Watching "Watch Now"
Netflix's new movies-on-demand service, reviewed.
Of course, all this talk of functionality means nothing if there's nothing to watch. Amazon Unbox and iTunes offer awesome content, including new movies and TV shows fresh from the boob tube, at obscenely high prices. (It costs $12.99 to buy a download of The Prestige on iTunes.) Thanks to its all-you-can-eat pricing scheme, Watch Now is a giant step forward. I can honestly say, however, that in the 12 or so hours I've spent watching Netflix's streaming offerings, I've seen nothing I would pay to see. At the risk of sounding needlessly harsh, I found the offerings impressively bad, as though some schlock curator from an Ivy League cinema studies department was called upon to select the dreckiest soft-porn screwball comedies ever made. Find Caddyshack too highbrow? Try Golfballs! You won't find any of Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs movies. You will find Andy Sidaris' Triple B trilogy, which features more "bullets, bombs, and babes" than you can shake a stick at. If you search hard enough, you'll find a handful of newish highbrow releases like Sherrybaby and Conversations With Other Women. But good luck finding enough to keep you entertained.
The Big Media Mafia guards its content so jealously that I can't really blame Netflix—I'm confident that its library will expand in the weeks and months to come. But right now, Watch Now is all promise. My fantasy would be to have a collection almost as expansive as Netflix's dizzyingly wide selection of DVDs. My heart sings at the thought of lighting up my beautiful big-screen iMac with almost-new episodes of Ego Trip's (White) Rapper Showand The Wire or a film classic like Dazed and Confused.But it's all too easy to imagine another, darker future in which the digital-rights management powers that be crush my hopes and dreams under their steel-toed stiletto, reducing me to slogging joylessly through hours of the BBC adaptation of Martin Chuzzlewit. Please, entertainment industry, don't let me down.
Reihan Salam is a writer in New York.
Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer.