Friday, December 11, 2009

The great unwatched

I've been trying to get my wife to watch Dangerous Liaisons for some time now.

Yesterday, I returned it to Blockbuster unwatched.

And, pursuant to what we were discussing on Tuesday, that's ... okay.

You see, not only had I been dominating the direction of our theatrical viewing experiences, but apparently, our home viewing as well.

And in this arena, I don't blame myself as much. It's the queue's fault. It's relentless, and it must always be fed.

For those of us who use an online rental company -- Netflix and Blockbuster are, of course, the industry leaders -- a fun little way to pass the time is to reorganize our queue of movies we have lined up to see.

It might surprise you to know that I am a somewhat absentee proprietor of my queue. Of the 74 titles I currently have in there, 50 have been in there for as long as two years. Those lingering titles were films I sort of wanted to see at some point, and they have been leapfrogged countless times by more urgent titles. I guess I am using my queue as a warehouse to store these titles, as a reminder that I may someday want to see them.

There's a part of me that wishes the titles would just come up randomly -- that it would be a surprise which title I'm receiving next, all part of the random pastiche that comprises a person's day-to-day movie watching experience. But I do have to control it, and I use three basic methods of determining which titles I move to the top: 1) movies that I need to review, and specifically, movies that are crappy that I need to review, so I can watch them at the gym; 2) movies that I have recently discussed watching with my wife; 3) movies that I haven't recently discussed watching with my wife, but which I have decided to promote to the top of the queue for some reason or the other.

It's that third category that gets me in trouble.

See, once a movie is sent to me, it means that it (by necessity) needs to get prioritized for a viewing sometime in the next week or two. Yet if my wife didn't specifically ask me to get something, it stands to reason that she shouldn't be forced to agree to that timeframe.

And it certainly won't surprise you to know that I get agitated the longer a movie sits around unwatched. The more days a movie sits at home, the less value I am getting from my monthly payment to Blockbuster. And if I have two movies that just can't make it to a viewing -- I get three at any one time -- then the problem compounds. Earlier this year, I held on to The Wages of Fear and Aguirre, the Wrath of God for almost two months each, because we just couldn't find the time to watch them. My wife was more interested in her second viewing of the first than her first viewing of the second, so I eventually watched the second by myself and returned it with a sigh of relief.

By contrast, my wife has a lesser Netflix plan that allows her only one DVD at a time. So my three Blockbuster DVDs gang up on her one Netflix DVD, and bully their way into our DVD player. You might consider that a metaphor for what Blockbuster is trying to do to the (presumably less well-funded) Netflix, which pioneered the concept of DVDs through the mail.

Of course, I make matters worse by also trading in watched DVDs for new releases from the store, which is one of the prime advantages I consider Blockbuster to have over Netflix. Those films take on the online rental terms, which means I don't have to return them by any specific date. But Blockbuster will hold the next film in my queue until I return that movie to the store. So I am motivated to do that as quickly as possible.

One more complicating factor: I double my list of three titles by getting out three movies from the library every couple weeks. We know those won't all get watched, because they are due back two days later. But we usually try to watch at least one of every batch.

The best solution would be if I were to keep my wife apprised of which titles are coming up near the top of my Blockbuster queue. That way, she could tell me which films she had a likelihood of wanting to see relatively soon, and which I should just push lower because she doesn't want to prioritize them. But that seems a little ridiculous, doesn't it? "Warning, honey -- Dangerous Liaisons has risen to third in my queue."

So the other solution is just to return them unwatched, as I did yesterday. Recognize the miscalculation and just cut your losses.

But I have to say, this does kill me a little bit every I do it. "A bird in the hand" becomes my guiding principle with these movies. I wish it could just be "Well, whatever the decision was that caused this movie to get sent to us, it's in the past. The movie is here now, so let's prioritize watching it."

My wife doesn't work that way, and that's fine. In fact, it's probably normal, while my way is probably weird. She has to be in the mood to watch a particular movie, whereas I'm more likely to sacrifice that if it means keeping the titles moving back and forth. As I've discussed other times, we have particular movie nights that we think are suited more appropriately or less appropriately to certain types of movies, as most people probably do. Circumstances and the vicissitudes of life could easily cause a movie to miss its ideal viewing night for several weeks in a row.

And so it's okay to return a movie like Dangerous Liaisons sometimes. It doesn't mean we'll never watch it. It doesn't mean we are disqualified from ever renting it again. It just means we won't watch it right now, and that's ... okay.

I've done it before. I returned (and still have never seen) The Mission in early 2008, when I realized I simply didn't have time before our wedding to give it the kind of viewing it deserved. And earlier this year, I even used my queue with the specific intention of watching a certain movie under a certain set of circumstances only. I rented Step Brothers, which I love and had already seen twice, in order to bring it for a weekend away with friends, in case they hadn't seen it. When it turned out they had seen it, I didn't feel the need to watch it a third time by myself, just to get my "money's worth." I just dropped it back in the mail and got the next movie.

Our queues. We should own them rather than them owning us, right?

1 comment:

Lord Vader said...

Your wife has NOT seen 'Dangerous Liaisons'? This is an outrage!