Netflix: A Story of Greed, Apathy & Karma

As longtime Netflix subscribers, we were really miffed to learn earlier this Summer that they’d be dramatically increasing their rates. While we previously paid $9.99 per month for one DVD at a time plus unlimited streaming, the same combination would, effective September 1, 2011, cost $15.98 per month.
greedy businessman
Note that this new pricing included no additional features—in fact, they’ll have less to offer since Starz Entertainment has terminated its deal as a content partner. Netflix claimed the increases were necessary to continue to grow & improve their service. Maybe. After all, the streaming service was initially a freebie but had grown significantly, so the need to shore up the infrastructure could be legit. But the company’s unapologetic, cavalier attitude struck a sour note and many customers were understandably angered, threatening to cancel their subscriptions entirely. Given the company’s withering stock value since—especially plummeting since Sept. 1st—a lot of those rightfully disgruntled customers have followed through with their threats. (In fact, we did too!)

Today, subscribers were treated to a personal message from Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, with as backhanded an apology as you may have ever heard. He feigned remorse for how they handled the rate hike but still did nothing to earn back customer trust or instill faith in his leadership. He explains that the company is rebranding the DVD mailing portion of their service as “Qwikster” while retaining the “Netflix” brand for streaming only. This divisive maneuver is sure to aggravate customers who’ll have to bounce back & forth between the two sites, never knowing which movies will be available for streaming vs. delivered. Beyond that, this just seems like a feeble effort to distance the now-disgraced Netflix brand name from the price hike debacle. It’s a desperate move by short-sighted, greedy, leaders whose faulty management and slap-in-the-face customer service have just cost them the keys to the kingdom.

Netflix is embedded in TVs, DVD & Blu-ray players, videogame consoles, and well… just about everything but your toaster yet rather than continue to gradually build on the captive audience within that already-installed base, they spurned their loyal fans, got greedy and blew a phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime market lead. Especially given how flippant the company’s management has been about all of this, it’ll be nothing short of a miracle if they ever fully recover. This is pure, swift consumer karma in action. Make room on the loser’s bench, TiVo & Palm!

Were you a Netflix subscriber before the price increase? Did you stick with ’em or jump ship?

Be sure to check out Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander put a hilarious spin on this situation:

Accustomed to Violence

There’s been a surge of articles in parenting magazines, blogs, and news coverage about bullying lately. Children are being tormented in America’s schools and online—sometimes to the point of committing suicide. It’s hard to believe that something I had been so totally unaware of is such a huge problem, yet the media has declared bullying to be a national epidemic.
Biff Tannen bullies Marty McFly
There’s some contention about just how severe this has become; some experts insist that bullying is no more prevalent now than it was back when little boys yanked little girls’ pigtails and that the media’s portrayal is unrealistic and excessive, making behaviors that might simply be cruel into something more criminal. Maybe physical bullying has taken a backseat to psychological or emotional bullying, but even if the media has blown this out of proportion, there’s no denying that bullying is a credible and increasing problem.

As a parent, I’m thankful for all of the efforts to shed some light on this problem and I fully support both punishing bullies and helping kids learn to better cope with pressure-filled situations. But maybe we should put forth as much effort looking at some of the root causes. I believe a big contributing factor is how acclimated we’ve become to violence.

Horrific, explicit, oppressive violence is now an accepted part of our everyday lives.

Remember the movie Robocop about a terminally-wounded Detroit cop who returns to the police force as a powerful cyborg? What you may not recall is that the 1987 movie was initially given an X rating by the MPAA due to its graphic violence. Right, the movie was rated “X” not because of explicit sexual content, but for its shockingly-violent imagery. To appease the requirements of the ratings board, writer/director Paul Verhoeven pulled back on the significant blood & gore in 3 scenes so the movie could be released with an “R” rating instead.

Yet compared to what we routinely see on TV, movies, and video games now, the uncut version of that movie is tame by today’s standards. Within a 20 year span, what was shocking and socially repulsive has become acceptable, commonplace entertainment. Movies have become gleefully gruesome and morbidity is now mainstream. Consider the “Saw” series that let us watch as people are brutally murdered in twisted, torturous manners. Compare the likes of a Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris martial arts movie to that of the endless barrage of bloody carnage shown in contemporary movies like “Kill Bill.”

