Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oh yeah - there's a thing called pay-per-view

As I continue homing in on 2010 movies I need to see before my January 25th deadline -- like some kind of heat-seeking missile -- I had a realization over the weekend about a whole channel open to me for acquiring titles, that I'd almost forgotten about.

You can, like, pay for them on your cable bill.

See, I'd forgotten that there was a thing called pay-per-view -- or at least, that's what we used to call it in the old days. Now it's just a part of OnDemand with payments attached, but pay-per-view is still a pretty accurate way to encapsulate what it is you're doing.

I used to entirely steer clear of watching movies in this way. I think that's because in the old days, watching a movie on pay-per-view was the equivalent of paying for a movie in a hotel. It was pretty much straight-up ten bucks to watch movies by clicking on the BUY button on your TV, so it was an indulgence that was strictly forbidden.

In more recent years, the competition for your movie rental buck has gotten a lot more fierce, so only hotels, where you're a captive audience, can still afford to charge that much. (Actually, some hotels charge like $14.99, even for non-porn -- though they offset the extra charge by offering some titles that haven't hit DVD yet.) The pay-per-view on your own TV is down to $4.99 or $5.99, sometimes even cheaper than that. Still, it's not something I do very often. My wife and I occasionally pay for movies like this, but we're talking like once a year.

But as I'm trying to wrap up my rankings for the year, and have some titles I'd still like to get in there, it's a pretty quick and easy way to start watching something immediately -- duh, that's the point -- without waiting for shipping times or even making a trip to the local Redbox.

So I waded into those waters on Friday night when it became clear that my wife was going to hit the hay early. (Do people still say "hit the hay"?) I didn't have anything lined up for the 10 p.m. viewing slot, and my choices for 2010 movies streaming on Netflix were more in the category of "chores" than "fun movies." (Not that the choice I ended up with turned out to be "fun," but more on that in a moment.)

I was surprised by the sheer quantity of movies available, but more than that, it was like a little light bulb went off in my head. It should have been obvious -- I mean, the concept of pay-per-view has existed for something like 20 years -- but apparently it wasn't. "You mean I can have this ... right now?" It was like discovering the capabilities of Netflix streaming for the first time last summer.

So I eagerly clicked through the choices and narrowed it down to four:

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

The next exciting thing I discovered was that titles whose Netflix release date had been hovering out there in the future -- like Devil and Wall Street -- could be had, today. Devil releases on Netflix tomorrow, but I knew there wasn't a great chance I'd have time to get it in the mail before next Tuesday. And Wall Street doesn't even release until next Tuesday, meaning I had resigned myself to leaving it off my rankings.

As it turns out, Wall Street was the only one I didn't end up watching over the weekend, though I ended up watching Scott Pilgrim on Saturday night on BluRay. And glad I did -- it is head and shoulders above the other two in terms of quality. As for the infamous Owls of Ga'Hoole (whose title I am always picking on), it has decent animation, but nothing special, and its story is as bland and forgettable as can be. The less said about Devil the better, except that M. Night Shyamalan's toxic influence is present even when he's not the one sitting in the director's chair. (That job went to a guy named John Erick Dowdle.) At least Owls of Ga'Hoole came in at the bargain rate of only $2.99 -- some kind of new release special. Devil was two dollars more than that, but probably two dollars shittier.

The takeaway is that maybe I should not fear pay-per-view after all. There are no hidden fees -- only the overt ones. Will my cable bill be a bit higher next month? Sure. But who can put a price on being able to watch an otherwise elusive film, without any trips to the store or prior logistics, in a short window of available time to do it?

Now to get a real benefit out of it and actually watch Wall Street as well.


Daddy Geek Boy said...

I spent the better part of a night trying to get my DirecTV box to communicate with my wi-fi so I could watch pay-per-view movies. I gave up and got me a new blu-ray that will stream Netflix and has their own pay-per-view service. It's rad.

So to sum up, I agree.

And Scott Pilgrim is a bowl of chocolate ice cream covered in awesome sauce!

Vancetastic said...

Have to agree on Scott Pilgrim. And this is a pretty big mea culpa, because I have been unfairly dissing it (in my mind, at least) without a shred of evidence to back that up. Could this be the movie that makes me love Michael Cera again? I may not go that far, but it definitely reconfirms my love for Edgar Wright. It's simply an eye-popping joy to behold ... my only complaint being that like Hot Fuzz, it could have been maybe five or ten minutes shorter.