Friday, 22 November 2013

A Netflix(able) Approach to Viewing

With the video shop era well and truly behind us, on-demand internet streaming services now provides many with their regular cinematic hit. Netflix is beginning to gain traction over here, helped immeasurably by the many great TV series it offers at the click of a button. While it’s still lacking the volume of features needed to make it the one-stop service for film fans, there’s some pretty interesting stuff on there, if you can get over the rather misleading and arbitrary genre cataloguing system (Crime drama: Glengarry Glen Ross).

Over the past few months I’ve caught up with some gems which are either unavailable or incredible hard to track down on region 2 DVD. I was fond of the cheap Roger Corman sci-fi exploitation flick Galaxy of Terror. Playing like a grubby version of a classic Star Trek episode, (complete with the cod-philosophical musings) one scene has a crew member being stripped naked and violated by a giant space slug (apparently the handiwork of a young James Cameron), while Happy Day’s Joanie meets a shockingly gory demise elsewhere.

I recently observed the long dormant cinematic charms of small screen fixtures Mark Harman and Kirstie Alley in 80s comedy Summer School, and I loved Goodbye, Columbus - the 60s adaptation of the famous Philip Roth novella of the same name. The film makes a fine companion piece to The Graduate and is one of those near-classics which has somehow failed to find longevity.

But sometimes life it too short to trawl through every film and I’ve found that Netflix has afforded the ability to embark on a series of skim-viewing. To some ardent cinema lover this could be considered heresy, but consider the films in question:

Slackers, an utterly forgettable post-American Pie teen romp held zero interest for me, except for a scene which had seriously unnerved me upon reading about it years back. Sure enough, 33 minutes in I was treated to the unnerving sight of a (then 21 year-old) Jason Schwartzman tenderly smooching the nipples and sponging down the breasts of leathery-looking, buxom 50s/60s sex siren Mamie Van Doren. Rushmore, it ain’t.

I was intrigued to see the Gordon Ramsay cameo from the 2011 Dougray Scott-starring disaster Love's Kitchen (original title: No Ordinary Trifle) and find out if it was really as bad as those who’d braved the film for review purposes were saying it was. This is a man who puts on a ball-busting, no-nonsense persona for the cameras during the many reality shows he fronts, yet can’t even muster the requisite acting muscles for a mere minutes worth of screen time.

Speed-skimming through the insipid big-screen exploits of ITV comic personality Keith Lemon was like nonchalantly flicking through the pages of Heat magazine at the hairdressers. My mild curiosity of which celebrities had offered their services via cameo was sated by giving up less than five minutes of my life to the film.

I finally succumbed to the horrors on display in The Human Centipede, albeit in an abridged form, shuffling to the nasty human ATM scenes and ditching the padding. The result – a stirring (if hugely horrific and agonisingly protracted) account of three individuals who face insurmountable odds as they battle to escape an evil scientist. Béla Tarr meets torture porn.

In an age where time is increasingly at a premium, why waste it on those films which aren’t worthy of investment, save for the odd quirk or two? I just hope in years to come, attention-deficit viewers aren’t abusing this privilege and shuffling along to the moment where Sonny Corleone is riddled with bullets at the toll booth, or turning The Exorcist into a two minute ‘best of’ with scenes compromised exclusively of Regan’s horrific behaviour whilst possessed.

Maybe some films should remain solely as a physical copy outside of the cinema screen, avoiding potentially disrespectable treatment from unappreciative viewers. Now, if I could only remember who I lent my Criterion edition of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever to…