One problem that keeps getting mentioned when I speak with people who use Netflix’s Instant Streaming service, is their inability to find anything they want to watch. It’s a problem which frankly should not exist given the vast scope of incredible material available on the service and it seems to stem from the user’s insistence on using the search function to find a particular movie. Netflix Instant’s strength is not in easily delivering a movie you already know you want to see (though it often does this), but more often in surprising you with something incredible you’ve never heard of. You won’t find a lot of variety past the most recent blockbusters and low-budget throwaways in your local Redbox, and brick and mortars like Family Video are never going to start carrying enough independent, foreign, or documentary films to compete with those selections on Netflix.
Instead of getting frustrated that each week’s newly released DVDs aren’t instantly available for streaming, why not browse through the titles recommended for you? These suggestions will grow infinitely more useful if you take the time to review the programming you watch, or spend a few minutes on the Netflix website reviewing films you’ve seen in the past–in either case it only takes one click to select how many stars you’d give it out of five. There’s also the exceptionally helpful website InstantWatcher.com which lists the recently added programming often before it’s actually viewable on the Recently Added section of Netflix Instant itself, and suggestions have become a staple of film critics like Roger Ebert–you can find a plethora of critic’s choice lists on the Netflix website.
With the news that Netflix is going to split into essentially two separate programs, one oriented on streaming and the other on mailed DVD, it’s important to embrace the instant. Much has been made of the change, but with licensing fees skyrocketing and the clear advantages of streaming content over mailed DVDs it doesn’t make sense anymore to offer both packages at a one dollar difference. There are problems with the streaming system, but they aren’t with the amount of content. Rather there needs to be an increase in the availability of subtitles, perhaps access to the dvd-only content like special features and commentaries. Hopefully most people will choose, if they have to get rid of one or the other, to stick with the Instant service. The money saved in shipping costs, lost and damaged discs, etcetera would be better put to use in upgrading the capabilities of streaming or at least in off-setting the forthcoming licensing hikes and keeping the cost away from the users.
To that end I will be occasionally updating this blog with reviews of films which, while not newly released, are available on the Netflix Instant service. There’s an overwhelming amount of fantastic content provided, and it’d be a shame to skip the majority of it because it hasn’t been promoted enough. There’s only so much you can tell about a movie from its Netflix blurb, and if you’re not taking the time to quickly critique what you watch there’s even less. To those without Netflix please take advantage of the 30-day free trial, it really cannot be beaten. And without further ado let me suggest to those already using it, the surrealist french thriller La Moustache.