Likewise, TV shows even feature a stunning degree of graphic violence. Procedural cop shows like C.S.I. are far more realistically gruesome than that X-rated version of Robocop. Even when the violence isn’t necessarily visually graphic, there’s still some extremely negative behaviors at play. Consider that toddlers now watch wrestling on TV, which was strictly the guilty pleasure of Dads when we were kids—much to the disapproval of most Moms.

And where playing video games in our teen years meant shooting squiggly blips to make pixelated aliens disappear, now video gamers are immersed in battles where they fire super-realistic weapons at convincingly-real, three-dimensional opponents who yowl in agony when hit, spurt blood, limp, and finally collapse in a nauseating mass on the ground when they’ve sustained too much damage. (Until recently, this is the sort of thing that only soldiers would have to endure—and sometimes suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result.) Other video games reward players for beating up women, stealing cars, pistol-whipping passers-by, and inflicting varying degrees of terrible carnage on, well, anything that moves. According to some estimates, by the time typical American children reach the age of 18, they’ve already seen 200,000 acts of violence and 40,000 murders on some sort of screen.

We’ve allowed our society as a whole to become fully engulfed, acclimated, and accustomed to horrendous, gratuitous violence as a normal component of daily life. Perversely, our society actually savors and glorifies extreme cruelty and destructiveness! And as we’ve become numb and indifferent to negativity and violence, bullying has escalated to epidemic proportions. Surely, that’s no coincidence.

Scream, Wilhelm, Scream!

Wilhelm Scream logoEver hear a sound during a movie that seems incredibly familiar but you just can’t place it? It may have been sly, yet still so distinctive that it stuck in the back of your brain? It was probably the Wilhelm Scream.

Dating back to 1951, the sound was first recorded and used in the Warner Brothers movie “Distant Drums” starring Gary Cooper. As a stock effect, it was reused fairly often and gradually garnered an underground following by sound editors either paying homage to earlier films or just as an in-joke. But then the sound was rediscovered, named, and repopularized by legendary film sound designer Ben Burtt (who now works at Pixar) in the late ’70s. The Wilhelm Scream has since become a veritable sonic cliché, featured in (by some claims) over 200 movies, dozens of TV shows, and has even made its way into a handful of video games!

And now that you’re really aware of this revered cinematic sound effect, your ears will perk up at it much more often. It practically leaps out of the speakers at me now, even when it’s used very subtly:

The Wilhelm Scream

Liam’s First Theatrical Experience

Liam had his first movie theater experience this week!  We’d been holding out for the release of Toy Story 3 and for Nanny Karen to get here to join us for the big event.

Liam at Toy Story 3

Liam was so psyched about being in the big theater he could barely contain himself through the previews.   After each of the previews, he’d ask me if it was time for Buzz now.  All was going well once the movie started until the toys found themselves in peril.  I won’t spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it yet, but some of the content was quite intense for a 4 year old.  Liam climbed into my lap and told me he wanted to go. Eventually Rob had to take him, with big tears streaming down his little face, out to the safety and calm of the theater lobby. They returned once the toys were out of danger for the final 10-15 minutes of the movie.

Liam's 1st movie

He finished watching the movie and the experience ended on a positive note, so I’m sure he will be wanting to go to another movie soon.  Even days later, he still brings up some of the scenes where the toys faced “peril” when he’s playing with his Buzz & Woody plushies, so unfortunately, I think that kind of stuck with him.  I wish the movie would’ve been more like the other ones and not had been so intense and at times frightening for him.

I’m curious to know what you thought of it. Please post a comment and let me know how your little one(s) did with the movie!

Stapler

Milton & his red Swingline staplerOh yeah, I was confident in my complete mastery of the movie.   Yup, the way we spout off the lines, you’d think all of us at work had a hand in writing the script for Office Space.

Yet, when it came time to prove my stuff?   Well, not so much.   Think you can fare better?   Take the Office Space Movie Quiz for yourself and let’s just see how many you can score correctly out of the 100 questions.

A word of warning, some of these questions are brutally tough even for the most hardcore of fans!   Good luck, Lumberghs!

Big props go out to Eric J. for the link to the Bill Lumbergh Soundboard.   Pop on over there and listen to some hilarious sound clips of Gary Cole’s character from the movie.

Update:   Be sure to check out the "Office Space: Recut" that recasts Milton as a creepy, mumbling, stapler-wielding psycho in a horror flick!
 

