm -- maybe one of those robotic arms that's out of work now that all the American car plants are closing -- but it's probably just some person making minimum wage. And that person is fallible.

Which is why, for example, I received the 2007 version of The Hitcher rather than the 1986 version last August. I'd already seen the 2007 version, and I wanted to see how the 1986 version compared. (Unfavorably, I decided -- I rather liked the 2007 one, and found the 1986 one disappointing by comparison).

That kind of mistake is easily understandable. But sometimes, they aren't.

Like yesterday, for example. My wife and I sat down to watch Elegy, a movie I'd heard was good but otherwise didn't know much about. I'm scheduled to review it.

However, when I opened the Blockbuster shipping envelope, this is what I got:

I've tried to figure out what Gangs of New York and Elegy could possibly have in common that would have caused this movie to get stuffed in the Elegy envelope. (The DVD jacket was for Gangs, but the outer envelope said Elegy. I've gotten DVDs in the wrong jackets before, though). They wouldn't have been filed consecutively by title. Their subject matter is not similar -- Gangs is of course about the violent coming-of-age of old New York, while Elegy is about the relationship between a professor and his student. They're both dramas, but that's about it.

Human error, I guess.

This particular switcheroo was a bit more irritating just because of how much I disliked Gangs of New York. In fact, I think it may be my least favorite Martin Scorsese movie. For a director whose work is unfailingly realistic, I found this movie to be stagy and absurd -- it reminded me of some kind of production of Oliver Twist.

But Blockbuster's pretty good about this kind of thing. You just report the error and they immediately ship the correct title. No questions asked.

I suppose if you decided you really liked a particular movie, and really hated another particular movie that you happened to own, you could just report a shipping error and send them back your copy of the crappy movie. How would they know? If Gangs of New York could be sent instead of Elegy, there's simply no logic to the potential for mistakes. Why couldn't they have shipped you Freddy Got Fingered instead of Citizen Kane?

Well, I won't abuse the honor system they've put in place. Blockbuster has always been good to me in the past. When I never got Two Can Play That Game (don't ask me how I remember this) several years ago, they just sent me another one. They never considered -- or at least didn't let on that they considered -- the possibility that I just decided I wanted to keep Two Can Play That Game. (Because really, who would?) But if I made a regular habit of it, they'd probably catch on.

As I wait for the real copy of Elegy to arrive, I figured I might as well use my useless Gangs of New York for something. So I brought it to the store and used it to pick up Rachel Getting Married. Since they're sending me another Elegy, I really shouldn't be allowed to have another movie out from the store -- that'll leave me with one more DVD than my three maximum I'm supposed to have at any given time.

Okay, maybe I'll abuse their honor system just a little.

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