I recently mentioned a fun phenomenon in my growth as a movie-watcher. I had started to ramp up my interest in cinema from 2003 to 2005 by going to the theater a lot more, creating a Hollywood Stock Exchange account, and watching a lot of the AFI Top 100. Much of that is thanks to my friend who was once babysat by the sister of the guy who played Nuclear Man in Superman IV. But in 2006, my movie-watching habits exploded. The difference was that I had gotten a Netflix account. And I took full advantage.
At that point in time, if you were interested in learning more about cinema, Netflix was a treasure trove. They could accommodate seemingly any possible interest that their customers might have. Foreign, indie, obscure, cult, art house, mainstream, and every genre conceivable was represented. It was truly a sight to behold. And for members like me, it was akin to being the proverbial kid in a candy store.
What ultimately transpired over my first handful of months was some of the best film education I’ve ever received. Here’s a list of the films that Netflix sent me in my first six months of membership, henceforth referred to as The Great Netflix Harvest of 2006. Note that this isn’t the complete list. It’s simply an effort to show the high notes.
Look at the amazing quality on that list. It includes some of the best horror ever made; Jim Jarmusch; Martin Scorsese; indie classics; Louis Malle; Werner Herzog; introductions to Fellini, Renoir, and Truffaut; a cult classic in Cannibal Holocaust; Woody Allen; and more Bergman and Buñuel than you can shake a stick at. I was introduced to the French New Wave, New German Cinema, film noir, and Italian Neo-realism. I also deepened my love of recent American independent cinema (recent = last 20 years). I became aware of all three of my current favorite directors, by name, in those six months. Those films made up the foundation of everything I’ve become, ever since, in my film education. A person would be hard-pressed to find a better introduction to the world of cinema in six months than they would with that list.
A lot has changed in the last seven years, up to and including Netflix itself, which has shot themselves in the foot countless times since then. But I digress. Beginning in 2006, I started with the Great Netflix Harvest. I continued on through art house, discovering the amazing world of Akira Kurosawa. I found and loved Alfred Hitchcock. Eventually, I expanded into experimental film. I took a dive into b-movies. I started paying more attention to new releases and Oscar contenders. Eventually, I chased American classics for awhile. All the while, horror of all shapes and sizes found its way onto my plate. Those first few months on Netflix had been the ultimate gateway drug.
Now I’ve ended up right back where I started, watching more and more art house films in the past few months. It has reminded me of that magical harvest of a few years back, a time that I hope I’m fortunate enough to revisit soon. It will no doubt be tough to top.