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Netflix Is A Genre Now
In 2001, Turner Network Television, or TNT, went through an extensive rebrand. The network owned by Ted Turner had, up until then, no real identity beyond a place to watch syndicated television shows and sports. But after a series of market research and focus groups, they decided on a more curated programming style. They even came up with a slogan for their new direction: TNT — We Know Drama. Their knowledge of drama extended to reruns of NYPD: Blue and Judging Amy with a marathon of Shawshank Redemption thrown in for good measure, but that didn’t stop them from making commercials to explain said knowledge of alleged drama.
Goddamn do I love actors. They are serious about this shit. “Drama, it really is life you know?” TNT’s commitment to the bit was too admirable to hate. The same cannot be said 20 years later for Netflix.
Netflix, the money-burning streaming behemoth, has announced plans to release a new movie every week. In the midst of a pandemic that’s keeping people from going to theaters, that might seem like good news, unfortunately Netflix has not established itself as a quality studio to make this an enticing idea. It’s actually a terrible sounding one, and fears shall only be heightened with gasoline and matches after watching their new advertisement promoting this endeavor.
My cheeks fog with the rosiness of a proud papa listening to the stars (who are like us) beam with joy reading their memorized What I Love About Movies essay in front of the class. There is nothing evident here that makes me think that love was involved. Brand management? Sure. Job protection? Of course. A fat paycheck? Most definitely. Did these people have a gun to their heads or something? Can they blink and let me know they’re ok? Of course Lin-Manuel Miranda looks like he’s having a ball.
I can’t even express all the ways I hate this. First of all, a movie a week is some real sweatshop shit which is typical of these tech-owned companies. The previews of these forthcoming Netflix movies look like they were literally made on the fly as they were shooting this commercial. Netflix produced The Irishman and Roma, so I have no doubt that some of these will turn out to be good. You throw enough shit at the wall something will stick. That’s not what I’m concerned about; my biggest issue—other than being subjected to more Lin-Manuel Miranda—is the coming influx of movies with The Netflix Look™️.
If you watch enough shit on Netflix you are familiar with this aesthetic, you can think of it as half-Apple commercial, half soap opera. It’s like film by iPhone (and yes I know people have made good movies on iPhone before). Everything looks baked, too shiny, with no determinable style. Many studios have an in-house look, in the 70s Warner Bros was known for a gritty realism, the look that cinephiles all over still masturbate over. Netflix is not just bad and lazy, it is the perfect analogue for its era: indicating the death of film as artistic and signifying its descent into product, having the same cinematography as a influencer’s YouTube channel, using the antique filter to shoot brown countries for a little razzle dazzle. The future of movies is mass produced microwaveable garbage and it doesn’t even have the decency to look good.
In the end, it was just another Bama year.
As college football has become consolidated like every other capitalist enterprise into either monopolies or struggling small businesses, you can think of the sport in one of two ways: was it a Bama year or not? Did the Alabama Crimson Tide win the championship or did something weird happen? As a fan of weird shit, I obviously prefer the latter, but this year there’s a little comfort in another Bama year.
Part of it is that Bama was fun for once, they had some of the best wide receivers the college game as ever seen, sure to be some the NFL will see. They scored a lot of points and even gave up a lot just to keep things a little spicy. In a terrible year of Covid-19 and a global pandemic bringing the world to its knees—a year that should not have had any sports for the record, and if this thing really does lead to our destruction, the American love affair with sports and obsession with being entertained by athletes will surely be a factor—Alabama, like many other megacorps, actually thrived, built to withstand but also make the most of a bad situation. It should’ve been obvious that Alabama would be the last team standing, Nick Saban being the Bezos of the NCAA, is the only consistency left in a bloodsport that’s looking worse and worse each day, and that was before the pandemic. There is a strange sense of normalcy about this that feels nice in a way that I couldn’t explain to the layman. Just know, that in the midst of a period of so much scary uncertainty, I’ll take the ordinary now more than ever.
Read - Watched - Listened
One Night In Miami (Dir. Regina King) - What if Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown started a Clubhouse room.
The Breeders - Last Splash - kinda crazy I’ve never listened to the full album before. I’m a fan of Kim Deal because of the Pixies, yet this is one of those seminal 90s alt rock classics that I’ve never gotten around to and it is to my detriment because it’s one of the best rock albums of that whole fucking decade.
Ramy Youssef Feelings - Ramy might be 1 of a handful of comics that understand how to be the ideal standup for his era, if that is a thing that even still matters
Crack: Cocaine, Corruption, and Conspiracy (Dir. Stanley Nelson)- this country is cartoonishly evil, it’s so demonic I’m actually laughing.
Johnny Mnemonic (Dir. Robert Longo)- It wasn’t Blade Runner, A.I., or The Matrix that hit on an accurate future, instead it was a weird, mid-budget, MTV gen sci-fi fantasy featuring Ice-T and Henry Rollins.
Tiger (Dir. Matthew Heineman & Matthew Hamachek) - A cautionary tale or more salacious celebrity nonsense that probably went too far (both for the celeb doing bad behavior and the media covering it), I don’t really feel anything about Tiger Woods—I’d rather play golf than watch it—so this doc’s attempt at grasping at something that represented the American relationship between sports, celebrity, and race left me similarly cold. It’s weird that he made a public apology to his fans and sponsors though.
Paul Beatty White Boy Shuffle - In our identity politics-addled pop cultural zeitgeist, people are always fixated on art made for them. I am not particularly interested in being pandered or even catered to, but if ever there was an artist making art for me it’s probably Beatty. The novelist specializes in a brand of black art that isn’t mainstream, that’s completely cynical, sardonic, borderline offensive but smart enough to get away with it. A completely black style that makes a mockery of the performance of blackness and what is expected of us. I got a few more of his books as a Christmas gift and am not working my way through one of his more popular ones, pining for the day black television and film can take the stick out of its ass in similar fashion.
Following Kyrie Irving updates
Hunger (Dir. Tony Scott)
Tenet protaganeil fan fiction
Ben & Jerrys The Tonight Dough ice cream
Joshua Rothman’s piece on the allure of our unlived lives
The renaissance hoodies at Adu
…And Now Last Call
I spend a great deal of my time in quarantine in mourning for alternate versions of my life. Seeing Covid, and ultimately death, ravage the country and the people I know, has sapped me of ambition. I try to hang onto normalcy like grabbing water by hand. Even if we survive, it’s hard to think there will be a functioning society on the other side. Instead I spend most days in or around my bed. Life mostly happens as a blur now. I wonder if any of it meant anything if this is really where it’ll end. Ultimately, I believe it does, because I got to experience a true, fulfilling love affair.
The knowledge that someone could help you tap in to parts of yourself that were previously unearthed or growing cobwebs due to how ignored they’d been is like discovering a new universe of possibility within yourself. A job can’t do that, work only exists to break you down and turn the things you love into monotonous routine. Every job or gig I’ve ever had has made me feel like a robot, decaying under the weight of expectation and capitalist desire. To experience another person on your wavelength, a chemistry that weaves together so effortlessly as to feel like one body feels like tapping into your full potential. I may never get a chance to feel like that again but at least I did once. I know what is worth chasing.
I worry about how lonely everyone is. Between the pandemic and the capitalist mindset of looking out for self at the expense of others to gain success, we’re more alone and not coincidently, we are more miserable than ever. Connecting with people matters for our survival, it’s to our benefit. I am not exactly extroverted but I understand that community plays a role in how we feel about ourselves. Everyone needs to be loved and more importantly, they need to learn how to love. We are gonna need it to get through this.
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