Last weekend was a quiet one, and I found myself with some free evenings, nobody else in the house, and a lingering case of jetlag. Perfect moment for Netflix and knitting.
If it were less cold outside and I were less tired, I’d just go to the theatre, because there are at least half a dozen movies playing right now that I really want to see. Isn’t that always the case? And if I just turn to Browse Recent Releases, won’t I then run into all the movies from 2016 and 2017 that I was eager to see at the time, but didn’t quite catch while they were in active circulation?
For example: I remember that a year or so ago, before a Wim Wenders documentary about life in Siberia, there was a delightful trailer for a movie about a Welsh farm boy who makes it as a world-class operatic tenor. Shouldn’t that opera movie be hitting the streaming services right around now?
I flip on Netflix, and I am greeted with a somewhat overwhelming array of choices:
Where’s that thing about the Welsh tenor? Or maybe he was a Romanian baritone? Netflix doesn’t seem to have it, or at least doesn’t Recommend it for Laurie.
So I troll around for a while, and finally find this:
I vaguely recall reading reviews of this movie last year. And look at that cast! Laura Linney: I could watch her read the phone book. Steve Coogan: he would read the phone book in that nonplussed British way I always find amusing. Richard Gere: I didn’t used to think I cared about his interpretation of the phone book, but he was a delightful surprise in 2016’s “Norman,” so I think maybe he would read the phone book like an old Jewish guy from my childhood, and I’d like that quite a bit.
And so I click "PLAY."
Half an hour in I am unsure where this is going. Some intriguing plot lines; but I’m not quite hooked.
An hour in I’m still unsure. But at this point it’s too late to start anything else so I just keep going.
Two hours later I have watched the whole thing and I know for sure that it is a really, really bad movie. Those actors were all fine, but the script was weak and the editing worse. I rewound and re-watched a few crucial scenes several times to try to figure out what happened, and I have to tell you that I still don’t really know.
A few days later, when mulling over whether this was a blog-worthy event, I look the movie up on IMDb, and I make a startling discovery--hold onto your seats for this one! It turns out that Chloe Sevigny and Rebecca Hall are not the same person!
You see, the Chloe Sevigny character only appears in flashbacks; and I’d assumed that Rebecca Hall (in the present) was the same person as Chloe (in the past), just with a new hair color. But these actresses are actually two different people playing two different roles! Imagine that! So now I have to rethink my entire conception of the movie!
OK. Done. The Dinner still sucks.
So there you have it: two hours of my life spent with bad art and bad entertainment. I can’t ever get those two hours back. And I still haven’t seen that movie about the Polish bass.
There’s this thing that sometimes happens when I’m talking with my husband, who is a Social Scientist. I make an observation that feels, to me, like a pithy statement about the human condition, and he responds by saying something like, “actually, sociologists call that Self-Delusional Observational Identity Bias Effect” or “psychologists call that the Retroactive Sympathy Gap Hypothesis.”
I think of this as the "People Smarter Than You Have Already Had All of Your Ideas Phenomenon."
Recently, Steve trotted out one of these social science constructs that I rather liked. It is called “Minimax Regret.” Minimax Regret, as I understand it (based on an in-depth five-minute conversation with the house Social Scientist), is a decision-making strategy in which one makes one’s choices based on assessment of what will lead to the least regret later on. This concept resonated with me for several reasons:
- First, I am fairly certain that Minimax Regret is an under-performing feminine hygiene product I used in the 1980's.
- Second, it is a pretty good description of my own decision-making process in many cases.
For example, I adore coffee, and would chug it all day; except that I know that more than a cup or two will send me into overdrive. So after some judicious point in the afternoon I opt instead for wimp-assed herbal tea. Or I might forego buying a new pair of shoes because I know that I if I do I will arrive home and find that I have no more closet space for additional shoes. I will therefore conclude that I am an over-consuming, First World environmental disaster. And I will feel so bad about myself that I will treat myself to a cappuccino, which will then keep me up until the wee hours.
Minimax Regret in action.
I think of all the really, really bad viewing on which I’ve wasted time through random Netflix offerings (I’m looking at you, Russian Revolution and Reign). So I conclude that a more proactive Minimax Regret strategy might be called for. How can I approach movie night in a way that will not leave me feeling that I have just flushed precious hours down the drain?
A few options come to mind:
- Always watch Casablanca, because it is perfect and never gets old.
- Always watch Trolls, because pot is now legal in Massachusetts.
- Turn off the TV and read a book. There are way more good books than there are good movies.
So there you have it: three strategies sure to minimize movie night buyer's remorse. I will employee them in rotation, according to my mood.
Unless, of course, Netflix streams that movie about the Congolese counter-tenor. I am watching that, for sure!