Spiderman 3

Spiderman 3

We finally went to see Spiderman 3 today and it was awesome!   I think it is my favorite Spiderman so far (Rob still likes 2 the best) but this one just had it all for me:   A great story line with the continuation of the Peter / M.J. relationship along with 4 villians — and another one of those sexy upside-down kisses!

We’ve become so spoiled from watching movies at home that we rarely go to the theater anymore.   It takes a movie like this – one that has to be experienced on a large screen – to entice us to go.   As soon as we arrived, we were reminded of the downside of movie theaters.

First, there’s the line to get tickets.   Next, there’s the line at the snackbar (we gave up on that line since there was no way we were going to get through it before the movie started).   After the movie began, the cell phone issues began.   One behind us started ringing and the guy let it ring a few times and then answered it and then finally got up and walked out of the theater – still talking as he went down the aisle.   A couple of rows in front of us was some guy who was too busy text messaging to be bothered with watching the movie.   Naturally, every time he received or sent a text message, the cell phone screen lit up like a torch, which was really annoying.

I mean, c’mon, I realize people need their cell phones for emergencies but can’t they a least break free of them during a movie or, better yet, just stay at home to be entertained by their gadgets instead of annoying others who’ve paid for movie entertainment at the theatre?

Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox now and get back to the point of this post…   If you haven’t seen Spiderman 3 yet, I highly recommend it!   Next on our Summer movie list is probably Shrek 3.

Pixar Presses On

Just as I was getting excited about Pixar’s new movie for this summer, Ratatouille — about a rat named Rémy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) who dreams of becoming a fine chef in a Parisian restaurant (by The Incredibles director Brad Bird) — I found out about next Summer’s release…

Pixar's Wall-E movie promo banner

Details about Pixar’s Summer ’08 movie, "WALL•E" (from Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton) are sparse, but apparently it’s about a young robot looking for a home in outer space.

Oddly enough, with the smorgasbord of films set for release this summer, some are already wondering "How will Ratatouille fare in Hollywood’s Summer 2007 rat race?

Pixar is also rumored to be working on "Toy Story 3" for Summer ’09…
 

Office Space: Recut

Oh man, I can’t get enough of movie trailer mashups where fake movie trailers are created with feature scenes from a film that have been re-cut and cleverly edited to give them a whole new spin.   Recently, Dede blogged about a trio of classic movies reimagined with a Brokeback Mountain theme.   These side-splittingly clever remixes cast questionable new light on scenes from some of these movies.

Well, now the geniuses over at What the Maynard? have recut scenes from Office Space into a horror flick trailer that recasts Milton as a creepy, mumbling, red Swingline stapler-wielding psychopathic killer:

And of course, you also owe it to yourself to go watch Shawn Nee’s This Place Sucks, which is a mashup of Office Space and the Superfriends cartoon that’s almost guaranteed to cause convulsive laughter.   (Warning: Includes some NSFW language.)

Update:   Be sure to take the Office Space Movie Quiz!

While we’re on the topic of mashups, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t immediately go watch the Maynard crew’s insanely clever Brokeback Mountain spin on “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.”   This thing had me in tears from laughing so hard!

 

Fast Food Nation – The Movie

I just discovered that one of my favorite books, Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” is being made into a movie! Schlosser’s exposé on the fast food industry is less about what you already know — that fast food is really bad for you — and more about how the fast food industry has fundamentally changed the economic and cultural landscape of not just America, but the world. The book reveals disturbing secrets about how the fast food industry both feeds and feeds off of the young, uses and discards workers, and contorts the government against its own people for the sake of ever-increasing profits.

One of the many nuggets (pun intended) of info revealed in “Fast Food Nation” is that the meat produced at packing plants for shipment to fast food restaurants in other countries has 3 times better the quality control than that of the meat that feeds our military personnel or public-school children. So there’s a good chance that the burgers at the McDonald’s in Kuwait (there are actually 42 there) is of better quality than the food provided to our armed forces.

The film by Texas director Richard Linklater (whose previous films include “Before Sunrise” and “School of Rock“) will be a star-studded character study adaptation of Schlosser’s nonfiction best-seller book. The film’s ensemble cast includes Ethan Hawke, Greg Kinnear, Kris Kristofferson, Patricia Arquette, Luis Guzman, Avril Lavigne, & Esai Morales.

Linklater’s other highly-anticipated new project, the rotoscope-animated retelling of Phillip K. Dick’s “A Scanner Darkly” is due out this summer.