RetroPost: Out With the Old? Netflix and Rethinking Film

RetroPost: Out With the Old? Netflix and Rethinking Film April 8, 2009

In RetroPost, we feature a post from at least one year ago (ancient in pop culture time). The posts are featured because they have some relevance to current happenings, because they are timeless in nature and speak to a relevant issue, or because we plan on providing a follow-up in an upcoming post.

This Week: In January 2008, Alan praised the ability that services like Netflix had to enable us to watch older films. Since then, Netflix has become a key reason people have bought an Xbox 360 and the company has continued its rise after introducting it’s Instant Watch program.

“I’m not interested in this movie. It’s old.”

As a part time high school substitute, I’ve heard many students express this sentiment when I’ve played them a video left by their teacher. One popular variant goes, “But it’s in black and white!” For many of these kids, films are viewed more like newspapers than drama, music, or literature: the movie is only good when it is fresh off the presses.

Of course, there are notable exceptions to this. Some films like Star Wars and Indiana Jones have an enduring quality, but on the whole I believe most movies leave our cultural conscience after a few years–barring a sequel. In this sense, our culture seems to have managed to take a medium that is not consumable and turn it into a consumable good.

With DVD rental services like Netflix and Blockbuster Online, we have great access not just to the latest releases, but also classic films. One of the real benefits of these services is that they can help us to think of film in a much broader way than merely this week’s releases.

Part of our calling is to think on things which are good and worthy of praise, not just new things. While excellent movies continue to be released, there are a lot of older films which are also worthy of our viewing and praise. Here are a few of my Netflix/Blockbuster suggestions. Naturally, this is very far from a complete list of great classic films, but it is a place to start:

  • M – A chilling silent film about a child murderer. Watch it with a friend and discuss the concept of justice afterward. The final scene will linger in your mind for days.
  • The Maltese Falcon – This film noir classic turns the moral universe upside down. Who is righteous? Apparently, not one.
  • Harakiri – Not for the faint of heart, this Japanese masterpiece poignantly explores themes of honor, sacrifice, love, justice, and the value of human life. Simply put, it is haunting.
  • His Girl Friday – Cary Grant shows why he is the male romantic comedy lead. The conversations are strikingly realistic and the director, Howard Hawks, manages to deftly juggle comedy, romance, drama, and action.
  • A Night At The Opera – Possibly the Marx Brother’s best film. The jokes come fast and witty, so be prepared to rewind and memorize lines.

I hope that we will take advantage of the technological services we have to not only enjoy excellent new releases, but to also praise what is worthy in older films. As Rich has already encouraged us, films offer us the opportunity to glorify God in they way that they place us in a larger community, challenge our base beliefs, and show the inherent meaningfulness of life. Recognizing excellence across time might mean we have to become colorblind and deaf, but it is still a part of our calling. Let our statement be then, “Is it a good film? Then I am interested in it.”

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