Firing the Canon–My Netflix Purge

Being the beginning of the year, I always try to ruminate on some sort of pop culture project. The first place I look tends to be my Netflix queue. I tried to start with “Breaking Bad”, thinking there would be something to be blogged about my anxiety watching fictional people make bad decisions butting heads with a show about a good guy gone bad, but then really really not being into the show after eight episodes. I went back to Season 1 of “The Wire”, but stopped there knowing that I was content to end things with, “Where’s Wallace?”

As I perused the rest of the list, I realized it has become a vast wasteland of movies and TV shows that have languished there (many for years), mostly because I don’t really *want* to watch them. I know they’ve been nominated for some Oscars, or I feel I’m missing part of the canon, so I keep them around, but they have grown to feel like nothing but a chore.

In other words…I don’t want to watch them for the most part. Or, in many instances, they are foreign, which you all realize requires more than your standard amount of movie-watching attention. Rather than set out to finish this list off, I’m setting myself free and doing some real talk about what I’ll be watching in 2015.

Currently, here is where the list stands:

1. Broadchurch (TV Miniseries)
2. 21 & Over (Movie)
3. 30 for 30: Survive and Advance (Doc)
4. 30 for 30: Free Spirits (Doc)
5. Two Days in New York (Movie)
6. Bottle Shock (Movie)
7. The Rocketeer (Movie)
8. The Wolf of Wall Street (Movie)
9. Liberal Arts (Movie)
10. Varsity Blues (Movie)
11.Your Sister’s Sister (Movie)
12. Good Morning, Vietnam (Movie)
13. The Trip (Movie)
14. Mud (Movie)
15. The Importance of Being Earnest (Movie)
16. An Ideal Husband (Movie)
17. Julia (Movie)
18. The Wood (Movie)
19. Kinky Boots (Movie)
20. The Hunt (Foreign Movie)
21. The Punk Singer (Doc)
22. The Men (Movie)
23. Cutie and the Boxer (Foreign Doc)
24. The Returned (Foreign TV)
25. The Act of Killing (Foreign Doc)
26. A Walk on the Moon (Movie)
27. In Bruges (Movie)
28. What Maisie Knew (Movie)
29. There Will Be Blood (Movie)
30. Mrs. Brown (Movie)
31. The Kite Runner (Movie)
32. Trainspotting (Movie)
33. Cinema Paradiso (Foreign Movie)
34. Sling Blade (Movie)
35. The Elephant Man (Movie)
36. Four Weddings and a Funeral (Movie)
37. Boss (TV Show)
38. The Endless Summer (Doc)
39. Tora! Tora! Tora! (Movie)
40. Luther (TV Miniseries)
41. Twin Peaks (TV Show)
42. Dragon Tattoo Trilogy (Swedish Version)
43. Coupling (TV Show)
44. Fawlty Towers (TV Show)
45. Evita (Movie)
46. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Movie)
47. Django Unchained (Movie)
48. Snowpiercer (Movie)
49. Nebraska (Movie)
50. Labor Day (Movie)

Do most people have 50 items on their Netflix list? At one point my number hovered in the 70s and only once can I recall it dipping below 40, but I am I the norm or the outlier? Back when it was a DVD mailing service, it made sense to have lengthy queues to get the biggest bang for your buck, ensuring there was always something waiting to be mailed to you. Now though, what do I really get from having this lengthy list of movies staring me in the face reminding me I am never going to watch them?

This is what I am starting to realize. There really is no contemporary canon, there is simply too much entertainment being produced to possibly keep up. Many critics on Twitter lamented the top 10 list problem, noting that it is impossible to watch all the great TV shows, so perhaps including a list of what they watched a reasonable amount would help contextualize their selections.

It might also explain why this year feels like one of the more wide-open Oscar races in recent memory. Perhaps it was just a dud year for movies or perhaps there weren’t as many obvious prestige pics like “The Theory of Everything”. Right now, it seems like it is “Boyhood” is in pole position, but who knows what will happen with the Globes in a couple of weeks?

So, much like one cleans out the closet, I cleaned out the queue. We’re down to 15. You’ll notice a couple of weird ones, like 21 & Over (part of a larger project of mine trying to watch the entire Miles Teller ouevre, as I am obsessed with this remarkably talented young kid, and no, I haven’t seen Whiplash yet) or keeping one 30 for 30 instead of another. Don’t get me wrong, I love these sports docs, but with so many more than 30 now, I find myself picking and choosing, rather than blindly DVRing all of them.

Here goes:

1. Broadchurch (TV Miniseries)
2. 21 & Over (Movie)
3. 30 for 30: Survive and Advance (Doc)
4. Two Days in New York (Movie)
5. The Wolf of Wall Street (Movie)
6. Liberal Arts (Movie)
7. Good Morning, Vietnam (Movie)
8. The Returned (Foreign TV)
9. The Act of Killing (Foreign Doc)
10. There Will Be Blood (Movie)
11. Cinema Paradiso (Foreign Movie)
12. Luther (TV Miniseries)
13. Twin Peaks (TV Show)
14. Snowpiercer (Movie)
15. Nebraska (Movie)

If I picked one off you think is worth my time, let me know on Twitter (@jesswelman) and I’ll consider adding it back. But I think rather than starting off this year feeling daunted by my long lists I’ve created, I am going to try to keep it brief. No more than 15 at a time. Nothing gets added until something gets watched. In 2015, I’m not watching anything I feel like I have to (hence why Django got the boot), I’m only watching movies I want to, whether it be to understand the hoopla (The Wolf of Wall Street), because I will always love Ted Mosby (Liberal Arts), or because I just need more Chris Rock in my life (Two Days in New York).

Let’s see how it goes.

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